Google Algorithm Updates – What you need to know

Since April 2011 Google has made some significant updates to its search algorithm, unless you work in the SEO industry you’re unlikely to have heard of them. However, if you are in any way involved in online marketing then these must be taken into account for every channel.

Google Panda & Penguin

April 2011 – Google Panda – Targeted websites with poor quality content, spam & duplicated content

April 2012 – Google Penguin – Targeted websites with dubious back-links and over-optimisation

Sept 2013 – Google Hummingbird – To reflect how more and more people are beginning to ask search engines questions like they would ask a human being – “How long should I boil an egg?”

These changes demonstrate the search giants efforts to answer the demands of its users almost before they know what those demands actually are. The affects of these changes are greater than you would imagine or even notice, but they aren’t something any business can ignore.

Well to give you an idea, here are some examples…

Content Updates/Changes

Have you updated your site recently?

If all your competitors constantly update their sites but you don’t, your rankings compared to theirs will go down.

Your site is considered fresh when:

  • You have recently updated it (changed content or added new pages)
  • The site acquired new incoming links recently.
  • Most of the sites that link to the site are fresh (recently updated, got linked to).

Your site becomes stale (outdated) when:

  • You have not updated it recently.
  • You have no new incoming links.
  • The sites that link to you have not been updated and linked to.

So how often should you be updating your web pages?

The short answer is, more than you are now.

For a more exact idea you will need to think about how often you’re customers will be looking for new information and this greatly depends on the business you are in and markets you serve.

User Behaviour

  • Your pages rank high for some keywords. Do people searching actually click on your pages?
  • If they don’t it may negatively affect your rankings.
  • When users frequently click on your ranked pages that is a good thing in the eyes of Google.

Google’s view of content

When you have a lot of unique content, there is no way your pages will not get ranked high for at least some non-competitive keywords. Before you get ranked high for competitive keywords, you need to get ranked high for non-competitive ones.

Every time one of your pages gets ranked high (top 30) for some keywords that tells Google that you have good content.

The more content you have the more times you get pages ranked high for non-competitive keywords, which helps in the future rankings of more competitive keyphrases.

Google tries to detect when you do aggressive link building. Again, don’t overdo it. Focus on content. Over-optimising content also does not help too much because it lowers your chances to rank well for related/synonymous key phrases.

How much?

Google considers a page to be at least 300 words and what’s more Google Panda takes into account how long users spend viewing content on a webpage. The longer a user spends the more engaging the content, the higher rank.

Don’t employ good content and miss out on being rewarded with Traffic simply because you didn’t place enough of it on a page, instead relying too much on images or adverts.

How much of the website should you update?

Adding a “News” or “Blog” to your website is simply not enough today if you expect to engage the largest and widest audience to your website. Google may reward you for your efforts but it you fail to update the rest of the website you still risk being out-ranked by competitor sites covering similar topics, that employ more fresh content than you do.

Summary – what it takes to get top ranking with Google?

  1. Add new content frequently (at least once a week).
  2. Write long in-depth content instead of short pages. Longer pages will always outperform shorter ones.
  3. Don’t over-optimize. Think about making your navigation readable, your text readable and include more keywords only if you think it is appropriate to your users. Write naturally and include related terms.
  4. Don’t be over-aggressive with link building.
  5. Link out to other good sites/pages in your articles.
  6. Cross-reference your content by putting links within your content to other pages on your site.
  7. Use long descriptive anchor text. Keyword density in content/links is a myth.
  8. Publish unique content. Forget about duplicate content. It does not work on Google.
  9. Have some patience. Let your site age and don’t stop working on any factor (content, links).
  10. It is better to lay off link building and add fresh unique high-quality content.
  11. Content is King, sorry Emperor!

by Charlie McGhee