Another Day, Another Google Algorithm Update
(Image Source: SiteCenter)
We hear it time and time again: Google has updated its algorithm. The news breaks and we suddenly find ourselves scrambling for answers on these algorithm changes, which may have already taken place. Or, better yet, there is actual confirmation of an update from Google. In the past, Google regularly announced algorithm updates and how the changes could affect search results. Today, however, many of us wonder if Google’s current lack of transparency is of concern for website SEO, which leaves us questioning what we really need to know about Google’s algorithm updates.
Google ranking systems sort through billions of webpages to give users valuable and relevant results. These ranking systems are made up of algorithms that analyze what users are looking for and what information to return in the search engine results page. Google continues to update its algorithm 500-600 times a year in efforts to improve the user experience. Over the past several years, most updates have been minor, but there have been a few major updates that could have affected your website’s natural search rankings.
Panda – The Panda algorithm was designed to target websites with low-quality content. It required sites to up their game in terms of usability, user experience, creating meaningful content and refraining from creating duplicate content. In October 2016, Google stated that the Panda algorithm would analyze all of the pages of a website and may decide to demote the site’s search engine rankings as a whole based on its overall quality on an ongoing basis.
Penguin – The Penguin algorithm began rolling out in April 2012 and focused on penalizing websites with artificial incoming links. In October 2016, Google announced that the newest Penguin 4.0 algorithm devalues or ignores spam links and would reverse any penalties from the first phase of the Penguin update.
Hummingbird – Hummingbird aimed to give end users the right answers to their questions, correct facts, statistics and articles that were dense with high-quality content that related to their queries. It was in part an attempt by Google to provide better responses to voice queries, specifically within the mobile space.
Pigeon – The Pigeon update focused on local SEO, which drastically changed the way Google interprets, modifies and handles location results. The local search algorithm tied deeper into web-search capabilities, including hundreds of ranking signals with such features as the Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms and more. It also improved Google’s distance and location ranking parameters.
Fred – With the March 2017 Fred update, any site content seen as invaluable, low quality, outdated or too ad-heavy is guaranteed to start seeing massive drops in rankings. Also, backlinks to the main site with old content has started seeing a clampdown by the update.
What to Consider
While it’s important to educate yourself on larger-scale updates, you do not need to obsess over the granular details of every algorithm change. Below are things to consider next time you get word of another update:
- Post-Update World – This phrase refers to an SEO world that has no official identifying/naming of algorithm changes, no confirmation that an update has been rolled out and no information on when exactly that rollout occurred. Updates are becoming more infrequent, so if you do see ranking changes, don’t panic; with so many unannounced updates, we shouldn’t take ranking changes as permanent.
- Wait to React – Although you may want to make changes to your website, the smarter thing to do it wait a few days or even weeks to see if your site truly was impacted. If you aren’t taking part in “black-hat” SEO, your site probably was not impacted negatively.
- Know Your Data – Industry leaders also explain the importance of knowing your data before concluding that search ranking decreases are coming from a Google algorithm update. Did your competitors see changes? Were you impacted in just Google? Did all your website pages see a traffic drop? If you answer “no” to many of these questions, chances are, you weren’t hit with a Google penalty.
- User-focused Commitment – Although we don’t know all the factors Google uses to rank, we know its mission is to help each search user find the correct information they’re looking for as quickly as possible. You will benefit by focusing on your users and their needs, instead of short-term results that can crush your site’s long-term viability.
Algorithm updates can seem overwhelming, but, at the end of the day, if you are doing SEO right—creating good, user-focused content and earning links from credible and niche-specific sites—you should be okay. Stay updated by credible sources, but don’t worry about knowing what every minor update did or didn’t do.