If you keep a close eye on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ when it comes to developments around Google and SEO you might have noticed this week that there was a lot of talk about rankings and updates. People were suggesting there was another Panda Update coming up or even taking place at that specific moment or that this was the effect of the “over optimization” penalties that have been discussed a lot lately. They came to that conclusion based on the sudden drop in rankings they saw for their websites. The “Is there a Panda Update going on?” type of tweets therefore were quite massive the past few days. It turns out that there was no Panda Update, no “over optimization” Update or anything in that matter. It turns out Google made a mistake: some sites were marked as parked when they were not. Earlier today on his Google+ page Matt Cutts ‘admitted’ Googles’ mistake saying:
“I saw a recent post where several sites were asking about their search rankings. The short explanation is that it turns out that our classifier for parked domains was reading from a couple files which mistakenly were empty. As a result, we classified some sites as parked when they weren’t. I apologize for this; it looks like the issue is fixed now, and we’ll look into how to prevent this from happening again.”
So there was a lot of fuzz about nothing… But it is a good thing that Cutts responds to the issue, in the past there has been more occasions like this that got no response whatsover, keeping people in the dark. The fact that Google is open and transparent about this is definitely worth noting.
How do you know if you were a victim?
So did you see any drops in your rankings? And do you want to know if this was because your SEO was bad, something else was wrong or whether your site was flagged as parked? First of all, if you were affected it will only result in ranking issues this week. It has been turned around already, but it might take some time to recover. Secondly, if a Google webspam team has taken action, you must have a message in your Google Webmaster Tools, so you should check there.
So were all parked domains punished?
Another question which could arise from this: is Google paying extra attention to parked domains now? They’ve always tried to rank them lower, but are they taking specific measures on them now? From where we stand now the answer is no. Google is not looking differently at them for the moment. This means that if Google spots them they might be ranked lower, but as some said, there are still a lot of parked domains out there that still rank very well.