Whether you’re new to SEO or long enough in the tooth to have mastered its every nook and cranny, there’s a search phenomenon spearheaded by Google that you should always keep up to date with.
These are developments and updates of search algorithms, a calculated step-by-step procedure used by Google to ensure that results returned by specific search queries are as fresh and relevant as possible.
Google’s commitment to returning only the most relevant and helpful results in search engine results has driven them to program and implement search algorithms. These are used to identify websites that deserve a slot on its coveted first page.
As far as search engines are concerned, the algorithms carried out by Google identify and select the top results according to specific ranking factors.
Search algorithms are programmed, run, and tweaked by engineers. Those that pass a series of tests are hooked up to search spiders / bots. The links found in every website are traced by the bots and followed where their relevancy and usefulness to the user is rated.
So far, the most prolific search algorithms launched by Google are Panda, Penguin, and their latest iteration, Hummingbird.
Rolled out in 2011 and still very much alive today, Google Panda targets sites that publish low quality content and deals with them accordingly. This signalled the beginning of the notion “content is king” as it played such a central role in Panda’s analysis and evaluation of a website. On its initial release, Panda searched Google’s index for sites that had duplicate copy, advertising spam, and techniques such as black-hat SEO.
The point came where it wasn’t enough to simply rewrite “poor content”. SEO’s had to make sure that all content was not just original, but contributed tangible value to a users search.
After identifying and dealing with websites with poor content, it was Google’s time to focus it’s energy on other questionable SEO practices.
In 2012, the search giant rolled out Google Penguin to regulate websites that were considered spammy and/or overly-optimised. The Penguin algorithm targeted websites that utilised keyword stuffing, and again those still practising black-hat SEO.
Furthermore, websites that generated high quality links ethically were given a positive performance reward.
Penguin 1.0 and it’s first series of updates focused on sites that made use of manipulated links to generate traffic, honing in on websites with irrelevant links to its industry / sector. Recently, Google refreshed Penguin and started digging deeper into websites for spam and dubious link building tactics such as buying links to attract natural traffic.
Taking flight just in time for Google’s 15th anniversary, Hummingbird aimed to be the most precise algorithm ever released.
One of the most significant features of Hummingbird was that Google refreshed their search engine, as well as well as their usual update of its index. It’s important to note they also retained their exiting search algorithms Panda and Penguin.
Said to be affecting around 90% of all searches made, Google’s Hummingbird aims to deliver results differently. For instance, by using Google Voice, you can look up the best cinema to watch movies in. Hummingbird ensures Google understands you are looking for ‘the best cinema to watch movies in’ rather than a more generic search for ‘movies’. If you key in another query, Hummingbird will associate this question with the previous one making searches more intuitive and intelligent.
Conversational search is at the core of Hummingbird’s algorithm change. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen the positive impact of Panda, Penguin and the Hummingbird algorithm changes on SEO. A primary focus of Google’s search objective is to improve a users experience by helping them find the correct information as quickly as possible.
These days, people search the web in a conversational way. No matter what your sector is there are conversational keywords that will allow a user to find information on your product or service quickly. Site owners and content writers need to align keywords and content to best match the way people talk and therefore search for information.
These updates, especially Panda, reinforce Google’s commitment to its users. Although there is still a lot of work to do to perfect search results for a specific query, the results on the first page of Google are far more accurate, relevant and informative with the power of it’s updated algorithms than they ever have been.
Google, unless otherwise stated, doesn’t take down algorithms. They keep on updating and improving them to ensure the delivery of the most relevant answers to users questions, in the fastest time possible. As such, marketers can’t afford to be complacent even if you’re currently benefiting from high rankings and generous traffic.