Panda? Penguin? Hummingbird? A Guide To Feared Google's Zoo
It's believed that Google makes as many as, wait for it, 600 changes to its algorithms every year. That number is kind of shocking, especially considering the fact that we don't even hear about most of those changes.For example, right now, people are mainly worried by just three: Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird (plus their iterations).
So, what gives? What's behind this whole Google's zoo, and why should we care?
What's "An Algorithm" Anyway?
If you're craving a traditional boring definition then here it is. For the rest of us, let's just say that an algorithm is computer's way of figuring out the exact steps to take care of a given task. The task for Google is to figure out what pages should rank for what keywords, and in what order.
Back in the day, the Google algorithm was rather simple. In fact, all you needed to do in order to game it was stuff your site with various keywords and you could rank for virtually anything. Those times are gone for good. Nowadays, Google takes around 200 different ranking factors into account when calculating your site's place among its competitors.
So bringing it all together, an algorithm update happens when Google decides that they want to change the importance of those factors a bit. If the update is small and affects only a low number of searches, Google doesn't even bother to announce it. But when it's big, we get names like Panda, Penguin, or Hummingbird.
Depending on what a given algorithm update is aimed at, you might experience some fluctuations in your search engine rankings.
In plain English, if Google decides that your site is not up to par all of a sudden, you could lose the majority of your traffic over night. So those updates really do matter, and we should surely keep our fingers on the pulse here.
What Is The Panda Update?
![Panda Penalization - WooRank Blog]
In a sentence:
"Panda is about making sure that sites publishing low-quality content don't rank well in Google."
Sound a bit broad, I know, but this one sentence will actually help you to determine if you're going in the right direction with your site or not.
Now, what Google considers being low-quality content:
- Content that's thin. Either content that's too short, or not bringing value on the topic it tackles. In other words, it's content published purely for the purpose of getting one more page online.
- Content that's spun or repurposed. Content spinning is the practice of taking an article, replacing specific words, phrases, sentences with any number of alternate versions, and then republishing it as what appears to be a new piece of content.
- Content that's unreadable or purely keyword-driven. Mostly a problem with SEO content – content written with the intention to rank it in Google. It's often keyword-stuffed, which makes it hard to read, not to mention that it's also thin most of the time.
- Content that's duplicate. Taking content from other sites and publishing it on yours is a really bad idea. Setting the copyright issues aside, Google will quickly find the origin of the piece and devalue any duplicates.
Note. Panda is believed to affect whole sites, not just individual pages.
How To Stay Safe?
- Publish only well-researched quality content.
- Don’t publish ultra-short entries (below 200 words).
- Don’t copy anyone.
- Don’t keyword-stuff your content.
- Follow these steps.
- Don’t forget about mobile.
What Is The Penguin Update?
![Penguin Penalization - WooRank Blog]
In a sentence:
"Penguin is about devaluing sites that have built unnatural links to gain an advantage and inflate their position in Google."
Links are still incredibly important when it comes to building your position in the search engines. Although it's not as straightforward as it used to be a couple of years ago, links are still votes that one site gives to the other.
To some extent, the number of links you have (and the quality of those links) translates into your position in Google.
It's therefore not that surprising that a lot of people decided to start building links on their own, instead of waiting for other webmasters to link to them naturally (which is what Google expects from you).
Google didn't like that, so they've built Penguin to find and devalue those sites.
One other thing worth mentioning is the anchor text – the text that is the clickable part of a link. For example, if you take a look at this link: creating a mobile version of your website, the whole phrase "creating a mobile version of your website" is the anchor text.
Prior to Penguin, using optimized anchor texts was considered a good practice. For example, if I wanted to rank for "car insurance" then I would try convincing other webmasters to link to me with the exact phrase "car insurance" as the anchor text. With Penguin, it became clear that optimizing anchor texts is no longer a solution.
Note. Penguin is believed to affect whole sites as well, just like Panda.
How To Stay Safe?
- Don't buy links.
- Don't participate in any link exchanges.
- Don't participate in guest post networks like MyBlogGuest.
- Check your site through a tool like Ahrefs, discover all low quality links you currently have (there are always some), reach out to the owners of those sites and ask for the links to be removed.
- Stay away from unnatural links in general.
- As your last resort consider using the Disavow tool.
What Is The Hummingbird Update?
In a sentence:
"Hummingbird is about favoring websites that deliver answers to actual user questions."
Hummingbird is very different from the other two updates. Where Panda and Penguin targeted specific elements of the algorithm (content and links), Hummingbird has a more broad approach. In some way, it redefines the way Google works altogether.
For example, a couple of years ago, Google had no way to answer a question like "Where's the nearest tapas place to Plaça de Catalunya?" (using those exact words). The only thing Google was capable of solving was "tapas Plaça de Catalunya, Barcelona".
Hummingbird changed that. Now, Google has a better understanding of real-world queries that are not keyword driven, but instead, problem-driven.
It's therefore very difficult to give you any specific guidelines you could use to stay on Humingbird's good side. The only thing you can do is make sure that your content solves real problems – problems that people would talk about in real conversations with friends (just like the tapas example).
What To Do With This Knowledge
Google algorithm updates come and go. Actually, scratch that. They rarely go. Most of the time they come and stay. And they even get consecutive iterations (like Panda 4.0).
So what we really need to do is keep our finger on the pulse and update our websites whenever something significant comes from team Google. Just like when we had to re-evaluate our content when Panda hit, and then review our links when Penguin hit.
That being said, tools help too. For instance, to check the overall health of your site, you can go to Quick Sprout and use their main tool (free), or you can invest in some more advanced tools like WooRank or the aforementioned Ahrefs. Whatever you do, don't think that things will take care of themselves.