Brett Tabke, over at WebmasterWorld, has reminded everyone today that Google has a history of doing major shake-up algorithm changes in the last quarter of the year. Update Florida occurred on 11/15/2003 and Update Dallas occurred on 9/28/2002. Apparently, there was also an Update Irvine in 2001, but I do not have an actual date to assign to it, but Brett claims it was during a similar time period. Of course, Google has had many updates over the years, but in keeping with the theme of naming updates in the same fashion as hurricanes are named, these particular updates were more of the catastrophic, category 4 types. Another analogy I like to use is that such major updates are similar to a Wall Street crash. Webmasters (like investors) can suddenly see their fortunes disappear overnight, and everyone scrambles to figure out what happened.
Of course, the timing of such updates also prompts the number one conspiracy theory to be raised again, which is that Google wants to force commercial sites to pay for adwords during the holiday season, rather than giving webmasters a free ride in the organic SERPs. Whether or not this theory has any merit, the fact remains that if you rely upon ranking well in the natural search results, a major shakeup can ruin your livelihood overnight. As long as you recognize that this is a gamble, and are prepared to deal with the loss if and when it occurs, then all is well. But by all means, be prepared. If you do not currently advertise your site, begin calculating what it would cost you to do so if your site suddenly disappeared from the rankings. Plan for the day when advertising will be necessary. If you plan ahead for a Google disaster, you may be able to ride through the algorithm storm. As the old saying goes, "Those who fail to learn the
lessons of history are doomed to repeat them." Do not be one of the SEOs who has forgotten the lessons learned in the past.