Google Algorithm Updates – What you Need to Know
Over the years, Google has introduced a number of major changes to its search algorithms. These affect not only the way your website is indexed, but how your website is ranked on the search engine results pages (serps).
There have actually been 100’s of small updates – but so far, only 3 have been game-changing. These are the Panda, the Penguin and the Hummingbird updates.
February 2011: Panda
This update focussed on web content – it was designed to prevent websites with poor quality content from ranking high on the serps. Sites such as content farms or those with a high-ad-to-content ratio would be penalised for poor content. Panda was meant to lower bounce rates and remove duplicate content – leading to an improved user experience.
Google stated that 12% of search results were affected by this the initial Panda launch. A problem however, was found very quickly because poor quality websites with good SEO were now ranking higher than websites with good content, but with poor SEO. Subsequent Panda updates have been launched to refine this ranking criteria, to minimise this problem.
The lesson here is to make sure your content is of a high-quality, relevant and updated frequently to avoid Panda penalties.
April 2012: Penguin
This major change was to penalise sites who were spamming the serps. In essence it focussed on sites that appeared to either be stuffing their content with keywords or who had unnatural inbound links, aggressive internal linking, excessive links from low quality sites and low quality article marketing.
In other words, sites that were buying backlinks or creating links from articles purely to boost their rankings on serps. The solution to Penguin penalties is to have natural anchor texts, contextual thematic links and high quality, relevant links – avoiding low quality links of all kinds.
September 2013: Hummingbird
This major update focussed on search engine queries by taking into account the meaning of the words or phrases entered into the search box or the intent of the searcher. This would allow Google to provide more appropriate and matched results to people’s search queries. In other words, it focussed on semantic searches, rather than keyword searches.
What this means is that long tailed keywords are now an important part of your SEO. Other than that, if you have high quality content on your website and you already rank well – Hummingbird will just make it easier for your content to be matched with relevant search queries.
So what is the take home message?
Make sure that your internal link structure and architecture is easily navigable, your pages load fast, utilise your title, alt, H1 and H2 tags appropriately, write good quality and relevant content, and that you have good quality and relevant internal and external links.
And on a final note – there has been speculation recently on what the next round of updates will mean for websites. Matt Cutts (head of Google’s Webspam team) has suggested a need to differentiate between sites that are popular because of lots of traffic, and those that are authoritive because lots of people link to them.
So whilst we will have to wait and see what any future algorithm updates have in store for us – ensuring that your content is of a high quality is a big step in the right direction.
Co-founder of Cornerstone and marketing junkie, Michael knows just how to diagnose your online problems and remedy the issue. An online enthusiast who believes in technology as an enabler of growth, Michael worries about all the details so you don't have to.