Just like a car engine, Google’s search engine or ‘algorithm’ is made up of many parts. It’s purpose of course is to deliver rapid, high quality, spam-free and relevant results to your search queries. In 2013 Google gave the current version of their search engine a name – ‘Hummingbird’.
Just like car engine parts, Hummingbird parts are often updated or replaced in order to improve performance. Here, we will look at some of Hummingbird’s main parts, their recent updates, and how they can help – or hinder – the visibility of your website on Google search.
Probably Google’s earliest ranking factor, PageRank has enjoyed many many updates over the years. Essentially it looks at the links from other websites coming into your site, their relevancy and their weight (based on Google’s rating of the linking website). In the past, more links meant higher rankings, but now it is not so simple. Links from poor quality websites can actually harm your ranking thanks to updates such as Penguin.
Relatively new, RankBrain has been spoken of by Google as the ‘3rd most important ranking signal’ after content and links. RankBrain is significant because it uses a form of machine-learning, almost ‘artificial intelligence’, to serve up search results. For example, if you entered ‘trainers’ as a search query, RankBrain would try to decide on whether you were searching for ‘nike trainers’ or ‘personal trainers’. Google have said to webmasters that ‘you cannot optimise for RankBrain’, just advising us to concentrate on writing high quality content.
In 2015 Google began hinting that websites that had been upgraded to ‘SSL’ or ‘HTTPS’ would be ranked higher by Hummingbird. We now know that this has been implemented, with some of our own clients’ websites enjoying great success. Another common sense move, as low-quality businesses and spam operations are less likely to invest the time and money to upgrade their websites to this specification. Any website can easily be upgraded to SSL, we charge from £75.00 per year.
Google has long judged websites on their page-loading times. A slow loading website will encourage visitors to click away and is overall a poor user experience. Check our information here on PageSpeed, how you can test it, and how you can fix it.
The Panda update was introduced in February 2011 with the intention of preventing websites with ‘poor quality’ content from appearing high up in search results. Panda is regularly updated to catch out new sites and upgrade those which have been corrected.
Sites with ‘thin content’ (ie. little or no content’), sites with duplicate content and sites with machine-generated (spam or ‘spun’) content are amongst those targeted by Panda.
Panda is a continuous update, but one that takes months to roll out each cycle fully.
Google launched Penguin in April 2012 as a direct attack on those sites deemed to be spamming search results. It looks at websites which are obviously paying for links from other sites or obtaining low quality links from link-farms. If a site is rightly downgraded by Penguin, certain steps have to be taken to repair and recover.
Penguin, according to Google, is a regular update but with no known timelines.
The Payday update was launched in June 2013 in order to hit “very spammy websites and queries” connected in particular with the Payday Loan, Casino, Porn, Accident Claim and Pills markets.
Payday has had 3 major updates so far.
Long-rumoured, Google’s Pigeon update rolled out in the UK mid-2014. Pigeon was designed to provide more useful, relevant and accurate search results for location based searches. This can be seen working in both Maps Search and Web Search across Google. For the first time, results from locality-based directories with review features such as Trip Advisor and Yell started to help your local business website. It also became imperative to make sure your local business was correctly listed on Google Maps and had a Google+ My Business page.
Top Heavy made it’s entrance in 2012, engineered to prevent websites that were ‘top heavy’ with advertisements from ranking highly. Google explained that sites which obscure content with adverts or otherwise make it difficult for users to read content because of advert placement will be downgraded.
Searches from mobile devices now make up the larger percentage of online searches. Google’s Mobile-Friendly update enhances the ranking position of websites deemed ‘mobile-friendly’ when a search is done from a mobile device. Very much common sense. Google encourages the use of it’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool for you to check if your site is ‘mobile-friendly’.
Google stated this week that AMP is ‘going to be big’. AMP is the ‘Accelerated Mobile Project’ and serves slimmed-down and fast-loading versions of your pages and posts almost instantly to mobile devices. Websites that are AMP compatible are going to score higher on mobile search.
Introduced in August 2012 in the USA and then rolled out worldwide, DCMA Filter prevents sites with many copyright infringement reports, as filed through Google’s DMCA system, from ranking well.