or SEO, is a process consisting of a collection of techniques whereby websites attempt to increase traffic by gaining higher placement in the search results of a search engine. SEO is a key component of any internet marketing plan.
Search engines should return results that are most meaningful to their users. To do this, they employ various algorithms to rank most relevant pages to the search query. SEO is intended to improve the likelihood that a site is found by the search engine and that it has a high degree of relevance to the search.
Some sites try to ‘game’ the system to fool search engines into returning their Web page even if it may not meet the legitimate intent of the search engine’s algorithm. This is known as ‘black hat’ SEO and, if discovered by the search engine, could result in the site’s being removed from any search result. This article is focused on legitimate, or ‘white at’, SEO, and will examine SEO in the Google ecosystem.
SEO is ‘white hat’ as long as it meets the search engines’ guidelines and avoids deception. Legitimate SEO intends for the content a search engine indexes and ranks to be the same that a user will see.
SEO also is trying to rank pages that are useful to the end-user. Offering up relevant content, links and CTA’s (call to actions) that guide the user through the website.
Each year, Google makes hundreds of changes to the search ranking algorithm. In 2018, they reported an incredible 3,234 updates — an average of almost 9 per day, and more than 8 times the number of updates made in 2009. While most of these changes are minor, Google occasionally rolls out a major algorithmic update (such as Panda and Penguin) that affects search results in significant ways. This is just a small list of major updates.
Not all websites see impacts from updates or issues with the numerous releases, but anyone involved in SEO should approach algorithm updates a slight bit of caution and seriousness.
The caffeine update was a complete rebuilding of the search index. Google essentially retooled the way they went about doing search index. The main focus of Caffeine was to increase the speed that Google returned search results, increase the size of the index so they could keep track of more sites, and creating a “smart” algorithm for returning better results.
The intent of the Panda update was to lower the rank of low-quality sites and to rank quality sites higher and specifically to down-rank sites which provided a poor user experience. Testers rated thousands of websites on their quality for a number of factors and the results were fed into an artificial intelligence engine so that it could ‘learn’ quality. Some of the initial issues were that some plagiarists were getting better responses and content originators. This was addressed, however. The major changes in Panda were that 1) an entire site, rather than specific pages, could be affected in the rankings, and 2) an over-optimization penalty was enacted.
The Penguin release was targeted at reducing the ranking of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Penguin affected 3.1% of English searches. Google provided a feedback form for those who wished to report a ‘spammy’ site that was still highly ranked, or for those who believe they had a site unfairly penalized.
Hummingbird is the newest search algorithm from Google. Unlike Panda and Penguin, which were modifications to its existing search algorithm, Hummingbird is new. It is designed for greater precision and attempts to take the users intent rather than individual search terms. This ‘semantic’ search approach means that SEO must be even more aware of the user’s intent. Many experts believe Hummingbird should have little impact on ‘white hats’ while improving the search engine users experience. Hummingbird is still new, however, having been used only since August 2013.
Pigeon is a Google search engine update that affects local search results. The algorithm change focuses on providing more accurate, relevant results for local searches. Initially rolled out in late July in the US, the effects of Pigeon have recently been noticed in other country search results. So what is Pigeon and how does it affect search results? What we are able to surmise is that, like Hummingbird, Pigeon is a core change in how the Google algorithms present local search results. While there does not appear to be penalties associated with the update, some local results may have shifted. Any site that targets a local market – big or small should take note however as search visibility may be affected as there may be cases where a business was dropped from the results.
Google is rolling out a mobile-first index quaintly referred to as Mobilegeddon 2017 (following the Mobilegeddon’s of 2015 and 2016, respectively). The name “Mobilegeddon” refers to Google’s launch of the Mobilegeddon algorithm change of 2015, in which Google assigned preferential search results for mobile sites. As was the case with the first Mobilegeddon, your site’s effectiveness and search results will be affected unless you are prepared.
RankBrain is a component of Google’s core algorithm that uses machine learning (the ability of machines to teach themselves from data inputs) to determine the most relevant results to search engine queries. Pre-RankBrain, Google utilized its basic algorithm to determine which results to show for a given query. Post-RankBrain, it is believed that the query now goes through an interpretation model that can apply possible factors like the location of the searcher, personalization, and the words of the query to determine the searcher’s true intent. By discerning this true intent, Google can deliver more relevant results.
“Possum” is the name given to an unconfirmed but documented update that appeared to most significantly impact Google’s local pack and local finder results. Because the update was never officially confirmed by Google, local SEOs have been left to hypothesize about the potential update’s purpose and concrete effects. Fred Intrusive Interstitials Update Mobilegeddon RankBrain Panda Penguin Hummingbird Pigeon Payday EMD (Exact Match Domain) Page Layout Algorithm
What is Google Fred? Google Fred is an algorithm update that targets black-hat tactics tied to aggressive monetization. This includes an overload on ads, low-value content, and little added user benefits. This does not mean all sites hit by the Google Fred update are dummy sites created for ad revenue, but (as Barry Schwartz noted in his observations of Google Fred) the majority of websites affected were content sites that have a large amount of ads and seem to have been created for the purpose of generating revenue over solving a user’s problem.
There are several triggers that search engines use to evaluate and determine the ranking of a website Taking a look at these factors will tell our experts exactly what search engines are seeing and what needs to be done to improve your current rankings in the SERP's.
Link building is a fundamental part of search engine optimization. Having inbound links to your website tells search engines that your content is relevant and liked, much like an endorsements. Understanding what type quality the links are can help your rankings.
The content of your website should be engaging enough to get visitors interested enough to stick around and take a look at the rest of your site. Your main content pages should written in a way that will engage first-time visitors to convert or share.