uprise guide to SEO part 2
the evolution of SEO
If you want to improve your website’s rankings on Search Engine Results Pages, our easy guide to SEO explores how you can achieve it. Having highlighted the black hat tactics that should be avoided in part one, part two takes a look at the changing face of SEO, relating directly to the way that search engines index and rank websites.
Most people’s understanding of SEO today is linked specifically to Google. This is mainly due to their much publicised algorithms that rank websites on their search results. These algorithms have been changed and adapted across the years to reflect the changing face of the digital world, and understanding them is essential to having a website with a high organic ranking. So here’s our easy guide to the Evolution of SEO on Google.
Boston: February 2003
Named after the fact that it was announced at a global Search Engine Strategies Conference in Boston, this was the first named Google Algorithm change announced by Google Engineer, Dan Dulitz. This update was the first of monthly alphabetically ordered updates, collectively known as the ‘Google Dance’. Cassandra, Dominic, Esmeralda and Fritz followed and aimed at combating shoddy back links, hidden text and hidden links.
Caffeine: June 2010
Known as Caffeine because it gave Google a ‘jolt’, it increased the speed and efficiency of the search engine. Rather than an algorithm update this was actually a huge infrastructural change. The purpose of Caffeine was to optimise the indexation of all Google’s webpages. By analysing the web in small portions and updating the index continually (almost in real-time), this provided bigger, better and faster crawls, resulting in more accurate results for the user. It also meant that newly published websites got noticed quicker and generated 50% fresher results for the user than the previous index. Caffeine was seen as a necessity for Google to be able to keep up with the rising popularity of Social Media.
Panda: February 2011
Panda was originally called the Farmer update, because it directly targeted content farms. In the end, it was named after one of the Engineers who worked on the update, Navneet Panda. This update aimed to lower the rankings of all websites with low quality, duplicated and thin content, hoping that this would lead to an increase of higher quality sites in the rankings. It directly cracked down on all spam sites, content farms and websites with a high ad-to-content ratio; primarily affecting larger sites. Due to the update large numbers of news and social media sites had a surge in the rankings, altering 11.8% of search queries across Google.
Penguin: April 2012
This was first called the ‘over optimisation filter’, then it was changed to the ‘webspam algorithm’, finally it was called the slightly less tongue-tied Penguin. Developing upon the Panda algorithm, Penguin’s spam filter was periodically refreshed to reduce webspam in order to provide better and more relevant search results. With this algorithm change Google published a set of rules that highlighted the things you should avoid if you didn’t want your website to be penalised, including keyword stuffing and manipulative link schemes. It highlighted the importance of prioritising user friendly content and using white hat SEO to stay within the guidelines. When Penguin picked up on a website that contravened these guidelines, Google would advise them to remove all spam content from the site, after which it would naturally recover. The aim was for people using white hat techniques to flourish, hopefully prompting anyone using black hat tactics to adjust their methods.
Hummingbird: August 2013
This algorithm was given its name because of the fact that it introduced ‘precise and fast’ changes to Google as a whole. Just like Caffeine, Hummingbird altered the entire infrastructure of Google, allowing the search engine to learn and remember! It also heralded the fact that search was going beyond simple, single keywords and changing to longer, more conversational search terms, or long tail searches. To reflect this, the search engine demanded that content be developed for target audiences rather than the keywords. It now offered precision, speed and long tail searches with an emphasis on understanding what the user was searching for and give them the best solution. It also recognised social platforms, so the more you tweet and share content, the more Google sees you as an authoritative website. Overall, Hummingbird meant that users saw Google less as a search engine and more as a source of knowledge. As a result, any websites indexed on Google had to follow suit, proving that they were an authority in their industry, providing help and advice to humans not search engines.
Panda 4.0: May 2014
The return of the Panda has been described as the softer side of algorithms. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, recognised that it was softer in comparison to other updates, but that it laid the foundations for future versions. It had already been stated that the new update would help small businesses do better and targeted thin or low-quality content sites. This new Panda update also accompanied a refresh of another algorithm, aimed at ‘spammy queries’.
Pigeon 1.1: July 2014
This algorithm mainly changes the back-end of the network and how searches are run, but it does still visibly affect the front-end. It’s designed to provide relevant results for local businesses by ranking them in a similar way to how standard listings are displayed. Local directory sites and listings are now more visible than ever before.
The aftermath of these updates have caused some difficulties for webmasters, but it’s worth remembering that, so long as you are staying within the defined parameters set out by Google, you should be fine. The issue obviously comes when an algorithm update turns a white hat technique into a grey or, worse case scenario, a black hat tactic. Which makes keeping on top of these ever-evolving updates even more important.
Written by Claire Fisher, SEO Account Executive