Sunday, June 21, 2015

Google Algorithm News: Changes to the Core Algorithm & a Panda Refresh

The SEO world is once again abuzz with talk of Google algorithm updates. In early June, Gary Illyes of Google announced that a Panda update will occur in the following weeks. And earlier this week, Barry Schwartz reported that chatter in the SEO community about a possible algorithm change had "spiked significantly."

Would it be the announced Panda update? Or something else?

"Some are saying Panda," Schwartz reported, "but others are saying not so. Some are seeing ranking changes, some are seeing huge shifts in crawl rates."

Just yesterday, Schwartz reported a clarification straight from the source: Yes, Google had confirmed an algorithm update--to the core algorithm, however, and not Panda. Here is Google's statement:

"This is not a Panda update. As you know, we’re always making improvements to our search algorithms and the web is constantly evolving. We’re going to continue to work on improvements across the board."

Of course, the changes (and the talk of changes) have the SEO community in a tizzy--and for a good reason. Even minor algorithm changes can create significant changes in rankings for certain websites.

Yet if you're not necessarily versed in SEO-speak, you might be wondering what all of this means? What is the "core algorithm", let alone the "crawl rates."

We write the Organic SEO Blog for the layperson who wants to learn more about website optimization. We hope to reach small to medium-sized online businesses who stand to see vast improvements in rankings (and, as a result, profits) from utilizing the principles of organic SEO. For these people, then, the news of a possible Panda update is quite significant, indeed.

But first, let us clarify a simple point. As a young company, Google's mission was to provide the best search results. It's first algorithm, the "core algorithm", governed the basics of search, and was made available to browsers over fifteen years ago, with the introduction of the "plug-in" Google toolbar. As Google announced then:

"Google Inc., developer of the award-winning Google search engine, today announced the immediate availability of the Google Toolbar(TM). This free browser plug-in enables Internet users to search for information with Google’s fast, highly relevant search technology, from any web page on the Internet."

The "core algorithm" is often referred to as Google PageRank.

Since then, Google has created what it has called "algorithm updates" to deal with specific issues, such as hidden text and links, keyword stuffing, and spam. These updates were named: Boston, Cassandra, Florida...and more.

For a detailed and fascinating history of Google algorithm updates, Check out the "Google Algorithm Change History" from Moz.

It is helpful to understand how different updates govern different search elements, and how each update is intended to improve the quality of search results for browsers. By doing so, you will see precisely what Google is looking for--and how to improve your website.

Now, we're especially fond of the Panda update, first introduced in 2011, because it governs the quality of content. As Marcus Tober, of Search Metrics, reported around the time of the most recent Panda update (in September, 2014):

"Panda Updates focus on content quality. They are supposed to remove redundant, irrelevant content and spam from Google’s index...The interesting thing about the current Panda generation is the fact that apparently smaller and medium high-quality websites are supposed to benefit from the update."

Hopefully this upcoming refresh will continue to benefit the same website. Originally, Google created Panda to distinguish sites with original, high-quality, and relevant content. Part of the original algorithm, however, used "authority" (a loaded term), to identify the best content. Unfortunately, as we've reported before:

" trying to separate the wheat from the chaff--perhaps the most relevant metaphor for Google's mission--Panda penalized small and medium-sized sites in favor of brand names with more "authority." Smaller sites just couldn't compete with the likes of Amazon, even if they offered equal/or better products at equal/or better prices--which they often do."

Our hope is that Google will continue to redress this imbalance with each Panda update. The upshot? If you're a small to medium-sized business you can compete with the big boys--if you're willing to create great content, what Rand Fishkin calls 10x content.

Read: "Two Simple Questions to Inspire New Content." 

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