Different elements to Google’s algorithm and what they do
We all know that Googles algorithm (the code that dictates the way it works) is a closely guarded and complicated secret. Recently we also discovered that there were over 200 ranking factors contained within it and that some of these carry a lot more weight than others. Most of us will have also heard of animal names cropping up when talking about Google and SEO rankings and results, for instance Penguin and Panda and most SMB’s will probably think they have been adversely affected by one of these critters. There are actually quite a few of these animals and they all do different things and happened at different times as Google is a constantly evolving beast itself.
Imagine that Google is a car, then its algorithm would be its engine. The engine itself would have many different main elements that would need servicing (updating) and rebuilds (new elements) over time to keep it performing to its maximum (keeping its users happy).
So lets take a look at these different parts to Googles engine / algorithm to get a better understanding of what to work on that will help us gain better results and rankings which lead to more traffic which leads to more enquiries which leads to more business!
How many different parts to Googles algorithm are there?
In reality there have actually been very very many, but some of them are incredibly minor, don’t affect rankings or very niche, so we are going to look at the most important and recent ones that affect rankings for businesses chronologically. Let’s have a brief rundown first:
- Panda, 2011
- Penguin, 2012
- Hummingbird, 2013
- Pigeon, 2014
- Mobile, 2015
- Rank Brain, 2015
- Possum, 2016
- Fred, 2017
So as we can see, they are not all animals! Looking at the timeline you can also see how these major updates happen yearly and also each element given its own individual updates. Google is a very reactionary algorithm. A lot of what it does is forced by websites themselves, specifically spam, fraudulent, pornographic and illegal sites so Google is constantly combating that.
Some of what it does rewards sites and so tries to encourage good practices for business owners to rank. This is also reactionary. Google has no big agenda, it simply tries to constantly give it’s users relevant results, and the actual way those results are requested changes all the time. as does the internet itself and the people using it.
Technology has changed massively since Google was launched in 1997/1998 with computers speeds, internet speeds, mobile devices, social media, amount of websites and how they work let alone the way we behave as users all changing massively in that time so it’s understandable that all these updates happen.
Let’s look at the main animals / elements of the above list and what they do and how that affects SEO rankings for business owners online.
Panda – Content
Specifically targeting thin, duplicate, low quality content and also key word stuffing. This is a major element we have discussed previously when discussing content, so the flip side to these bad practices being pushed down in the rankings is that high quality content is rewarded. Bear in mind that this also goes for content on where your links are coming from offsite, and most site owners won’t know this, so this is a major ranking factor as it all content everywhere. Content writing and structure is a skill and has been discussed previously, and the sites that have utilised this rank better. Having none, stealing it will only push you down so while you cannot control the content off site, you can certainly improve your own.
Penguin – Back Links
This is another major ranking factor as it specifically targets links, which we all know are important. Irrelevant, spammy and over optimised anchor text (exact key phrase matching) will all be punishable as having many of these is seen as trying to manipulate Google. Since late 2016 this algorithm runs live so whereby building a good link will bump you up in the rankings in a short time, building a bad link will do the same. Pre 2016 being punished only happened yearly so you could build bad backlinks all year and then gain the benefits, but not any more. Sudden changes (large amounts) will also get you punished as this does not seem natural either.
Pigeon – Location
This is closely linked to the main Google algorithm in that optimisation and content are important, but the context is the users search location. Now that the vast majority of searches are done on mobile and many of the searches for services are localised, Google now places more importance on how your site tells people where you are. For localised businesses like restaurants, garages, dentists etc etc, being in directories, having decent on page optimisation like relevant location based content and name, address and phone number (NAP) consistent across the web will be rewarded. Localised relevant links will instantly rank you higher too.
Possum – Local Search
Virtually the same as pigeon except that it’s even more localised. If that doesn’t make sense then it’s only really important if there is a lot of competition for the same phrase, for example “best restaurant in Pattaya” will be even more focused on the users location if there are many sites that could rank for that term. If one of the sites was far from you but should rank higher, that restaurant is deemed less relevant to you by Google. So if there is a site that would rank lower for “best restaurant Pattaya” but it is closer to you then that is far more likely to appear in the SERP. This is only relevant if there is a lot of competition but as a business owner you hopefully should be aware of this.
All in all it should be quite easy to pick out from this list exactly what you want to rank for and how to improve it. Get a decent marketing or SEO company that specialises in this to help and you will see the difference.