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What Can We Learn From Google’s Algorithm Over The Years

Google SEO

Let’s talk Google. Google is the world’s biggest search engine, but you already knew that. You know that Google caters the top search results for the reader’s query. But do you know how Google does it? Probably not.

The truth is, you’ll probably never know how Google really works. As a marketing manager or small business owner, you’ve probably come across the occasional phone call or email saying “We’d like to offer you a #1 position on Google!”

Yeah, no, it doesn’t work that way. There are no guarantees. There are no “fast tracks” to SEO success. Do not believe these statements, do not take “easy” advice, and do not pass Go. Google constantly updates its algorithm to avoid (and punish!) illicit “SEO-generating” activities.

Even among SEO experts, there’s discussion that SEO weathering tools are not as accurate as they’d wish. If even SEO-gauging tools aren’t guaranteed to be accurate, you can bet that “SEO hacks” don’t really exist. Or, they do exist, until Google catches you doing it.

The History of SEO – Major Learning Points

The term “Search Engine Optimization” used to mean that you could “cheat” Google’s search engine by spamming content and inbound links to make it seem as if your site was an active, reputable source. Obviously, this doesn’t work today.

Google’s algorithm has come a long way, and the best way to learn about SEO is to see all the confirmed changes since 2011. So, let’s dive right in!

The Panda Update – 2011

The Panda update penalized sites with low-quality content. “Low Quality” refers to sites that have too much spammy content, or non-unique content with little insight into topical issues.

What this means for you:

  1. Don’t use duplicate content.
  2. Don’t fill your page with ads.
  3. Don’t think that “lots of text” equates to good content

In other words, don’t spam. Your content has to be unique, topical, and insightful. This isn’t just good for Google, but for your readers as well.

The Penguin Update – 2012

The Penguin update punished sites with lots of low-quality backlinks. This specifically penalized sites that “bought” backlinks in order to boost their search engine rankings.

What this means for you:

  1. Never “buy” backlinks. Focus on creating quality content that people want to link to, in order to build your backlinks naturally.
  2. Be wary of any SEO tactic that “guarantees” fast SEO results. SEO “hacks” rarely end up well.

Play fair. If you’re building quality content and sharing them on social media, the backlinks will come naturally. Buying backlinks will only hurt you in the long run.

The Hummingbird Update – 2013

The Hummingbird update made Google searches smarter by adding intent and context into its algorithm.

What this means for you:

  1. Simply including a keyword on your page is not enough.
  2. When discussing a topic, try to discuss it thoroughly in its context, drawing from specific examples or your own perspective.

When discussing your keyword, don’t just mention it. Talk about it. Discuss it. Show your reader why you’re an expert in the industry.

The Mobile Update – 2015

In the Mobile update, Google placed an emphasis on the mobile experience. This meant that having a responsive website will count as a ranking factor for mobile users.

What this means for you:

  1. Your website needs to be optimized for mobile
  2. Website functionality needs to be fast, efficient, simple and easy to use

Having a mobile-optimized website is no longer a “best practice,” but a requirement. It’s mandatory. Especially for CPG or retail businesses, not having a responsive website will not only affect your mobile conversion rates, but overall traffic as well! Don’t take the risk. Get responsive.

SEO In The Future

It was announced this month that Panda had been added to Google’s core ranking algorithm. This means that Panda updates run more regularly. If you suspect that you’ve been hit by Panda, focus on improving your content.

Quality content is the key to SEO, and this isn’t just limited to the text on your website. All of the algorithm changes in since 2011 have rewarded those with natural, insightful content. It’s clear from the Hummingbird and Mobile updates that having a responsive website also weighs as a factor in search engine optimization.

So, it’s not just about your backlinks. It’s not just about your keywords, or content, or social media presence. It’s about the entire customer experience, from your website design through to quality content.

What does the customer experience mean to you? Give us a shout on Facebook, or stop by our Marketing Greenhouse in downtown Vancouver! We’d love to hear what you have to say.