For many small businesses, inbound marketing – Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Social Media Marketing, and Pay per Click advertising – is critical. But no matter how well you think you optimize your website with keywords and go find inbound links to your website to improve your search results rank, Google can easily change the rules for how websites are ranked and can throw your inbound marketing off its game.
Google Algorithm Updates
It’s no secret that Google and other search engines regularly update the algorithm they use to rank and filter websites based on keywords, links, and content. These algorithms act as the backbone of how Google displays search results to all users, and determines where your website is placed in the results – or if it gets removed altogether for a penalty.
What many people don’t know is how frequently Google updates their search algorithm. Typically every month or more, Google publishes a change to their search algorithm that changes how websites are sorted and flagged in search results. Often these updates are small and unnoticed, and sometimes they make huge waves.
Every time Google puts out a search update, there’s a chance that your website could get penalized or flagged as spam unknowingly. When a penalization happens your website will no longer appear in Google search results, which can severely damage any small business’ inbound marketing efforts.
Recent Google Updates and What They Do
Although Google sends out (sometimes vague) information about the updates they publish, the small business community is often the last to notice. And often, small business owners remain unaware of their website’s Google penalty for weeks or months. In 2013 alone, Google has published some significant updates – including the most recent Hummingbird update. Below is a synopsis of Google’s 2013 updates and what they mean for small business websites.
Jan 22 – Panda 24: The Panda 24 update was a pretty big update that didn’t get a lot of fanfare from Google. Panda 24 continued to tighten the belt on weak or thin content on websites – especially article-based websites that had poorly written or over-optimized content.
May 23 – Penguin 2.0: Penguin 2.0 refines the Google link screening process by favoring websites that link to a wide range of sources, using anchor text appropriately, and ones that avoid inbound links from link-heavy sites.
June 11 – Spam Query Update and Panda: This update targeted sites in ‘spammy’ industries with keywords like “Pay Day Loans”, “Porn”, and “Viagra”.
June 25 – Wooly Mammoth: This update was the biggest update since December 2012, and targeted a very broad range of websites that had stale content on their sites. Generally sites that update their blogs regularly avoided this update.
July 18 – Panda Update: This Panda update was relatively small, and according to Google “softened the update” a little. This could be good news for many small business websites.
August 6 – In-Depth Articles, Deep Research, Original Long Content: Google determined that about 10% of web searches are for in-depth content pieces, so Google released this algorithm to favor sites that seemed to have longer, more in depth articles. They filter based on a few criteria: use of schema.org “article” mark-up, authorship markup, and “rel=next” & “rel=prev” for paginated articles.
August 21 – Hummingbird: Hummingbird was released a month before Google sent out any information about it, and many small websites were affected. Hummingbird seems to affect small websites that have thin content, little traffic, but rank well for a few very specific keywords.
The main thing Google always looks for is good-quality content, links from reputable sources, and content that is always being updated via a blog or news page. Small businesses are often guilty of having thin and stale content on their websites, which could easily put them at risk for a Google penalty from one of these new updates.
If you think your website might be susceptible to a Google update, you can see whether or not each Google update affected your website in a positive, negative, or neutral way using Fruition’s Google Penalty Checker, and find ways to avoid a possible Google penalty. By knowing how Google penalties affect your website, you can easily fix small problems on your site before they turn into a bigger, more complicated situation that could inhibit your inbound marketing efforts.