A large part of Google’s success has been its ability to progress constantly and provide users with a quality search engine experience. The company periodically issues major algorithm updates such as Panda, Penguin, Penguin 2.0, and the most recent, Hummingbird.
Here are some of the ways that these changes have affected the Internet and the different factors that play a part in SEO.
The primary goal of Google Panda was to target and penalize “content farms” and low-value sites in general. This meant that sites that did the bare minimum and were more interested in earning ad revenue than providing their audience with helpful information suffered.
Penguin and Penguin 2.0 were more geared toward penalizing sites that used underhanded “black hat” SEO techniques. If they created mass backlinks on irrelevant or low-quality sites, they saw a drop in ranking.
Some other black-hat examples include keyword stuffing, cloaking, duplicating content, and spam in general. Google’s efforts resulted in better quality content in search results for users.
The goal of Hummingbird was to understand users’ intent better and provide them with the most relevant results. More of an emphasis was placed on semantic queries to determine exactly what people were looking for, instead of relying solely on keywords.
The Hummingbird update ultimately made Google smarter; In a sense, it developed its own logic to streamline the search process.
When it comes to ranking sites, there are a plethora of factors that Google takes into account. Here are a few of the biggest.
The uniqueness and quality of content are perhaps the most important. Google tends to look for originality and how in-depth it is. The volume, quality, and relevancy of links that point back to a site are also vitally important.
This is one way that Google gauges how well people are responding to it and how much it’s shared.
Another factor is the reputation of a site, which is determined through page rank, how long it’s been in existence, and whether or not it uses ethical, “white hat SEO techniques.” As of late, social signals like Facebook likes, tweets on Twitter, and +1s on Google+ have driven rankings more and more.
Basically, there’s a correlation between the number of social signals and the position the content reaches in searches. More social signals equals a higher ranking, because it shows Google that people are finding content valuable enough to share with others.
One way that marketers are optimizing their campaigns is by using Google Analytics to understand where their traffic is coming from, which social media sites are working, and what SEO adjustments need to be made.
This prevents mistakes from perpetuating themselves and fine tunes all strategies.