Can you beat Google’s algorithms?

Google’s Algorithms 

From Panda to Penguin, Pigeon, Hummingbird.
Understanding how they can work for you.

However smart your think your SEO strategy is it’ll never fool Google’s Algorithm boffins who are always a step ahead of those who think they can manipulate the system. Updates of Google’s algorithms will always make sure they are ahead of those who believe in trying to gain a short cut to a top spot on the rankings list.

• Because Google is constantly changing its algorithms as much as 1 or 2 times a day 365 days of the year it would be impossible to out smart these boffins.

A bit like Apple’s animal naming policy for Operating Systems (Mountain Lion, Snow leopard…etc), Google uses animal names to label their major update filters. Over the years we’ve been introduced to Panda, Pigeon, Penguin and just when we thought another animal beginning with letter ‘P’ they unpredictably named their lastest filter Hummingbird. All their changes over the years are studied by SEO experts who in turn modify their website design to optimise and appeal to the latest updates. The most well know are listed as follows:

Google’s Panda Update (2011)
Emphasis on better quality content

The areas they updated were: 

  1. Poor quality website got severely downgraded
  2. Websites with similar or identical content were penalised
  3. Rewarding quality versus quantity.

Google’s Panda goal was to identify fake content farmers who harvest (or steal) content from multiple sites gather it together to rearrange and repost on their own sites to increase their position on the ranking list. In an effort to rid the internet of fake and poor quality web content Panda successfully managed to up-rank good quality sites and down rank low-quality content sites. It’s cleverness was in it’s ability to assess and rank an entire website of all content on each page and give it a rank based on overall quality. In other words it doesn’t penalise a site because of one page of poor quality content. The goal of Panda was to improve content so they released a guideline of things to do to optimise and enhance your website content. Here are a few of their pointers:

  1. Empty or thin pages with little to low value content usually few words and no images.
  2. Content that is too identical to another website i.e it’s been copy and pasted.
  3. Panda is calibrated to favour good content that’s applicable and relevant.

Google‘s Penguin update (2012)
Goal was to wage war on spammers.

  1. The areas they updated were:
    Penalise websites with spam related link profiles
  2. Penalise websites with spam by down grading ranking.
  3. Removal of all spam links.
  4. Penalising paid links instead of earned links.

Penguins tasks was to penalise websites with backlinks by lowering the ranking of the websites that used unscrupulous ways to get better SERP Ranking. Because search engines rely on links to rank websites some dubious sites put unnatural links in place to try and fool algorithms.

Google’s Penguin affects approximately 3.1% searches which amounts to millions of websites with dodgy (unnatural, irrelevant links). Since Penguin was introduced to search results backlinks are now better quality and naturally earned whereas before many dodgy website owners used fake paid or irrelevant links.

What is a link or a backlink and what does it do?

A Link is like an accolade that increases your ranking and if a prestigious or recognised  website is linked to your own site then you will gain more by association to a better or higher ranking (like a positive rub-off effect). However if an unknown low ranking website is linked to your website then it will not affect the ranking overall.

Algorithms will look at and analysis ‘anchor text’ this is text that is hyperlinked. For example a few words (3-5) that are highlighted with mouse-over (hover) they are an active link to another page. A website that is connected or getting linked with a anchor text, for example ‘top tips for SEO improvement’ or ‘breakthrough SEO strategies’, will get  the  attention of Google who see that people are visiting your website by clicking on these anchor words.

Unscrupulous marketing people will try to manipulate ranking by creating links themselves to get google’s attention. Regardless of their origin or provenance they might be from low-quality websites but if the quantity is high then ranking will improve.

Penguin is clever and can detect when a site has fake (home made links) and will down rank these sites they are connected to their own links.

Helpful SEO pointers: 

Businesses pages there is no short-cut to getting high-quality content that is shared by respected websites. Trying to cheat the system will only result in being penalised and pushed down the ranking lists.If you notice unnatural links to your site you can take action and delete them to avoid detection from Google’s PenguinThere are some tools to use which will notify google to ignore these unnatural links

Google‘s Pigeon (2014)
 Monitor the ranking listings of a local word searches.

It does this by looking at the impact of both Google search and Google Maps. It’s aim is to improve search results using the searcher’s geo position/location within google maps (provided this feature is activated).

local based websites owners (as opposed to regional or international) will take priority and in the search results which is a big deal and positive outcome for local businesses. Some people believe the rankings may drop as a result because it favours the location and distance of a local user as part of it’s data input. In other words local directory listings get placed ahead of other regional or international websites.

Helpful SEO pointers

• Google Pigeon is is hugely  beneficial for small local (location) based business listings as it  gives you an SEO strategies option to develop location-based keywords to rank higher in local searches, both on Google Maps and Google Search.

Google‘s HummingBird (August 2013)
Provide better search results

Main goal for Hummingbird update is to provide better search results that are intuitively relevant to the search query (voice or typed). It’s clever because it uses a bit of psychology and word association to comprehend the overall meaning and inquery of the search and provides results that add up to this meaning with appropriate content strategy. It affects 90% of search engine queries.

Initially there was some scepticism over Hummingbird algorithm negatively affecting their ranking although there is no evidence to support these claims. To recap this program is less of a filter and more of a search engine within a search engine (Russian  doll style). It establishes or attempts to understand the searchers meaning behind their search keyword(s) catering to those using mobile voice search such as Siri .

Helpful SEO pointers:

To appeal to Pigeon algorithm you must generate quality content, appropriate, relevant and material.

It should be content that predicts questions and provides genuine answers that (are not half baked) satisfy the potential question.