Google’s Treatment towards SEO in 2013 – Did it Help or Hurt?


With a number of threatening messages and updates by Google in the year 2013, it is hard to conclude whether Google had an intention to hurt search marketers. Has Google really learned anything from the actions in 2013? And most importantly, did search marketers learn anything from Google’s treatment last year?

This New Year, it is time to focus on evaluating improvements by Google and what might be coming this year based on the highly turbulent months in the past.

Here, we will take a time journey. This is quite similar to a time machine process. To start with, we’ll have a look at some of the primary issues faced in the year 2013. We will review these months since then and what precisely Google did for the SEO community in totality.

It all started in Year 2012

This was a sober year for search engine marketers. Website owners were also having a good time until it soon turned into a year of punishment. Year 2012 was the year that algorithms of Google really caught up with their words. However, the year belonged to the trend where they hadn’t refined algorithms as much as necessary to unleash immense collateral destruction.

Listed below are algorithmic highlights for the year 2012:

  • Panda: The year saw a total of 15 Panda updates targeting low quality content and thin sites.
  • Penguin: The Penguin series of updates started off with this year. About 3 iterations rolled during the entire year. These were targeting over-optimization by websites.
  • Above the Fold: Google adjusted algorithms to target websites heavy on advertisements above the fold on landing pages.
  • Knowledge Graph: First appearance of box towards the right of the SERPs containing information snippets appeared.
  • Exact Match Domains: Google ceased valuing exact match domains.

Non-algorithmic highlights for the year 2012:

  • Link Warnings: Year 2012 was definitely the year of the “unnatural links” warnings. Many hundreds of thousands of them were sent out to webmasters just within weeks.
  • Project Glass: Google endorsed ‘Project Glass’ to make users pretend paying attention to someone even while playing Candy Crush.
  • Motorola: Google acquired Motorola.
  • Negative SEO: This was back with a vengeance. Google started off with a lot of penalties targeting unnatural links and link schemes. Webmasters were worried about competitors using these techniques against them.
  • Disavow: Google soon announced disavow capabilities to specify links to website that shouldn’t be counted.

All of the above listed trends set a base for the following year 2013. 2012 was definitely a chaotic year. Most webmasters faced challenging issues owing to changes made by Google in their ranking and penalty strategies. Hence, the year 2013 was expected to be a year of outright attacks.

Here is information on month-by-month through 2013. The recap will let you know about the biggest events of the year. Understanding these events will help you know about and be prepared for what’s in store for the year 2014.

Google in 2013

January 2013

  • 24th Panda refresh.

February 2013

  • Google Glass gets their first active “real world” users.

March 2013

  • 25th Panda refresh.
  • Google also penalized SAPE Link Network.
  • This was the month when Google openly endorsed their plans to integrate Panda algorithm into the rolling algorithm. The manual application was of no use now.

April 2013

  • Google allots a month’s time for webmasters to catch their breath.

May 2013

  • The month experienced a Phantom Update. There was no announcement from Google’s side but significant changes in traffic and ranking were reported.
  • Official launch of Penguin 2.0.

June 2013

  • Payday loan space gets an update.
  • Panda Dance: Matt Cutts endorses 10 days of time period for Panda updates and a multi week update rolled out immediately after.

July 2013

  • Google pulls back a bit on some of the updates by Panda.

August 2013

Hummingbird update: This was the major algorithmic shift in the last 12 years! The update was also majorly focused on knowing more about conversational search.

September 2013

  • Google removes any last keyword data accessible in analytics. So now this appears as “(not provided)” in Google Analytics.
  • Google provides website owners a reprieve for the holidays. But there’s nothing to be too relaxed about. The year 2012 witnessed first update on December 21st and normally postponed until after New Year.
  • Link Networks Go Down: This didn’t apply to a couple link networks that Google took down such as the Anglo Rank and

So how did Year 2013 go?

The year 2012 witnessed Google pulling off many ‘Band-Aids’ and literally cleaning up their index. 2013 made them push technologies forward, this time for the real world.

The Updates were geared at One of the Following Two Things:

Cleanup Refinement from 2012

With a lot of collateral damage in 2012 updates and its continuance through 2013 it was crystal clear that Google was making efforts towards refining their algorithms further with an aim to take out false positives that discouraged decent sites. Although they weren’t 100% successful, Google planned something more positive and effective to be implemented in 2013.

Pushing Technologies Forward

Hummingbird Update followed and its push into natural language was clear. It also focussed on the Knowledge Graph.

The attacks in the year 2013 were more targeted towards penalization of specific link networks or an algorithm. This indicates that Google is relatively pleased with their present technologies and capacities towards filtering out poor websites and links.

Removal of Keyword Data

Removal of keyword data by Google was also the major highlight of the year. The first occurrence was revolted by many initially but later on, the marketers got the gist of it. They actually understood that there was no need precisely to keep keyword data to report.

No what about Google? Did it learn anything?

Not much! But they certainly got bigger issues sorted out in 2012. They even pushed them forward into 2013 with a commitment to refine and enhance. This time, the focus was not on punishment and removal.

Did marketers learn?

The answer literally depends on the SEO or marketer. They are receiving emails to buy directory submissions for a price and forced to think upon them as nice ideas.

What’s next?

Google In 2014

The year 2014 for Google will bear a lot of focus on pushing hard and technology acquisitions.

Mobile Technology

Google is a search engine and more than that, it is an ‘advertising’ engine. The major portion of rebuilding of their algorithms (Hummingbird) was devoted to conversational search.

People now rely on mobile phone as their major means of communication even for the internet usage and data amount, the advertising capabilities on mobile are stronger than that of desktop.

The changes expected in the year 2014 will depend on the medium used for advertising. Marketers should be more watchful in updating themselves on top of new offerings in AdWords. This is important to enjoy an insight into the manner in which mobile technologies will change.

Google controls the search and the OS on the majority of mobile devices. This is the biggest advantage and works for a huge opportunity to present relevant ads at key points eventually.

Most marketers are also anticipating greater levels of personalization followed and stronger ties connecting mobile and desktop devices.

The Technology

Acquisitions in the area of gaming and television are expected. According to some rumours, a gaming console is being launched in the near future. Let us imagine that you’re playing a game. And with the help of Hummingbird-like conversational command operational, you can utter, “Google – order me a Mountain Dew and a Burger for delivery”. Here, you don’t need to stop playing.

Investigating on Google’s push towards accomplishment over the past two years, this is certainly the most logical step in the year 2014. This is precisely a push into new markets to secure a better understanding of marketers combined with an ability to “enhance your overall experience”.

Google may not be launching headlong into entertainment until the year 2015. But you must really watch for those acquisitions as they occur. This also means you need to keep your marketing department equipped with what’s required.

Web Search Marketers in 2014

For the meantime, you must focus on developing good content. Make sure your website is optimized for perfectly for a mobile communication device. You must also stay connected with authorities and exchange ideas with them.

Pay attention to stats of visitors. Remember that revenue is the primary concern for Google and that revenue will come from searchers. So give them a positive experience and consider mobile visitors.

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