Google regularly modifies their search algorithm. However there are four major Google updates that every business should know about. They are: Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, and Pigeon.
Each Google update focuses on a different aspect of search – and it’s important to know not only how the update affects the algorithm but how you can maintain your website visibility without losing traffic and potential leads.
1 – The Panda Update
On February 23, 2011, Google released one of their first major updates, nicknamed “Panda”. The update affected nearly 12% of search results and focused on promoting quality content. Websites that did not have quality content, or just very little content, noticed a decrease in their rankings in the search results. The Panda update also penalized websites with duplicate content, further emphasizing the importance of quality, original content.
Google has released more versions of Panda since 2011, with Panda 4.1 released on September 23rd. Their algorithm for recognizing quality content is continually improving, reinforcing the “Content is King” theory.
What Panda Means For Your Business
It’s important that businesses write original and quality content for their service pages, product pages and on their blog. Content should focus your industry, providing your visitors with more information on your services and why they might need them. While your content should include your key search terms, it should also be written as normally as possible, not like a bot wrote it.
Here are some tips to improve your content strategy in light of the Panda update:
- NEVER copy content. It is OK to look at blogs and resources for ideas, but never to directly copy and paste. If you do reference another website, it’s common courtesy to source the original content by linking back to the author.
- It’s good to start your content strategy with keyword research, but once you have a good topic chosen you should focus on providing something that your visitors will find useful or helpful. Use keywords in your article, but don’t sacrifice quality to include more keyword phrases. This will only make your content look spammy. As long as you have versions of your main keywords in your content, the search engines will be able to recognize your topic.
2 – The Penguin Update
On April 24th, 2012, Google released another major updated called “Penguin”. Penguin affected nearly 3.1% of search results and focused on removing web spam from ranking in the search results. Penguin update penalized websites for over optimizing and keyword stuffing, and for using spammy linkbuilding practices.
What Penguin Means For Your Business
Many people who start doing SEO make the mistake of over optimizing. It’s easy to get carried away and keyword stuff, but all Google really wants is to deliver quality content to visitors.
Here are a few things you can do to make sure your website is not over optimized:
- Make sure your content is readable. Your content shouldn’t be read like as if a robot wrote it. Natural, flowing content ensures that you aren’t over optimizing or keyword stuffing.
- Never copy content, or buy content from sketchy sources. Why? Because most likely that content has been sold to other people as well, resulting in duplicate content. If you do hire someone for content writing, search a few random sentences in Google (in quotes) and see if it shows up on any other websites.
- Use natural linkbuilding techniques to prevent over-optimized anchor text. By creating quality and unique content, you’re creating shareable content that people will want to link to… naturally.
3 – The Hummingbird Update
On August 20th, 2013, Google rolled out the “Hummingbird” update. This update focused on semantic search and Google’s knowledge graph. The update provided more insight into how the search algorithm works, and why less emphasis should be placed on particular ranking factors. Google’s algorithm now works by showing search results based on the meaning of words, rather than simply finding and matching phrases.
What The Hummingbird Update Means For Your Business
This update means that you do not have to focus on including exact keyword phrases in your content. Before it was necessary to make sure you included various version of your keywords to help Google understand your content, however the Hummingbird update makes it possible for Google to understand the meaning of your words and surrounding content.
4 – The Pigeon Update
On July 24th 2014, Google released an update named “Pigeon”. Pigeon mainly affected the local search results. It aimed to improve the local search algorithm and tied local search more closely with organic search. Changes were seen across both Google map results and organic results.
What The Pigeon Update Means For Your Business
The Pigeon update was evidence that Google is placing even more importance on local search signals. This means you should focus not only on optimizing your website for the location you are trying to target, but also your Google+ local listing.
Here are a few things you can do to improve your local search presence:
- Focus on making your service pages city-specific. If you have multiple locations, or serve multiple areas, create city-specific pages on your website to better target those areas.
- Optimize your Google+ local profile. Link to your profile from your website, and markup your website with schema location and business info. It also helps to promote your Google+ business profile by sharing it on your other social networks and being active in Google Communities.
- Be consistent with the use of your business name, address, and phone number. This is one of the the strongest ranking signals for local search, so make sure it is easy for Google to recognize your business correctly around the web.
By understanding the major four Google updates, you can help ensure your website follows industry best practices to keep your website in front of qualified visitors.