Understanding Google’s Algorithms



Every so often, Google makes changes to its infamous ranking algorithms that can have an impact on marketing and SEO strategies. When certain aspects of the algorithm change, businesses may need to prepare for a change in their marketing strategy, making it very important that they stay up to date on the latest changes being made.


As of 2016, Google has made some notable changes to its algorithms that should be addressed by businesses. One major update comes by way of the Panda algorithm, which works to de-rank websites with very low quality content. The algorithm assigns content quality scores to webpages, and de-ranks pages with spammy or irrelevant content. What started as a simple filter has now become an integral part of Google’s ranking algorithm, and the algorithm updates monthly.


When the Panda algorithm updates, sites which had previously scored very low in rankings can redeem themselves by changing their methods. Panda will de-rank content that includes:

  • Oversaturation of Keywords
  • Plagiarism
  • Duplicate Content
  • Thin content
  • Spam
  • Poor user experience


In order for a company to know if they’ve been filtered by the Panda algorithm, they will need to run a Panda audit. This can be done by checking for any of the types of content listed above, and fixing any of these issues. If any of the qualities from the list above are present on a page, it’s very likely that Panda has de-ranked the page.


Another de-ranking algorithm is the Penguin algorithm, which also looks to find spammers on the web. While Panda focuses on finding irrelevant content, Penguin searches for spammy or manipulative links that have no benefit to the user. Penguin looks for the following to de-rank websites:


  • Links from other poorly-ranked websites.
  •  Links from websites designed strictly for link building.
  • Links from irrelevant sites.
  • Paid links.


In order to avoid being penalized by Penguin, check your website for any links that could potentially fit the descriptions above. Remove these links, and replace them with quality, relevant links in order to maintain a high google search ranking.


One of the more famous Google algorithms is Hummingbird, a newer algorithm that determines the relevancy of a search by understanding search queries, rather than searching for only keywords. The algorithm attempts to understand user intent, and provide relevant search results in return. Without Hummingbird, pages would be able to stuff irrelevant articles with keywords and show up high on the search rankings, making it helpful that Hummingbird exists. 


Hummingbird’s entire purpose is to promote and encourage original and relevant content, rather than SEO-saturated articles that do not benefit the reader. Some issues that could lead to an unfavorable ranking by Hummingbird include:


  • Oversaturation of keywords.
  • Exact keyword matches.
  • Poor user interface and experience.


Websites that are creating original and relevant content should have no concern about Hummingbird’s algorithm, as long as there is no oversaturation of SEO keywords. 


Like Hummingbird, Pigeon is an algorithm that aims to improve the ranking of relevant pages, however this algorithm focuses on local search results, rather than general searches. When a user searches for a local term, such as “stores near me,” this algorithm determines which pages will rank highly, and which will not. Some factors that could be unfavorable by Pigeon include:

  • Poorly optimized webpages.
  • Few relevant backlinks.
  • Poor Google My Business setup.
  • NAP Inconsistency.


Essentially, pages looking to rank highly in local search results should properly optimize their website and Google My Business accordingly, in order to appeal to the Pigeon algorithm.


In today’s day in age, more and more internet searches are being made on mobile, making it important that users be treated with highly-optimized mobile sites when appropriate. Luckily, Google has developed a somewhat-new algorithm that promotes optimized pages for mobile users. Companies that do not have a seamless mobile experience will not be ranked highly by the Mobile Friendly algorithm, making overall mobile friendliness very important to ranking well with this algorithm.


Finally, Google’s most recent algorithm is known as RankBrain, which works to deliver more accurate search results by finding only the most relevant pages. If a website has very few query-specific relevance features, they may have trouble performing well with the RankBrain algorithm, making it important to not only maximize the user experience, but provide relevant and informative content that readers will like to see. This can be done by investigating competition to learn how they have achieved higher rankings, and then imitating these strategies into other pages.


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Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA. Starting in the early 2000s, Steve achieved eBay Power Seller status which propelled him to become a founding partner of VisionPros.com, a contact lens and eyewear retailer. Four years later through a successful exit from that startup, he embarked on his next journey into digital strategy for direct-to-consumer brands.

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