What are Google’s Algorithms? A practical explanation

By Matthew Mongeon

May 14
Panda, Pengun and Hummingbird

You may be asking yourself, “Just what the heck is Google referring to with all this buzz about Pandas, Penguins, and Hummingbirds? What’s next? A Google zoo?” Well fret no longer as I hope to clarify just what kind of power Panda, Penguin and the latest addition, Hummingbird, have in the SEO world and just how Rocket SEO stays one step ahead to meet their qualifications. As for Google having a zoo? Who knows what other surprises Google has up their sleeves.

For those of you who don’t know, Penguin, Hummingbird and Panda are the names Google has given each of their new algorithms used in their search engine. Now before we go any further, for all of you who are new to SEO, I’ll get a little help from Matt Cutts in order to give you a better understanding of just how search engine algorithms help play a role in getting quality search results, and help Google decide just what search results you really want. If you’re unaware as to how Google figures out the PageRank of millions of different sites, this video will cover that as well. As for you experts who know the ins and outs of Google, bear with me here because in a minute we’ll start to head into the good stuff that can help your site get a better ranking.

How Secret are Google’s secrets?

Remember when you were eight years old and your best friend in the whole world asked you what you got them for their birthday, and you wouldn’t tell them no matter how much they kicked or screamed so that way it was a secret right up until they got to open it up? Well, that same commitment to secrecy is what Google has for the formulas behind each of their algorithms. No one really knows the whole formula behind Google’s lightning fast search algorithms with the exception of a few lucky high up Google employees that get a chance to work on them. Google does this so that way no one can abuse what their search engine looks for in a site in order to boost their search ranking.

Panda

The first and arguably the most important algorithm for a websites ranking is Panda. Named after one of its creators, Panda was introduced on February 23rd, 2011 and it was a big deal. The goal of Panda was to try and showcase higher quality websites in their search results while demoting the lower quality ones. When Panda checks your site it looks at your content for three things: quality, quality, and more quality. It’s complex algorithm helps determine if a site is following Google’s guidelines of having original content, or if it thinks your site has unoriginal content, then say your goodbyes to your web ranking because it’s going down.

Now, when Google updates Panda, which they do A LOT, often times it changes around the ranking of many websites. So how do you recover your sites ranking if it gets hit by a panda update? Well here at Rocket SEO we go through your website piece by piece with our own specialized SEO checklist and we go through your website, find and fix anything that Google would be penalizing your website for. Although Google hasn’t told the world what exactly they’re looking for in a site and what they’re not, we still have a pretty good idea. When employees of Google are asked about what Panda looks for in a site they will often refer to a 2011 blog post by Google employee Amit Singhal, which consists of a list of questions that, when followed, will help prevent any further panda attacks.

Penguin4605548037_ec8f92ce9c_o

When Google found they needed a way to fight web spam and websites using “Black hat techniques” to boost their search results, Penguin was introduced. Released on April 24th of 2012, Penguin has had numerous updates and additions added to it later down the road. Penguin changed up the whole SEO industry by forcing companies to have more natural links, which basically means that Google is watching to see if your website has an authoritative link that comes from an outside site that Google deemed as a respectable one. A good way to think of how the Penguin algorithm works is when you head onto Google and type in your search, Penguin is hard at work to scour each and every search result with the task of judging how trustworthy a site is. This is based on one thing, are the website links being used to Google’s standards, or is the site abusing the system. Once Penguin has acknowledged how trustworthy your site is it will either boost the ranking of your site giving you a HUGE help for your ranking, but if for whatever reason, Penguin deems your site as abusing the use of links it will drop your search result ranking, resulting in a major hit to your sites traffic and decrease in new people finding your webpage.

Now, what’s the best way to stay “Penguin-Proof”? Well you stay away from any black hat techniques that Google has lately been cracking down on. Here at Rocket SEO we will only follow white hat techniques as black hat ones will always come back to bite you and your company, and not to mention it will give your company a bad reputation. Google is constantly updating their site crawlers to catch anyone using what they would deem as a black hat technique, and lately many site owners are seeing the consequences of cheating your way to the top as they are deemed “Untrustworthy” by penguin and the rest of the algorithms being used.

Hummingbird

If you wanted to take a practical look at the Google algorithm as a whole, you could picture it as one big engine like the one you would find under your car’s hood. For this situation let’s say Google’s team would be like the mechanics who work on this engine and try to get the engine performing at its best by constantly tweaking things within the engine. Panda and Penguin would be new parts for the engine, like a new oil filter or fuel pump, but hummingbird is something else entirely. Hummingbird is a completely differentphoto-1423176281849-2d0f865692cc
engine in itself that still makes use of some of the old parts (Including Panda and Penguin), but the majority is completely new. That’s how big hummingbird is.

Announced on September 26th, 2013, Hummingbird was already quietly in use for about a month. The revolutionary thing about Hummingbird is the fact that it focuses on two specific dimensions. The goal of the first dimension is getting a better understanding of questions or queries being asked on Google search every day. Now, if we were to take a look at how this process is done it would look something like this: Let’s say you wake up early Sunday morning and you have a craving for some pancakes and eggs but you’re in the mood to go out somewhere new. Well what better way is there to find local restaurants than Googling a simple question such as “What is the best place for breakfast in Hamilton?”. Once you hit that enter button, Hummingbird looks at your search and recognizes the term “Place” and knows that you would be interested in seeing results for a restaurant or a diner and might pull up some local results in Google Maps, then it looks at your keywords to narrow down the results of breakfast places with positive reviews.

The second dimension that Hummingbird brings to its search engine is that it introduced the importance of search on mobile devices. Quite simply, when making searches on your mobile device, you’re more likely going to see search results for mobile friendly sites as that will load faster and is optimized for your mobile device.

 

Overall here at Rocket SEO we keep using only white hat techniques even if they take a little bit longer to get results, because we know that Google will keep adding more and more protective measures to catch any site using black hat techniques for results and it gives a harsh reputation for any company caught using them. In order to keep your site Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird proof, a site needs to ask itself if it has long, quality, shareable content for Panda to approve of, does it make proper use of website links so Penguin can deem the site trustworthy, and can the site deliver the answer to people’s questions while being mobile friendly.

 

Congratulations! You have just successfully been given a rundown on what Google’s algorithms do for your search ranking and you have a better understanding on what they each look for in a site. Google will never accept money for their organic search rankings and they have made it very difficult for untrustworthy sites to be seen by Google search users, so you can’t buy or cheat your way to the top. If you’re really interested in increasing your sites web traffic and conversion rate (Which if you’re reading this you probably are very interested), you’re going to have to earn it by living up to Panda, Penguin and Hummingbirds standards.