Google Algorithm: How to Perform Better SEO Without Landing in Trouble

Everybody is aware of Google and it function, but many may not be aware of exactly how the search engine collates its data and decides how sites should be ranked for the millions of key terms entered into it every day.

Behind the scenes there are a number of complex algorithms in operation, all of which play a large part in deciding where a site will eventually end up ranked for any relevant key terms.

Things You Will Learn

  • The purpose of Google’s algorithm
  • The difference between Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird
  • The importance of quality content
  • How links can now hurt your site and the importance of getting the right ones
  • Where Hummingbird fits into the equation

Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird

pandaThose who have been paying attention to the SEO industry in the last few years will know that Google has recently been going to great lengths to update its algorithms in an attempt to make them more difficult to manipulate. This gave rise that algorithm updates known as Penguin and Panda, with Hummingbird coming a couple of years later.

Panda was first implemented in February of 2011 and it has undergone many updates since then.

Its purpose is to judge a website based on the merits of its content in an effort to promote higher quality results. This means that sites with little content on their pages or websites that are considered content farms were put at risk.

Giant-Penguins-Peter-CrouchPenguin, on the other hand, focused on links. Implemented a little over a year later, in April 2012, Penguin takes aim at websites that have built a large number of unnatural backlinks in an effort to manipulate rankings.

In particular, it will penalise sites that have a large number of links from the likes of poor quality online directories and other domains that are of poor quality themselves. Like Panda, Penguin has seen a number of updates since it was first implemented.

Finally there is Hummingbird, which was implemented in September 2013 and is a little different than the previously mentioned updates.

Hummingbird is essentially a new algorithm that help Google’s search engine understand queries better, in an effort to provide superior results. For example, if a user searches using the query “What is the best place to eat Indian Food near me?” Hummingbird is intended to provide more specific and localised results, making semantic queries possible.

It is geared towards the increasing use of mobile devices to make voice queries.

The Importance of Quality Content

Coming back to Panda for a moment, it is important to ensure that the quality of the content on your website is up to standard.

This doesn’t just mean ensuring the spelling and grammar are ok, but instead means that you need to place special focus on providing useful content for users.

Simply churning out reams of content that nobody is going to read is simply not good enough, especially if it spreads the focus of your website too thin.

Talking about thin, the amount of pages on your site that have little to no content can also be an issue. In some cases these pages are unavoidable, such as with contact pages where putting too much content in place detracts from the point of the page.

However, if you are creating pages that say very little just to aim for a particular keyterm it may be worth reconsidering that strategy.

The same goes for duplicate content. In the past many webmasters would syndicate their content to article websites in an effort to gain more exposure, however, this tactic will now lead to punishment in severe cases.

The logic is that quality content should be on your site alone, and its value is diluted if it is found everywhere else.

Internal duplication is also a dangerous game. For example, if your company operates in a number of towns within one region the temptation is to create a page for each town without changing the content.

This can cause issues in much the same way as duplicating content on other pages can.

In essence, Panda judges your entire website based on the quality of its content. Content that is thin, poor quality or can be found elsewhere is detrimental to your efforts.

Properly Managing Links

Links have always been something of a contentious issues with Google, as in the past the company had always wanted users to generate natural links but still seemed to reward those who used directories and other sites to get poor links.

With Penguin all of that changed and link schemes became much more dangerous. To ensure that you don’t fall foul of the Penguin algorithm it is best to avoid the following altogether:

  • Reciprocal links
  • Online directories
  • Article websites
  • Forum signatures

Furthermore, if a lot of your links are tagged with a keyword that you want to rank for, this is further indication to Google that you are trying to manipulate rankings in your favour.

Google wants webmasters to gain links from authoritative sources or from people who have taken a liking to the website and chosen to link to it based on its merits.

If you consider backlinks to be the “word of mouth” of the internet, these links would be classed as recommendations that tell Google that people think the site is of high quality. With Penguin, the company aims to clamp down on those gaining unnatural recommendations.

So How Does Hummingbird Come Into It?

Hummingbird, as mentioned, is different from Panda and Penguin in that it can be considered an algorithm all of its own, rather than an update. As it targets queries that make use of questions, rather than keywords, the onus is on the webmaster to create pages that answer queries.

For example if your website offers loft insulation, a voice query handled by Hummingbird might go “Where can I find a good loft insulation company?” Previous tactics would have seen your page optimised for the query “loft insulation” but you must now take the question into account and try to answer it as best as possible.

This again means that quality content is important. If the content on the page is aimed towards simply optimising towards a key term then the likelihood is that it doesn’t answer the question properly. Try to think of ways that you would search for the services offered by your site and adjust content strategies accordingly.


Adjusting your strategy to account for these algorithm changes is time consuming, but necessary. Both Penguin and Panda can have a massive effect on your website if the site falls foul of their stringent quality controls, whereas Hummingbird can play a big part in determining whether your site sees success in the mobile search sector, specifically amongst those who use voice-activated searches.


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