Constant changes to search algorithms have a tendency to keep SEO professionals on their toes. It’s a fast-paced game and the rules are always shifting. Google updates its ranking algorithm at least once a year and oftentimes more. To stay ahead of your game, you have to keep track of the changes in the cast of characters on the algorithm update roster. There are more than a few worth particular consideration.
- Duplicate content
- Thin content
- User-generated spam
- Keyword stuffing
- Poor user experience
Panda has been around for a long time (since 2011), but in January 2016, the filter was incorporated into Google’s algorithm. If your website includes any of the content listed above, your search ranking is going to suffer. Avoid keyword stuffing, duplicate content, plagiarism and spam. Thin content isn’t always so clear in its definition, but it generally refers to pages with low word count and high ad content. It turns out that ad-blocking isn’t the only thing that’s going to hurt your hits.
- Backlink abuse
- Link buying
What Panda accomplished in terms of content quality, Penguin sought to supplement in terms of link and rank quality. Links used to be an integral factor in qualifying sites into higher search engine results (ranks). The algorithms of yore figured that any link pointing toward a site is a stamp of approval and must indicate that destination site is worthy of attention. However, some abused this by buying links from link farms, while others created entire directories for the sole purpose of housing hundreds of thousands of links to other sites to help build their credibility. Penguin sought (and succeeded) in stamping the practice out.
Penguin has seen a fair share of updates, with the latest suspected to have happened as recently as February 2017.
- Share a physical addresses between similar businesses
- Business address farther from the searcher's location
Possum was an update that rolled out in 2016. Possum tailors searches to a user’s physical location and varies search results based on query. Even subtle changes in the search query will provide more varied results. There aren’t a whole lot of legitimate ways to get around the fact that search hits are now provided priority when the user is closer to a business, but it helps if you’re not located at the same address as another competitor. It’s also worth expanding your list of local keywords to try and get more hits from different queries.
- Low-value, ad-centered content
- Thin, affiliate-heavy content
Fred is the newest addition to the cast of characters on Google’s algorithm. He’s also the most elusive. Google hasn’t discussed the specifics of it, but studies suggest that the update targets low value and thin content. Google’s only statement is that Fred targets websites that violate its webmaster guidelines, so the guidelines are definitely worth taking a look at. There seems to be more effort to weed out thin content, so make sure that webpages have a decent word count and some original information. Ads and affiliate are a granted for websites in a large number of industries, so there’s no need to panic. They just have to be accommodated by actual content.
It won’t be long till another update rolls around, so it’s always worth brushing up on new developments with SEO. The bottom line is really that Google wants websites with good content and user experience, so putting the work into quality content is worth the trouble. Keep an eye out for the red flags on this list that targeted by algorithm updates and you’ll make an impression on the web.