A panda, a penguin and a hummingbird walk into a bar …

Recent changes to Google's Search and PageRank algorithms

We've been getting quite a few calls from existing or potential clients, freaking out about various updates to the Google search algorithm, and what effect it might have on their Google page rankings.

Chillax, people. If you've been being good Google citizens and playing nicely with others and not stealing their toys, then you've got little to worry about. If, on the other hand, you've been handing your hard-earned to SEO shysters for quick results, then you've got problems.

Here's where it's at.


Google periodically updates its search algorithms to deliver more accurate results from their search engine. Given that this directly affects a given website's page rank on Google's search results pages, it's only natural that people and businesses have gamed the system to try to push their site or business further up the rankings than might otherwise have been the case. This is essentially what most non-content producing SEO companies are pushing: plastic surgery through dodgy backdoors. Link farming and trading, copied content, keyword stuffing and other attempts at over-optimisation, low-quality content ... these are the tactics against which Google has taken aim.


The Panda update takes aim primarily at low-quality sites with copied content resulting in a poor user experience. If you're producing quality, original content on your site, you've got nothing to worry about.

If you're channelling, copying, or otherwise ripping off content that has appeared elsewhere on the web, you could have problems. If you're reproducing your own material over and over again to make your website look 'fuller' than it actually is, you could have problems. If you've given the keys to your website to an SEO 'consultant' who uses either of these tactics, you've probably got problems.

The key to appeasing the Google god that is Panda is original, relevant content. Easy!


The Penguin update is a fight against web spam in all its forms: link spamming, farming or trading, keyword stuffing (which is the excessive and sometimes hidden use of keywords that may bear no relevance to a given site), aggressive overuse of anchor text, and over submission to low-quality blog directories.

These false-rank tactics are based on the belief that lots of backlinks to your site demonstrates to search engines that your site is oh-so popular and that your ranking will be rewarded accordingly. These tactics are dead. I still see lots of SEO companies offering to submit your site to so-many hundreds of sites or directories and that this will improve your page rank. That's horses--t. Sorry, no other way to describe it. In fact, the Penguin update will not only weed out those kinds of tactics, but will actively punish your page rank for using them.


Unlike Panda and Penguin, the Hummingbird update is not a penalty update but one that is aimed at giving users better results from their web searches.

The specifics and semantics behind the Hummingbird update are too wide ranging and too complex to meaningfully discuss here, but a simple example may help explain: In the past, a search using the phrase "pizza restaurants near my house" would attempt to match keywords "pizza restaurant" and "my house", most likely giving the highest ranking to a pizza restaurant called Pizza House. The connection between the user's actual location and any pizza restaurants nearby wasn't made and therefore the results were pretty haphazard and often useless.

Some tweaking under Google's bonnet (more fiddlings called Knowledge Graph and Venice) enable the Hummingbird update to more meaningfully decipher the user's question and offer more appropriate results. As Hummingbird gains traction, chances are if you type in those same keywords, you will end up with pizza restaurants close to where you live.

While the fallout from Penguin and Panda has been relatively quick, drastic and in some cases painful, the results from Hummingbird are likely to be more organic and more long term.

And what does that mean to you, the humble web owner?

One, Content is King. If you produce or populate your website with original content that is of interest to your target market, you'll win. It's that simple. Nothing to fear from Penguins or Pandas.

Two, don't game the system. Google got wise to the tactics used by SEO hucksters with get-ranked-quick schemes and are punishing them (and their clients) accordingly. Doubtless there will be those who find ways to game the Panda and Penguin updates, and doubtless Google will punish those tactics, too.

The punchline

Sorry, there isn't one. Unethical SEO companies will keep trying to fool Google, and they'll keep getting paid by unsuspecting clients who want to bump their web ranking; Google will keep demoting sites that practise rogue ranking tactics.

Guess who is really getting punished? You, the gullible schmuck in the middle who just wanted to make your website and business more visible to the world. You put your faith is some SEO shark and you got stiffed, out a couple of thousand dollars (at least) and your site's ranking is in the toilet.

Don't be fooled: there is no quick-and-easy way to improving your Google ranking. Write good content, relevant to your target market, and write lots of it, often. If it's honest, interesting, and relevant, your Google ranking will follow.

In brief

Content is king

The only true path to Google Nirvana is content creation. Do it right and you have nothing to fear from these recent changes to Google’s algorithm; moreover, a good content creation schedule will gradually move your site up the page rankings and make your business more visible.

Need some help with content creation? Give saso.creative a call. We can build a content creation strategy around your business needs.

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1 Comment

  1. Latisha on June 6, 2014 at 6:14 am

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