The relationship between Google and digital marketers has always been a complicated one. Since the company first launched in 1998, Google’s imperfect algorithms have allowed digital marketers to find ways to manipulate search in a manner that improves site rankings at the expense of site quality.
Luckily, Google has developed efficient algorithms over the years. The newer, fresher code has changed the rules of ranking—quality is now paramount. As a result, both user experience and site content have improved.
What does all this mean for your business?
It means that, with a basic understanding of Google’s algorithms and a holistic approach to SEO, you can establish a rock solid presence on the web. It also means that your internet presence will be one that’s legitimized—reflecting your identity and mission while providing users with the information they need.
Here’s the information that can help you:
Google’s search mission is (and always will be) to provide the most relevant information for users in the fastest time possible. Everything it does (and doesn’t do) revolves around this mission. It’s taken over a decade, but Google has finally built what appears to be the perfect algorithm.
The three Google quality checks are Google Panda, Google Penguin, and Google Hummingbird. Each was created for a specific purpose, but with a common goal of delivering quality content that answers—in the best way possible—the questions users ask.
In the eyes of Google, content is king. Google Panda is how Google legitimizes content by rewarding quality over quantity. One of the ways digital marketers have manipulated Google is by stuffing content with keywords. This approach no longer works, thanks in large part to Panda.
How does Panda work? The three important aspects of Panda are:
- Word count
- User generated content
- Search query matching
Panda doesn’t reward word count. It discourages it. Again, quality over quantity.
A 75-word quality message that gives users the information they’re searching for is better than a 300+ word message that’s stuffed with excess keywords and fluff. In order to capitalize on this, your content strategy should be simple: create content that answers users’ questions in the least amount of words possible.
Benji Hyam said this well: “People who are unfamiliar with this space [will] think that writing a 750 word post will make them more successful than a 300 word post (or vice versa). I don’t think word count matters at all. Word count isn’t going to make one company blog more successful than another.”
Panda regulates user generated content by devaluing sites with spam—mainly in the form of guest posts and forums. This might come as quite a surprise, but don’t let it discourage you. You should neither get rid of nor not add quality user generated content.
Panda values content that matches search queries. Your site should provide specific answers to the specific questions users are asking. The best way to achieve this by reading and examining search queries.
Once you figure out exactly what users are asking, you can inspect (and possibly alter) your content. Note: if you change your content, it should be done in a manner that reflects the mission of your company—search manipulation tactics are neither necessary nor effective.
Penguin was created because of the high value Google places on links. A legitimate, quality site is one that other sites promote via a backlink. The idea makes sense—no good business would link a site that can’t help their users/customers.
Penguin analyzes links to determine legitimacy. If a business uses low quality links or links purchased from directories or spam, Penguin will find them and discredit the site. This can be difficult for digital marketing strategies because previous algorithms rewarded site linking regardless of quality.
In order to work with and meet the standards of Penguin, you should conduct a link audit. The above mentioned low quality links should be sought out and removed if found. While performing your audit, keep the following in mind:
- Domains determine quality
- Only high quality sites should be linked
- Promotional links don’t need to be removed (Penguin does not discourage them)
Optimizing your site for Penguin is easily done if you put the above mentioned information and recommendations to use. Remember to always choose quality over quantity, and eliminate spam.
Search evolves in a manner that users are constantly increasing the length of their search queries. Currently, search is at point where it’s being deemed “conversational”. The level at which users and search engines interact is unprecedented.
Hummingbird was created to improve this new type of search. Unlike Panda and Penguin, it doesn’t target spam. For this reason, site optimization is difficult. It’s recommended that content be examined to ensure it answers both short and long search queries. Sometimes there can be more traffic, and business, to be won in “the long tail of SEO” than by focusing on short, more popular search queries.
As has been mentioned and alluded to throughout this article, quality is what matters most to Google. Your approach to SEO should be a holistic one—centered around your new found knowledge of Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird.
Know that content is king, links play a strong role in Google’s classification of your site, and conversational search optimization is important. Examine and alter your site’s content while keeping the information in this article in mind.
To speed up the process of building your web presence, seek help. Hire a digital marketing agency who knows their stuff. Trained SEO professionals see things that most business owners do not, and can quickly make changes that have an immediate ROI.
In addition, they can talk to you about how adding site features like mobile design and pay per click, both of which can acquire new customers.
Sound tough? It really isn’t. Use the tips I’ve laid out here and the strong internet presence you want (and deserve) can become a reality.