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Unless you work with animals then it’s very unlikely as a business owner that you have ever thought about how Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird relate to you at all.  When we begin SEO services for a client, one of the first steps is a site audit and evaluation of your current digital identity.  We are certified with semRush and use their pro software to help us facilitate building a perfect plan to make you as visible as possible.  In 2018 search engines are smart as ever.  With billions of monthly searches, the vast majority of people use search engines to find everything from products, to answers to questions, to media.  This means that everyone in business needs a basic understanding of Google’s algorithms and how they can negatively impact you being found.   Here are the last 3 Google updates and what you need to know.

Panda          

Early 2011 gave us the beginning of Google assigning a secret score to all sites.  The higher the score, the higher it would rank and the more weight it carried.  This part of the algorithm has had many updates over the last several years and is a big part of the overall function of how Google searches and returns queries.  Gone were the days of seeing good content, copying it to your site and then getting a good ranking even though it was plagiarized.  There are many stories where bloggers had entries that were ranked directly above the actual website where the content originated.  Similarly, before 2011 digital marketers were able to create content by using computers to do it for them.  This type of automated writing didn’t sound natural and was meant to just contain many keywords to be found by search engines.  Often times, these articles didn’t really talk about anything.  Even now, there are actually companies who have programs with much stronger AI that attempt to sound “natural”.  Using anything other than original, authoritative and relevant user generated content puts you at risk of hurting your Google site score. 

 

Penguin

In 2012 this update hit sites that had what looked like spam links or links to content that was completely unrelated the site itself.  Before this many SEOs would just setup sites specifically for building links and it worked!  Part of the score that is associated with your website is based on how many other sites link to yours (called backlinks).  Pre-penguin, it was only the number of links that mattered.  So you could buy up domains with indecipherable names and then just post thousands of links to your website.  Since the number of links was key, this was completely exploitable.  Since then, Google keeps a strong watch on how many links you have day to day and also what kind of sites they areIf you suddenly have 10x more links than you did the day before or they are coming from a shady site, get ready for penalties.  The sites that you link to and that link back to you generally are a good indication of the level of quality of your site’s content.

 

Hummingbird

In 2013 Google released an algorithm that allowed the ability to pull keywords out of phrases so that you could still rank without exact matches.  Before this, if you used the phrase “custom website designs for business” you could never rank for “custom designs” because the words are not next to each other.  After this update, Google was able to read between the lines and even infer what the idea of the content was without it having to be literally spelled out.   On the flip side of the benefits, there was also a crackdown on people using what is called keyword stuffing and also low quality content.  Since there is so much information on the internet, this was a strong precedence for those who created content to make it relevant and worthwhile.  If it wasn’t easily readable, didn’t have any new insights and had lots of duplicated words, Google gave it much less weight.

There are actually several other parts of Google’s algorithm but these are the top 3 (although the Mobile update can impact your score just as much).  The take away is that search engines are getting smarter and everyone is learning how to search more effectively.  Companies like Google, Yahoo and Bing rely on satisfied customers just like any other business.  Satisfaction from their services requires that they deliver what users want and are looking for, easily and quickly.  More than ever it is important that you convey your mission, express why you alleviate pain for consumers and provide content that proves you are an authority in your industry.  This is where a great white hat digital marketing agency can help.  Don’t be duped into prices that seem too good to be true or proposals that don’t include everything bolded above.  Real SEO and SEM keep your business growing for the long term.  Black hat SEO and SEM might give you a quick boost, but it will come at the cost of a low score for your site or worse a blacklisting.  You wouldn’t spend time on a site that didn’t have anything interesting to offer, so why would a potential customer?

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