By Jian Shi
Proper SEO (Search Engine Optimization) optimization of your site and content requires both a robust initial setup and skillful ongoing SEO maintenance. This is where understanding search engine environment — and the history that made SEO rules and strategies what they are today — is critical. This article is a quick look at the key developments in Google’s algorithm changes over time.
“PANDA”: Google Cracks Down on Content Farms
Google is constantly changing their search algorithms a little bit at a time. However, with the introduction of the “Panda” update on February 23rd, 2011, Google said the changes will affect a whopping 11.8% of their US search results.
The main reason why such a drastic overhaul was required was the urgency to put out of business “content farms” and “scraper sites” — websites that do not release quality content and instead try to accumulate as many “views” as they can with the least effort.
The most popular way “content farms” worked was researching top trends in the Google searches, and then creating articles on the topic of most interest — often using automated keyword matching and other SEO techniques.
The content of the article — since the goal was never to write an interesting article but to beat the competition — was usually shallow and generic, but because it was written specifically with the search engine algorithm in mind, it would quickly rank high in searches.
Rise of “Penguin”: The Fight Against SEO Oversaturation
In April 2012, the release of another Google algorithm update, “Penguin”, forced SEO marketers yet again to change the way they operate. This time the update targeted low quality backlinks, sketchy profile links and anchor texts that were oversaturated with keywords. The aim was to help push the websites with quality, customer-focused content and respectable backlinks at the top of the search pages.
In May 2013, many websites reported a significant loss of traffic, which sparked rumours of a new algorithm update. This, as it was later announced, was the “Penguin 2.0” update. This search update was aimed at penalizing sites that bought links in order to bump up their rankings (as opposed to using “white hat” techniques Google insists on tries to essentially reward: quality content = high page rank), which again skewed the results on Google’s search pages.
Where does all this leave us?
As of February 6th, 2014, Matt Cutts (head of search spam for Google) announced a change to Google’s page layout algorithm. The algorithm, also known as the Top Heavy Algorithm, targets sites that have too many ads near the top of the page, and cluttered pages that are an inconvenience to viewers.
Other algorithm changes are no doubt on the way. As Google monitors search traffic trends and increasingly more sophisticated SEO strategies in an effort to keep the search engine experience as customer-friendly as possible, SEO consultants and webmasters will need to be proactive and understand how to use Google’s best practices guidelines to their customers’ advantage.