News about Google algorithm updates can cause quite a stir in the SEO industry and for good reason. Seemingly small changes can have a pretty big impact on some websites and not on others. These updates seem to happen quite frequently and usually make headlines. It can be a lot to keep track of or even make sense of. What do all these birds and animals do?

Here is a brief description of each of the major algorithms that have been in the news.

Panda – This update, first released in February of 2011, is designed to keep sites with what Google deems to be poor quality content from ranking at the top of the search results. Google’s main goal is to return the most relevant information to a search query. Panda helps them reward high-quality content and punish poor quality. In order to distinguish good quality from poor quality, Google relies in part on comments from their Quality Raters who are asked to answer questions such as “would I trust this site with my credit card?” A 2014 update to the algorithm now includes the quality of inbound links as well.

Penguin – This algorithm update was launched in April 2012. Its purpose is to remove spammy links — in particular those being bought. The changes punished those sites found to be in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and declared to be using black-hat SEO techniques to rank well.

Pigeon – This one hit the scene in July of 2014. This update was about local search results and aimed to increase the ranking of local listings in a search. It essentially gave preference to local search results.

Hummingbird – This was a pretty seismic shift in the original search algorithm. Launched in August 2013, it aimed to add user intent into the mix. No longer were matches based entirely on matching the exact keywords. Now, the goal was to better understand what the searcher was really looking for. This changed declared war on keyword stuffing and the clumsy content that went along with it. Instead Google began to reward natural sounding, conversational content that was not full of keyword phases. It also increased the significance of long-tail queries. Additionally, keyword synonyms became important. Now Google shows more theme-related results rather than listing results with exact phrases or keywords.

Stay tuned. One thing for sure is that Google’s menagerie will continue to evolve, and who knows they may even add a new animal to the mix.


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