Google Confirms Panda 3.3 Update

Google has confirmed a new Panda update at the same time that it’s announcing 40 search updates that happened in February (or are in progress right now). It would be all but impossible to fully sum up the full slate of changes here, but there are a few that seem especially noteworthy and will no doubt produce a lot of speculation among search marketers. Here’s a look at the ones that stand out to me:

Panda 3.3 Update

Here’s what Google says about its latest Panda-related change: Panda update. This launch refreshes data in the Panda system, making it more accurate and more sensitive to recent changes on the web. This sounds very similar to Panda 3.2, which happened in mid-January and was described only as a “data refresh” and not related to new or changed ranking signals. Panda was launched a year ago — don’t miss the full background in our recent story, Infographic: The Google Panda Update, One Year Later. Postscript, Feb. 28th: Google tells us that the Panda data update took place yesterday, February 27th. The company declined to share any additional information about the “link evaluation” item below.

Evaluating Links

Google says it’s getting rid of a link evaluation signal that it’s been using for years. This one’s sure to prompt discussion: Link evaluation. We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often rearchitect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable. We’ve reached out to Google in the past, asking for further clarification on the items in these monthly roundups. The company has indicated that the blog post says everything Google wants to say. That, along with Google’s understandable (and necessary) reluctance to give away too many details about ranking signals, leads me to assume we won’t be getting anything more than the above about this. A link evaluation signal that’s been used for years is now turned off? The SEO mind races….

Local Search Rankings

Here’s another one, along with the link evaluation signal, that I’m actually surprised Google would so openly reveal. The company says traditional algorithmic ranking factors are now playing a bigger part in triggering local search results: Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal. Traditional SEO has played a bigger part in Google’s local search since the launch of Places Search in late 2010. And now it sounds like that dial is being turned up a little higher, too. Google’s post also says local results are being improved because of a “new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.”

Other Google Updates

As I said, it’s impossible to recap the entire Google blog post. In addition to the items above, you might pay attention to these items: More accurate detection of official pages Expand the size of our images index in Universal Search “Site:” query update International launch of shopping rich snippets There are also several updates related to freshness, sitelinks and related searches.

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