Tuesday, January 17, 2006

January 2006 Google update gets underway

So far, most people in the SEO community appear to have not noticed that Google is rolling out a new update. So, nothing new there. They'll start to take notice over the next few days, especially since I've announced the update in a couple of forums, like in Spider-Food's (http://forums.spider-food.net/index.php?act=ST&f=5&t=3882&st=0#entry12035) January 2006 Google update thread.

While it's too soon for me to know what this update is about, the early indications are remarkably similar to what I saw at the start of the horrific February 2005 update, in which Google de-cached millions of Web documents. For numerous queries, you'd see hundreds of URLs come up without any titles or descriptions. It was extremely painful to many Webmasters who had essentially done nothing wrong. I'm sure the searchers weren't happy, either.

The strange thing about that update was that I was able to get new content listed in Google on a weekly basis. So, some of Xenite.Org's older content was de-cached, but everything new was added. The new content didn't always rank well, but it eventually started dominating targeted listings after the update finished.

It looked like Google simply dumped its cache and started recrawling the Web from scratch. I estimate it took them about 6 weeks to reload all the cache data through new crawls.

Matt Cutts (http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/), a Google engineer who is friendly with the SEO community, recently said that Google pushed out a data refresh in December. I don't think it was significant (maybe just Toolbar PageRank and new backlink data, both of which are useless to anyone who wants to do good search engine optimization). Matt also warned people that Google will soon (relatively speaking) roll out a new algorithmic update called Big Daddy. I don't think what we're seeing today is the Big Daddy update, but it may be the preamble to that.

Last year's February 2005 update was, in fact, a preamble to an algorithmic update released over the Summer. Big Daddy probably only differs from the previous update (in terms of significance) in that it has been dubbed with a nickname by Matt.

So, I'll be collecting more information as the days roll by. I'm hoping we're not going to see another massive de-caching. While Xenite.Org lost some traffic, our network survived very well. But many smaller sites were just absolutely devastated. The pain was continuous, deep, and exhausting. And, naturally, most of the SEO gurus who moderate various forums had absolutely no clue as to what was going on. People would complain about their de-cachings and many of the "experts" would tell them to get more links.

Some day the core SEO community will figure out it's not all about links (their latest nonsense is a contest you can read more about at http://www.xenite.org/features/google/v7ndotcom-elursrebmem.html if you like Michael Martinez rants). Then the search engines will really be in trouble.

In the meantime, the "black hat" SEO spammers have launched their latest attack on Google and it's looking ugly. This time, they are putting massive dollars on the table and hiring professional freelance writers to produce tons of fluff content. It will be far more difficult for Google to filter the new sites that are coming out because their algorithms won't know what to look for.

I'll guess that we should start to see the first of the new generation of spam brigade sites around the end of February, maybe early March. I have to admit that the freelance money is starting to look good. I have been tempted to go for some of the contracts myself.

Be afraid, O ye searchers. Be very, very afraid.


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