The Google Algorithm
Google’s search engine could be considered by many one of the most important inventions of the modern era right alongside the light bulb, the Model T, and the iPhone. Powered by the Google algorithm, it allows millions of people each day the opportunity to search and access information on the internet. The Google algorithm delivers relevant results in the blink of an eye, and also provides adaptive results that cater to one’s location, search history, and more. Google’s algorithm is also known by the name “PageRank“, after Google founder Larry Page. PageRank essentially counts the number and quality of links contained by a certain website and associates a rank based on the result. The greater the PageRank, the higher the site will show on Google’s search results page. Google associates Page Rank with the site’s importance.
The algorithm receives constant updates, some more monumental than others. Each of these updates can affect your organization’s approach to SEO. By taking a little time to understand the impact of major updates, you can take control of your SEO strategy. You’ll help users find your content quickly and effectively.
Updates to the Google Algorithm
Let’s discuss three of the major past updates to the Google algorithm: Google Hummingbird, Google Penguin, and Google Panda. I’ll briefly cover the basics, but here is a good Cheat Sheet if you want to know more.
Released in 2013, Google Hummingbird was a major update to the Google algorithm. It was a complete overhaul, to be precise. Named hummingbird because it’s fast and precise, the main goal of Hummingbird is to make searches on Google more conversational. Google wants to better understand the user’s query and return the best results possible. If a user searches for “Where do I find the best fish taco”, rather than selecting individual words like “fish” & “taco” & “find” and searching for those, Hummingbird searches for the phrase as a whole. The ideal result will be the highest quality site for a restaurant serving fish tacos near the location of the user. Website results will be included as well as Google Map results, Google review results, and more.
Google Penguin was an update to the Google algorithm that focused on unnatural links associated with a website. Because Google places such high value on the quality of links directing to your website, it’s important that these links are from other reputable websites. Penguin made it so site owners couldn’t game the system by pointing a high number of links from small, made-up, or low-quality sites to their website for higher ranking. Google Penguin enforced the need to ensure links associated with your site were high quality. The update also prompted a reduction in link manipulation.
Google Panda was all about ranking based on the quality of a website. With Google Panda, greater quality websites would appear higher on the search results page, and lesser quality sites would be demoted to lower results. The criteria for the quality ranking mainly focused on on-site content of a website. In short, was the content on the site trustworthy, relevant, and valuable? Google employee, Amit Singhal, wrote a comprehensive checklist to follow in order to gain favor with Panda.
SEO Considerations for Google Algorithm Updates
Whenever Google announces a major update, a big question you should ask yourself is: How does this affect my site, and should I modify my SEO strategy? The answer may be a surprise to some. Your approach to SEO should not be dependent on Google algorithm updates alone. While it is crucial to understand the Google algorithm, it’s equally important to focus on one main thing. You must have original, high-quality content. Danny Sullivan put it best in his FAQ all about Hummingbird – Google’s saying there’s nothing new or different SEOs or publishers need to worry about. Guidance remains the same, it says: have original, high-quality content. Signals that have been important in the past remain important; Hummingbird just allows Google to process them in new and hopefully better ways.
By following SEO best practices, you should be able to focus on your content more than “tricks” to fool the Google algorithm. Google’s goal is to provide users with the highest quality, most relevant content. The Google algorithm is designed to guide users towards their desired locations on the web. Put effort into quality content and you’re apt to see users arrive more frequently to your website.
Post written by Ryan Farr