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What is an algorithm Update?

Google ultimately wants to make the searches they provide as relevant to the user as possible.

Therefore, they rank sites based on a set of criteria. Marketers being marketers, found ways of implanting meta keywords tag into the code.

This has led to Google evolving the requirements, or the algorithm that defines the criteria, to make it more difficult to cheat the system.

The Google algorithm may have started by looking only a few criteria, update after update has led to hundreds of different factors checked.


Your Website is the Answer to a Query

To begin with, the algorithm changed infrequently, which gave marketers some time to learn and adapt. Now, there can be upward of 600 updates a year.
This now means that marketers can only speculate what the most important contributions to a site's ranking are.
These animals are not a roll call at the local wildlife park! Panda, penguin and hummingbird, are the names of the most significant changes to the Google algorithm in the last few years.

Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird

Panda was named after the creator of the change of the algorithm: Navneet Panda.

This change made a massive impact when it launched in February 2011, as it was the first significant change in the algorithm. It aimed to prioritise the highest quality sites and demote those sites that are perceived as low in value. It was first called the "farmer" update, as it worked to weed out content farms, where sites are stuffed with pages and pages of meaningless content that is heavy in keywords.

Although it disproportionately impacted low-quality sites, it also impacted many who had previously ranked well and were seeking to appear professional. Despite rumour, the backlinks on the pages did little to influence ranking.

The criterion was all to do with how well designed and how professional the site is.

Such was the nature of the update that a whole site could be demoted and not just individual pages – which had a significant impact on some.

The only way to deal with Panda was to provide quality content and a well organised, easily navigated site. Although there is a lot of focus on content, it is the response of the users that will make the difference.

Web Design Matters

Getting bookmarks and shares, receiving user feedback that says the material is trustworthy and including links to reliable sources of information.

This means you need to remove weak content or content that duplicates ideas. Duplicated content is particularly easy for the algorithm to spot.

Then came the penguin.

In April 2012 there was an apparent reduction in trust in Google. Sites had learned to cheat by including backlinks to reliable websites, which had no relevance to the information provided.

You want links to and from your site because it acts as a vote. It says someone checked you out, or you are important enough to connect with this other important site. It is like a recommendation. Many small votes can improve the perception of the quality of your site.
This led to marketers employing people to make links from all over the place to a website, using search terms for the anchor text that mimic the search for the user. Low-quality self-made links will reduce your ranking.

References & Footprinting

You must consider the "trust factor" in the links you employ and those connected to your site. Suddenly, marketers needed to police the quality of links to websites, as many untrustworthy links could reduce the ranking of the entire site.

You can police this and protect your site with a disavow tool.

This will clean up unnatural links.

Hummingbird is different from Penguin and Panda.

Penguin and Panda are filter-algorithms. They sift out sites that fail the test set and push them down the ranking.

Hummingbird was a complete change to the algorithm which occurred in Sept 2013 and then refreshed in 2014.

Many people complained this caused a massive drop in ranking, but the general wisdom is that those people impacted were likely affected by Penguin.
The engineers had tweaked the algorithm so much that there came the point when something new need to be created. All the lessons had been learned about what made a suitable algorithm, so a brand-new creation made it more effective and efficient. This entirely new engine to the algorithm was needed because of voice searches.


This entirely new engine to the algorithm was needed because of voice searches. We speak our searches differently to how we type them. The design of the algorithm was intended to intuit what people mean when they search.

Marketers are suddenly required to produce content that directly responds to users' queries. This makes customer experience, and user-generated content more important than before.

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