Google is still gunning for digital marketers that attempt to manipulate search results. An unofficial update dubbed ‘Fred” rattled some SEO companies last week whilst many others (like ourselves at LogicalJack) are rejoicing an increase in traffic.
Although Google has not officially acknowledged an algorithm update, it appears Fred is an extension of Penguin designed to stomp out spammy links.
We assume this is the case based on the noises coming from the black-hat SEO corner. The lesson to learn is that when you pay for inorganic links and try to cheat the system, Google will punish you.
So how do algorithms affect your placing in google search results? To put you in the picture, we have put together a quick rundown of the five major algorithm updates that have changed the face of SEO and the internet.
The Deadly Panda
Before Google enforced quality standards the internet was awash with low-quality content. There was very little information about products, services or the business.
That all changed in 2011. Panda was among the first of a Google onslaught that would force online businesses to rethink their online strategy. Panda targets pages with ‘thin’ content and subsequently spawned the 300-words a page minimum rule.
Furthermore, it encouraged online businesses to consider the length and depth of the quality they published. Long form articles began appearing. When Google started ranking articles over 2000-words in the top SERPS, it set a new standard for content marketing.
Penguin takes no prisoners
If SEO practitioners thought Panda was vicious, nothing could have prepared them for Penguin. This algorithm targeted marketers that were planting links around the web in order to get higher rankings.
You see, Google relies on inbound links to assess a website for quality. For example, when you point a link from your blog to another website, you basically give it the thumbs up. Google subsequently awards that website with higher rankings.
But marketers took advantage of link building metrics. They published articles on third party websites and linked back to their own pages. Link building became a racket.
First there were link farms. Then anybody that owned a website started charging companies to host content with inbound links. A lot of money changed hands. The only winners were SEO marketers as their clients were hit with a downgrade in rankings and content hosts had their websites banned.
Although the Venice update had a major impact on SERPS, it didn’t cause the panic of Panda and Penguin. Essentially, the Venice update is Google’s hand-up for local businesses.
The biggest impact Venice had was on operational procedures. Whereas SEO companies would ordinarily plan a Keyphrase strategy around specific search terms, local search warranted a targeted performance on location.
By comprehensively localising pages, you raise your chances of increasing traffic. This gives small businesses a better opportunity to compete against larger companies.
Hummingbird was a complete game changer. It uses semantic text which effectively enables search engine crawlers to understand the context of the page content.
The impact changed the way marketers publish content. Although Hummingbird does not replace keywords, it does mean publishers can use a wider variety of keyphrases so that content reads naturally.
It had become a practice for marketers to stuff keywords into their content in order to rank the page against that keyword. As a result, readers were repeating the same words in every sentence which essentially ruined the user-experience.
The last major change to Google’s core algorithm was named RankBrain. It uses artificial intelligence to try and understand what end-users are trying to find based on their search terms.
The purpose of RankBrain is to target pages that most relate to the search terms. The algorithm uses 100’s of signals including how other users have reacted to a particular website based on search terms.
But the main focus behind RankBrain is to try and understand patterns of human thinking so the search engine can produce better results. We are still waiting to determine if it will greatly impact how we conduct SEO services.
Understanding how Google’s algorithm works is the first step to preparing your online strategy. When you know what type of pages Google rank, it is easier to design a website that will pay the bills.
Look out for our next blog post on preparing for your first SEO Campaign!
Written by: Ian Zader