The folks at Google refuse to rest until search functions online have been perfected. As perfection is impossible to achieve, webmasters and business owners should get accustomed to Google rocking their world on occasion with new or updated algorithms and codes. Google rolls out a number of small changes on a weekly basis that tend to go unnoticed by the general public. However, when the Silicon Valley giant bothers to announce an algorithm change it usually means massive alterations are coming.
Such was the case with the release of Panda and Penguin in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Over the course of the last 11 years, Google has rolled out new fewer than 30 brand-new or updated algorithms that have altered the state of search on the Internet (view all Google updates since 2003 here). As it stands today, people maintain a tight focus on the Panda, Hummingbird, and Pigeon updates. What impact have these algorithms had, and why do they matter in today’s SEO climate?
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Despite being preceded by 22 other algorithm changes from Google in the 21st century, Panda captured headlines and sent tremors through the web when it was released in February 2011. The Panda algorithm was designed to prevent websites with low-quality content from landing in the top spots on Google search results. Low word counts, thin word counts, and keyword stuffing tactics were punished in search results thanks to Panda.
Not only did Panda help knock the black-hat webmasters out of the way for legitimate websites, it also established a rough estimate of the word count for content to be considered “rich.” This eliminated the guesswork for SEOs and webmasters, making it easier to generate high-quality content.
Rather than focusing on word counts and keyword use, the Hummingbird update was designed to focus on the meaning of the words used in website content. The algorithm looks at the entirety of a query, rather than breaking it down by individual words. The goal was to create a search engine that focused on the intent of the search terms and not just matching the words a user typed into the search bar.
The result for webmasters was a shift away from keyword intensity. Particular keywords are still important based upon your industry or niche, but Hummingbird made it easier to generate quality content with a natural flow to it, rather than jamming keywords in wherever possible to hit some magic number for the page.
Finally, Google decided to adopt a downright scientific approach in naming its latest algorithm change. The Pigeon update is based upon the real-world ability of the domestic pigeon. The birds are capable of recognizing objects regardless of spatial orientation. The result was an update designed to provide relevant search results based upon location. Search results are now ranked higher based upon geographical ranking parameters as they relate to the individual conducting a search.
Google isn’t just tinkering with search algorithms based upon word counts, keyword density, and geographical distance. New auto-caption changes impact the way images are ranked in Google search results. Previously, the company had no way of understanding the content in an image. Now, new technology in use by Google will allow its search engine to auto-caption images and rank them accordingly.
What this Means for SEOs
Each one of these updates, along with countless others from Google, has an impact on the way SEOs, webmasters, and online marketers perform their jobs. Google isn’t looking to punish the well-behaved SEOs of the world, but even the good guys get caught in the crossfire. If your website doesn’t recognize and adapt to the changes with each new Google algorithm, that inaction could be punished with lower rankings and poor visibility online. Companies such as Limelight Marketing, LLC are here to help webmasters and businesses adjust when Google works to level the playing field.
Even if your business plays by the rules, it is important to always check your site to ensure Google changes won’t have a negative impact. For example, websites using proper image tags and captions now may still suffer negative impacts as a result of auto-caption updates if adjustments aren’t made. Staying informed is the best way to maintain your rankings.
The professional staff at SEO research firms understand the impact these algorithm changes can have on your business. From quality content creation and keyword research to video marketing and local SEO assistance, your company will find the help it needs to maintain its rankings in search results and improve its online visibility.
This post was written by Melissa Atchison who has extensive experience as a small business website marketing consultant. She enjoys keeping up and sharing the latest industry news and developments. Her articles mainly appear on website marketing blogs where she also enjoys discussing her views.