Organic Search SEO

Three-year retrospective: My time at Vertical Leap (Part 2)

Monday, May 20th, 2013 by sclark

Vertical Leap OfficesTo mark my third anniversary with Vertical Leap I’m doing a rundown of some of the changes those of us working in the SEO industry have been both excited and scared by during the past few years

The first post was published on Monday. Today we’ll wrap up with algorithm updates, controversy, Microsoft and predictions for the future.



I can’t discuss algorithm updates without mentioning Panda. This was a change that dwarfed everything that came before, eliminating template websites with thin and spun content.

This caused resentment from many article websites yet did have the desired effect, removing many sites that were little more than spam.



If webmasters were worried about Panda, they were terrified of Penguin. While Panda concentrated on weeding out thin content, Penguin was aimed squarely at people using over-optimisation SEO techniques – including link schemes and paid links.

Penguin killed a lot of websites that manipulated their way to the top of the SERPs but also caught some legitimate businesses in the crossfire. The SEO industry lives in fear of a long-overdue follow-up that Matt Cutts has confirmed is on its way. Check your backlink profile and remove any dodgy links – hurry, you don’t have long!



BFG or EMD? Nukes websites either way.

EMD update

Being of the generation that had to run PC games in DOS, EMD always reminds me of the BFG9000 weaponry in the Doom series. I digress; EMD stands for Exact Match Domain. Having keywords within domains was an obvious way of gaining a ranking and the EMD update was intended to stop this. I still see plenty of rankings websites that use this technique so I wouldn’t be surprised if further updates follow.



Google works hard to remove websites that manipulate their rankings. As many people abused links to boost authority it was expected social conversation would replace link building.

There’s a problem though – most Facebook pages are password-protected and Facebook’s agreement is with Bing, not Google. Google can’t use Facebook shares as a way of measuring website popularity.

That’s just one of many reasons suggested as to why Google launched Google+, its social network. As other people have observed there is a growing relationship between this and other Google products. Google clearly has a strategy of how it intends to use this; authorship also being a big part.


Reviews websites

It doesn’t feel long since I was telling clients to encourage their customers to leave reviews on specialist review websites which Google would crawl and use as a signal to identify authority and trust. Unfortunately for Google, displaying reviews taken from other sites prompted complaints from copyright holders. Google now encourage people to leave reviews directly in Google+ Local.


Don’t be evil

When interviewed this month, Eric Schmidt discussed how he initially thought the unofficial motto ‘Don’t be evil’ was stupid. I can’t say whether this is true, but Google has certainly upset many people during the past few years.

Well beyond the copyright concerns raised by review websites, Google’s most scandalous moment came when street view cars collected and stored data from Wi-Fi connections. This boosted the arguments from groups concerned by Google’s size and monopoly, leading to probes and international cases. Recent concerns in the UK include questions over tax avoidance, while in the US there are privacy concerns regarding Google Glass.

Consumers may boycott products from corporations perceived as unethical, but Google remains an unstoppable giant with connections to the lives of people across the planet. Whether Google is evil is open to debate but concerns over privacy, such as the 2012 changes to their privacy policies, are generally the source of the anti-Googlers consternation.


Microsoft and friends

Although the majority of this post has discussed Google, it would be remiss not to mention Bing, which Microsoft has actively developed and pushed. With Google hoarding the lion’s share of searchers, Bing has largely gone unnoticed – which is a shame, as it isn’t a bad product.

Ties between Bing and Facebook are deepening, with Facebook returning Bing results and Bing including social connections. Much of this is still in development but it will be interesting to see how things progress – as well as how Google responds.

In 2011 Microsoft and Nokia formed an alliance over the Windows Phone operating system. While uptake has been slow, sales are starting to grow. Naturally, Bing is the default search engine. With Android’s market share growing to 74% though, it’ll be a while before it takes the crown from Google.


Into the future

Updates to search are only the tip of the iceberg and I would predict greater integration of Google’s diverse range of products. Soon you’ll be able to navigate and search from your glasses, video chat with friends, use latitude to find out where your mum is and more. Most of this is possible right now. As internet marketers it’s our role to use these products to help boost revenue for other businesses, which in turn helps fund Google and drives the development of more great products.

I hope you enjoyed this look back at the last few years. I’d love to read your comments about any developments I’ve missed both with Google and Google’s rivals – leave your messages below.


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I'm an organic-SEO kinda guy with interests in technology, video, and 3D animation. Connect to me on social using the links below!