Over the past three years, we have seen a revolution in how Google ranks websites. No longer are random backlinks and junk content sufficient in ranking a site. Instead, we need to approach Google search with a different approach.
To do this, we have to understand how Google changed their algorithm over the past few years. The majority of these changes come from three furry creatures (algorithms): Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird. Evaluating how these three major algorithm shifts affected search helps small business owners create successful strategies for Google to rank their site appropriately.
Google Algorithm Update History
Because of the pure volume of updates Google produces regularly, this history will only include the major changes they made to the network. These major shifts show how search changed over the past three years.
Instead of bogging search engine marketers down in extraneous details, we are focusing on the big impact algorithm changes. According to testimony from Eric Schmidt to Congress, Google made over 560 algorithm changes just in 2010 (the year before Panda launched). Since then the updates have come more frequently, and the algorithm changes we know as Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird are a constant update of the Google search database.
February 23, 2011– The first Panda update happens when Google removes content farms from the search engines. Most of the content farms removed had a high ad ratio, and had low quality content designed to garner more Google traffic. These changes directly affected English speaking nations only. Foreign language changes happened later in the year with the Panda 2.4 change on August 11, 2011.
June 11, 2011- Google, Bing, and Yahoo launched http://schema.org/ to help provide more detailed search information. This was a step towards semantic search, where search is more contextual instead of keyword based. Schemas are information that the search engines expect website admins to produce to give more detailed instructions about the content on their website.
November 18, 2011-The freshness update from Google. The search engine evaluated when an event happened to determine where it stands in the search rankings. This removed outdated events from the first page of Google. For example, if you held an event in 2011, you do not want to advertise that through Google search in 2014.
January 11, 2012- Search Plus Your World is released to help integrate social search more effectively. This is the first major push by Google to work on integrating Google+ posts into search results. Bloggers start using Google+ to post content as well as on their own blog.
April 24, 2012– the first Penguin updates deals with over-optimization of websites dealt with keyword stuffing and other webspam tactics.
May 16, 2012- Google launches the Knowledge graph. This update helps make search more intelligent by distinguishing between different aspects of search. For example, when you type in Apple, are you searching for the company or fruit? Google is doing their best to differentiate these results.
August 20, 2013– The Hummingbird Update made a jump in how Google used semantic search and the Knowledge graph. This is one of the biggest moves yet for Google to move away from keyword based search into human search patterns.
With the Hummingbird update, they are now attempting to understand what people are searching for online, instead of just returning a bunch of queried results.
How to Approach Search Today
Over the past few years, Google made a huge shift in how search operates. While this has rattled many long-term search engine optimization experts, it also provides an in for experts who can work within Google’s new parameters. Here are three ways to use the new system to improve your search results.
Professional Content -The days of the £10 content mills are over. If you expect to create keyword stuffed, low value content then you will struggle in the new Google algorithms.
This means you need to start creating engaging content on a regular basis that people will enjoy, we do this on a daily basis and our clients have seen great results from high quality and thoughtful content. We think about what questions your prospects have for you about your services. Then we consider how to answer those questions for prospects. When you start looking at content from the users’ standpoint, you are able to create better content for your site and by extension Google. Start by having a read of Our Ultimate Guide To Content Marketing.
Building Authority – Furthermore, with great content, you can set yourself up as an authority on the topic. This takes time, but by building up your social media network and encouraging comments on your blog you demonstrate your authority with every post.
Google Local – The other part of the equation is that Google made a serious shift to local search with these updates. That is not surprising, since semantic search is a great way to help people on their mobile devices find local restaurants, shops, hotels, businesses, car hire, tradesmen etc.
More and more searches will be considered local search. For example, when I type in the word ‘pets’ in Google search, I get the results on the right and a map of local pet stores on the left.
After a few results, you scroll down and find the Google+ Local results for the keyword. Google is betting large on the fact that most people when they type in keywords are looking for answers in their own community.
This is a boon for local shop owners, businesses and organisations who want to drive in more traffic. Consistent, positive reviews on Google+ Local and regular content can increase your rankings on Google+ Local. On average it takes our clients around 6-12 months to start ranking well on local search.
Moving Forward With Google Search during the Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird Era
Yes, all the furry creatures in Google’s arsenal have changed the face of search forever. However, this provides honest businesses with an opportunity to bring in more traffic. The key is keep to up to date with the changes that Google makes, and provide a consistent quality of information to your website and business.