A year on from Google’s much hyped algorithm overhaul, Hummingbird, the KW Digital team have probe into whether the search engine giant’s notoriously covert tinkering has made a significant difference and pinpoint further recent updates that could affect everyday SEO practices.
What has changed?
“For those who are not brainwashed with ‘best SEO practices,’ Hummingbird will have no affect on you,” is the reassuring advice from business2community.com. “If you are busy concentrating on how many keywords to place in an article, where to put them, and whether to highlight them or not, you should be aware. Google has stated that focusing on creating quality content without keyword stuffing is the only way to ensure a high page ranking in search results.”
Two integral components of Google’s reported 200 plus factors that determine the crawling, indexing and ranking capabilities of Hummingbird are their Panda and Penguin filters. Panda prevents poor quality sites and pages from ranking well in the search engine results page. It’s essentially the yardstick for poor quality or duplicated content. Penguin, on the other hand, specifically punishes websites for using manipulative techniques to achieve high rankings. Excessive spammers are firmly in its crosshairs.
New versions of both filters have come to light in recent months. A ‘slow rollout’ of Panda 4.1 began around mid-September, followed promptly by Penguin 3.0 in October. Whilst Google claim that these updates should only affect around three to five percent and one percent of queries respectively, SEO experts are still keeping a beady eye on what, if any, effect they will have. At the moment it’s too early to say.
Meanwhile, Google’s three-year experiment, Google Authorship, which purportedly gave authors social proof (as well as a dainty little profile picture) linked to their Google+ popularity, has been shelved. Apparently take up was lower than expected and, for those who did make the effort, clickthrough rates were not significantly boosted. Google+ posts will now result in authorship style recognition but it remains to be seen whether this will galvanise more adopters of the social network.
What can we expect from Google going forward?
Unfortunately, Google’s algorithm updates are notoriously hush-hush type events until they’re actively up and running. So we’ll leave it to Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, to give you some closing words of encouragement for the future of SEO. Commenting on a recent Webmaster Central Help Forum discussion, Mueller was quick to advise followers against unduly worrying about specific algorithm updates.
“While there are some cases where a site is strongly affected by a single algorithm, that doesn’t mean that it won’t see any changes until that algorithm or its data is refreshed. For example, if a site is strongly affected by a web-spam algorithm, and you resolve all of those web-spam issues and work to make your site fantastic, you’re likely to see changes in search even before that algorithm or its data is refreshed.”
“Some of those effects might be directly related to the changes you made (other algorithms finding that your site is really much better), some of them might be more indirect (users loving your updated site and recommending it to others).
“In the meantime, I’d really recommend – as above – not focusing on any specific aspect of an algorithm, and instead making sure that your site is (or becomes) the absolute best of its kind by far.”