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Mozcon Day 2 Recap: A Secret Algo Project Launch


It’s been an exciting afternoon at Mozcon. Dr. Pete (@dr_pete) is blowing some minds with a project he’s been running over the last several months to try to get more insight into the magnitude of Google algorithm changes. Here are some notes from his presentation:

Do you think Google’s algo changes have been crazy lately? It’s 100X worse than you think.

During 2003-2012, there have only been 20 named updates. That’s only 2 per year. However, we do know in 2010 there were 516 changes. So there are considerably more changes happening than we are aware of.

There are two ways we get info – Matt Cutts/Google, and what we actually observe for ourselves.

What Google Says:

  1. Patents – gives us clues about Google’s capabilities. Most often file patents for things that haven’t come into play or won’t come into play until they have the technology.
  2. Spokespeople & Social – they tell us what they want us to hear. Matt Cutts and Pierre Far.
  3. Official Blogs – Inside Search
    1. Search Quality Highlights on the Blog – shows changes they make each month. Little bit of a game to make SEO’s happy and distract them.
    2. 198 changes reported YTD – most are minor core changes.

Dr. Pete really reinforced that we can’t stop digging because Google gives us a little bit of information.

What We Observe:

  1. Webmaster Chatter – forums
    1. Localization and personalization make chatter harder since people are consistently seeing different things.
    2. Search Engine Blogs – Barry’s algo change updates.

What is a normal day at Google?

Dr Pete’s Project: Algo Alert. He tracked top 10 rankings for 1,000 keywords every 24 hours.

There are a lot of great charts/slides with his data findings – download his slides at www.seomoz.com/mozcon-live/

There were actually more winners than losers on Penguin – for every two dropping out, eight moved up.

Dr. Pete noticed big changes on 6/4, but Google didn’t acknowledge it. He’s since nicknamed it the “Bigfoot” update. Domain diversity dropped noticeably. For a given search term, multiple domains got 2+ rankings. Domain diversity dropped 2.6% from 6/4 to 6/5.

After seeing this change in domain diversity, he looked back and noticed Penguin also had a big change in domain diversity. Many people suspect Google may be favoring big brands but Dr. Pete seemed to believe that it may have just been an unintended consequence.

Interesting note on big domains: Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter made up 10.7% of the results in the 1,000 that were tracked.

Panda 3.7 appeared to be bigger than the original Penguin. In fact there, were three days in a row that seemed to be bigger than penguin.

June 18th was another mystery update – nobody talked about it but there were four days in a row bigger than penguin.

The key phrase “stocks to buy” saw 37 different ranking URL’s in a just a 10-day window. Crazy! Dr. Pete attributed it to Query Deserves Freshness (QDF).

So what’s a normal day look like? 79.7% of SERPs change every 24 hours in his sample of 1,000 SERPS over two months.

Monday seems to be the busiest ranking change day – weekends are quieter.

The recent Panda 3.9 update appears not very big compared to some other updates. On 7/23, the day before Penguin 3.9, it seemed to be worse than the actual Panda 3.9 update.

New SEOMoz Product!

Mozcast.com gives you a sense if there is a lot of fluctuation going on in the search results. It also provides a 5-day and 30-day history. You can also follow @mozcast for the daily weather update.

Topics: Blog

Bryan Phelps

Written by Bryan Phelps

Bryan is a former Director of SEO at SEO.com. Bryan got started with SEO in 2005 while trying to drive more traffic to his affiliate websites, many of which he still owns and operates today. During his career, he's managed large SEO teams at two agencies and ran all online marketing efforts at an international Inc. 500 company. Bryan lives in Utah with his wife and 2 boys. He enjoys a variety of sports, cars and technology.

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