Penguin and Panda Algorithms Knock Out Page Rank

Are you lost in Google’s algorithms?

Picture of Google and Hummingbird.
Hummingbird: Google’s newest algorithm focuses on searchers.

Prior to Google’s Penguin and Panda,  search engine optimization (SEO) often involved manipulating the algorithms by repeating key words and phrases throughout blog posts. This achieved a higher Page Rank for a site, so SEO strategists figured out what the algorithms were looking for and flooded their content with it.

If you remember those days, a lot of searches would pull up articles that were nonsense, but included the key words you were looking for. Searching lead to frustration because you pulled up sites that appeared on the surface to address your needs, but turned out to be bogus sales sites.

For example, if a webmaster wanted to appear  on the first page of Google for a popular term like “make money online,” he would repeat the phrase approximately 3% to 5% of the time in an article. He would also include it in the  article’s title, toward the front, like this “Make Money Online The Right Way.” The result was empty articles and unfulfilled search needs.

Another strategy was to get other websites to link in with the anchor text “make money online,” a feat that helped raise the  blogger John Chow  from a ranking at 158 to the coveted number three slot on Google for that phrase. Google measured backlinks because they figured it was a good sign of the site’s popularity with searches. Chow still enjoys that number three spot, having survived Google’s numerous algorithm changes, ones that lash out specifically at payday loans one moment, while leaving other sites alone.

However, Google designed and modified the Penguin and Panda algorithms to make searches more effective for consumers, and in the end, the content of articles rose to supreme importance.  The changes benefited consumers because rich content rose to the top of searches rather than hollow shells that offered no real information or answers. The algorithms made SEO more complex than keywords and backlinks, forcing marketers to provide rich content if they wanted to land on Google’s first page.

Content marketing arose in response, with the idea that solid information, knowledge, and answers provide the most benefit to searchers. Effective marketers found the way to use rich content to market their product.

Hummingbird Refines Searching with Penguin and Panda

The most recent evolution is Google’s 2013 Hummingbird, which positions search queries and language in primary importance.  Hummingbird is meant to be precise and fast like the animal, focusing on the meaning and intent of the searcher rather than just the words. The algorithm favors titles and content that respond to user needs and queries. The tool can better understand speech, and passes the benefits on to searchers. Think of Google’s Hummingbird as a super smart and ultra fast reader. The following methods will help you in working with SEO:

1. Write rich, high quality content that responds to user needs

Google’s shift toward making results pages more valuable to readers favors rich content, helping people who are  looking for your writing. Rather than focusing exclusively on key  terms, littering the article with repeated phrases, articles should deliver quality content, with information and credible references. As long as you focus your article on a key idea, you don’t have to worry about using terms repeatedly.

Adapt your writing to meet the needs of the reader, anticipating answers to the questions they have. You should still research key terms, but pay attention to the heart of your reader’s question and what they mean, focusing on full phrases and sentences instead of two word combinations.

2. Write long,  in-depth content

Replace the thin pages of  your website, articles of  200 words or less, with content that delves deep into an issue or problem that concerns your readers. Your writing should be solid. Not just lengthy blathering to fill pages, but 800 to 1200 words of well researched and reviewed information.  Practice your journalist questioning skills: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

3. Pay attention to social signals, especially Google +1’s

In turning search results to focus on the searcher, it makes sense that Google would reward pages with many +1s because people are marking the valuable content. According to the 2013 search ranking factors study, Google favors their own system of sharing above those of other social networks. Measure and evaluate the sharing that takes place on Google Plus, and adapt to make this your most important sharing resource.

As time passes, Google Plus and social media will continue to become more significant in search ranking. Searchers are able to demonstrate their content preferences through social sharing. In 2014, Google will maintain the number two position in social media easily and will probably threaten Facebook.

4. Don’t assume everything you read about SEO is true

Even though so-called experts will pontificate on their understanding of  the latest changes in Google’s algorithm, the truth is, only the developers and engineers at Google really know their own code. There are so many hundreds of updates and tweaks that it can be difficult to keep track, and supposed SEO experts are oftentimes as in the dark as you are.

The true SEO experts are the ones in the trenches quietly getting results day-in and day-out. Experience shows what works, so get to work with experimentation and monitoring. Hands on SEO with standards of measurement will work best in targeting traffic. This is not to say that you shouldn’t research SEO, but be aware that you may find conflicting information. Make sure that the sources you use to learn about SEO are reliable.

5. Remember Google+ local and other consistent search ranking factors

If your business operates on a local level, make sure that you exploit  Google+ Local and other social media resources that provide resources for searchers to discover places nearby and write reviews.

In September, updated their local search ranking factors 2013 survey, which monitors successful SEO campaigns and strategies over time. The survey suggests that a few backlinks from high-quality websites can go a long way in elevating search rankings, and excessive backlinking is no longer desirable. The survey also shows that the business name should be present in headlines and title tags, to show its relevance.

Moving Forward with SEO in 2014

Remember that SEO changes continually, and you should always adapt. Hummingbird is far from the last algorithm change. Time, experience, and measurement will help you evolve to meet the algorithm updates and ranking “tweaks” of the future. Google will never arrive at a stage where the algorithms are stagnant because they always evolve to meet the needs of consumers. Keeping the searcher and reader in mind will help you consistently adapt to algorithm changes.