There was another flurry of activity in the SEO community this week as online businesses witnessed a dramatic twist in their organic search results. Yes, seems as though Google has launched another major update to its core algorithm.
As usual, the search engine giant rolled out another snowball and as it rolled down the hill it took out some passersby. There are always winners and losers whenever Google updates its algorithms.
But given Google is so secretive about how its core algorithm affects search results, recovering a drop in organic rankings is not always straightforward. The best way to avoid being penalised is to understand how the core algorithm works and work with it.
The bulk of the core algorithm is known as Hummingbird and uses semantic text that understands the concept of content on a page. When Google launched Hummingbird in September 2013, it was the first sign the search engine was moving away from relying on keywords and steering more towards user-intent. Earlier this year, Google announced they added Penguin and Panda to the core algorithm to support Hummingbird.
Penguin upset a lot of web owners when it was first launched, but they only have themselves to blame for trying to manipulate search results with ill-gotten links. Penguin digs our spammy links pointing to your website from third-party sites and also broken links or links to unrelated topics. When embedding internal links, do not use exact-match anchor text. Use categories, related topics and hierarchies for anchors.
The Panda algorithm relates entirely to content or more specifically high-quality content. If you are publishing content that is well-written and in-depth, you will not be harmed by Panda, but promoted up in the ranks. Pages with thin content, badly written content or content visitors are not engaging with, do not get ranked.
Panda also supports Hummingbird in trying to match user-intent with keyword relevancy. The core algorithm takes keyword searches and looks for text that matches search terms exactly. If there are no exact keyword matches, Hummingbird determines the context of a page and throws up results it thinks should satisfy user intent. To improve that function, the final piece to the algo-puzzle is RankBrain.
RankBrain is a machine learning piece of the algorithm which considers search terms that have never been used before and tries to determine what the user actually wants. When Hummingbird and Panda can’t meet user-expectation it is hoped that RankBrain will.
But RankBrain is also designed to understand natural speech patterns of humans in order to second-guess what users actually want. Once the algorithm has matured there is a strong possibility the core algorithm will be able to cope with voice search. We are not far off search through speech being the norm.
Understanding how search engine algorithms work gives you a better insight into how your website will perform better in search engines. But as you can see from the core algorithm, visibility in search engines predominantly resolves around high-quality content.