The Google Algorithm Update Breakdown

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google algorithm updates and what they mean

Google Algorithms and Why They Exist

Google algorithms have evolved significantly over the years. Some businesses still do not fully understand their purpose. Others even think that they’re in place to punish websites. The truth is, algorithms are needed for many reasons, and some of them are directly related to how your website is shown within search results.

In 2016, Google graciously warned that they would be focusing more on their mobile indexing. They did not abandoned desktop indexing as some businesses were asking about. So with the engine referencing two indexes in 2017, change was inevitable.

But such a feat can not be accomplished on its own. Other aspects will have to change to reflect indexing requirements. Que the infamous algorithms. There’s no little person sitting at a computer looking at millions and millions of sites on the world wide web. So search engines and their bots are designed to evaluate and rank websites.

They do this using Algorithms.

Basically, algorithms are a collection of guidelines and logic based processes that evaluate a site in order to identify the most relevant result to display within search results. A website that’s relevant, informative, and fast pleases the Google gods.

Speaking of algorithms, we here at Creative MMS try to keep our finger on the pulse of Search Engine changes and updates. I say try because Google doesn’t always show their cards. Sometimes they ‘confirm’ algorithm updates and other times there are non-confirmed updates. Traffic to your site is a good starting point if you want to determine the affects of algorithms.

So Why Is Traffic So Important

You may think that increasing traffic strengthens the probability of conversions. That’s true. But there’s an even greater reason why businesses online need to increase traffic. Google.

You see, Google relies on data. Just as Creative MMS is data driven to reach desired results for clients, so is Google. Only Google’s clients are you and me. The user. The more traffic there is, the better Google is at making accurate choices when ranking websites and selecting the position in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). So, increased traffic and how that traffic interacts with sites online is a major KPI for the search engine.

But David, what does search traffic have to do with algorithms? Well since the algorithms evaluate and rank sites to determine the most relevant results, they need performance indicators. And nothing says performance like happy traffic.

What Are The Main Google Algorithms

Google algorithms periodically update. This helps them keep the pace with the ever changing digital landscape. SEOs and SEMs have long known that algorithm updates focus on on-page optimization, viable links, strong content, and engagement just to name a core few. In a nutshell, the goal is to deliver the most relevant results or solutions to users quickly and consistently.

When you see or hear about an algorithm being updated, that’s saying that an already active algorithm has been updated from its previous state. As the internet evolves, so must the algorithms to maintain consistent results. Here are the main algorithms you need to know about to succeed.

Hint: Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird/rankbrain, and the newest algorithm to shake the SEO world: FRED. We’ll get to him later.

1.) Penguin: This algorithm is all about the links, baby! Often times, people believe that they can just link anything to anywhere and they’ve done a good job. Please don’t be “that guy” or “that girl”. Penguin is a collection of algorithms programmed to seek out, find, and evaluate links.

People learned early on that Google would follow links and add rank to the resulting pages. Some deployed black hat tactics in an effort to manipulate how the engine saw their sites. They would overuse or over optimize anchor text (a set of hyperlinked keyword terms), keyword stuff their content so a resulting link would seem more relevant, sell links, or create a boatload of links that obviously had no direction or substance.

If your site has ever been hacked or you know of one that has, hackers deploy obvious examples of what and how not to link. For those who have not seen this in action, you may see links such as:

‘Don’t give Cheap Viagra to your cat for 20% off”
‘The best Gucci Handbag to lower your interest rates’
‘Blue widgets are the best widgets blue or red that cost less’

Ok. That was a bit extreme, but my point is that Penguin looks for natural, relevant and helpful links. Internal and external links direct traffic to other resources that improves the search intent of a user. If there are too many links on a site (auto dealerships do this a lot) or links are just thrown all over your content haphazardly, you run the risk of being penalized for seeming too spammy (spamming a visitor with links that hold no genuine value).

Tip: Generate great content that’s informative and ensure that links guide your visitor to an area that increases your value proposition. Keep in mind, it’s not the amount of links that matter but the quality of those links and the landing page a visitor will ultimately find themselves on.

2.) Panda: This algorithm focuses on the value of content. Years ago, some people use to just put out garbage or be aligned with other malicious sites. Bad websites filled with misleading and useless data were jumping to the front of search results. This created an issue for a search engine who’s goal is to provide users with helpful, quality content solutions to their search. In this case, Panda evaluates and regulates page rank and how valuable a site is to a visitor.

Tip: Keep your content fresh. Rethink how you’re approaching your audience and what message you want to convey to them. Don’t try to use the same content over and over again. Trust me, this will catch up to you and recovering from this sort of algorithmic penalty is difficult and possibly costly. Another great insight to implement is think about Panda & Penguin playing together…because after all…they DO play well together. Intentionally.

3.) Hummingbird: This algorithm is by far one of the most intricate of them all. It’s multi-faceted and changed how SEOs and SEMs conduct business. The Hummingbird Algorithm focuses on search intent and search results. When a keyword term or topic is used, does the content or resulting page deliver the fastest search intent solution? Instead of trying to get the search engine to evaluate whether a keyword is relevant enough or exactly what a user was looking for, this algorithm attempts to single out the best results.

This means that Google is once again committed to focusing on the user and not a simple keyword phrase. That’s not to say you should abandon your keyword research all together. Never do that! What I am saying is that you should determine user personas first and then identify the topics or problems they may encounter. The resulting data should then be implemented into content and links in a strategic, yet refined manner.

Hummingbird is directly connected to what you may have heard of when you see the term Google Rankbrain. Rankbrain is Hummingbird in disguise pretty much.

Tip: Since this algorithm will look at long-tail keyword terms, latent semantic indexing, conversational content and historical search data, it makes sense to hire a conversion optimization company such as Creative MMS. We not only use data to help develop a user experience, but we also optimize websites in a way that maximizes the effectiveness of your brand online. In layman’s  terms, when you use the right search terms, you’ll solve the right user intent.

Google’s machine learning (AI) is getting more sophisticated, and these algorithms are part of that big picture.

4.) FRED: This relatively new Google algorithm made it’s debut in 2017. Little is known about it, but details of its purpose are trickling out. What we do know so far is that the Fred update has been affecting page rank and SERP’s since its inception.

The one thing I can tell you about this algorithm is that much of it’s purpose revolves around Google Webmaster best practices and guidelines. Basically, if you have been doing SEO properly for your business, there’s nothing to worry about. However, if certain guidelines have been blurred or crossed, you’re in danger of losing page rank, which affects search visibility and ultimately gives your competitors the upper hand now that you’re “out of the way”.

At the end of the day, Fred seems to be looking at your content and the value it brings to the table. If you’ve been creating good content, building healthy links, focusing on the user and not profits then that’s a good starting point to gauge how Fred may affect you.

Tip: Those who have been negatively affected by Fred will see a drop in traffic almost immediately. Take a look at whether you have been adhering to the algorithms mentioned above. Take a technical SEO look at your site, along with your off-page efforts as well. I can not stress enough that SEO is not just what you do on your website, it’s also necessary off-page.

Due to the possible connection with Organic Traffic and Ranking Factors, I will keep you posted on what we learn about this new google algorithm update called Fred.

Was That an Algorithm Update or Penalty?

So how are businesses online able to tell whether their website was affected by an algorithm update or penalty?

Generally speaking, if you suddenly find it hard to find your business in search results or you slipped significantly from page 1, 2, or 3, there’s a good chance it was algorithm related. This is why investing time in properly optimizing your website is so important. Your website is your livelihood. The more you take care of it the better it will perform.

If there’s one major tip I can offer you, please pay attention to how you structure your website pages and the data they contain. It’s not about just mentioning what you do…it’s about assuring visitors about what they’ll get.

There are other reasons why your website may not be performing well, but that’s for another post another day. I’m pretty sure it has Fred written all over it. We’ll get to the bottom of this. Stay Tuned!

Does you website stand up to all of these algorithms? Is your website user friendly and provide an experience that causes a visitor to engage with you? Can you track site performance and visits? Are you following SEO best practices day in and day out, or just skirting by? Reach out to our dedicated team of creative digital professionals and increase the performance of your site today!

Ben LeDonniMarch 27, 2017by Ben LeDonni