Long gone are the days when a website could simply spam a bunch of invisible keywords and doorway pages, and magically find themselves listed on the first page of search engine results. In an attempt to improve user experience (and to stop having everyone rerouted to porn sites all the time), search engine giant Google began to make some important updates to its algorithm. These updates basically made it easier for internet users to the find high-quality, authoritative pages that they’re looking for. This seems like it would be a benefit for everyone involved. However, some sites that weren’t quite up to snuff when these various updates took effect found that their rankings had been—possibly irreparably—damaged. Search engine optimization (SEO) firms found out the hard way that Google wasn’t in the least bit hesitant to change the rules of the game at a moment’s notice, and it would be up to the digital marketers to simply adapt, or to go extinct. Maybe that’s why Google began naming their various updates after endangered species. Whatever the case, here’s a list of the three most impactful Google updates in recent years, and what your site can do to thrive in the jungle of new search algorithms.
1. Google Panda
Released back in February 2011, Google Panda is an algorithm update that was designed to keep only the best-quality sites near the top position on the search results page. It did this by reducing the ranking of any sites with thin content. That is to say that sites that rely on high advertising, duplicate material, or overly brief content faced the possibility of having their rankings significantly reduced. Basically, Panda had everything to do with content. When it hit, many sites were absolutely devastated. But hey, getting a site back up to the top of the results page after getting mauled by Panda isn’t actually all that complicated; it’s not easy, but it is simple. All the site has to do is replace its low-quality content with something more worthwhile and authoritative. Just identify the issue that is getting your site penalized. Does your content receive a lot of complaints relating to inaccuracies or other errors? Does it feature unoriginal content scraped from other sources? What is the average time users spend on your site? If it seems as though your site isn’t actually an authority on your chosen subject, then its rankings will take a hit. Once you’ve identified the problem or problems, spend a couple of months fixing them. Create content that is interesting and authoritative. Link it with other high quality sites, and then submit your site for re-indexing. Keep an eye on your traffic, and note any improvements.
2. Google Penguin
Once the issue of content was being addressed, Google decided to target spam sites. Google Penguin was introduced in April 2012, and it attacked sites that participated in the use of doorway pages, invisible content, keyword stuffing, and link schemes. Basically, any site that relied on black-hat SEO to trick users into into visiting their web pages found themselves being dropped from the top results page. Unfortunately, some sites that should not have been penalized still were. For those sites, a Google has provided a form that can be filled out and submitted for reevaluation. As for the sites that were intentionally misleading internet users and practicing black-hat SEO, there isn’t much that could be done short of starting from scratch and completely legitimizing their entire site. If your site is one of these, then start by eliminating any black-hat techniques. Only use keywords that fit naturally and links that go where they’re supposed to. Once all of that underhanded nonsense has been deal with, build up your site with good content, just as is suggested above in relation to Panda. Also, consider branching out into social media, by linking back to your site through sites such as Facebook or Twitter.
The most recent zoological addition to the Google menagerie is Google Hummingbird. Released in September 2013, Hummingbird got a lot of SEO marketers agitated about what terrifying new attacks their sites would have to put up with. However, despite being called the biggest change to the Google algorithm in 12 years, all Hummingbird was really designed to do was make the search process more useful and logical. See, Hummingbird is basically an advanced language program. When a user types something into the Google search bar, Hummingbird utilizes “conversational search,” which takes into account other factors than simply the words being used (thus, a user searching for home automation is more likely to find a site from industry leaders like ADT, or Vivint, than to have to wade through a number of pages that just happen to contain the word home and the word automation). Google’s algorithms are all about getting what the user wants without having to wade through the muck to get it. It also considers word order, multiple word meanings and even issues such as the user’s location and previous behavior. As far as SEO firms go, if you’ve managed to survive Panda and Penguin, then Hummingbird shouldn’t be any trouble at all. In fact, Hummingbird should make it easier for users to find your site. So, keep up with your authoritative, original content and avoid black-hat SEO, and you won’t have to worry about Google’s updates.