How Google’s Major Algorithm Updates Can Affect Your Business’ Search Engine Optimization
Have you ever wondered how certain sites or business listings show up at the top of the page when you do a Google search? Or have you even asked yourself, “What exactly is it that determines which articles or listings get to the top of the search results page?” The answer is a system called Search Engine Optimization. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of maximizing the visibility of your website through the results produced by a search engine. By following the “rules” of SEO, website owners have the ability to enhance their web pages and improve the page’s rankings within search engines. Millions of people use search engines every day to answer all of their burning questions. With Google being the most used search engine, understanding how to increase your page’s rank in their search results can provide countless benefits for your business. Most users are likely to never leave the first page of search engine results, which further stresses the importance of optimizing your web page’s position on search engines such as Google.
The SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) are affected daily through the changes of Google’s algorithms. One small change to an algorithm can have an immediate impact on your web page’s rankings. Nowadays, it seems that as soon as you’ve learned how to employ the latest algorithm changes to your benefit, another update sneaks up right behind you, forcing you to start over again. Fortunately, webmasters have many tools available to them to help track these changes and improve their processes. However, understanding the Google Analytic tools that are available to you and what they are able to do can be both time consuming and confusing, especially if you are a new business just trying to determine how to best tackle your online marketing plan.
In this article, we will examine the 8 major Google Algorithm updates and how these updates can best be applied to your business’s SEO strategy.
Panda was launched on February 24, 2011, but did not become a part of Google’s core algorithms until January of 2016. This update was created in order to prevent sites with poor quality content from appearing in Google’s top search results. The initial Panda update targeted “scraper” websites that would repost text as their own in order to bring in more viewers. It was also created to help fight against spam, keyword stuffing, and thin content. Thin content can be identified as web pages with low quality substance that provide little to no value to the reader, such as duplicate pages or doorway pages. Google can identify thin content by using a metric system called “time to long click”, which uses how long a user stays on a website before returning back to the Google search page to determine the quality of the content.
Panda assigns web pages “quality scores” that are then used as a ranking factor. Update rollouts have become more frequent, so penalties and recoveries occur much more quickly. To best adjust to this algorithm update, regular site checks must be ran for content duplication, thin content, and keyword stuffing. In order to do this, a site crawler such as SEO SEMRush’s Website Auditor is needed. To check for duplication of external content, a plagiarism checker like Copyscape can be used. If you are an e-commerce site and the ability to use 100% unique content is not feasible, use original images and create unique product descriptions where you can.
Penguin was launched on April 24, 2012. Penguin’s main focus is the links in, or leading to, a web page. It was created in order to fight against spam and irrelevant links, such as links that were purchased and links obtained through networks. It also combats against links with over-optimized anchor text. Anchor text is text that links to another site or document, or, in short, hyperlink text. Penguin’s overall objective is to down-rank sites whose links it deems “manipulative”. Like Panda, Penguin became a core Google algorithm in 2016. Unlike Panda, however, Penguin works in real time. For instance, if Penguin finds something about your website that would qualify as a penalty, and in response penalizes the web page, once that penalty is removed, Panda is able to process that adjustment in real time and you are able to recuperate from it just as quickly. However, this also means you can obtain penalties in the same amount of time. Penguin applies itself to more page-specific content, as opposed to site wide content. Therefore, the web page as a whole must provide quality content.
In order to adjust to the changes in algorithms established by Google’s Penguin, your link profile’s growth must be closely monitored. Regular full content audits must also be run with a backlink checker such as SEO SpyGlass. If any unusual spikes are found in your progress graph, you may have gained unexpected backlinks. These unusual spikes should then be further looked into.
Launched on August 22, 2013, Hummingbird’s purpose is to prevent keyword stuffing and low-quality content. Unlike the Panda and Penguin updates, Hummingbird is not an update that awards penalties to web pages. Rather, Hummingbird acts as an interpreter for search queries and aims to provide results that most accurately match the intent of the searcher. Exact keywords do not need to be entered by the searcher in order for a page to be ranked on a query. Instead, Hummingbird aims to match the searcher’s meaning and not just a few key words. This algorithm helps Google to better understand “conversational” search queries. This is made possible through the help of natural language processing that relies on latent semantic indexing, co-occurring terms, and synonyms.
To get the most out of Google’s Hummingbird update, you will find it beneficial to expand your keyword search and, instead of focusing on specific keywords, focus on the concepts themselves. You should take time to research possible related searches and synonyms through the use of Google Related Searches and Google Autocomplete. The Rank Tracker Keyword Research module conveniently incorporates all of these together.
Pigeon was launched in the United States on July 24, 2014 and in the UK, Canada, and Australia on December 22nd of the same year. Location often plays a vital role in which search results you receive. Pigeon was created to help with that. It formed closer ties between local algorithms and core algorithms, in which local results are now ranked by traditional SEO factors. Before the Pigeon update, results produced by Google search and Google Maps were often quite different. Now, with this update, the two search results are much more closely related. Review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor have also been affected by Pigeon. These types of sites have received higher visibility in the SERPs due to an increase of importance weight on directories and directory listings.
To effectively apply the Pigeon update to your web page’s benefit, it is important to spend time looking into on- and off-page SEO. On-page SEO refers to the actual content found on your web page that you have control of. Off-page SEO, on the other hand, refers to the techniques that can be used to rank higher in the search engine results. To begin, an analysis of your on-page SEO can be ran with the WebSite Auditor. The Content Analysis feature of WebSite Auditor allows you to get a better idea of which on-page features you should focus on. For off-page SEO, it is incredibly useful to get listed with relevant business directories. This will both act as a backlink and will help your site rank well with Google. The more quality backlinks there are to your site, the higher your web page will rank. You can find quality business directories and reach out to webmasters for potential listings through LinkAssistant.
Google’s Mobile update, or as some have dubbed it, Mobilegeddon, was launched on April 21, 2015. This update ensured that mobile-friendly pages would rank at the top of mobile searches and those pages that were not optimized for mobile use were either filtered out, or were considerably down-ranked from the search engine results. Features of mobile friendly sites include large text in which the user doesn’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom in, and a user friendly interface. Desktops and tablets were unaffected by this update.
Nowadays, because of the widespread use of mobile searching, it is incredibly important to have a fast and usable mobile version of your site. Google has made a mobile-friendly test available to you that will help you to pinpoint which of your web pages should be improved. This test is conveniently integrated into the WebSite Auditor as well.
RankBrain is an artificial intelligence system that was launched October 26, 2015 and is a part of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm. RankBrain uses both mathematical equations and language semantics to continually learn about users’ search habits. It can even update itself over time. It is an index system that Google uses to better understand the meaning behind queries and, in turn, provide the user with the search results that best match the queries. Basically, RankBrain can take long, complex queries and produce a specific and concise result. According to Google, RankBrain is the third most important ranking factor. While we don’t know what exactly RankBrain’s ranking factors are, general opinion is that it can identify relevant features for a search, which are basically query-specific ranking factors. This update has become even more significant due to the increasing popularity of voice searches from a mobile device. Voice searches tend to lean on the conversational side, so this update allows Google to better understand what exactly the user is looking for.
In order to utilize RankBrain’s features, a competitive analysis should be conducted in order to create more relevant and comprehensive content. The WebSite Auditor can once again be used to discover related concepts and terms that are commonly used by a business’s top-ranking competitors.
Possum was launched on September 1, 2016. The Possum update uses the searcher’s location to provide local results. So, the closer you are to a business, the more likely you are to find it among your searches. Before the Possum update, businesses located slightly outside of a city’s limits often had a difficult time appearing in local search engine results. This update has helped to identify location parameters, especially within specific neighborhoods, and provide the user with suggestions even slightly outside of a specified location. However, for businesses with multiple listings under the same address, such as individual lawyers working under one law firm, Possum has removed these duplicate entries and instead shows only a single result for that one physical address. The other duplicate entries have simply moved down in the rankings. Google’s Possum has also affected keyword variance search results. Slight changes in the keywords used in your search now bring up different results.
To take advantage of Google’s Possum, expand your keyword list and do location-specific rank tracking. Because of the unpredictability of local search engine results due to Possum, you must target more keywords than you were previously doing. You should also try using several target locations to check your rankings through the Rank Tracker. Getting your business listed with Google MyBusiness will literally put your business on the Google map and is extremely helpful in regards to increasing your web page’s ranking score.
Fred is the most recent of Google’s updates, which was launched on March 8, 2017. Fred targets websites that break Google’s webmaster guidelines. The type of sites most often affected by this update are pages with an overload of ads, pages with low-quality content, and pages that provide little user benefits, with the appearance of being created solely for generating ad revenue.
Because of the changes Fred has brought about, it is important to educate yourself on Google Search Quality Guidelines and to be cautious to not create thin content. Instead, make sure your pages provide high-quality content, include relevant information, and are not overrun with affiliate links.
A few of the other important Google algorithm updates include: Payday, Pirate, EMD (Exact Match Domain), and Top Heavy.
Now that you are more familiar with a few of the different types of Google’s updates, it is pretty easy to see how time consuming, overwhelming, and complex staying in the know on all of the algorithm updates can be. Every single update can either work in favor of, or work against your site. This is why it is not only important, but extremely valuable, to fully understand Google’s algorithms and how they can, and will, affect your business.
You also may be asking yourself, “How do I know when Google updates an algorithm? Is there any sort of announcement?” Let’s just say it is safe to assume there will definitely be algorithm updates in the near future, but they may not be officially announced. More often than not, webmasters have only realized there has been some sort of an algorithm change through witnessing changes to their web page progress traffic. Unfortunately it is slightly unrealistic for Google to make an announcement every single time they make a change to an algorithm, which is why it is valuable to have professionals you can turn to for this type of information. Also, announcements made in the past, such as stating that more links lead to better rankings, have created “blackhat” tactics, and have therefore forced Google to create new algorithms to combat these types of issues.
I think we can all agree that operating a business is stressful enough without the added pressure of staying on top of the constant flow of changes to SEO practices and Google algorithms. Luckily, there are companies out there, like US Logo, which are committed to providing these services to businesses and stay up-to-date on all of the changes that affect search engine results.
At US Logo, we use the Google Tools suite to help us get your website to the top of the search results page. Google Analytics can tell us where the visitors to your site are from, how they found your site, where they went within your site, the keywords they used to find you, and so much more. With these tools available to us, we are truly able to discover who your potential leads are and how to reach them and turn them into customers. The SEO department at US Logo tracks algorithm changes and any rise and fall of your site’s traffic on a daily basis. There is no need for you to lose sleep over the mere thought of attempting to keep up with the constant updates of Google’s algorithms and the effect they’ll have on your website, when you have a team like US Logo who have the tools and knowledge readily available to consistently monitor your SEO program and come up with solutions to help your business grow.
Okay, that’s enough about Google’s algorithms! How about we get back to learning the secrets to successful internet marketing / SEO… Watch the SEO video below!
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