Google addresses algorithm update confusion

By James Riches topicIcon SEO

Should sites be waiting around for an algorithm update?

Google webmaster trends analyst John Mueller has explained that sites do not necessarily need to wait for an algorithm refresh in order to see ranking improvements.

Perhaps understandably, many webmasters have assumed that in order to recover from the negative impact of a Google algorithm refresh, it is necessary to wait for that algorithm to be updated again. Mueller took to the Webmaster Central Help Forum this week to address this issue.

He initially appeared to confirm that sites would need to wait for an update in order to see if their attempts to address any problems had been successful, but returned later to clarify and elaborate on this statement.

While he confirmed that seeing any benefits from addressing a specific problem raised by Penguin would require a further Penguin update, Mueller noted that changes might not be visible straight away. He also reminded webmasters that there is much more to a site's SEO success than simply satisfying one algorithm.

He suggested that webmasters should not just be focusing on individual elements of a particular algorithm, but rather they should look after the overall quality of their site. As Google bases its rankings on many factors, sites could potentially be rewarded without having to wait around for a specific algorithm update.

Did Google refresh Panda last week? Is it testing a Penguin refresh?

As ever, this debate was sparked by a number of sites complaining of a dip in their rankings and attributing this to an algorithm refresh.

While Google's policy of not officially confirming further Panda updates (a stance admittedly broken by Matt Cutts back in May) can make it difficult to cite algorithm changes as the source of any ranking movements, sources including Search Engine Roundtable have suggested that there may have been a refresh last week.

This conclusion is based not only on some sites seeing a drop in their rankings, but also some sites who had suffered after previous Panda updates regaining their position in SERPs.

While we know Panda is refreshed around once a month, it is a different story as far as Penguin is concerned. It has been nearly a year since the last refresh (Penguin 2.1) was rolled out, which could go some way to explaining why webmasters continue to be so concerned about their prospects of recovery.

However, with murmurings of an imminent Penguin update surfacing towards the end of last month, and Mueller stating that his team is working on speeding up the refresh cycle, sites may not have to wait too long to see if all their hard work has had an effect.