Looking back at 2012 there are a few Google updates that had more impact on website rankings and thus on traffic than just a small Panda update.
In January we got the original page layout algorithm change that targeted websites that had too many ad-space above the fold. A lot of Made for Adsense sites got hit as they focus on quick wins sending people away from the site into Adsense clicks. This was the first so-called Top Heavy update.
In April Penguin was rolled out that brought a big hit on many site rankings. The basic idea was to get quality content sites higher in the rankings and demotion of SEO. Or like Matt Cutts stated in the article below:
We want people doing white hat search engine optimization (or even no search engine optimization at all) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites.
Penguin was heavily discussed as real good quality websites that had been around for years serving high-quality content to their visitors got dropped as well.
EMD & Panda Update
End of September there was another big impact update, this time focused on Exact Match Domains. This update was to clear out spam websites which rankings were based on the fact that they used keyword-rich domain names for exact matches on popular search terms.
The EMD update was targeted towards low-quality sites, but this time also some very good content sites were hit as well.
The Panda update that was rolled out at almost the same time as the EMD change so its hard to distinguish your ranking update between those two if you have a keyword-rich domain.
The Panda update was/is intended to give searchers better high-quality content to provide answers on their search. Google wants you to follow their Quality Guidelines and create easy to read content written for users, not for search engines.
These updates mentioned above have made a big impact on search with Google this year. Last year it was Panda, but that did not hit my websites as hard as Penguin did.
Google Ranking Recovering
Recovering from this year's updates is taking hard work and some real hard thinking about what to improve.
In the past creating a site with a clear hierarchy and text links for navigation could bring you a long way. Setup correctly you could get good rankings within a couple of weeks/months.
Now you have to get more updates in, work hard on Google+ and other social media, and create more user-centered high-quality content on your site.
It's a new era in search engine optimization for Google and other search engines will follow. I wonder what 2013 will bring us. Certainly more white hat SEO as several back hat tactics got busted this year.
And you, what do you think about these major algo changes? Good or bad for SEO consultants? And how about website owners?