Google has now made it impossible to detect specific algorithmic updates to Panda, and subsequent penalties by pushing out updates in near-realtime.
The internet marketing world has also just gotten confirmation that Penguin will follow suit. Pidgeon, Pirate and so on will likely follow in due course as well.
This means that there is only one truly safe bet, as far as SEO is concerned…
…following the rules.
SEO’s have, up to this point, been able to navigate the haze of google penalties relatively effectively. Using tools like the Moz algorithm update tracker and a good keyword tracking system, you can correlate dips and drops, rises and climbs with the various updates. Also courtesy of the Moz update tracker, we can get a sense of the effect the update has on specific factors, which gives us an idea of what to fix to get out of penalty.
Unfortunately, the ability to make predictions is soon to be made obsolete.
Google’s algorithms are now being set loose in a near-realtime manner, without the same level of observation that prior major updates have had. The implications of this are two fold.
One, simply correlating the date of an update with a drop in rankings isn’t going to work anymore. Because of the new nature of the beast, you won’t know what specific problems you have.
The traditional method of forensic SEO just won’t help.
It also means that Google is more confident in their testing. This could also mean that we will begin to see more and more aggressive changes to the algorithm being implemented as time progresses. It seems likely that Google, with it’s truly mind boggling datasets, is capable of finding and fixing these sorts of problems rather quickly.
For those of us internet marketers who have gone past mere SEO, the new realtime nature of Google is both a good and bad thing. It means that SEOs that focus on the technical aspects alone will no longer be able to rank effectively without crafting a full on marketing strategy. On the bad news side, It also means that, in order to stay penalty free, your site will have to follow every guideline to a T, whether it’s technical or user experience, backlinks or people.
I’d be very, very careful from this point onward.