One of the big stories of the year that is not receiving a ton of attention in this year-end “biggest tech stories of 2011″ conflagration, is Google’s Panda update in February (with subsequent tweaks throughout the year – see the complete change history at SEOmoz).
Something else happened in February and that was the release of WordPress 3.1, with its native support for different types of post formats. Like many WordPress bloggers, I suspect that I was slow to integrate the new post formats into my blog.
In fact, here on TaB I did not incorporate them until my latest theme update, in November. On another one of my blogs, though, I integrated some of the new post formats (quotes, asides and links) into a custom three-column Twenty Eleven child theme, with the main blog posts in one column, and the new shorter post formats in a second column.
It proved to be an efficient blog-setup, as I could post quick news items and other relevant content, without pushing the main blog posts off the front page. I have subsequently sold the blog, but it was a great proof-of-concept for what I would eventually implement, here on TaB.
Unfortunately, Google’s algorithm changes appear to be penalizing blogs incorporating these new, predominantly short, post formats. Granted, the numbers above are only for one blog, but after implementing the new theme in early August, there is an immediate and significant reduction in search engine traffic.
Clearly this is something to consider, if search engine traffic is a major part of your overall blogging strategy. On a more strategic note, the social web has been moving towards shorter-form content – e.g. Twitter and Tumblr, to name just a few and Google must decide whether its search engine will remain relevant. The alternative is that the social web will migrate away from Google’s search engine, to more relevant discovery tools – a segment where Google does not enjoy the same level of dominance.