3 Major Google Updates and What They Mean to You


3 Major Google Updates and What They Mean to You

The Google search engine began as a project at Stanford University back in 1995, conducted by two students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin who were both Ph.D. students at the time. The website went live in September 1997. Ever since the founding of the company, its staff was focused on improving the search engine’s algorithm, so the users can acquire the information in the simplest and fastest way possible.

As with all things tech-related, the core algorithm had to go through numerous changes as people seemed keen on exploiting it for achieving better search ranking. During the last two decades, the company has grown incredibly and the search algorithm underwent several changes, some of the most important ones occurring the past couple of years.

Each of the major updates was performed so the people would not be able to abuse the search engine system and it is fair to say that it was successful, as the SEO world was shaken to its core and the rules have changed a lot. Let’s see exactly how things have changed and how this affects your position on the web.

The Panda Update

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This was a major update that occurred back in 2011. The update named Panda has dramatically changed SEO rules and created a better position for people who have rich content on their websites. Before the update numerous website owners were relying on different techniques of deceiving the search engine, and the websites owned by these people were known as content farms. They offered no actual value to its visitors and abused the whole search engine system, creating higher profits for themselves through things such as advertisements.

Lots of websites were in fear, but the algorithm was smart enough to recognize well-researched content that contained value for the visitors, so even though a website might have hundreds or thousands of writers, if the content is high quality, the algorithm will not see them as spammers. The version 2.0 of the Panda update covered the whole world, as the first version was created specifically for users in the United States.

Throughout 2011, several minor updates were conducted to further improve the ranking system and reduce any chances of search engine abuse. By the end of 2011, the search engine algorithm was updated to version 3.1, which further improved some websites’ conversion rates due to an increase in organic traffic.

The current version of the Panda algorithm is 4.0 and it was last updated in 2014. The latest change reduced the rankings of extremely powerful websites such as E-bay. The algorithm is constantly being updated to further improve search results and make them more relevant to the user’s input.

What Were The Effects Of The Panda Update?


A vast majority of websites that contained useless and spam content were severely penalized by the company, meaning that their ranking results were lowered dramatically. On the other hand, those who created websites with 
valuable content for their visitors, received an incredible boost of organic traffic. This made the internet a much better place for people looking for valuable information. The update offered true quality content that we all genuinely seek on Google.

What Can You Learn From This Update?


At the bottom of the whole update is a clear message that abusing the search engine for the purpose of reaching higher profits is impossible to do. The update prevented spammers with abysmal content from making quick online profits and turned the online world into a place where everyone needs to offer quality content that the visitors will actually appreciate. Also, based on the penalty types, it’s easy to learn which things you need to think off when creating content for your website.

– Create valuable content for your visitors – try to offer a good solution to the questions that have led them to your website;

– Never duplicate content – this is something that was done in the past by a great number of websites, all of which are now penalized. Creating original content is essential for the success of your website;

Try to be as active as possible – the minimum amount would be a post per week, but if you are capable of producing quality content more often, you should do so, as active websites are drastically more valued than inactive websites with outdated information;

– Make sure that the content you are sharing is true – meaning that it is backed up by good research and correct information;

– Avoid creating generic content that will increase your bounce rate – always create meaningful and grammatically correct content that has a good reading flow. Both your visitors and the search engine will love it.

These are some of the things that you should be careful with, not only to avoid penalties, but to actually create a mass of returning customers. Following these tips will also increase your website’s traffic.

Google Penguin Update

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On April 24, 2014, a very important update occurred in the Google search engine algorithm. Penguin was the name of the update and it severely changed the way websites are linked. Similar to content farms, back linking farms were used by a vast number of online websites to improve their search engine rankings.

Links that lead to your website and from your website are a very important factor in Google’s search engine ranking, so this kind of abuse had to be dealt with, as an increasing number of websites took advantage of it. The update specifically focused on the incoming links of a website.

What Were The Effect Of The Penguin Update?


All of the websites that were focused on creating links toward their websites in illegal ways were severely penalized. This stopped illegal link building and gave a chance to those who were doing this optimally and naturally to rank better in search engine result pages.

What Can You Learn From This Update?


As with content creation, you should try and focus on making your website look as natural as possible. Simply create content and wait for the users come naturally. There are several steps you could take to avoid being penalized by Google’s Penguin:

– Avoid link schemes – this is intentional link building organized by the website’s owner, with the intention of fooling the search engine into ranking the website higher. This kind of behavior is severely penalized, so make sure that you never play with linking illegally, as it will do more damage to your website than you think, especially in the long run;

– Keyword stuffing is now frowned upon by the search engine – it is important to produce quality content that can help the user, and not to use the content to attract users with a certain keyword that is repeated over and over. The penguin update easily detects keyword stuffing, so make sure that you avoid doing that. To put it simply, it is completely pointless;

Be careful about those anchor texts – using anchor texts that feature a desired keyword is something that is easily detectable by the Penguin. Keep you text natural and your links natural. This kind of manipulation is penalized as heavily as the above-mentioned search engine abuse methods;

– Only create links to other websites that are relevant to your content – otherwise, you are simply going to be perceived as a website that uses its high rank to sell links to other websites and vice versa. In order to avoid this, it is very important to create a natural linking flow. You cannot link to a gardening website if you are a tech review website. So, link naturally and you are not going to be penalized. Any sort of linking manipulation you try might work for a short period of time, but know that you are going to be penalized sooner or later.

You can clearly see that Panda and Penguin are closely related, as the former favors valuable and unique content, whereas the latter is there to ensure that you create a stable, natural link building strategy, which is much easier to do with high quality content.

The Google’s Hummingbird Update

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This is a very important update, and it is not related to Panda and Penguin. The Hummingbird is a completely new algorithm, which takes into account countless different factors. Unlike Panda and Penguin, Hummingbird is not there to penalize anyone, but to create a shift in content creation. For those SEO experts who have realized the potential of this update, success is guaranteed.

How Has The Content Changed And If So, What Does That Mean For Me?


Well,
the Hummingbird was created to put more focus on the user. As people are constantly asking questions online, which means that they are typing in longer phrases in the search engine, Hummingbird is focused precisely on that. So, the direction people should take is not to create useless content that does not help in any way, but rather to focus on content that can actually provide an answer to any of the questions commonly asked by the online audience.

Not only should you provide an answer, but the whole tone of the article should be conversational, as people are treating the search engine as if it were a person, asking a question the way they would ask a person. Introducing this style of writing can greatly increase the amount of traffic you receive, which will benefit both the users and you.

Even though there are far more updates in Google’s algorithm, these are some of the most important ones. The conclusion is that you should simply focus on creating high quality content that is going to help your visitors learn more about a particular subject and provide some actionable advice.

Over time, this kind of content will allow you to naturally grow the number of links leading to your website, as well as the number of visitors. This kind of stable growth is something that Google wants for you, because both you and the search engine are going to have a satisfied customer.

White Hat SEO Tactics That Work Like A Charm

As we’ve already established in many previous blog posts on this site, SEO is not dead. In fact, it’s very much alive. Maybe more than ever. The only thing that changed is the way the game is played. Everyone who owns an online business knows the importance of making their website (or websites) Google friendly.

There’s no real way around it. If you want to place your content and website in front of a large audience, you’ll need to cooperate with Google.

Why? – Well, because, this engine holds a staggering 75% of US’s entire search market. Knowing this, it would be quite bad for your business to remain invisible to its crawlers and users.

Google is everyone’s favorite search engine. That’s a fact. Recent studies have shown that there are over 100 billion monthly searches conducted through this search engine alone, from over 1.17 billion unique searchers. Impressive, right?

Content Rules The Land, But SEO Keeps The King From Falling From His High Horse

Although most successful online marketers continue to shout that content is the king, the truth is not that simple. If you don’t really invest your time and effort into optimizing your content for Google, no one will ever read your work.

Isn’t that depressing? You spend days and nights researching the Web, going through pages and pages of all sorts of different white paper and case studies, reaching out to all sorts of industry experts to foolproof your take on a specific subject or matter, only to see your efforts go down in flames because you didn’t do a good enough job of making your website compatible with the world’s favorite search engine?

So, now that we got that in the clear, if we eventually agree upon that content is the king, we then have to see our website (and hosting) as it’s castle, and SEO as it’s bridge to the rest of the world.

What’s the purpose of being a king in a castle where nothing can come in or out? Sooner or later, you’ll run out of supplies and die. Kingdom of one is not really a kingdom.

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Although generating traffic to your web pages is essential to your future internet marketing success, it’s still important to have in mind that, even though some tactics may bring you loads and loads of new clicks, they are not all good for your business.

How come? – Well, for example, with the so-called “Black Hat techniques” you can try to trick search engine algorithms into displaying irrelevant or lower quality content to search engine users. But, these tricks create links that are basically considered as spam. They offer no real value to you or your visitors. If you use Black Hat techniques to manipulate Google’s mechanism, they could cost you more than a pretty penny down the line because Google now uses new techniques to register and separate good websites from bad ones.

Being on Google’s blacklist is certainly not a thing that will help your business grow.

So, What Makes A Good SEO Strategy?

Basically, anything that is considered as “White Hat SEO practice”. For those who are not familiar with the term, in search engine optimization (SEO) terminology, white hat SEO refers to the usage of optimization strategies, techniques and tactics that focus on a human audience opposed to search engines and completely follows search engine rules and policies.

In layman’s terms, White Hat SEO is generally what someone who really knows their stuff and cares about search engine rankings would do for their own website.

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This type of by the book SEO usually takes time and effort to accomplish, but it’s really worth the trouble. It’s a plan for the future. White hat techniques are usually used by industry professionals who simply want to optimize their useful and compelling content so that people will have a lot better chances of finding it.

Why should they care if people read their stuff or not? Why should they work so hard on optimizing their content? – Well, because, as I already wrote in one of the older posts on this blog: Good content creates leads that are already sold, before they even reach your sales team. In this scenario, your content represents the bridge between your products, company culture and your current and potential customers. It’s what demonstrates the real value behind your products and services, and helps those who are exposed to your material make well-educated decisions when choosing to actually move on down your marketing funnel.

With this kind of setup at play, it’s of crucial importance for brands to invest in content marketing to rank high for desired keywords and search phrases.

Apart from this sort of approach to SEO, there are a lot of easy and quick tricks that most businesses use to improve their position in SERP and increase their website’s’ visibility, but 90% of them usually are considered as Black Hat SEO tactics. As we already established in the first part of this blog post, that isn’t something you want Google to associate with your business. Once the search engine busts you, and trust me, it will – you’re done for.  

So, in order to save your business from being penalized by Google, here’s a list of good white hat SEO techniques that you should consider adding to your existing strategy:

Natural Link Building


The term is quite self-explanatory. Natural link building refers to the process where an owner of a certain website doesn’t need to apply any extra effort to generate quality backlinks for his web pages.

What does this exactly mean? – Well, it means that he (or she) doesn’t need to create all sorts of guest blog posts or forums and social media comments in order to get people to link back to his site.

Natural link building happens when other website owners link back to your pages because they think of them as valuable and useful.

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So, how do we get people to see our pages as link worthy? – By writing quality, in-depth content that registers and solves real problems for specific groups of people.

Having high-quality content is mandatory these days. Not necessarily just for search engines, even though they’re getting smarter each day. You need outstanding content, because that’s the only type of content that actually gets amplified nowadays.

I’ve read somewhere that there are close to 3 million new articles published each day on the Web, so you better make sure that you pour in your heart and soul in every new blog post, white paper or case study you decide to write.

Rand Fishkin from MOZ has a great theory about this. He says: “If you want to create a piece of content that will actually get read and shared by people, you first need to find the best one out there and focus on making your post at least 10 times better.” He calls this technique 10x content. Personally, I operate on a different set of principles. I use these 6 golden rules for creating high-quality content that actually convert.

But hey, whatever rocks your boat.

Earn Valuable Backlinks From High Authority Sites


I always hated the phrase “link building”. Why? – Well, because it doesn’t really suit the action. Link EARNING is far better because it actually tells people that in order to have any real value for your business, backlinks need to be earned.

When it comes to SEO, having a proactive attitude is of crucial importance. You need to be willing to get out there and create as many good links as you possibly can. If you want to rank high in Google’s SERP, you need to prepare yourself for some serious labor. Apart from using all sorts of tools to target great sites from your niche and industry where you could ask for links, you need to have in mind that most of these domains on your list won’t give you anything, unless they see some real value in return.

That’s why, before you even start to target domains and ask for the links you desperately need, you have to think about what’s in it for them. A free trial, coupon code, giveaway, or a piece of great content about something else. I prefer the later because, apart from generating backlinks, guest blogging helps you present yourself as an expert in front of a new audience.

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But, doing all this manually tends to chop off huge chunks of your valuable time. That being said, a lot of industry experts use a whole bunch of different tools to find quality link building prospects. Unlike them, I use only one. Although it’s new on the market, Dibz has proven itself as a great solution for this sort of action. It’s a simple, efficient, intelligent and reliable piece of software that basically helps you earn quality links in a matter of minutes. I highly recommend it.

Never Stop Updating Your Blog, Never Give Up On Written-Only Content

I think that we can safely say that quality content is everything. Especially well-written one. If you don’t provide relevancy and expertise within your messages and proposals, nothing will help you grow your audience and client base.

Sure, videos and images are highly popular these days, and multimedia content trends have been outperforming written-only content for quite some time now, but here’s the thing – text still matters. It will ALWAYS remain relevant in Google’s eyes. It will never go away. It’s what keeps this search engine up and running.

Of course, naked text is pretty boring for most modern internet users. I get that. But, if you use all the tools at your disposal and add some interesting images, gifs or videos that help illustrate your points – you’ll see your content flourish.

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Any internet marketing expert out there will tell you the same thing: “Blogging is insanely important for SEO.

Fresh and intelligent content was, is, and always will be the No.1 solution to beating your competitors in SERP. It drives traffic to your site, converts visitors into actual leads, establishes authority and drives in long-term results.

If you use the right keywords, address real pain points that your targeted audience is facing and offer solutions for their troubles – nothing can stop you. You’ll start to dominate your niche and position yourself and your brand as a trustworthy source within your field

It’s Not Just About Keywords, Intent Is Also Quite Important

Although keywords still play a major role in your website’s success, you no longer need to create an exact keyword match in order to be seen by Google as a relevant answer to a certain query. As I already wrote above, it all boils down now to phrases that actual searches use and intent.

Believe it or not, Google started to notice how your visitors actually interact with your site. Are they getting what they came for? Are they staying to read your content from top to bottom, or are they going back to Search to find different answers for their query? User intent and user experience have become a major factor for Google, so it would be wise to check if your site is actually satisfying your visitors.

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Semantic Markup


A lot of my friends and customers get really scared by this phrase. In their ears, it sounds extremely scientific and complicated, which, considering for what it actually stands for, is quite bizarre. In layman’s terms, the phrase semantic markup means using HTML tags to tell the search engine what a specific piece of content is actually all about. These rich snippets of extra information help Google index your pages faster.

They also appear in SERP and influence searchers to go ahead and click on your link. As same as any other thing here, it’s better to avoid abusing this feature. If you try to trick Google by writing additional info that doesn’t truthfully summarize what’s your post or page about, sooner or later, The Engine will catch up with you and penalize your site.

If you want to play fair and create rich snippets for your posts, I suggest that you take this cool schema generator for a spin or two.

Niche Directory Listings


Everything about SEO revolves around generating more traffic and exposing your website and brand to the right audience. That’s why most experts create NAP listings for their websites on all sorts of different quality directories. When choosing in which directories to list your business and website, everyone suggest the same thing: go for the ones that get the most traffic because they have the highest probability of sending potential clients and customers to your business.

Most business directories are free, but they all come with available options for upgraded listings or advertising.

 Large, medium or small – every directory has its own unique following. Every directory that you submit to is another chance to get found by your ideal customer, so make sure you’re listed in every single one that could be of any use to you.

Apart from generating traffic to your site and placing your brand in front of a relevant audience that has a high potential of actually buying your products and services, these directories also help establish trust in your business. They usually come with all sorts of different user review options, which frequent visitors tend to use quite often.

So, when listing your business in various directories across the Web, always remember to:

1. Make sure all your data is accurate;
2. Provide as much information as possible;
3. Add an address and a phone number;
4, Include rich media in your posts;
5. Be consistent;
6. Generate as many reviews as possible.

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Local SEO

Local SEO is great for any type of business that has a brick and mortar office, on one or more locations. This sort of SEO technique helps locate and advertise your business in areas where your current or potential customers live.

It’s a great way of dominating markets where your targeted crowd actually shops.

Although it sounds kind of complicated to those website owners who haven’t yet messed around with this optimization technique, local SEO actually consists of a set of easily defined steps that are not really that hard to implement in your existing strategy.

When doing local SEO, you must focus on things such as local citations, testimonials and review pages. Claiming your Google My Business listing is an essential step in setting up a proper local SEO foundation. You must submit your name, address and phone number, and make sure you use the same exact information wherever next you want to register your business.

Remember to set up your business listing on secondary search sites and add content markups to your web pages as well. As I already wrote above, these summaries help search engines instantly know what your page is about.

These kinds of things can give you an advantage over any of your competitors that are trying to beat your rank in SERP.

Be Active On Social Media


Social media is great for SEO
because as it helps you spread the word about your business, products and services on networks where 90% of your customers hang out. As we established earlier, social media is bigger than porn today. Almost everyone you know has at least a Facebook or a Twitter account.

Social media is omnipresent. There’s no way around it. Everything you hear, everything you see, sooner or later ends up on one of these popular platforms. That’s why it’s of crucial importance that you embrace them. Be sure to implement all sorts of relevant social signals on your pages and focus on amplifying your content  through these channels.

Apart from generic traffic, likes and shares, social media sites could help you build up social proof and provide your new visitors with an additional sense of relevance in your work.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you have anything to ask or add to this subject, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

That’s all for now,
See you soon again,
Goran @ AltusHost B.V.

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