The Google Zoo never set out to become a zoo. In fact, from when Google started introducing updates way back in 2003 they had no names. It was in February 2011 that the first algorithm update was introduced and which had an overall effect on approximately 12% of all search results. The algorithm update was given the ‘nickname’ Panda in honour of the developer of the technology Navneet Panda. Is it coincidence that the panda is also a black and white animal, maybe subliminally representing black hat and white hat SEO techniques?
So why the need for Panda? Well up until then and as you may remember, websites were crammed with huge amounts of badly written content in barely comprehensible English which were strewn with AdSense advertising and badly written content. Google’s aim of seeing websites ranked based on contents and links was being mercilessly abused through the use of article and link directories, while many websites were also publishing RSS feeds from other legitimate websites.
That all began to change in 2011 with the introduction of monthly Panda updates up until March 2013 when Google released news that Panda would simply be a continuous update, only to change that in 2014 to ‘sporadic’ Panda updates, including 4.0 and 4.2 in 2015. These last updates were classed as a ‘slow rollout’.
So what was the result of Panda; what did it achieve?
- You will get rewarded for writing unique content as it will show you to be an authority and, conversely, plagiarised copy will get penalised
- ‘Stealing’ or scraping content from other websites is a big ‘no no’
- Whether for onsite or offsite articles and text, ensure it is quality writing. Poorly written content will get penalised
- Don’t smother your website with advertising
Introduced in 2013 and once again with the obvious black and white colour scheme, Penguin targeted black hat SEO techniques, specifically poor linking schemes, keyword stuffing, etc. Link schemes such as private blog networks, blatant paid links and poor quality link directories were all in Google’s sights. Of course this mean that such black hat techniques that had been used up until now would be heavily penalised, but not just for future content, past content as well.
Consequently, to aid SEO professionals and website administrators who wanted to get back in Google’s good books, in October 2012 Google introduced the ‘Disavow Tool’ and toxic links were encouraged to be removed. The disavow tool allowed website administrators to upload text files which contained links or domains requesting Google disavow them while also requesting a penalty reconsideration.
While Panda is continuously updated, Penguin is only updated on a sporadic basis and the update is a manual one.
So what was the result of Penguin; what did it achieve?
- Building quality links on quality websites would be rewarded and toxic links would be penalised
- Best practise meant avoiding low quality directories for articles and links
- Link profiles needed to be carefully monitored by website administrators
- Anchor text should represent a balanced selection of brand names, relevant phrases and keywords
- Inbound link anchor text should not contain an overuse of targeted keywords
Where Penguin and Panda concentrated on quality, Hummingbird was more involved with semantics, the intent behind searches, and context. The intention was to improve the quality of interaction between someone searching for information and the search results they obtained. Hummingbird saw search results obtained that focused more on a web page’s thematic content than specific keywords.Perhaps because black hat SEO was not being targeted by hummingbird that Google chose not to include another black and white animal in the zoo. Instead they introduced Hummingbird, perhaps named because of its extremely precise nature and where Google were concerned, here they wanted to make search results fast and precise.
Hummingbird also works with the way we would speak naturally, meaning that natural language is processed in order for the search results obtained to be focused more on the intent or idea behind the search. Part of this interaction can be seen at the foot of each page of search results where Google provides a list of alternative search phrases which are in common use.
So what was the result of Hummingbird; what did it achieve?
- This is the ‘human side’ of Google where it tries to relate to mar naturally used words and thought processes
- Content which is not keyword focused but more based on a theme will be rewarded
If you have a business and it is location sensitive, in other words your customers and clients are local to your business, then it is imperative that your NAP (name, address and phone numbers) are consistent across all platforms, including local directory listings and Google My Business, Yelp, Bing and Foursquare. A map incorporated within your website can also provide strong local SEO influence.Perhaps with reference in particular to the homing pigeon, Pigeon is concerned with local content as opposed to global content. In simple terms, Google will provide results based on geolocation, thus the location of the person performing the search will obtain results relevant to their location. Where LSG Creative is concerned, much of our SEO work is done for local businesses who need Bristol SEO-specific work carried out on their website. The result is that local businesses will get preference in search result order than those websites that would achieve only generic organic results.
So what was the result of Pigeon; what did it achieve?
- If you have a local business, you are unlikely to rank for national results, unless your SEO campaign specifically targets this sector
- Online reviews become far more influential in results, so their quality and diversity becomes very important
- Where your business is based will significantly influence results
Okay, we’ll admit it, you won’t find any phantoms at the zoo, but Google belongs to the ethereal world, so they are allowed. Phantoms first appeared in 2013 according to searchengineland.com, and have reappeared a couple of times in 2015 alone in what have been referred to as phantom updates, these taking place in May, which was just a generic quality update, and in November. The reason why they are called Phantoms is because Google have not publically announced them, though they have confirmed they do exist – the updates that is, not phantoms. However, do not think these were wispy updates, they were not, they were major updates, which is scary enough in itself!
So what was the result of the phantom updates; what did they achieve?
- We learned that Google is forever producing updates; QED SEO has to be a continually ongoing process in order to maintain successful continuous results.
- Quality over quantity matters most
- Organise your website logically and naturally
- Encourage as opposed to making user engagement difficult
In a future article we will discuss in more detail about how these Google updates may have affected traffic where Google Analytics is concerned. In addition, we have not included very specific updates, including Caffeine in 2010 and Mobilegeddon in 2015, while the importance of Knowledgegraph is also important. We will also discuss about future changes inside Google including Knowledge Vault and RankBrain.
The ultimate conclusion for now is that there is no limit to the importance you can place on providing quality content in your website which successfully focuses on the visitor’s intent while, at the same time, doing your utmost to resist temptation for he ‘quick fix’ – please avoid all SEO manipulative practises as they may get you a good result tomorrow, but result in a disastrous and virtually irreparable one shortly afterwards.
The other conclusion we hope you may have come to is that having a chat with us here at LSG Creative will do you no harm. It costs nothing to talk, but it could make all the difference to the success of your business.