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Google Updates: Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, Oh My!


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According to Compete PRO, 34.52% of the incoming traffic to sites in July 2014 came from That’s 1,403,774 out of the 4,065,881 visits to these sites from the U.S. that month. This presentation will explain how search works and give an overview of the more than 200 unique signals or “clues” that Google’s algorithms use today. It will also cover three major updates to Google’s algorithms, named Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. And it will take a look at the algorithms of the second largest search engine, YouTube.

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Google Updates: Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, Oh My!

  1. 1. Google Updates: Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, Oh My! Presentation by Greg Jarboe, President and co-founder of SEO-PR, to the MIT communications staff on Nov. 4, 2014
  2. 2. In addition, I’m the author of YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day • I’m also a contributor to: – The Art of SEO, – Strategic Digital Marketing, – Enchantment, – Complete B2B Online Marketing. • I’m profiled in Online Marketing Heroes. • I’m a writer for ReelSEO. • I’m an instructor at the Rutgers Business School and the content marketing faculty chair at Market Motive. • I’m a frequent speaker at industry conferences. Source: Greg Jarboe, President and co-founder, SEO-PR, Nov. 4, 2014
  3. 3. 41% of incoming traffic to the domain comes from Source: Compete PRO, September 2014
  4. 4. So, the MIT communications staff should understand how search works • This presentation will give you an overview of the more than 200 unique signals or “clues” that Google’s algorithms use. • It will also cover three of the major updates to Google’s algorithms, which are named Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird. • And it will take a look at the algorithms of the second largest search engine, YouTube (not Bing).
  5. 5. Google crawls trillions of pages, but doesn’t index every page on your sites Source: Google. How Search Works infographic
  6. 6. As users type a query, they’ll start seeing Google Instant predictions Source: Google. How Search Works infographic
  7. 7. Google’s ranking algorithms use 200+ signals and change 500+ times a year Source: Google. How Search Works infographic
  8. 8. There are billions of searches each day on Google and 16% of them are new Source: Google. How Search Works infographic
  9. 9. The major algorithmic changes that have had the biggest impact on search • Panda/Farmer — February 23, 2011 – A major algorithm update hit sites hard, affecting up to 12% of search results (a number that came directly from Google). Panda seemed to crack down on thin content, content farms, sites with high ad-to-content ratios, and a number of other quality issues. • Panda 2.0 (#2) — April 11, 2011 – Google rolled out the Panda update to all English queries worldwide (not limited to English-speaking countries). New signals were also integrated, including data about sites users blocked via the SERPs directly or the Chrome browser. • Panda 3.1 (#9) — November 18, 2011 – After Panda 2.5, Google entered a period of “Panda Flux” where updates started to happen more frequently and were relatively minor. Some industry analysts called the 11/18 update 3.1, even though there was no official 3.0. • Penguin — April 24, 2012 – After weeks of speculation about an “Over-optimization penalty”, Google finally rolled out the “Webspam Update”, which was soon after dubbed “Penguin.” Penguin adjusted a number of spam factors, including keyword stuffing, and impacted an estimated 3.1% of English queries. • Penguin 2.0 (#4) — May 22, 2013 – After months of speculation, the 4th Penguin update (dubbed “2.0” by Google) arrived with only moderate impact. The exact nature of the changes were unclear, but some evidence suggested that Penguin 2.0 was more finely targeted to the page level. • Hummingbird — August 20, 2013 – Announced on September 26th, Google suggested that the “Hummingbird” update rolled out about a month earlier. Hummingbird has been compared to Caffeine, and seems to be a core algorithm update that may power changes to semantic search and the Knowledge Graph for months to come. • Panda 4.0 (#26) — May 19, 2014 – Google confirmed a major Panda update that likely included both an algorithm update and a data refresh. Officially, about 7.5% of English-language queries were affected. • Penguin 3.0 — October 17, 2014 – More than a year after the previous Penguin update (2.1), Google launched a Penguin refresh. This update appeared to be smaller than expected (<1% of US/English queries affected) and was probably data-only (not a new Penguin algorithm). Source: Moz, Google Algorithm Change History
  10. 10. So, how do Google’s Panda updates impact the content that MIT creates? • Google won’t disclose the actual ranking signals used in its algorithms because it doesn’t want unethical search engine optimizers to game its search results. • But, Google Fellow Amit Singhal did share the kinds of questions that engineers ask themselves as they write algorithms that attempt to assess the quality of articles and pages as well as content and sites. Source: Amit Singhal, Google Fellow, “More guidance on building high-quality sites,” May 6, 2011
  11. 11. Below are some questions Google uses to assess the “quality” of an article • Would you trust the information presented in this article? • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature? • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors? • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis? • Does the article describe both sides of a story? • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced? • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic? • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious? • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book? • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics? Source: Amit Singhal, Google Fellow, “More guidance on building high-quality sites,” May 6, 2011
  12. 12. “So, how many Google engineers does it take to change your style guide?” A. The number one followed by one hundred zeros. B. Six. One to change it, two to write the blog post, and three to come up with the code name for the project. C. Three. Two to hold the ladder, and one to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Source: Greg Jarboe, President and co-founder, SEO-PR, June 30, 2011
  13. 13. So, how do Google’s Penguin updates impact the content that MIT creates? • Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines: – Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I'll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking. – Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links. • Creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of Google’s guidelines: – Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank. – Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. Source: Google, Quality Guidelines, Link Schemes
  14. 14. Creating good content pays off and the MIT communications staff creates that • The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. • Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it. Source: Google, Quality Guidelines, Link Schemes
  15. 15. Matt Cutts, head of Google Webspam team, says ‘linkbait’ can be white-hat • “I think of ‘linkbait’ as something interesting enough to catch people’s attention, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.” • “Especially if it’s interesting information or fun, it doesn’t have to have negative connotations.” • “Content can be both white-hat and yet still be wonderful ‘bait’ for links.” Source: Matt Cutts, Head of Google Webspam Team, “SEO Advice: linkbait and linkbating,” Jan. 24, 2006
  16. 16. So, how does Google’s Hummingbird impact the content that MIT creates? • Google started using Hummingbird about August 30, 2013, but no one noticed until Google announced the change on September 26. • “Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query – the whole sentence or conversation or meaning – is taken into account,” says Danny Sullivan, the editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land. Source: Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land, “FAQ: All About the New Hummingbird Algorithm,” Sept. 26, 2013
  17. 17. Ok Google, “Who is the president of MIT?” and “How old is he?” Source: Google Voice Search results, Oct. 31, 2014
  18. 18. This obliges us to think about great content, and not just about “content” • The fact that Hummingbird and 100% (not provided) were rolled out at almost the same time seems to be more than just a coincidence. • If Hummingbird is more about search entities, better information retrieval, and query expansion – an update where keywords by themselves have lost part of the omnipresent value they had – then relying on keyword data alone is not enough anymore. Source: Gianluca Fiorelli, Moz, “Hummingbird Unleashed,” Oct. 24, 2013
  19. 19. Now, let’s look at the algorithms of the second largest search engine, YouTube U.S. Search Queries (Millions) 3.475 0 5 10 15 Google YouTube Microsoft Yahoo 1.845 12.501 3.955 • YouTube became the second most-used platform for searching in August 2008. • Here’s the U.S. data from comScore qSearch for May 2014: – Google had 12.5 billion explicit core searches, – YouTube had 4.0 billion search queries, – Microsoft had 3.5 billion searches, – Yahoo! had 1.8 billion searches. Source: comScore Expanded Search Query Report, May 2014
  20. 20. 54% of the videos in Google universal search results come from YouTube • Videos appear in 65% of Google searches in the U.S. • 54% of these video results come from YouTube, about 5% from Vimeo, about 5% from Dailymotion, and no other video provider gets more than about 1%. • In addition, the average first video integration from YouTube was about two positions ahead of the average first position of any other provider’s video. Source: Searchmetrics, “Universal Search,: 2013 Analysis for Google US,” June 18, 2014
  21. 21. Here are my top 10 YouTube video SEO tips (freshness date: Nov. 4, 2014) • Conduct keyword research. • Optimize your content’s metadata. • Optimize your video’s watch time. • Create custom thumbnails for your videos. • Use annotations on your videos. • Use captions on your videos. • Create and optimize playlists. • Optimize your channel name, icon and description. • Promote your content with paid media. Source: Greg Jarboe, The SEM Post, “Top 10 YouTube Video SEO Tips,” Aug. 18, 2014
  22. 22. Hopefully, I’ve just explained the funny feeling that you’re being Googled