Insight & expertise

Algorithms: Winners and Losers of the Battle with Google

By Holly Hayman, blog post 12/09/2012

For a multi-billion dollar business Google’s motto couldn’t be simpler: “Don’t be evil”.

When you’ve been stung by an update it’s hard to know if this is true, but their top priority is and always has been their “customers”, the searchers and getting them the best results. In this post I’ll go over who won and who lost in this year’s major updates.



We spoke last week about Penguin, Google’s latest game-changing algorithm update released in April. But think more Feathers McGraw than Pingu, this penguin has teeth.

The Winners

Websites that have always focused on quality rather than quantity when it comes to links.

Penguin is all about eliminating spam, so if your website was chugging along with a healthy DA and lots of links from high quality sites then you should have been all right.

The Losers

If you had duplicate content that was hanging around making the place look untidy then Penguin probably had a word.

Sites with poor link profiles—using link farms, paid links, poor quality affiliates etc.—ended up bearing the brunt of this algorithm. Typically, low quality sites in the beauty and fashion arenas got hit hardest.

Panda Re-release


The most (in)famous algorithm to date, Panda effected a huge number of websites. This algorithm was about content: great, shareable, winning content.

The Winners

Websites that focused heavily on having great content pre-release won out in this round. These websites would have had interesting, original articles and snappy content.

The sectors that typically did well here are news, “daily funnies” and e-commerce websites with lots of lifestyle advice and special features. Great content is the main focus of Panda, so if you’ve been updating your blog with new features each week, refreshing page content and trying to give your visitors the ride of their lives, you were probably safe.

The Losers

If your website had old and outdated content, or copied product descriptions and a blog that was last updated in the stone age, then the odds are you got a “Panda slap”.

Keyword stuffing, over-optimised pages and a lack of creativity get Panda real riled up and your rankings will be proof of that. Think websites that are spammy and two dimensional with little content of their own.


Google’s Venice update is one that went under the radar whilst webmasters tried to fend off the tides from other changes. Venice focuses on local listings and gives searchers the most local results to them.


The Winners

Think of it as “Buy British”, but with search.

If you are a local company specialising in local service then you’ll have done well, particularly local companies such as building contractors, cleaning companies and garages.

The Losers

If you’re targeting the whole country from a little town in Cornwall, you might need to rethink your strategy, a lot of companies with one physical location but shipping nationwide suffered here.

If you think you’ve been hit, then SEOmoz have put together a list of every known algorithm release/rerelease from Google over the years. Take a look in Google Analytics and then which algorithm was released, we could help you find a way out of it.