Last Year in Search: 2013’s Most Important Google Algorithm Changes

Google Penguin Update

2013 saw Google rolling out several major updates to its search algorithms that have had significant impact on the search industry and businesses marketing themselves online. Concerned you may have missed some of the important Google search changes and don’t have time to track the information alone? Our roundup will highlight and simplify the major algorithm updates over the last year and what they mean for your business.

January & March: Final Panda Refreshes
The Panda algorithm was refreshed twice over January and March last year. Panda targets low quality content by rewarding high quality content with a higher ranking on the search engine results page (SERP). Back in 2011, Google offered the public a comprehensive list of what makes a “high quality” site.

What this means for you:
Do not engage in any “black hat” or unscrupulous techniques whilst attempting to improve your search engine optimisation.  Doing so will risk your site being banned from Google results altogether. By providing quality original content to your website visitors instead, you can offer them a more informative and helpful experience. Posting original industry articles, product videos and even pushing content to your social media pages, will create a fresh and interesting experience for the user.

May: Penguin 2.0
Penguin 2.0 launched on 22nd May 2013 and was Google’s fourth Penguin update. According to Google’s Matt Cutts, it was created to tackle black-hat web spam techniques and advertorials that passed along Page Rank. Far more comprehensive than the original Panda release, Penguin 2.0 features hack site detection and awards websites with superior industry authority with higher SERP rankings.

What this means for you:
As Google takes further steps towards favouring original, quality content that will aid their users, it’s definitely not an option to use black-hat techniques. Continually updating your site with fresh, relevant content, that answers consumers’ questions about your business and the products or service you offer will improve your SEO.

August: In-Depth Articles
Last August Google began the rollout of its in-depth article feature, whereby it places long-form content from recognised industry or subject matter experts or high quality sources in the middle of a SERP. In-depth articles are now appearing across a wide range of subjects but not necessarily for every search query entered into Google.

What this means for you:
Are you or your business recognised as an industry expert? If so, leverage this by writing and posting in-depth features to your site. The Google Authorship tool is a useful way to link content you’ve published to your Google+ profile. This means your author information will also appear in search results, a handy way to increase the authority of your page, drive clicks and improve visibility in search engines.

September: “(Not Provided)”
Previously Google offered a keyword listing within Google Analytics which showed web admin which keywords people were using online to find a particular website. However since September 2013 that information is now blocked with the phrase, “(Not Provided)” in an attempt by Google to secure all organic searches and protect online users privacy.  Although Google is no longer reporting the keyword terms people are using to search for your site, other valuable Google metrics are still available. These include: overall organic search traffic by search engine, search rankings for your critical terms, total conversions from organic traffic or URL and many more.

What this means for you:
Losing key data can be frustrating but you still have the opportunity to create a successful business website with an engaging user experience and quality content. How? By knowing your target customers, what they care about and how your products and services can solve their problems, you will learn what to write about to attract their attention.

The new Hummingbird algorithm was announced in late September, although had already been around for a month. Hummingbird uses “meaning technology” to analyse a whole search query, rather than only matching specific search terms to a page of content. By doing so it better understands the searcher’s intent and attempts to answer query questions.

What this means for you:
There will no longer be a need to build your search engine optimisation around exact keyword phrases because Hummingbird is much better at matching search intent with relevant content. What kinds of questions would your prospects ask about your products or services which you could help address? It is vital to write your content to answer your visitors’ questions and intent.  Insights into your customers mindset and needs will point you in the right direction for creating content that addresses their questions and which will in turn help your site perform better.

October: Ad Extentions Now Impact Ad Rank
The additional information included in a text ad, known as an ad-extension, is now being used by Google to determine a text ad’s SERP placement. Previously only the cost-per-click (CPC) bid and your Quality Score were used to determine an ad’s rank. Text ads without any ad extension information included will now risk lower placement on the SERP.

What this means for you:
Text ads with ad extensions can help them to rank higher in SERPs, as well as help boost your click-through-rate. Consider adding text ads with extensions to your marketing plan this year.

How have Google’s updates affected your business in the past? Let us know in the comments.





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