The great thing about the Google updates is that people enjoy guessing what they mean and how to manipulate them and part of the reason for that is because Google is often vague about its updates. They do not like to give definitive guides to all that the updates mean because firstly, they are not 100% sure of the impact of the updates and secondly because if they gave a by-the-numbers guide, then it would be easier to manipulate their search engine algorithm. Here is what you need to know about the Google Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and Pigeon updates.
The Google Panda Update
The current Google Panda update is a little different from the original. The original was based on the work of the Google engineer Navneet Panda, who created the update to help Google implement their new quality standards that websites had to adhere to if they wanted to rank highly on the Google search engine. The current Google Panda update has itself been updated to focus on original content and remove websites that have scraped and duplicate content, as well as websites that have proven copyright infringement (such as those that copied published books verbatim). They especially targeted content farms that created low-quality content.
Due to the confusion over what a high-quality site was, Google replied with the comment that a high-quality site puts the user before SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), advertising, revenue, monetization, and conversions. They later created a blog post giving 23 questions a content creator should ask themselves. The questions were things such as “Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?” and “Would users complain when they see pages from this site?” (Google Webmaster Blog, 2011)
The Google Penguin Update
Backlinks from other websites used to be a far bigger influence on search engine ranking than they are now. Back in the days when there were fewer ranking factors, as few as ten links from other websites was enough to rank you hundreds of pages higher up the search engine results. Webmasters used to exploit this by paying for links, using link farms, spamming links, and pulling links from wherever they could. The Penguin update was designed to both put a stop to this and to punish the websites that tried such Black-Hat SEO methods.
The Penguin update also reduced the number of doorway pages, which were web pages that were designed to attract traffic in order to funnel it to other websites. Such doorway websites still exist, but they are now more sophisticated. Later updates on Penguin helped to tackle websites that had too many adverts on their web pages, and around Penguin 5, the fifth official Penguin update, they were tackling spamdexing and link bombing. In December 2014, Google said they are going to keep updating the Penguin update based on the fluctuation reports that webmasters still send them. Currently we are on Penguin update 6, which was released October 17th, 2014.
The Google Hummingbird Update
The Google Hummingbird update is the first indexing update the company has installed since the Caffeine update in 2010. The change made was more to do with the search engine user than the webmaster. Back in the old days, the Google search engine used keywords to judge what a user wants to find. Now, the search engine uses what it believes people are looking for based on what other people are clicking on.
An oversimplified example would be: Ten people used the search engine to search for “Jasper Carrot” and 9 people clicked on a website about the comedian “Jasper Carrot” and 1 person clicked on a website for “Jasper’s Carrot Cake.” Now an eleventh person searches for Jasper Carrot. The first page of the results would have 90% results for Jasper Carrot comedian websites, and 10% would have articles about carrot cake.
The update also pays more attention to individual words that a search engine user enters into the search engine instead of looking at the query as a whole. The update also plays on the Google suggestions function because it encourages queries with full sentences and it has helped to reward websites that have longer articles over ones that have numerous short articles.
The Google Pigeon Update
When you search for some things on Google, your location is taken into account. It is definitely taken into account if you actually enter the location in the query, such as “Tanning salons in Glasgow,” but also takes your location into account if you do not; though it does depend on what you are searching for. The Pigeon update was rolled out to try to help with this process to make local search engine results a little more helpful. As a result, it has also made the process of “Local SEO” a little more effective.
It means that things such as putting your address on your “Contact Us” or “About Us” page is far more powerful in SEO terms. It also means that your website will be placed far higher up the search engine results for people in your area if your website represents a business that needs a footfall. For example, if you run a hairdressers and have a website promoting your business, then your local SEO will be very powerful and people in your area will be more likely to see your website when they search for hairdressers (even if they do not write a location in their query). Pigeon also rewards people for signing up to Google locations and as a consequence, it rewards people for their entry onto Google maps.
If you notice that your rankings or organic search traffic has fluctuated then the Panguin Tool by Barracuda Digital is great way to find out if was down to a Google update.