An Insight Into Google’s Florida

Recently, Google undertook a major update in its search algorithms. On November 16th, 2003, Google rolled out the popularly known “Florida Update.” This week on SEO Chat, we’ll be taking a close look at the “Florida Update,” and what it can mean to you and your business. In this first article, Nakul goes over some of the features of this new update. “The ‘Florida’ update has been said to have a vast similarity to a sea storm for ecommerce business because most of them were dislocated in the search listings resulting in loosing targeted traffic and ultimately loosing business.

As we all know, Google™ undertook a major update in its search algorithms which started on the 16th day of November 2003 popularly known as the ‘Florida Update’, an exclusive ‘Google Dance’. The name “Google Dance” has often been used to describe the index update of the Google search engine. Although Google performs Google dance (reindexes the whole web) almost every month, this one is so far being referred as an update to their algorithm, which delivered drastic changes to the Search Engine Results Pages. These dramatic changes in the search results at Google churned the Black Boxes all over as millions of websites that were at the top or near the top positions in the search results for specific keywords came tumbling down hundreds of positions and some were simply made to disappear from the results. The “Florida” update has been said to have a vast similarity to a sea storm for ecommerce business because most of them were dislocated in the search listings resulting in loosing targeted traffic and ultimately loosing business. Many people expressed grudge and rage against this update. 

Why Did Google Have the Florida Update?

Google’s main aim is to deliver the most relevant and quality results to users. As said by Larry Page, co-founder and president of Products, Google, “The perfect search engine… would understand exactly what you mean and give back exactly what you want.” (From the corporate section of the Google website For the last eight months ,it has been easy to spam Google by using keywords in the anchor text of external links. Such linking manipulated Page Rank and spam results were showing up on the first page for very competitive searches. Then, PageRank was recomputed for the entire web which acted as a sword against spam tricks.  However, because of many ecommerce business owners’ continued practice of link spam, the Florida update was planned by Google. The main implementations of this update can be understood in terms of features of this update move.

{mospagebreak title=Florida Update Features}

Applied Semantics Application (Ontology)

Google seems to apply applied semantics in the form of ‘Ontology’ to its search algorithm. Ontology is an explicit specification of a conceptualization. The term is borrowed from philosophy, where Ontology is a systematic account of Existence. For AI systems, what “exists” is that which can be represented. It is a technique by which words are combined to give meaning to a body of text. That means word combinations are not as important as what the word combinations say about the text. Google seems to apply ontology to its search, which means giving the googlebot the ability to think. In other words, not looking for x number of keywords or keyword combinations, but the real context of the page, getting closer to the meaning of the page. In short, Google’s embedded artificial intelligence to its algorithm. This company has devised a way to apply ontological rules (such as similarity, anonymity, synonymy and many others) to a web page to determine its context.

Keyword Differentiation

It was highly believed that Google became search term specific means it differentiates between commercial and non commercial keywords and key phrases. From constant testing and analysis, it is clear that this belief holds good. Now, where did Google manage to get that list of keywords and key phrases? The answer is that Google owns a large database of money keywords through its ad words program; Ad words dealt with the most commercial kind stuff and got much popularity; Google now knew which keywords and key terms were the most competitive ones and likely to be over SEO’d.


It seems that some type of ‘SEO filter’ is applied to check that whether over-timization is done on some particular keywords or phrases. For example, if a link has a key word/phrase, the website URL has the key word/phrase, the webpage text is also over burdened by keywords or key phrases, then that page should be penalized for over-optimization. This theory might work; when a search query is made, Google gets a set of pages that match the query and then the SEO filter is applied to each of them. If any pages are found to exceed the allowable optimization, then those pages are not shown in the results.


Google introduced another advanced search feature, called “Stemming.” Simply put, Stemming matches keywords with other stem words (words originating from the keyword). With stemming, Google automatically searches for variations of words such as -ing forms and plurals for example the word “like” will be matched to “like,” “likes,” “liking,” “likings,” “liked.” In other, words if you search for website design, you will be searching for websites design, website design, website designing, and websites designing.

{mospagebreak title=More Features}

Affiliates Discouraged

The Florida update is aimed towards reducing the affiliate businesses websites. Basically, the affiliate sites with domains having keywords in them, and with a network of keyword links linking back to the website. In removing the affiliate sites, Google somehow killed some reasonable ecommerce sites having low page rank. Every move has some pros and cons with it, and this is the negative part of this move, as is being discussed with all the affected businesses all over the web.

Specific Search Words List

People realized that SEO filter was applied to certain search terms, but not to others. It can therefore be inferred that Google is maintaining a list of search terms, when a term from that list is searched, then the filter comes into action. Otherwise, the search bypasses the filter.

PageRank algorithm

We all know about the page rank, the importance of a webpage measured on a scale of 0 to 10 by Google. Before the Florida update, search results displayed pages higher in search results that had higher page ranks, meaning that the higher the page ranked, the closer it would be towards the top listings. After the Florida update, pages with lower page rank were seen appearing in the top listings too. This implied that the Page rank calculation undergone a change. The inbound links (links pointing to a website) factor was given less importance now as compared to before the update, in order to reduce link spamming, such as link exchanges and reciprocal link programs. It is believed that Google has deployed the Hilltop algorithm for page rank calculation. Click here for detailed explanation about the hilltop algorithm. This is too a major improvement towards search quality and relevancy.

After the Florida update, there has been really a tough time for commercial sites, but don’t panic. Instead, be keen in understanding the new changes, and discuss with experts around at various discussion forums and message boards. Second, since the update, Google’s is now very selective in considering the outgoing and incoming links to and from a website that directly affect the PR of a page. You must now ensure to link to the sites relevant to your site and also the text of hyperlinks pointing to your site should contain minimum number of keywords, non compliance of which will result in over-optimization penalization of your site by Google. In existing hyperlinks, change your keywords with minor alterations, like adding or restructuring words and rearranging phrases so that they don’t appear to be spam.

Google is updating and improving in order to deliver excellent results. Constant improvements, however, demand constant changes. The Florida update is one of those major changes. Don’t get disturbed, though; slowly and steadily the rankings will be back, as mentioned by some senior people from Google, and Google will always be friendly if you play safe and believe in organic SEO.

{mospagebreak title=Conclusion}

The purpose of the Florida update is clear: Google is trying to eradicate the manipulation of search terms by companies using several techniques for top ranking for the most competitive searches, and is making the software more intelligent and more efficient in its pursuit of improvement. However, on the negative side as a result of the Florida update, the quality and relevancy of the search results depleted temporarily. Google will not sit like that, but in fact, constant tweaking and improvement of the algorithm is going on in order to improve the quality of search.

Let’s wait and see what happens next. Kindly note that the words above are not biased for any reason and they are my views in general; I do not directly or indirectly point towards any company or individual related in any way whatsoever with the Florida Update. All trademarks are owned by their respective companies. If you have any questions, doubts, updates for me, feel free to contact me and pass the information over.