No-Nonsense Guide to Google Updates. Pt2.

In part 2 of our blog post we talk about Google's Penguin and Hummingbird updates.

We continue our guide to SEO with an outline of Penguin and Hummingbird...

Penguin

Penguin is very different from Panda and is considered to be more impactful. Every single time a website links to your website, which is essentially a thumbs-up towards your site. It tells Google that your website is good. If the referring website is a respected website then that is an even bigger boost for your site in Google’s eyes.

This being taken into account, it is easy to understand why this was taken advantage of so much and why, in the past, SEOs would try and get as many links out there as possible. Even links from poor websites can help towards authority so it made sense in the past for some SEO’s to go down the road of link-dumping.

This could be done with using specific anchor text. Say you wanted to boost Facebook’s rankings (ha...), the anchor text you’d use on every site with your own link pointing to the site would probably be ‘social networking website’ and if enough websites had that text, with your link, Facebook would be pretty high in Google rankings. These links would go in directories, articles, blog posts, forums and sometimes even comments.

The Penguin algorithm is always trying to detect these low quality links and if a lot of links are coming from low quality websites, your website is assumed to be low quality as well. It doesn’t really matter how big or small your website is- nobody is exempt from these penalties.

Unlike Panda, Penguin is not ongoing. It is rolled out periodically and the last Penguin roll-out was in 2013.

The good: Once again, Penguin really does improve the user experience. It has cut down your chances of getting terrible spam-filled results when searching for something specific and generally, as with Panda, evens out the playing field.

The bad: While some SEO’s took advantage, a lot of webmasters didn’t. Webmasters cannot control every link pointing to their website and shouldn’t be penalised because of other people.

How to avoid being hit by Penguin:

  • Any time you reach out to another website, make sure that the link you’re creating pointing to your own site is of a good standard. Don’t link dump, do write good articles, blog posts etc. Quality> quantity. Things that are of a good quality are more likely to be shared which will lead to more hits to your site without there being a need to create bad links
  • Check the page rank, domain authority and your own intuition when considering websites to submit to. If it looks bad, it probably is. If there’s very little interaction in comment sections, there is little chance that you’ll generate any interaction/social sharing on your post which renders the whole outreach process entirely futile
  • Follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines

Hummingbird

Hummingbird is entirely different from Panda and Penguin in that it is built around the Google engine itself for search purposes. It was an algorithm introduced to improve search queries. In short, Hummingbird was created to understand what the specific user wants based on past search queries and what other people search for in relation to this term. The main aim is for Google to understand the user’s intent when searching, which ends with the user’s most relevant results being presented to them. One of the ways this is done is Google looking at websites that use semantic mark up for example, Schema.org. Semantic mark-ups can include reviews, product descriptions, authorship and recipes- these things indicate that the websites containing them are authorative.

Hummingbird was accused of causing drops in hits for various websites but there’s no real risk with it. As long as you have good, quality content that accurately speaks about your business/brand, you shouldn’t run into any problems.

To conclude

Now that I’ve walked you through the mini-SEO zoo, I hope you feel a little more informed on how these algorithm changes work and what the implications of them are. There hasn’t been a Penguin update since September 2013 so I do predict that Penguin will be rolled out again soon. One thing to keep in mind, even if you’re not particularly worried about being hit by Google’s algorithmic changes is having great content and user-friendly experiences sitewide can only be beneficial to you and your website.

By Sarah-Louise Kelly, SEO Executive