Updates are a funny thing, they have such bad reputation, but when you work in an industry or hire a company in an industry that is guaranteed to change and evolve it seems kind of silly. Although the internet is wrought with horror stories from companies who saw dramatic traffic decreases following Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird to a lesser degree, if you look you can also find success stories from companies who were doing it right all along.
Hummingbird isn’t the same as Penguin and Panda, however, and lumping them all into the same category can actually be a bit misleading. Hummingbird didn’t just make a change to the algorithm, it replaced it entirely.
Why on earth are these changes good?
Although some SEO’s seem to lose sight of this, the internet doesn’t exist for the sole purpose of link building. Google has never lost sight of this though—hence the updates.
Penguin, implemented on April 24, 2012 was treated like an apocalyptic overhaul, and for some sites it was. Sure, they were only doing what some of their competitors were doing—buying links, using spun content and spammy comments—but just because some of your neighbors start manufacturing meth to make an extra buck doesn’t mean you should too. In both cases, it’s liable to blow up in your face.
The way Google sees it; sites that are showing up as number one in results just because they have thousands of links from terrible sites don’t deserve to be number one.
Panda, unlike its feathered companion focused on thin content (pages that don’t offer actual searchers much of value) and duplicate content. Panda pushed entire sites and not just pages out of search results altogether or dropped them several dozen pages.
The only tragedy is that for some companies—solid, truly great companies—their only sin was ignorance, not realizing (or caring) what their SEO company was doing to give them great results.
And then there’s Hummingbird—a fantastic change, really, for users and in some cases for sites as well. When searches pose a query to Google the chances of them thinking like a search engine are slim, so now, the search engine is attempting to think like the user. Instead of breaking queries into chunks Google takes long tail key word searches into account as a whole.
If these changes weren’t good to you, what should you do?
If you were creating articles people actually want to read that have to do with your site and business chances are these updates actually may have helped your business, keep doing what you’re doing.
If you wanted to beat your competitors and though the whole, ‘buy 5000 links for $25’ offer was a good idea, chances are you’re cursing Google and your site has all but sunk to irrelevance.
It’s not too late to make changes though and hopefully get back into Google’s good graces. The first step is identifying exactly what hurt you in the first place. Don’t get all crazy with disavow ditching all your links when you’re not even sure links were the problem in the first place.
Take a look at when your traffic dropped off and see if it correlates with any penalties and check your webmaster tools under messages—if you got a message for Google saying you’ve been hit with a manual penalty, that’s a whole different problem and can’t be fixed the same way algorithm penalties are.
If you suspect penguin is the culprit focus on anchor text. If you run a web marketing company in Miami and all your anchor text is ‘MiamiMarketing’ you need to diversify that text asap. Adding even a single word will allow you to start gaining new and quality links—unfortunately there’s nothing you can do to instantly gain quality links. It’s a slow process and it will most likely be months before each page starts to recover.
Recovery from Panda will require removal of duplicate content and building up quality content especially above the fold on thin content pages.
Finally, although SEO is a great tool for gaining links and attracting traffic, losing sight of who you should really be catering to—people, not search engines—will undoubtedly only result in future and potentially even worse penalties.