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Google updates 2011

A reference of major Google updates we think marketers involved in SEO, Pay Per Click or Social media need to know about

Each day Google makes many changes and updates to its different tools and it does a great job of announcing them through all its blogs and feeds, but it can be difficult to keep on top of what matters and what doesn't, particularly if you're a generalist marketer or digital marketer rather than a search marketing specialists.

So on this page we try to help by being selective for you to update you on Google's algorithm updates, new tools, policies and changes to Google makes we think everyone working in digital marketing or marketing needs to know about, even if they're not a search specialist!

Hopefully SEO or Adwords specialists will find it useful too and can let us know what we're missing!

June 2011 Google updates

June 29th: Google+1 recommendations buttons live in UK

We announced our Google updates page back in March when this was announced, but it's only become live in the UK on June 29th. Google's original announcement explains how it works and we have a short post on the implications of +1 for marketing.

June 28th: Google+ Facebook competitor launches

This is possibly one of the biggest developments for digital marketing this year, so we have a separate review on the implications of Google+ for marketers which we'll expand as we all find out more.

June 20th: Panda changes rumbling on

SEO roundtable reported further updates related to Google's Panda algorithm update this week - showing both winners and losers. See April and May below for more details on the impact. We've noticed our traffic up around 20% after an original drop of a similar amount. So it's worth checking your analytics or setting up a Google Analytics custom intelligence alert.

10th June 2011 Google Inside Search launches

Google's Inside Search is similar to our update in many ways - it focuses on new features. But it doesn't highlight the most important ones or the all-important algorithm changes like our update. It's got a nice timeline of when major features were introduced though, going back all the way to 1998. There is also a new Inside Search blog we'll be following for the main updates.

Significant May 2011 Google updates

9th May - Google testing changes to the search results pages

As reported by SearchEngineLand, Google had been testing a new visual appearance for the search results pages. I've been receiving these too and like many others dislike them since they make scanning results slower due to more white space. They seem similar to Bing results. One to watch our for when it's rolled out, particularly it's influence on natural search volumes since fewer results are available.

6th May - New advice on Google Panda/Farmer algorithm update issued by Google

Google has given more advice to site owners on how they evaluate "High Quality" sites through a series of questions they use to determine quality.

Taking practical actions based on these questions isn't easy because a lot of them are straightforward, but Richard Baxter of SEO Gadget has an excellent analysis of these "Panda ranking factors". For each question he suggests how Google may identify a quality/poor quality site and gives ideas on actions you can take.

Significant April 2011 Google updates

11th April 2011 - Google Panda/Farmer algorithm update rolls out to UK and Worldwide

On Monday evening, GMT Google announced it was rolling out what it calls its "High Quality Sites update" worldwide. Earlier in the day, Twitter had been abuzz with reports of changes to rankings.

Update (14/11/2011): Searchmetrics now has an interesting analysis of the changes in visibility to different UK sites. Some examples are shown on the left. Searchmetrics offers similar analysis of market impact on target phrases to Sistrix - see Chris Soame's post on post-Farmer link-building. Patrick Altoft also has a good, detailed analysis of the UK market looking at the impact on some of their client sites and questioning the value of the analysis presented left.

As our earlier alert on this page shows, it was initially announced in early February in the US and it became known as the Panda/Farmer update. It is certainly the biggest change made in 2011 since it affects around 12% of queries and has had a major impact on the "content farm" sites it targets. Our earlier post on the impact of the Farmer/Panda update and how it should affect your SEO practices shows its dramatic impact on these content sites.

To read more detail on the impact being felt in the UK read this Webmasterworld discussion.

As always, when Google makes a change like this we recommend checking your rankings using a rank-checking tool or Google's own Webmaster Tools rank checker. To see the impact on visits and goals, if you're using Google Analytics, I recommend you use Advanced segments to show only organic traffic or better non-brand organic traffic.

Major Google updates in March 2011

Google +1 - New Feature Announced


What is it?

"Google +1" enables users of Google to share a recommendation of a website when they are logged in. It's the latest attempt for Google to introduce social sharing and recommendations into the search results (following failed attempts like starring of results and sidebar wikis).  If you're looking for it, it's currently only available for US searchers on, so you won't see it in other countries.

As the examples show in the in-depth writeup we recommend at the end of the article, sharing is prompted and shown:

  1. In the natural search listings
  2. In Google Adwords
  3. Via your website through a widget similar to the Facebook "Like button"

We've rated the importance of +1 feature as 5 for marketers since:

  1. It will increase awareness and credibility of a company within Google search results pages, so increasing clickthrough and visits.
  2. In the future it may be used as a factor to boost ranking of your site and improve the quality score of ads.
  3. It may also help show the credibility of a brand or it's products on the site which could affect conversion rates. So it potentially affects social commerce.

What do you think of the introduction of Google +1? Will you be using it on your website? Join the discussion on our LinkedIn Group >

What does it mean for online marketing?

While there is no escaping the fact that  does pretty much exactly the same as the Facebook Like button it does have different implications for marketers. Some immediate things that spring to mind to think about are:

  • Is this just another tool that paves the way for Google's rumored Social Networking website?
  • Does it now or will it impact natural search result rankings?
  • Will the number of +1's impact quality scores on Paid Search?
  • Will having the functionality on your own website contribute to your social score which we understand does impact organic search results?

From our initial review, it would definitely appear that Google will use this to data to impact a websites rankings in search results. Is this another system that will just get abused or will its simplicity & therefore broader market appeal mean Google finally get some solid user feedback on websites which can be applied to an algorithm?

Either way it's a great new tool from Google, very simple & if you are a big user of Google service then you are likely to find this useful in that it will help you find new exciting content through your network but also allow you to filter the good from the bad.

The new feature integrates with the Google Profiles service which was updated in 2010 and will open up new areas for you to browse & interact with your own +1 websites but also with your friends / connections +1 websites.

You can find out a little more about Google +1 by watching the video below & / or checking out the announcement on Search Engine Land.

The ability to monitor +1's for own website will also be released as part of a Google Webmaster update allowing you to see statistics of the +1 service on your website should you install the necessary code etc. Something to consider when Google +1 has rolled out whih we can expect to happen over the next few weeks.

You can learn more about +1 and other people's opinions on its introduction at:

Significant February 2011 updates from Google

Google Farmer update algorithm changes to reduce impact of low quality content

Importance: (Providing your SEO isn't over-reliant on these techniques...)

Our commentary: This updates on the 2 major SEO updates from 2011 so far:

1. An update to reduce the effectiveness of sites that scrape other sites content (this was a particular issue with the Stack Overflow Q&A forum) which is mentioned in the update below.

2. The so-called "Farmer's Algorithm update" which reduced the effectiveness of a number of well-known article "farm" marketing sites like and (see the Econsultancy post for the full listing).

Marketing implications: This update won't directly affect most marketing sites, but will affect companies who are particularly dependent on article marketing via these sites. Article syndication and guest-blogging will still continue to be worthwhile, but not in these types of sites.

Recommended links:

Significant January 2011 updates from Google

Google Keyword Tool now includes mobile volumes (12/10/11)


Category: Search behaviour and Adwords targeting

Marketing implications: I've always wondered when Google would introduce mobile search volumes showing how many people are searching from their mobile phones since it will give us a much better idea of how important mobile marketing is - touted again as the next big thing for 2011.

This example shows it's quite significant for local search - there are around 3 million searching on terms related to London - which is about 10% of the desktop search volume. So new opportunities here to target searchers who are out and about or just browsing from home - the competition seems relatively low here.

Recommended link:Explanation of mobile keyword Tool

New tool for managing negative keywords (10/01/11)


Category: Adwords

Marketing implications: Many Adwords accounts we review for smaller companies don't have negative keywords setup at all. Negative keywords tell Google when NOT to display your ads if the searcher includes a term like "cheap or free" that shows they're likely not on the lookout for your products.

Recommended link:Adwords shared lists for negative keywords

By Dave Chaffey

Dave is CEO and co-founder of Smart Insights. He is editor of the 100 templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ Digital Marketing experts. Our resources used by our Expert members in more than 80 countries to Map, Plan and Manage their digital marketing. For my full profile, or to connect on LinkedIn or other social networks, see the About Dave Chaffey profile page on Smart Insights.

Dave is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Emarketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing.

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