What do Google Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird really mean?

Have you heard all the buzz over the latest search engine update from Google, Panda 4.0?

Every year, Google tests and makes hundreds of updates to the algorithms responsible for ranking content in Google search results.. Most of these changes are minor; however, Google will occasionally create major algorithmic updates — such as Google Panda, Google Penguin and Google Hummingbird — that have affected 5 to 20% of the billions of search queries made every month.

For marketers that rely on high search engine visibility to attract new customers, awareness of these Google updates can help explain changes in ranking and search traffic, helping to inform search engine optimization tactics.

If Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird are more meaningful as animals and birds than search engine algorithm updates, there’s no need to fear. Below we’ll provide you with a useful explanation of each so you can be better informed about SEO and marketing on Google.

Google Panda – It’s About Content Quality

Essentially, Google Panda is a filter that keeps low quality sites from ranking highly in search engine results. These filters are in part, influenced by Google Quality Raters that test web pages found in Google to determine their trustworthiness. After its release in February 2011, Panda affected almost 12 percent of all search rankings. For the next two years, smaller Google Panda updates continued to be implemented about once a month. Recently, Panda 4.0 was implemented and, according to Google’s Matt Cutts, will “impact ~7.5% of English queries to a degree that a regular user might notice.” According to comScore, there are about 10 billion queries on Google every month.

What you should do about Panda: Create high quality content meant for the people that your marketing is designed to reach. Avoid creating web pages just for search engines. Create content that provides value to your customers and invest in the kind of content that makes your company the best source of information about your industry.

Google Penguin – Keep Out the Spammy Links

Announced on April 24, 2012, Google Penguin aims at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Google Penguin decreases search engine rankings that use black-hat SEO techniques and manipulate the number of links pointing to a web page. According to Google’s estimates, this affects approximately 3.1% of search queries in English. Ultimately, Google Penguin’s goal is to decrease link schemes and spamdexing, which is the deliberate manipulation of search engine indexes.

What you should do about Penguin: First, what you shouldn’t do is employ spammy SEO practices by buying links from other websites or using tactics to artificially inflate links pointing to your site using the exact same text that you want to rank for. Attract links with great content and use online PR to increase mentions by industry publications and blogs. Grow your link profile to use a variety of relevant anchor text pointing to corresponding pages of your website.

Google Hummingbird – Ask & Answer Questions

Implemented on August 30, 2013, Google Hummingbird is dedicated to judging the context of webpages. Google Hummingbird determines what people are looking for and attempts to deliver the best option. Different from previous algorithms, Google Hummingbird considers how each word in a search — for instance a sentence or question— makes up the query’s entirety. The ultimate goal of Google Hummingbird is to place a greater emphasis on page content and match the search meaning to the top level page result most effectively.

What you should do about Hummingbird: Since Hummingbird takes into account the entire search query and consumers are literally asking Google questions more often, then focus on content that answers customers’ questions. This practice is the basis for most content marketing programs, so Hummingbird is great news for consumers and content marketers alike.

Understanding these algorithmic updates on Google can ultimately help you avoid making mistakes and might even improve your search invisibility. Be aware of all search engine updates and stay ahead of the SEO game!

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