No-Nonsense Guide to Google Updates. Pt1.

Wondering what Google’s latest changes mean for your website? Confused about the menagerie that is Pandas, Penguins and Hummingbirds? Sarah from our SEO team has been looking at Google’s latest algorithmic changes and has created this no-nonsense, layman’s terms explanation of what you need to know.

George Orwell told stories that were important and revolutionary. He made sure these stories were accessible to everybody and not just those who understood sophisticated language. He did this by simplifying his writing without destroying the flow. One of his five rules of writing was:

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

I believe this is applicable in novels, essays, articles and, well... life. Jargon isn’t always necessary and it’s especially abundant within SEO.

So, following George Orwell’s rule and my own frustration over reading endless SEO jargon, I’m going to explain Google’s algorithm changes, what they mean for websites and how the user experience is affected as a result of these changes.

The internet is considered to be a world within the world we live in, such is its complexity. At the moment:

  • Nobody knows where this could lead us
  • Nobody knows what’s going to happen next

Despite how powerful and huge it is, Google is no exception when it comes to knowing what’s next. We are all learning. In saying that, Google’s mission is to make sure that users see the best of the web, and they do this through continually updating their search algorithm. Major algorithmic updates are Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird- they affect search results significantly and improve the overall user experience.

Panda

Think of any website that you like right now. Everything that you’re expecting from an average website, Panda looks for, too. Does it look like a genuine website or does it look like glorified spam? Does it seem like you can trust the information this website is giving you? One of the questions Google points to in relation to Panda updates is would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site? This is a pretty great rule of thumb to apply to any website you’re unsure about even out-with SEO concerns.

Panda looks at websites and asks some of the questions that I just did and if a site is considered to be weak or providing a poor user experience, Panda demotes the website in Google rankings. This tends to be (but isn’t always) a sitewide issue meaning that for the most part, Panda will demote the whole website but on occasion, it can just be a page or a blog post from a website.

Panda also looks at duplicate content meaning any duplicate content within one website or across many websites can be subject to Panda’s penalisation. This is to prevent spam and a poor quality user experience.

The good: Panda really does provide a better user experience and for the most part ensures that the quality websites get the rankings they deserve. It is an ongoing algorithm which means that users are continuously benefitting from it.

The not-so-good: Duplicate content can be annoying and disappointing but sometimes, it’s innocent. Take for example, a company that has a group of websites for each branch of the business. How much can you really change an About page? Exactly. Unless webmasters understand how to tell Google that these are all under the same company using a tag within the HTML of the websites concerned [rel=canonical], they could be penalised for duplicate content.

Ultimately, Panda is a tool that levels out playing fields and encourages high quality content. It isn’t flawless but anything that is a computer doing a human’s job is bound to have glitches.

How to avoid being hit by Panda:

  • Use unique, quality content on your site
  • Provide at least enough detail to answer all the basic questions a visitor might have
  • Include content before advertising banners etc

Part two is now live here.