The Google Algorithm is the huge list of factors (more than 200) that are taken into account when Google is ranking your content in first place or waaay out in the cheap seats.
When a major change to the algorithm happens, the update is given a name - generally each is named after a living thing. I think this is to remind us that Google itself is a living, evolving, changing entity, as it works to keep its position as the premier search engine, giving users the best experience it can.
Noone knows for sure what makes up this long list, but as Google prioritises returning good search results for the user, we do know that making your site a great user experience, relevant for the short and long keyword searches you want to rank for is a way of getting some Google loving.
Remember, search is the #1 driver of traffic to content sites, beating social media by more than 300% so here is an overview of each of the Google algorithm updates, so you can work on making your site Google friendly:
1. Panda. In this iteration, Google targetted duplicate content (content duplicated from other sites, or content repeated time and again on your own site) and 'thin' content - content for the sake of content, but a bad experience for the user.
2. Penguin. This update showed us that Google likes backlinks (links out to other sites) that are valid and valuable. I don't think anyone believes that backlinks can be bought in bulk any more, but not only does google see these volume backlink installs as a poor shortcut, you can open yourself up to some nasty security issues with spam links.
Google loves backlinks to sites with domain authority (this is a term developed by Moz.com - a great SEO resource to give a value to sites with high quality external links - think Wikipedia, the New York Times, the ABC) or if your content isn't the stuff of big news sites, link out to your testimonials, to authors, to other organisations who align with the work you do.
3. Hummingbird: this update is all about the Voice. Google extrapolates user intent beyond a really simple, literal interpretation of search terms - think of this as the search engine readying itself for voice search. This is a very interesting expansion and shows that its evolving to truly respond to users. For us, this means, try to use the natural language of your audience - making your site text, blog posts, urls, image titles, alt tags and meta data speak to your audience in a language they would use in their search.
Good content makes Google sing! Make your content relevant and readable, that will make your dear reader stay on the page, rather than returning to the search results (Google counts time away from their results and rewards your site for being 'sticky'). Google is designed to learn from what works. If your content is making people stay, if it has struck a chord, Google gives a reward!
4. Pigeon - the 'homing' kind: Google is a geolocator so, make local work for you. Google knows where we are at any time, so will prioritise local results for users. Be loud and proud about where you are and make sure your google local profile is fully fleshed out
5. POPUPS, Overlays, Modals, Interstitials (sorry, no cute name here, except maybe a POMI?!) Google hates what users hate, so that full page popup that launches immediately a user comes onto your site has to go. Popups aren't all bad though - they can be really useful for Lead capture, but make them:
- a true reward for email sign ups
- make them launch after 45 seconds, or when a user gets to the bottom of the page
- and set them to recognise IP addresses and not launch every time a user comes on site.
6. Fred : Google will penalise you if your site is just a front to dance a user straight to an ad site.
7. Secure Site Protocol - HTTPS: Get secure! you need that https so talk to your webhost, or talk to us about installing an ssl certificate on your site then make sure it has a jolly green padlock to tell the world you're safe and sound.