SEO has changed drastically throughout the years and the Google algorithm updates of 2013 has given a clear picture of what works for good search engine results and what leads to penalty. 2013 made the webmasters experience the dangerous versions of Penguin and Panda updates and also the introduction of “Hummingbird” update. However, user experience is the core behind all these algorithmic changes and it’s always good to adapt to these changes to provide better search experience.
Panda was initially updated in Feb 2011 and the journey is too long. This update is released by Google to penalize websites with thin content. Of course, Panda has rewarded websites with original, unique content. In 2013, Panda refresh number 24 happened in February, which affected almost 1.2% of English searches. Another revised version of Panda was updated in March. However, Matt Cutts, the head of web spam from Google announced in SMX West Marketing conference in March that Panda is deployed in searches and it will happen frequently where large scale changes cannot be noticed.
May 9th 2013, couple of weeks before Penguin 2.0, showed some signs of algorithm update where many sites reported traffic loss. Webmasters suspected Phantom as a pre penguin 2.0 update.
Penguin 2.0 was released in May 22nd 2013. This was the fourth Penguin update that hit harder on spammy websites. Approx 2.3% of English searches were affected with this major update. Well branded companies with high quality link profile were rewarded by Google. After that in Oct 4th, Google launched another Penguin update – 2.1, the overall impact was moderate.
Another significant update of Google in August 2013 is the Hummingbird update. Searches have become more focussed with this update where quality content plays a major role. Hummingbird or conversational search as Google says it, aims to provide users with relevant response for search queries with semantic search. Creating high quality content is the need of the hour. Focus on relevant topics rather than keywords for better search results as Hummingbird is all about page centric search. Search Engine Land’s FAQ on Humming Bird update might give you a detailed view.
Knowledge Graph – The Future of SERP
In their continuous effort in improving the search experience for users, Google has enhanced the way Knowledge Graph results are displayed in searches. The Knowledge Graph allows searchers to know about the website before they go into it. All the information the user needs is available even without going to the website. The local carousel results are displayed with reviews, images and map providing a great experience to the user.
Google updated in-depth articles feature in August 2013. If you are content is noteworthy, informative and unique, it will be published under “In depth” articles section. Later in the beginning of December Google added “more in-depth articles” within search results that allows users to view 10 articles in addition.
Social signals are always considered as an important metrics for ranking of a website in search engines. It is already proved that engagement in twitter and Google Plus have a great impact on ranking. So, it is crucial to be active in Facebook, twitter, Google Plus and Linkedin for effective search results.
These algorithm updates and frequent changes have made people to question often about the life of SEO, whether it’s still alive? I would always say that SEO, like any business is changing each day and its changing for good. This doesn’t mean its dead. Applying manipulation techniques for better ranking is dead in SEO, while ethical SEO lives forever. Let us adapt to the changes and work better for excellent results. Let us hope for a great year ahead. Happy New Year 2014.