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Google Algorithm Updates And You, Use Google To Your Advantage

You may have heard that Google vamped up some of its existing algorithms (and introduced one new one) in the mid to latter part of 2013. These “updates” have affected the way we in the SEO world handle marketing. Basically, these changes mean that many of the “old school” tactics you used to get traffic and rank will no longer work (or, maybe we should say, they won’t work as well – a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while). If you’re new to the game, or you’re still using methods you used in the early 2000s, you’re probably not reaping the rewards you once did… and can again!

Google is an innovative and constantly changing entity which is why so many people turn to it for research, news, and the random questions that pop up in our heads throughout the day. Over the years Google has used a variety of algorithms to glean accurate information from the copious amounts of data – good and bad – that exists in the ethers of the internet.

Until recently, Google has used algorithms based on keywords. So if a consumer types in “What time is it in India?”, Google would look at each word individually and provide results that had at least one of those words present.

This presented a unique problem for consumers as the search results did not necessarily yield the desired information, but did contain the appropriate key words. The reason for this is that early algorithms such as Panda and Penguin were not designed to analyze the context or connotation of the keywords. These two algorithms were designed for entirely different purposes based on the technology available at the date of implementation.

2011: Panda

As one of the earliest algorithms created by Google, Panda is designed to prevent low quality content from appearing high on search results. As the internet expanded, Google created a “Quality Rater” system in which feedback determined the result rank of individual websites. In order to obtain a high ranking, content had to be user friendly and had to pass a “quality threshold” defined by Google. With a few other parameters, Google was able to provide search results that had some level of integrity and relevance.

Still, users were complaining that Google was not answering questions in the way they expected; the information was either not pertinent or filled with time-wasting spam. Essentially, users were and still are looking for a method which provides the desired information without any filler or advertising. Google responded in 2012 with Penguin.

2012: Penguin

Created in response to user complaints of excessive search engine spam, Penguin aims to block websites which violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. These guidelines are relatively simple; create quality content that is unique in its approach or information and provides an excellent user experience. Additionally, a website’s content should be easy to find and any provided links should be relevant and accurate. This is sometimes referred to as “above the fold” content, meaning that the information searched for is present without having to scroll down or search excessively.

To skirt around these guidelines, content creators got extremely creative in order to hoodwink Google users and increase their website traffic. In what is now known as Black-hat SEO practices, web content creators use a variety of sneaky methods to falsely point Google users to websites that are not relevant or are primarily used for advertising. This is achieved through manipulating the anchor text. Anchor text is linked text which is relevant to the landing page and thus to the users query.

Don’t panic if these terms sound technical, most people already know what anchor text and landing pages are and just don’t know it! A landing page is a homepage and an anchor text is a sub-heading. For example, if you visit Virtue Marketing’s homepage there are tabs at the top of the page which describe other areas on the website; that is anchored text. Spammers and some SEO organizations manipulate these features to increase site traffic and usually their profits. Understandably, Google users were not enthused by these practices and demanded something better. That something better is here and it’s called Hummingbird!

2013: Hummingbird

Ambitiously named after the quick and capable bird, Hummingbird was created not only to increase the quality of content available to Google users, but also to work seamlessly with mobile devices. Since Smartphones and Google itself use voice activation, the demand for a conversational search engine is high. Additionally, users are no longer impressed with the traditional keyword search engine model because it doesn’t always take into account the context or the meaning of a phrase. Hummingbird has somewhat solved this issue for its users.

Designed to understand the meaning behind a query, Hummingbird analyzes human language to more accurately produce results. It also uses semantics and psychology to tap into what the user really wants. Constantly collecting data from signed in users, it is also able to tailor search results based on previously visited website and previously posed queries. Finally inching towards Google’s original goal of being able to answer a user’s questions, not just reference keywords, Hummingbird is a completely new way to seek out information.

Using Hummingbird to Your Advantage

So what does that mean for your website? Is all of your hard work and training in SEO methods for naught? Happily, the answer is NO! According to Google, as long as your website’s content is unique and high quality, it will remain high in query rankings. The purpose of Google has not changed; it continues to be a resource for answering the questions of its users. By following Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you website will get the traffic you require to drive your business forward.

If you are still unsure about what steps to take moving forward with your web content, send us an email! Virtue Marketing uses only the newest marketing methods and is well versed in the meaning behind your client’s Google query, and we’re HAPPY to answer your questions regarding the same. We can help your business achieveits goals with Respect, Refinement, and of course RESULTS!

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