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The past couple of years have been challenging for many who have tried to improve the search results for their websites by using approved, or sanctioned, SEO techniques and strategies. The seemingly constant changes to what is considered approved and sanctioned has forced many to simply give up, while others have been penalized for mistakes not of their own making. Here we try to explain some of the changes Google has implemented to their search algorithm in an attempt to focus their search results on quality content.
Some facts about the big Google updates
These updates, for example Panda and Penguin, were not actually updates in the true sense of the word. Instead, they were the implementation of periodic filtering of the algorithm Google uses to provide search results and, they were not just one-time happenings. In fact, this filtering takes place on a regular basis, sometimes monthly, as Google tweaks and refreshes these filters regularly.
In an effort to provide higher quality search results to their customer, the searcher, Google has implemented a couple of highly publicized “updates,” as well as a couple of lesser known filters…
- Panda update – is essentially a filter which periodically examines the quality of the content on the individual pages of your site. If your content is thin, your entire site receives a “Panda penalty” and those pages lose ranking until the next time the filter is run – approximately monthly. If the quality improves, you will – eventually – see improved search results. Since the filter is run periodically, changes in your search results can only come periodically.
- Penguin update – is an algorithm update designed to filter out “webspam,” or black hat SEO trickery. This filter will also run periodically, searching sites for traditional SEO no-nos, such as keyword stuffing, link schemes, cloaking, and intentional duplicate content.
- Top Heavy update – is an effort by Google to penalize sites with “too much” advertising “above the fold.” The penalty is applied to the entire site, not simply to ad-heavy pages. If your site is top heavy with advertising, you’ve probably already been hit. The only way to recover is to remove the offending advertising and wait for the next round of periodic filtering.
- Pirate penalty – is Google’s latest effort to remove content which infringes on another’s copyrighted content. If Google has received a number of “copyright removal notices” directed at your site, you are likely to receive a penalty from Google, resulting in a lower ranking in the search results. If the number of notices is large enough, your site may be removed from goggle entirely.
The good news is this; if you follow Google’s quality guidelines, you will not be affected by these filters. All you have to do is stick with what is known as White Hat SEO practices and you will be OK. If you try to “game” Google however, be prepared to suffer the consequences.
For a quick and easy, or perhaps down and dirty, look at where Google focuses its filters and the penalties it enforces, take a look at The Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors provided by the website Search Engine Land.