Today, Google is no doubt the giant in the commercial search engine market. According to ComScore’s 2016 report on desktop search market shares, Google tops the chart with a leading share of 63.8%.

Google’s Search Engine Evolution

There is no coincidence to Google’s success in the search engine market. Over the years, Google has been meticulously evolving and improving the online search experience. One of the many developments Google makes in order to deliver more accurate and intuitive search results is to continually refine its search algorithms. These algorithms contain many signals to help Google determine the exact intention of users and to ultimately bring forward the best answers.

Here is a video from Google explaining the evolution of search:

What is Google Algorithm?

There are literally trillions of websites floating on the internet. When users look up information on Google, search algorithms help to filter out irrelevant information and rank the most closely-matched webpage or website to a user’s query.

Think of Google’s search algorithms as formulas that help users to find exactly what they are looking for online. Every year, Google releases hundreds of updates to its search algorithms in an effort to better understand user queries and best match them with answers. These algorithms are derived from careful quality evaluations and are based on extensive user behavior analysis. The goal is to accurately interpret what the user is looking for and to deliver the information in a timely manner.

How does Google Algorithm Affect Your Website?

In the online marketing community, webmasters closely follow major Google Algorithm updates to determine how they should better create, serve and market content.

Google algorithms effect websites’ rankings in search results. There are currently over 200 different ranking factors that Google uses to determine how a webpage should rank compared against similar webpages. Although many of the 200 ranking factors have not been officially confirmed by Google, but they have revealed the three most important ranking factors.

Top 3 Ranking Factors of Google Algorithms

  • Link: Are there quality, relevant and authoritative external links pointing back to your website?
  • Content: Is there original, helpful and resourceful content on your website?
  • RankBrain: Does your website content match your user’s intent and actually answers their questions?

The essence of Google’s algorithms is all about making the search experience better for everyone. Looking at the top three ranking factors, they well represent the core fundamentals of properly executed SEO, and that is the key to success in online marketing.

Google’s ultimate goal in search is to improve the accuracy of search results, to reduce spam content, and to better understand user intent. Follow these metrics to practice legitimate online marketing, and your website can benefit from Google’s ever changing algorithm updates.

5 Major Google Algorithms You Need to Know About

Out of all the complicated ranking factors Google has in place, the five below are frequently discussed, and have had a very significant impact on search. The inception of these algorithms caused major changes in the internet and changed the criteria for how webpages rank.

We have summed up these major Google algorithms’ main functions here. Click on each algorithm below for the complete details.

Google RankBrain Algorithm Update

RankBrain is Google’s latest take on artificial intelligence for more intuitive search experiences.

Google Panda Algorithm Update

Panda is the infamous Google algorithm that punishes websites with low-quality content.

Google Penguin Algorithm Update

Google Penguin penalizes websites with link spams or schemes.

Google Hummingbird Algorithm Update

Hummingbird is a Google algorithm that aims to better understand “conversational” search.

Google Pigeon Algorithm Update

The Pigeon algorithm focuses on improving location-based search queries.

How to Improve Search Ranking with Google RankBrain

Google RankBrain is one of Google’s milestone algorithm releases. According to Bloomberg and Search Engine Land’s conversations with Google, RankBrain is the third most important ranking factor followed by content and link building. It is the pioneering way of making online search more intuitive towards improving user experience.

What is Google RankBrain?

Google RankBrain is the latest search algorithm incorporating artificial intelligence. It is basically a machine that can self-learn things in order to deliver a better user experience of online search. Google is building this system for the purpose of making connections between search queries and the true user intent behind them.

How Google RankBrain Effects Search?

Despite all that commotion about the RankBrain algorithm, remember it is not all, but a piece of the overall SEO algorithm. The overall search criteria will not change, but rather become more refined and intelligent as new algorithms are being introduced into the formula.

RankBrain improves search by better understanding conversational or everyday verbiages used in search queries. That means RankBrain will “think” to relate meanings to words that may not be present in the user’s search terms.

For example, let’s say someone types into search “M3 YouTube”. Google will accurately interpret “M3” as the BMW car’s model M3. As “YouTube” will be understood as a video on YouTube. So what Google did was to process, recognize, and pull up search results that it thinks the user is most likely to be looking for.

3 Ways to Improve Search Ranking with Google RankBrain

1. Create User Experience Focused Content

No matter what algorithm Google spins out next, you cannot go wrong with quality content. In fact, content should be the component you spend a good amount of effort in.

As Google mentioned to Search Engine Land, content is still the biggest factor influencing search ranking. Why is that? Because helping users to find relevant and useful content is the core focus behind the creation of Google search, to begin with.

UX or User Experience focused content is content that fulfills a user’s purpose of the search. It should provide users with information that answer their questions or resolve their problems. Follow our guide to effective SEO content strategies to gain visitor engagement and improve keyword search rankings.

2. Mind the Audience’s Language in Search

An important component of SEO content optimization is keyword research. So, does this mean that the birth of Google RankBrain affects the way we do keyword research? In our opinion, RankBrain enhances the way keyword research is done because it is an extension of the traditional keyword research. It makes keyword research more intuitive for the users.

We feel that in order to learn how RankBrain thinks and interprets user intent, a great way is to understand what end users are using to search for your content. Pay attention to your Google Analytics reports and variant keywords within Google Search Console. Look for connections between the keywords used during search and the content that the visitor viewed. RankBrain can open up new opportunities for your content to rank in search results.

3. Tailor Content to Different Marketing Personas

Marketing personas are fictional representations of your current customers on how they behave with your products or services. How does marketing persona help with RankBrain? When we understand how a group of like-minded customers interact with our product or services, you can create content to meet the needs of each persona group.

For example, if a marketing persona for a customer group is always thinking about low pricing or small budgets, the content should contain headlines with keywords like low cost or for start-ups. By satisfying the needs of each marketing persona group, you are delivering the best user experience and helping Google RankBrain match search queries related to your persona targeted content.

Improving SEO with Google Algorithms

To date, Google has more than 200 known algorithms towards refining search. How Google determines ranking really depends on the overall performance of your website components and how well visitors interact with them.

We should not be overlooking any ranking signals at this point, but rather work them into our SEO strategies and continue to perfect it. The bottom line is to make a website for users, not for search engines, and both Google and your visitors will appreciate it.

How Google Hummingbird Update Affects Website Ranking

In an ever changing digital world, old technologies quickly become obsolete. As the online marketing world becomes increasingly sophisticated and data packed, faster processing is needed to crunch through all that daily cyber information exchange.

So during August 2013, with the official announcement taking place on September 2013, Google rolled out the little hummingbird with amazing speed. The infamous algorithm update is like an improved system that enhances Google’s search functions to process billions of webpages.

What is a Google Hummingbird Update?

What Google Hummingbird does for Google is to better interpret user search queries entered and output more accurate search results. Imagine Google was a car running on a V6 engine and now swapping it out for a more powerful V12. That’s a big difference in efficiency.

Essentially, that is what the hummingbird algorithm is all about. It equips Google with a bigger and faster search engine to return more efficient search results for users.

Examples of Google Hummingbird

Google wants to better identify and understand “conversational search” in their search queries and return the most accurate information. This just means that Google is thinking and speaking better in more conversational or natural language.

Hummingbird focuses on returning the best conversational search results by looking deeper into the meaning behind each keyword searched.

For example:

  • Say you are looking for cookies around your office. You type into Google “best cookies in Los Angeles, CA”. Google will interpret it as bakeries or restaurants in the location you specified instead of turning up information about different types of cookies.
  • Now let’s try again with “how to start a business”. Google will display to you a module called “direct answers” at the top of the query page. It will give you an instant, brief answer to your question about how to start a business.

How Google Hummingbird Affects SEO

So how does the hummingbird algorithm affect website owners and their SEO campaigns? The short answer is it affects everything that has to do with your website’s content.

Hummingbird helps websites that produce authoritative, expert, and trustworthy content be found relatively quicker, even if the content is a few days old. Google values content that accurately answers user inquiries.

In general, thin content provides very little significance to visitors and to search engines. If you have content with little value or have been using keyword schemes to trick the system, then you are hanging on a thin thread.

5 Advantage of Google Hummingbird Update for Better SEO

Don’t think of algorithms as a penalty. Instead, make it work to improve your website ranking. Here are 5 tweaks you can make on your website right now to make Google Hummingbird work to your advantage.

1. Improve Website’s Linking Structure

How you structure your website’s internal links and architecture affect the end user experience. When you direct users to additional content through internal links, you potentially improve ROI (Return on Investment) by extending page views to other parts of the website.

Create easy-to-follow website architecture so your audience can also easily navigate and locate the content they are looking.

2. Optimize On-Page Elements

On-page elements are your title, H1 tags, ALT image tags, and page URL elements. Make a continuous effort to update these, because they still play an essential role in SEO ranking with or without algorithm update.

Add Schema markups to Meta tags, title, and body to tell Google what each element of your website is about. Schema.org helps you to identify the types of content that can be marked up. For example, reviews, articles, product pricing, and corporate information.

3. Find New Opportunities with Content

Google Hummingbird essentially opens more doors to websites that publish a lot of quality content. Content can be blogs, videos, infographics, white papers, statistical charts, or any types of visuals just to name a few.

The Hummingbird update actually helps businesses to step out of their keyword-stuffing mode and really focus on delivering quality content for a better user experience.

4. Include Long-tail Keywords

Although we are against overloading webpages with anchor text and keywords, it is still important to keyword-optimize content appropriately for SEO purposes. Include Long-tail keywords within content. They are phrases made up of three or more words. These are the keyword gems hummingbirds hunt for in search queries.

In other words, with keyword research done properly, Hummingbird can strengthen your organic ranking status.

5. Be on Google’s Direct Answers

Google provides answers to the questions that users enter into search. The best-matched answer is displayed on top of the search results page through the Direct Answer module. This answer is pulled from a website that Google thinks best answers the user inquiry.

Direct Answers are generally high level answers. Best types of questions for this module are questions with definite answers such as mathematical questions, weather, and history.

If your content contains this question and answer format, you have the opportunity to be listed in Google’s Direct Answer. Note it is in the first position on the very top of first-page search results. Take advantage of this prime location to win ranking.

Preparing Your Website for Hummingbird Optimization

As long as you keep up the good SEO work with insightful and honest content updates, you don’t need to worry about Google algorithm backfires. Focus on creating exceptional content and you will be rewarded with better SEO results.

Update: Google Released RankBrain Algorithm

On October 26, 2015, Google released RankBrain. It is the first machine learning, artificial intelligence system to be included as Google’s SEO algorithm. Sounds like something from the future right!

SearchEngineLand was able to get a few notes from Google discussing what RankBrain does.

RankBrain is considered part of the Hummingbird algorithm. It is mainly used as a way to better interpret user search queries beyond context. What does this mean? Basically, the algorithm reads beyond the words people use in search and pulls relevant results that may not have the exact word match used within the search queries. It makes search more intuitive and focusses more on user intent.

How to Avoid Being Penalized by Google Penguin

We are going to talk about the Google Penguin algorithm update in all of its glory. The birdy was first introduced to the triple w world in April of 2012.

What is a Google Penguin Update?

The Penguin update is for Google to eliminate websites from search results that violate the Google Webmaster Guidelines. It specifically targets websites that manipulated the number of links pointing to a page.

Backlinks should be naturally given and earned from other relevant websites. On the contrary, having your website’s links in content spams, link farms, and link schemes will lead to damaging effects on all of your organic traffic and SEO efforts.

How Google Penguin Updates Affects Your Website Ranking

When Penguin update first rolled out, many websites with violations were penalized and dropped off of search result pages. It is a serious matter to take a hit from penguin because the recovery process will be a long and painful one.

IMPORTANT UPDATE

As of October 13th, 2016, Google has officially confirmed the release of Google Penguin 4.0 real time algorithm. The live update, which was initially rolled out on September 23, 2016, is going to be one of Google’s core algorithms.

How does it affect websites? It means that websites previously impacted by earlier versions of Penguin have the opportunity to recover much faster. According to Google, the latest Penguin algorithm brings more “granular” focus in terms of penalizing link spams.

In other words, Penguin has taken a more intuitive and targeted approach to punishing webpages with bad links. The effects will happen shortly have Google re-crawls and re-indexes a page. As far as we know, pages with high spam signals will be devalued in ranking, but the entire website will not lose ranking altogether.

With that said if your website suffered traffic loss from spammy links and you have done a great job cleaning it up, Penguin real time will allow your website to be redeemed with re-crawling and re-indexing.

4 Activities Penguin Penalizes

  • Link schemes such as buying and selling links, as well as excessive link spamming
  • Tactics such as using highly keyword-optimized anchor links within content
  • Keyword stuffing content and overly repeat the same keywords in order to fool search engines
  • Low quality or duplicate content that deceives users will be penalized by both Google Penguin and Panda update

5 Ways to Avoid Google Penguin Penalty

1. Improve Links Value

Google cares about the quality of links coming to your website, not the quantity. The bottom line is, do not buy into SEO black hat schemes, literally.

That means stay away from buying backlinks and paying for guest bloggers from blogging networks. This can cause you to lose all the rankings. SEO link building is a long-term effort that involves making original and useful content. Good link back referrals will naturally follow with proper SEO practice.

2. Increase Content and Keyword Relevancy

For example, if your website is about shoes, do not include irrelevant links from completely unrelated websites such as car dealerships or food blogs. Non-relevant topics can result in Google penalty even if the content is of quality.

Likewise, if your content contains an abnormal amount of repetitive keywords with links, Penguin sees it as spam and can forfeit your website’s ranking.

3. Work on Linkable Assets

Tools, applications, or any useful content that is link-worthy assets can attract referrals and mentions. These may be your anchor content and key resources that contribute to valuable long-term link building.

4. Use Disavow tool

Google’s Disavow tool in Webmaster tells Google which URLs or domains should not be giving you credit or backlinks. This allows you to disallow backlinks that your website should not be associated with. By doing this, you can avoid Penguin penalty by removing yourself from spam website.

However, before taking this step, you should always try to reach out to that domain’s webmaster and request your website URL to be removed. If this step fails, then utilize Google’s disavow tool.

5. Perform Link Clean Up for Data Refresh

Whether or not your website was caught in the Penguin penalty hurdle, if it still has bad links, remove them immediately.

As of date, the latest release of Penguin Everflux happened on December 10, 2014. It impacted about 1% of queries according to SearchEngineLand. Your chance of recovery comes with every new release of the Penguin update. Judging from the past updates, only one happens every year.

The rumored Live Penguin 4.0 update was speculated to happen in 2016. Websites that have been hit by Penguin in the past can anticipate the data refresh that comes with the new algorithm release. This is the opportunity for these websites to be reconsidered for ranking again.

Practice Good SEO

It is not that difficult to stay unharmed from the little bird. Actually, if you have already stayed on top of good SEO practice, there is nothing to worry about.

The bottom line is to not participate in questionable SEO fads. Simply provide awesome content and adopt the right SEO link building strategies. Over time, your website ranking will grow steadily.

SEO Self-Assessments to Avoid Google Panda Update Penalty

We are long beyond the days of online marketing with simple Meta tags for SEO optimization. Successful Google page ranking depends on an overall website value score governed by Google Webmaster Guide and determined by various quality factors. One of these quality factors is content.

What is a Google Panda Update?

In February of 2011, Google introduced a new friend to improve search query results and it is called Panda. It is an algorithm update derived from Google’s affirmative action plans.

The objective of Google Panda is to end content farming and eliminate low-quality content websites from negatively skewing search engine results.

How Google Panda Update Affects Your Website?

In order to rank solid positions on Google, factors such as engaging content, backlink attributes, and domain authority play big roles. Google’s Panda update has a detrimental effect on websites with thin, duplicate, or copied content that offers very little value.

The latest version 4.2 released on July 17, 2015, punishes websites on unqualified webpages as well as the entire domain as a whole. The bad news is if you still have spamming, plagiarized, or poor quality content on some of your webpages, your entire website can lose its ranking on Google.

Here’s a better explanation of the Panda update by Matt Cutts – Google’s top brass in the anti-spam team:

How to avoid being punished by Google Panda Update?

First of all, let us understand exactly what Panda is looking to punish. Avoid violations and spare your website from going down the path of no ranking. It’s never worth it to buy into tricks. The end result may leave you with an immense drop in traffic and a difficult road to recovery.

4 Google Panda Violations to Avoid

  • Low-value content. Content that is short, filler-like or offers little meaning is obvious targets of Panda.
  • Content Farms. These are websites that copies content from other websites in an attempt to fool Google into evaluating them as information rich. All content farming websites will be weeded out by Google without mercy.
  • Duplicate pages and contents. Sometimes duplicated pages unintentionally result from improper CMS (Content Management System) practices. Remember to add Canonical tags to the original page to avoid this issue.
  • Black hat SEO tactics. Any tactics that are not in accordance with Google Webmaster Guidelines will result in a violation. Schemes such as direct translating or manipulating other people’s content and using it as your own will be penalized. Don’t even go there.

With that said, it is important to make sure your website content passes the “Panda” test. Check your content quality with these self-assessment questions below.

10 Questions to Ask Yourself When Accessing Your Website for Google Panda Penalty

  1. Does your evergreen content look more like a paragraph or caption rather than a proper article? You are probably well aware by now that short content is less favored by Google
  2. Do you have authoritative and accurate research to back up your content? Content authority and accuracy will improve SEO ranking and escalate your business reputation within the industry
  3. Does your content sound overall trivial, generic, or superficial in nature? Readers, not search engines, are your ultimate audience. Even if you manage to escape algorithm penalty, readers will turn away because you have content of little worth
  4. Did you double check the website’s SEO implementation? Notable things such as improperly executed optimization and Meta tags can become problematic for SEO ranking
  5. Are you trying to fill up the website by spinning out variations of the same article, or simply replicating the same content? Please refrain from doing so because Google is smarter than you think with catching these tricks
  6. Do you observe abnormally high bounce rate other than technical issues? If this happens, it means visitors don’t like what they find on your landing pages. This again ties back to having irrelevant content or low-quality content
  7. Does your website look like blinking billboard with an overwhelming amount of ads? This is a red flag for spam to Google, as it can significantly impact user experience
  8. Did you do spell checks and proofread before publishing? Unfortunately, too many misspelled words and poor grammar will affect your ranking
  9. Are there too many unattended broken links? If your website is frequently flashing 404 alerts, have them fixed right away. It is a bad user experience and causes high bounce rate
  10. Does your website take forever to load? Check your website’s speed with Google PageSpeed Insights. Keep track of how your website loading speed changes over time within Google Analytics

Deliver a Great User Experience

The best advice to avoid Google Panda penalty is to always provide the best user experience to visitors through quality content. Think of your own search experiences.

If you are looking for car buying tips and all you get from Google are dozens of junk links, what good does search engines do? No one wants to waste time on a website with useless information.

It really pays off in the long term to follow through with proper SEO practices. Refer to our best SEO content optimization guide to improving website conversion.

Google Pigeon – How Google’s Local Ranking Algorithm Impacts Your Business

Welcome to the Google SEO “zoo”, where the infamous animals of the Google algorithm reside. The Pigeon algorithm update was first introduced on July 24, 2014. Ever since its inception local search queries have forever changed.

Example of Pigeon Algorithm at Work

Ice cream sounds good right now, so let us search this example in Google. Now, because we are located in Irvine, California, Google will automatically assume that I want ice cream located near my city.

If you are an ice cream business with a physical address in Irvine, California, you have two places to rank for in search results to capture this potential customer.

  1. Google organic search listing: This is the natural search query listing you would normally see in google.
  2. Google 3 pack listing: Search results in 3 packs are displayed with image-rich information that includes business location, contact information, photos, and ratings. We will explain it further in the next section.

How Google Pigeon Update Benefits Your Local Business

  1. Google Pigeon connects web and map based search to make search results more relevant to location base questions. Depending on the location-based query, your website has the opportunity to appear in map results, local 3 pack listings, and organic search listings.
  2. Google’s Pigeon algorithm update is changing the way local search is realized. While traditional SEO still applies to your website, local SEO further improves ranking with geographic location based search results. Taking advantage of Pigeon updates can significantly improve local search ranking with many small, local businesses.

Get Ready for Algorithm Updates

Good content and link building practices should always be amongst your top priorities for SEO efforts. SEO done in the right way without shortcuts will strengthen your website’s ranking no matter what animal Google rolls out next.