Google’s June-July Updates: Site Clustering, Sitelinks Changes & Focus On Page Quality

google-g-logoIt’s back. And it’s bigger than ever.

I’m talking about Google’s monthly announcement of search quality/algorithm changes — an announcement that the company skipped in July, making the one that they posted late Friday afternoon the biggest ever, with a reported 86 changes covering June and July.

As I’m wont to do, below is a look at some of the items that caught my eye in reading about Google’s changes. And as you’re often wont to do, feel free to use the comments at the end to talk about the things that stand out for you.

Site Clustering

If you’re a regular and active Twitter user, and if you follow a fair amount of SEO industry accounts, chances are good that you’ve seen a lot of complaints over the past month or two about how some domains are utterly dominating Google’s search results. On some queries, it’s not been unusual to see the first 8-9 results coming from one domain.

Methinks that has to do with what Google calls “site clustering,” and that was a common item in Google’s blog post:

  • #82541. [project codename "Other Ranking Components"] This is one of multiple projects that we’re working on to make our system for clustering web results better and simpler.
  • NoPathsForClustering.[project codename "Other Ranking Components"] We’ve made our algorithm for clustering web results from the same site or same path (same URL up until the last slash) more consistent. This is one of multiple projects that we’re working on to make our clustering system better and simpler.
  • bergen.[project codename "Other Ranking Components"] This is one of multiple projects that we’re working on to make our system for clustering web results better and simpler.

“Better and simpler”? I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? But sure, when 90 percent of the results on page one are from the same domain, you could certainly call it “simpler.”

Google has gone back and forth on this topic over the years. It used to be that no more than 2-3 results from one domain would appear, and the 2nd/3rd results would be indented below the first. Then, if my memory is correct, Google removed the indents and began showing nearly a full page of results from a single domain — and later pulled back on that, limiting a single domain to only getting about four listings on a single page of results.

Now it looks like that’s been changed again and people are seeing 8-9 results from one domain on page one. And if there are “multiple projects” related to this, I suspect we may continue to see more changes in the coming month(s) where site clustering is concerned.

Page Quality

Google’s pretty vague on this (big surprise!), but I wanted to point out that there are no fewer than a half-dozen changes in what the company is calling its “Page Quality” project.

  • Bamse. [project codename "Page Quality"] This launch helps you find more high-quality content from trusted sources.
  • Bamse-17L.[project codename "Page Quality"] This launch helps you find more high-quality content from trusted sources.
  • GreenLandII.[project codename "Page Quality"] We’ve incorporated new data into the Panda algorithm to better detect high-quality sites and pages.
  • #82353.[project codename "Page Quality"] This change refreshes data for the Panda high-quality sites algorithm.
  • #82666.[project codename "Page Quality"] This launch helps you find more high-quality content from trusted sources.
  • Hamel.[project codename "Page Quality"] This change updates a model we use to help you find high-quality pages with unique content.

Notice a theme above? “High-quality content” … “trusted sources” … “unique content” … all the stuff that Google’s been cranking the dial about in the last 18 months or so.

What Is “ng2″?

This one’s interesting:

ng2. [project codename "Other Ranking Components"] Better ordering of top results using a new and improved ranking function for combining several key ranking features.

I have no idea what that’s about, but it looks important. Better ordering of top results based on the combination of several important ranking elements. Hmmmmmmmmmm……….

Sitelink Changes

Google’s post includes four changes that are related to how Sitelinks work.

  • gas station. [project codename "Snippets"] This change removes the boilerplate text in sitelinks titles, keeping only the information useful to the user.
  • Manzana2.[project codename "Snippets"] This launch improves clustering and ranking of links in the expanded sitelinks feature.
  • yoyo.[project codename "Snippets"] This change leads to more useful text in sitelinks.
  • Challenger.[project codename "Snippets"] This is another change that will help get rid of generic boilerplate text in Web results’ titles, particularly for sitelinks.

Although each one specifically mentions Sitelinks, I think some of the same things are happening with regular (non-Sitelink) results. I wrote on my personal blog a couple months ago about different ways that Google is handling the title tag, and it’s similar to what’s listed above for Sitelinks — Google is basically taking the liberty to rewrite titles, drop “boilerplate text” and make the wording of individual search results more user-friendly.

Other Items

Above are the things that stood out the most for me, but you should also check out Google’s full announcement for additional things, like:

  • 23 things related to a project called “Answers,” with several updates to how Google shows query answers atop search results.
  • Three things related to Universal Search results display – News, Local and Images.
  • A handful of Panda-related items, all of which I think we covered here on Search Engine Land.

Your turn: What items in Google’s post caught your eye? Comments are open.

Related Entries

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: SEO | Google: Sitelinks | Google: Web Search | SEO: Host Crowding & Clustering | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • yogiguru

    To me, the “trusted sites” thing stood out more than anything. Particularly for ecommerce websites. If you aren’t part of the Google “Trusted Stores” program, you may be S.O.L. when it comes to ranking well!

  • Serjosha Brodesser

    “On some queries, it’s not been unusual to see the first 8-9 results coming from one domain.” It’s even worse. Recently I got 88 results from one domain within the first 10 pages.

  • Ron Sansone

    The SERPs are so much worse with Site Clustering that I actually switched to Bing for my regular searches. That should NEVER be the case. This is exactly how you drive users to other engines.

  • Troy Eaves

     Nobody mentioned the Codename:Popcorn update which changes the snippet if the crawler thinks the page is an article…won’t that effect the content marketing efforts of Ecomm SEOs trying to give users a better experience on category pages? Not much of an explanation on Google’s end..of course.

  • יוסי קהא פרחי ליס פרחים תל אבי

    לייק פוסט טוב מאוד 
    אשמח לדעת אם גם בישראל הוחל שינוי האלגוריטמים ?

  • Suniel Kumar

    Google has emphasized on “page quality” in both June and July search quality changes. It will certainly bring better SERP with improved sitelinks. 

  • gareth jax

    Panda has now reached Japan and Korea. I think it’s worth mentioning. 

  • Chris Koszo

    And not a peep about links. They may beappy with the amount of FUD that they’ve created or they’re prepping for something significant like a link disavow tool. Either way I’m assuming more Penguin updates are coming.

  • Matt McGee

     Wow. Do you remember what the search query was??

  • Matt McGee

     We wrote a separate article about that when it happened, Gareth. See

  • cjvannette

    All the comments about clustering are interesting, because that’s not what I’m seeing in my industry. For the highly competitive home & garden keywords we’re targeting, we typically see one or maaaaaybe two results per domain on page 1.

  • Andrius Dorča

     They probably live on high sedatives if they think their SERP’s getting any better. I switched to bing, even though it has it’s own problems, at least I know BING doesn’t hide mom and pop sites highly related to the niche, as google does.

  • Alan

    Site clustering works well for Google. It drives people to adwords. Think about it if one site dominates the results, that site wont bother with adwords but the other 9 sites that used to be on the front page now have to use adwords to stand a chance. very sneaky of Google but it must been having an aweosme affect on their bottom line!

  • Hernan Gutierrez


  • John

    Let’s face it, SERPs are a freaking mess at this moment and they have been like this since Google started with this black & white animal updates. I found today on a second page, 10 unrelated results of my query from the same site.. I’m trying to remembering it…  

  • emory @ clickfire

    8 and 9 results from one domain on the first page. All brands, no objectivity. This the worst SERPage I’ve seen in a long time. I’ll take pre panda SERPs over these.

  • Sanket Patel

     I never seen this type of results in SERP, can you please share keywords which provides 9 results of one domain in first page.

  • samz

    “accor hotels rome”

  • Manoj Varma

    I am into eCommerce portal for a matrimonial product. It been observed a negative trend for clicks & impressions for my brand searches on Google webmaster report. Rankings for the keywords does not show big negative impact….even after that i have lost acquisition by 30% compared to last  months. Can you please some remedy measures…

  • Ninja Claesson

    I have noticed the “several results from one single domain” a lot. For me it’s just weird to get a whole page of results from the same domain. In my opinion it’s not user friendly at all and this is not helping me finding what I want. Google is improving their algorithms to make it easier for the user to find what they want quick, but this one… No Google. This is not even a little bit better than before.

  • Anirudha

    try searching for keyword “which bingo” you will see about 7 results for the same website :)

  • John

    You are right. On first page, there are only 8 results (WTF?), and 7 of these results are from the same domain, if you go to page 2, more results from this same domain still appearing… this is stupid…

    Google is punishing as many people and Webmasters they can, but, with what face?? they are also doing really stupid and bad things. 

  • Sanket Patel

    Thanks Anirudh and samz i can see the results of these both keywords.

  • Nathaniel Bailey

    check out this search for some cluster fucking as I like to call it, because all it does is push other quality sites out the way.

    That search term has pushed the clustering back a couple of pages (gets bad on page 3 or 4 I believe) but it did start straight from page 1 last week, so maybe my emails asking what the hell is going on have been glanced at? (I wish lol)

  • John

    =X I almost vomit on my screen seeing those SERPs. Google is making us waste our time too, this is sad, seriously.

    lightahome is…

    Repeated 5 times on page 1
    Repeated 5 times on page 2
    Repeated 2 times on page 3
    Repeated 6 times on page 4
    Repeated 5 times on page 5
    Repeated 3 times on page 6
    Repeated 0 times on page 7
    Repeated 4 times on page 8
    Repeated 3 times on page 9 
    And the list continues… 

    WTF GOOGLE??? It seems Matt Cutts needs some help…

  • Peter Kern

    hahaha on the first page I see only the same domain name. Google is digging its own grave.

  • Peter Kern

    Matt Cutts needs to be fired! 

  • Gareth Owen

    no it won’t.

  • Codex Meridian

    Same here. Switch to Bing.

  • Codex Meridian

    Most comments here are negative about the Google June/July updates. Will Searchengineland published updates on Bing too about their search? Probably Google can learn from them. Thanks.

  • Jack Hutchinson

    The clustering is becoming a serious issue – surely it cannot be right for one company to be able to monopolise SERPs like that? Perhaps this is another way Google are trying to “encourage” people to start using AdWords…..

  • Keshab Raj Adhikari

    I am going to give-up.. I am tired now.. no more SEO and online base work..  shit man.. I spent 4 years and never grown …

  • Ben Guest

    That’s awesome!  I’m the SEO of that site.  LOL

    I kid, I kid.

  • Matt McGee

    When Bing has announced changes to its search quality in the past, we’ve covered it. If they do it again in the future, we’ll cover it.

  • Sean Thinkbigsites

     That is insane!  I really hope this gets fixed, because there is no reason why someone would need to see that many pages show up in a search from ONE SITE.

  • Dmitry Pakhomkin

    Don’t see the reason to complain about Google updates. June/July and this August are pretty good SEO-wise (given it’s executed properly within guidelines). 

  • chris_slowik

    Based on MozCast it looks like they rolled out this update on Thurs. 8/9/12 and it had a bigger effect on rankings than Panda 3.5 and Penguin 1.1!  Love how they just call it an “update”.

  • shahrulfx

    Pretty long list there. I am not sure how these changes would affect my websites. I am going to watch how Google filter sites with quality content and those with less quality. This is going to be interesting

  • Dave Fowler

    In my experience the clustering tends to kick in around page 3 onward. Check out the example given by Nathaniel Bailey elsewhere in these comments; when I conduct the same search I see a single domain in #2 and then snagging 8 spots on page 4, and 6 on page 5. 

    I guess Google might argue that these deeper pages are a bit of a wilderness anyway, but for all those smaller etailers who cannot compete for a page 1 listing, and who used to get at least some exposure for their businesses from their appearance deeper down,  this new dominance by the few must be hurting.

  • ashish yadav

    this good because i m using different content and i m not copied the content of others.

  • Dr. Peter J. Meyers

    June was insane, if ranking fluctuations are any indicator, and some of those cryptic updates look (as you implied) like they’re pretty huge. I love how they give something like “Ng2″ one line – it could either be a tiny tweak or a near-revolution in the algo. You’d never know from the description.

  • joel kaz

    About site clustering in search results- how is anyone like me suppose to compete with these search results-…1c.WSCT0I87ZI0

    Notice FixYa in most all results.

  • Mark Peters

    I really like the project BING. [project codename "Search Result Quaity"] you can find more information at 

  • daveintheuk

    The “site clustering” is simply another method to force people in competitive niches to pay for ads – or to make Google’s own properties more prominent by crowding out most other publishers.

  • Codex Meridian

     Thanks Matt for your recent article on Bing quality search rating.

  • Laura Grace

    “which bingo” seems like a very branded search. If someone were to inquire “which online bingo is the best” you don’t see paths from dominating the SERP any longer.

  • Bajsi923

    The lack of site clustering is driving me insane! Google is hardly usable any longer

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