Every year, Google updates it search engine algorithms hundreds of times. Each update brings slight changes to how websites are ranked, and sometimes Google comes along with a much bigger and more discrete update. These bigger updates, – the most recent of which are Panda, Penguin 2.1 and Hummingbird – have real effects on the efficacy of SEO practices, and they are very important for companies like us to keep on top of.
On the whole, Google’s algorithmic updates are designed to make it easier for “the right kind” of websites to achieve good rankings, and harder for “the wrong kind” of websites to do the same… in other words, to generally improve the accuracy, relevancy and usefulness of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for any given search phrase.
Let’s take a little closer look at each of the updates. The aim of Panda has been to penalise “low-quality” sites and promote “high-quality” sites. Content-farms and sites that spin low quality content have been most affected – the ranking of almost 12% of all search results were affected when Panda first came into effect in 2011.
The aim of Penguin has been to penalise websites that employ “black-hat” SEO techniques – whether for business purposes or otherwise. These techniques, which now officially violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, commonly include link spamming, article spinning and other SEO “exploitations” that are deliberately used to help sites obtain high rankings despite the fact that in most cases these sites are not useful to the searcher, are salacious, or simply go against the ethos and the purpose of Google’s indexing system.
The new Hummingbird algorithm is less concerned with changing the SEO landscape, and more concerned with improving the accuracy of search results. Ever since the beginning of searching via search engines, the search engines have always had problems in finding the most relevant and accurate results for a given search. We are humans, but Google is only a program, and so it is often difficult for the program to understand the true meaning in the things we search for.
Many words convey multiple meanings and there are loads of different vernaculars…. Hummingbird is the next step in improving how Google interprets the meaning in our search terms (semantics) and the conversational way in which we communicate. This includes paying closer attention to every word in a query, and to the true meaning of the whole query.
Google’s ultimate aim is to make search better for the users, and ranking fairer for the websites. Not everyone is happy with everything that Google does, and there are many opponents to the index elements that Google uses. In the case of most businesses and online stores however, the Google system is now at a point of pretty good fairness and predictability, and this is good for any e-business that wants to gain measurable results from a modern SEO/SEM campaign.