2014 Review of SEO
Website Penalty? Remove:
Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird & Pigeon
The year 2014 saw an increase in the number of websites with a Google penalty. From Penguin to Panda, the updates in SEO for 2014 were ground-shaking to say the least. It is estimated that Google makes anywhere between 500-600 changes to the algorithm each year (source: moz.org). Typically, these are small changes without major implications for most websites. During the last two years, however, things have really been shaken up in the search results. From big businesses like Expedia and Ebay to your local plumbers and dentists, everyone is feeling the loss in search traffic as a direct result of Google’s ranking rumble. Is this a penalty to the world (wide web) for exploiting loopholes or just a result of Google’s never ending search for better usability? More importantly, how does a website go from penalty to improvement in an ever-changing competitive environment?
Google uses a super secret algorithm to provide a specific set of search results depending on the user’s query (or keyword). While the algorithm is a complex mathematical formula powered with the latest innovative programs, it is still not a foolproof process. Therefore, given enough time and effort, exploitation (and manipulation) of this process can happen. Generally speaking, the websites that manipulate the results to explore the organic processes are often misleading, unethical, and generally bad business – not at all what Google users want. When this begins to impact the search results in such a way that users are at risk of going to another search engine (like Bing), Google has to change.
It all started with a few pet names:
It’s a Zoo Out There
For those website owners who are not familiar with Penguin, Hummingbird, Panda, and Pigeon, congratulations on avoiding the digital marketing pitfalls most businesses are struggling with. For those who are all too painfully aware of these updates, there is hope in removing a Google penalty.
Penguin, Hummingbird, and Pigeon are the major game changer updates to Google’s algorithm. While some have been around for a while, their updates in 2013 and, particularly 2014, have really changed the way a website ranks in a dramatic way.
Penguin Takes Flight
Penguin is probably the most notorious of all the updates. Penguin checks for a healthy backlink profile, penalizing sites with spammy link building schemes meant to manipulate rankings. Starting in April of 2012 (source: searchengineland.com) as a way of catching those websites involved in including paid and other link networks, the Penguin penalty hit a rather large number of websites with penalties that dropped their rankings. Big businesses like Expedia felt the hit from their unnatural links, but it was smaller companies that suffered the most (and in some cases continue to suffer) from this change. At first, Penguin would be updated only a handful of times a year. However, Google later announced that Penguin had taken flight and would be a continuous update that all websites would need to keep in consideration. Removing the Penguin penalty takes time and expertise. If you feel like your website has been hit by this penalty, call us at 1 (888) 986-7736.
Hummingbird Silently Flies in Change
Google’s Hummingbird update silently shifted how Google related words and what data they gather to analyze. Though small, this Hummingbird packs a lot of potential. While not penalty based, this update does open up concerns for old, keyword stuffed content and for those SEO analysts and website owners who do not keep up with the latest search trends from user entered terms (like phrases). The new data that Hummingbird provides Google will likely be used in conjunction with the Panda update. Removing a penalty from Hummingbird often requires content rewrites and/or updates to improve quality and remove keyword stuffing.
Panda: Black and White Content
Expect the buzz word “white hat” to be used a great deal throughout 2015. “White hat SEO” refers to the approach of optimization that stays within Google’s guidelines. Fueled with Hummingbird data, the Panda update tackles the challenge of the manipulation of content to “stuff” keywords for the purpose of ranking. For websites that write content for keyword use, rather than making unique quality content for users, put themselves at risk for a Panda penalty. Ask.com and Ebay felt this hit the hardest due to the common, widespread practice of keyword stuffing content (source: searchengineland.com). Ebay, in particular, was noted to drop from the 6th position of the top 10 websites in the moz.org database to 25th in just 3 days (source: moz.org). One good thing from the Panda and Hummingbird update is that Google has clarified their definition of “quality” content based on the following guidelines:
SEO Friendly Content
Pigeons in your Local Neighborhood
The Pigeon update changed the way Google provides results in such a dramatic way that SEO analysts and digital marketing consultants have had to completely change SEO strategies. Pigeon allows Google to consider the location of the user who is searching for the keyword when providing results. Location consideration is coupled with the arrival of local (maps) results on the first page of rankings. In other words, when you search “pizza”, more relevant results come up based on your location, along with an ABCD map of the closest results in your area. These local pigeons have helped small businesses get first page exposure without having to compete with larger national, but less relevant, businesses. This is a flighty bird, as the terms that pull results constantly changes and shifts according to search trends.
Wild Ride to Results
While it has been a wild ride through Google’s animals, not all are bad. In fact, these changes have actually helped small genuine businesses compete in a saturated world (wide web) and made results more relevant for larger companies who comply with Google’s guidelines. For those who have been bitten by these animals, an experienced SEO analyst can help you navigate the zoo and bring you back to the top with a solid online marketing strategy. The continued flight of the Penguin update allows those who are cleaning their link profile to have the progress updated more often. This will give them a better chance at removing Penguin penalties. While Pigeon is flighty, its presence provides first page rankings for businesses that would not have otherwise been capable of competing without “black hat” tactics. One thing we know for certain is that things will continue to change and shift towards better usability. If you are concerned that your website penalties are affecting your business, don’t wait – get your free expert website analysis and get back in control.