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Google Austin Algorithm Update
Original Posting Date: January 23, 2004
Updated: July 2, 2007
Some of the websites that haven't been hit too hard in Google's Florida update (November 2003) got hit real hard on or around Jan. 23, 2004. Google's latest update is called Update Austin. In typical fashion, the Updates are named after events of Webmaster World. For example, "Update Florida" was given the name due to the Webmaster World conference that was being held in Orlando, Florida around the time of the update. "Austin" is the headquarters of Webmaster World (Austin, Texas).
Marketing strategies such as FFAs (Free for All) link farms, invisible text, stuffed meta tags that are 20 screens long, filled with useless spam and the like are causing sites to receive a "ban" or "penalty" from Google with this update.
Google is continuously tweaking and fine-tuning its technology to make it better and the next few weeks should see more improvements.
Google's New "Weapons of Mass destruction"
Google's unique way to find sites that attempt to use spam techniques or certain methods that are forbidden by most major search engines, such as cloaking is the best out there. In fact, to rectify this situation, on Jan. 25 Google changed the IP addresses of most of its data centers all over the world in an effort to combat such abused techniques.
What is really peculiar about this update is that the majority of the sites we have been optimizing for the past 12 months have actually gone up in their rankings. Still, we are hearing and reading reports in the industry that some websites (in no particular industry) have seen their PR (PageRank) drop one point for no apparent reason. Sites that for the past two years had a PR of 6 dropped to 5, with no real changes in the number of outbound links pointing to them.
This is indicative that Google has changed the formula to calculate the number of outbound links used in computing the resulting PR value a site should have, in relation to its competing sites. It is also believed that Google now looks at the "theme" of a site and looks at the relevancy of links to better calculate PR. Sites in the same industry will benefit more than before, while others which get the majority of their links from sites that have nothing to do with them could see their PageRank value go down, as some did on Jan 23. (For good tips on the best way to increase your link popularity, click here).
It is clear by now that Google is making some significant improvements and some major changes to its search algorithm. Get used to this, as my feeling is that it will continue for the next several months. It is my belief that, from the month of November to this date, sites that haven't gone through any significant loss in their rankings could very well fall in the "victims category" if they happen to use any forbidden techniques or unethical SEO practices described earlier.
Spring clean up time is here already
For almost as long as I can remember, most major search engines have always frowned upon sites that use spam techniques or tricks that are not recommended, in an attempt to get away and possibly rank higher. If you suspect your site is part of this category, the time has come to "clean up" and to start producing good and relevant content. From the beginning, sites that have always produced great and superior content have always benefited and these categories of quality sites are usually not affected in any major update.
Content that is freshly and regularly updated always helps in getting better rankings. On the web, content is always king. It's not just the quantity, but also the quality of the content that is important. Additionally, Google's Hilltop Algorithm has a tendency to detect sites that are authoritative in their field and will usually rank them higher, along with a higher PR value. Hilltop looks at the topic of the theme and who links to a site, the value of those links and the anchor text surrounding those links, as well as the text in the links themselves.
Remove from your site any meta tags that are irrelevant and replace them with the ones that are truly in relation to the products and services you want to sell or whatever it is you are trying to promote on your site. Also, look at your title tags - are they really indicative of what that page is all about?
Look at the body of your text. Is it carefully written and does it flow well to any human visitor that tries to read it, or does it sound like you are repeating the same keywords over and over dozens of times?
For the SEO community, the next two to three months should be interesting, both as close observers (which most of us are) and from a ranking standpoint. It is now highly expected that Google will produce its long-expected IPO. Some think this is the reason why it is making such major changes to its search technology.
Additionally, more speculation and "conspiracy theories" have been rampant in many SEO forums, which, for the most part, are unfounded in my opinion.
Whatever the reasons to these important changes, one thing is clear: Google is working hard to improve the quality of their search results and this can only be achieved by trying new algorithms, tweaking existing technology, changing IP addresses in data centers, etc.