Algorithms are based literally on hundreds of factors, many of which remain a mystery. However, the algorithm updates released by Google can make a massive impact on your website performance. And what we do know about them is that Google is starting to release them more regularly. Three of the most significant changes to Google’s algorithm updates have occurred in recent months: Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. Let’s take a closer look at how they work and how you can improve your website performance by understanding them better. Panda Updates Launched in February 2011, Panda caused something of a sensation when it was released. Its primary objective was to promote high quality sites and demote the lower quality ones. The biggest culprits that were affected by the updates were those that duplicated or stole content from other websites to help their own search performance. At first glance, most SEO experts thought that Panda was targeting sites with lots of back links but this turned out not to be the case. This Moz.com article summarizes Panda in a few lines:
Google refreshes the Panda algorithm approximately monthly. They used to announce whenever they were refreshing the algorithm, but now they only do this if there is a really big change to the Panda algorithm. What happens when the Panda algorithm refreshes is that Google takes a new look at each site on the web and determines whether or not it looks like a quality site in regards to the criteria that the Panda algorithm looks at.
Penguin Algorithm Updates Rolled out in April 2012, Penguin’s job is to undo the SEO traction gained by websites making use of unnatural back link building. That means sites that have tried to cheat Google by using black hat or unethical SEO practices are penalized. So what should you do if you think you have been hit by Penguin? This Hubspot article provides some useful advice:
Just as you do with local NAP citations, you need to start thinking about branding citations for your SEO campaign. But instead of using your NAP, you need to focus on creating and distributing quality, relevant content on reputable websites with natural backlinks to your site. Some of these links will be follows, some will be no-follows; some will have a keyword in the anchor text, some won’t.
The Hummingbird Algorithm Updates When Hummingbird showed the world its wings, it was amidst Google’s 15th birthday celebrations in September 2013. Many people believe that Hummingbird was solely responsible for the demise of their website performance but the funny thing was that it was later revealed that Hummingbird had been operational for almost a month before it was formally announced, but no one actually noticed it. If you do not know whether you were affected or not, check your Analytics from 04 October 2013. The purpose of Hummingbird was to focus on and reward sites that can match Google users’ intent. The search focuses on location / geography as well as the specifics of the search. According to Amit Singhal, SVP of Search for Google:
The second key objective is the massive shift towards mobile search. As more people ask questions on their mobile phones the algorithm has to evolve to understand these longer, more complex queries. Google will keep reinventing itself to give you all you need for a simple and intuitive experience. At some point, pulling out a smartphone to do a search will feel as archaic as a dial-up modem.
If you’re running a website now, or plan to do so in the future, familiarizing yourself with the updates and what’s relevant to Google, can help you improve your results.