Trying to understand and anticipate Google’s algorithm changes and updates can be nearly impossible. While the search engine industry leader continues to try and provide better quality search results to its users, honest company websites can get caught in the way and suffer. One good thing to remember is that Google is constantly updating its algorithms in order to improve its offerings to searchers. If your website has suffered at the hands of an algorithm update, there’s hope yet.
Google releases updates and changes a few hundred times a year. Most of these are so minor you won’t find any press releases or bloggers going after them. But enough of them can have quite an impact on sites and search results. And then there are the big ones — Hummingbird, Panda and Penguin, which have revolutionized the world of search engine results.
Hummingbird is a search platform that Google implemented in September 2013 to replace the existing platform being used. Google has mentioned that the name came from the expectation of the new system to be “precise and fast” in returning better, quicker search results.
The new platform provides the opportunity for searchers to ask questions rather than try to string together a jumble of keywords in hopes of getting the right result. So asking, “What’s the best coffee shop nearest to my home?” would not necessarily return results that share the same words as the query, but hopefully highly rated coffee shops within your local neighborhood. Because of this new approach, web users may find it easier to perform a web search than before, and hopefully for Google, those results will be more on-target.
The first installment of Google’s Panda Update was released in 2011, and it was the search engine’s way of taking aim at websites that perpetuated poor content yet still ranked well on search engine results pages. There have been quite a few updates to Panda, most of them minor, but at least 3 that have made some waves in the world of webmasters.
Overall, Panda is kind of a big deal. It’s shooting down those thin, crummy sites that have a lot of words but not a lot of information. If you’ve read any of these sites, after a few paragraphs you might be saying, “Yeah, but where is the info?”
In 2011, Google released a list of ways to make your website content better and clearly defines what counts as a “high-quality site.” A few of these guidelines include:
- Is the content written by an expert or enthusiast in the field who knows the topic well?
- Are you comfortable giving your credit card number to this site?
- Does the article appear edited or has it been sloppily written?
- Does the site have an excessive number of advertisements?
Panda paved the way for business large and small who were providing quality content to be boosted to the top of rankings. Sites that that favored incoherent keyword stuffing were suddenly dropping to the netherrealm of the Internet. And that was good, for a while. Eventually, those shady sites were back with new and improved ways to fool Google and Panda.
In 2012, Google released the Penguin Update aimed at catching sites that practice Black Hat search engine optimization tactics like building link networks through paid links or using keyword stuffing techniques. Google has released its Webmaster Guidelines to help others understand Google’s ranking system and to promote what Google sees as ethical SEO practices. That way Google can better index your site, which will allow searchers to find your site more easily, thus increasing your website traffic and maybe even improving your sales.
Some of the practices that Google deems spammy, deceptive or manipulative are:
- Link schemes. Google considers any links that could manipulate a site’s ranking as a scheme. If you don’t buy into link networks, force users into link exchanges, or use an automated system to link to your company’s website, then you’ll probably be OK.
- Auto-generated content. To avoid this, be sure that your content is wholly original and written by someone you can trust. Never copy large portions of content, even from your own site, as Google penalizes duplicate copy.
- Cloaking. This practice occurs when a website presents one URL or piece of content to a search engine and another URL or piece of content to users. The content given to the search engine is probably well-written and authoritative so that it ranks well. The content that the users see is probably spammy, and it may even contain malicious code.
- Hidden text/links. Hidden content can include using the same color for text as the background (so the text blends in and is hidden), positioning text off-screen where it is not able to be read, decreasing font sizes to unreadable proportions (specifically using a font size of zero), or linking to a small, single character on the page that is easily overlooked.
Penguin is sometimes referred to as the Black Hat SEO update because all of the above actions (and quite a few more) are used by Black Hat SEO companies in order to trick Google into giving the site better rankings. If you want to avoid being penalized by Penguin, then we recommend following Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, provide quality, informative content to your readers, and engage in an effective, but credible, online marketing campaign.
If you think your website is being affected by Google’s algorithm updates, then ask us how we can help your site recover. We offer many Internet marketing strategies that can give you long-term success when it comes to Google’s updates — Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, and the rest.