Search engine optimization is dynamic, which means that best practices can change in the blink of an eye. Since this field of digital marketing is relatively new, Google is still figuring out how to deliver the best search results for any given query. On average, Google performs small updates to the algorithm around 500-600 times a year. The best thing that SEO strategists can do is learn from past impactful Google Algorithm updates and predict the next thing coming.
One of the first meaningful updates from Google was called Panda* in 2011. This algorithm change targeted low-quality sites with thin content. Sites who utilized keyword stuffing and produced duplicate content were penalized in the rankings. This was one of Google’s first major steps in weeding out sites that had poor content and abused keyword research. What we can gather from the Panda update is this: Produce high-quality, meaningful content; provide unique, genuine answers to what your customers are searching for. The goal of your website should be to become the “Wikipedia” of websites in your industry. We can also predict for the future that content quality will become ever more important and keyword research may be fading away.
The Penguin algorithm² update targeted websites using unnatural backlinking/off-page SEO techniques, such as paying for their link profile or spamming forums with their URL. Penguin has now become part of Google’s core algorithm. We can conclude that because Penguin contributes to the ranking process, your backlink profile is scrutinized, and is one of the main driving forces in your organic performance on the SERPs. Moving forward, search engine marketers can predict another update like Penguin that will target outreach techniques that seem dishonest. It’s important to be creative and develop genuine partnerships online to avoid any ranking penalties.
In 2013, Google rolled out one of the biggest updates of all time: Hummingbird³. This was an entire rewrite of the algorithm and affected over 90 percent of searches online. Hummingbird focused on contextual relevance instead of exact-keyword matching. For example, Hummingbird understood that “Collision Center” and “Auto Body Shops” mean the same thing.
What can we learn from this update? While keyword research is still important in developing content, choosing specific keyword variations will become less significant. This idea circles back to the Panda update, that producing quality content over strategic keyword utilization will improve your organic presence.
One of the last algorithm updates that’s important to mention is Pigeon⁴, released in July of 2014, which targeted local SEO results. Pigeon reduced the local 7-pack to a 3-pack, increasing competition on the Google SERP. It would not be surprising to see Google driving even less than three organic results for local search queries in the future. SEO specialists can understand how important it will be to optimize and perfect the Google My Business feature of a website by using accurate, creative information for online searchers. It will become more challenging to rank in competitor’s backyards, so developing geo-targeted content on your website will be a way to overcome the competition.
How Can We Stay Ahead of Future Algorithm Updates?
One thing Stream Companies works toward is producing the best content for our clients. Looking at past Google Algorithm updates has shown us how Google wants to provide searchers with the answer in the lowest number of steps possible. To do this, our clients’ websites must be the best source of information, cater to the primary marketing areas, and deliver a strong (and honest) online community presence. How will you improve the organic performance for your site? Be sure to download our SEO guide to find out more on search engine marketing.