It’s been a busy start to the year in the Google Zoo.
Google’s Penguin 4.0 is expected in March 2016, and in early 2016 Panda finally became part of Google’s core ranking algorithm.
Let’s have a quick look at what these infamous Pandas and Penguins mean for digital marketing and SEO - will it be sink or swim for your rankings?
Is 2016 a Big Year for SEO?
SEO is an industry that is constantly in flux, responding and adapting to algorithm changes and consumer tastes.
Google's recent changes to how it displays ads, removing them from the right side of the search page, sparked off furious debates on possible SEO ramifications just a few weeks ago.
In SEO, you have to move fast and adapt to change.
Key SEO influencers have long been predicting more substantial changes in the SEO field, and it seems like so far 2016 is set to be a year for SEO transformation.
In terms of Google's objectives, we are sensing a need to further penalise Black Hat SEO techniques which it deems an unethical manipulation of search results, as well as tighten its on-page ranking factors to ensure the right sites are getting in front of the right users.
Pandas vs. Penguins
Panda and Penguin combined are two powerful Google algorithm weapons against low-quality sites and Black Hat SEO techniques.
Celebrating five years of Panda
Panda, first launched in February 5 years ago, is named after Googler Navneet Panda.
The Panda algorithm targets page quality and looks at the following metrics:
- Quality of Main/Supplementary Content
- On-Page Ads
- Human Effort (no spun content)
- Needs Met = User Behaviour on site
- Page Authority (endorsement by high authority links/backing by professional bodies)
The Panda 4.2 update was still being rolled out in October 2015 after its initial release in July; and in February 2016 Panda became part of Google’s core ranking algorithm.
This means that Panda is no longer seen as a separate ‘update’, but a stable part of the algorithm.
The Penguins are coming
Penguin 4.0 is expected in March 2016, after a few (foreseen) delays; this update will be all about getting people to clear up their backlink profiles and smarten their SEO acts.
As with the Hummingbird update back in 2013, Google doesn’t always announce updates until it has actually run and tested them first, so there's been plenty of speculation about the impending Penguin update.
The first Penguin update in 2012 was a huge game-change in the SEO world, and some people never recovered.
Recovery tips and advice flooded the web as people tried to flog their flailing SEO horse.
We imagine Penguin 4.0 will be just as big.
Penguin 4.0 will be rolled out in real time, which means rankings will immediately be effected. Black Hat SEO'ers beware!
How do I feed Pandas and Penguins?
Hint: they don’t like SPAM.
Google updates are complex, but generally all Google updates try to:
- Provide people with better information
- Produce faster and more precise search results
- Improve the user journey on the web
- Improve Google’s own ability to data-capture
Simple, right? Just give people what they want, have an informative site with quality content, and get some key influencers to point at your site.
To create a SEO-friendly site, you will need pages with quality content, authoritative links, and a user-journey on your site that encourages clicking.
Here are some key SEO pointers to help you keep the peace at the zoo:
1. Good, accessible content
- Well-written & quality content
- Easily crawled by Google bots (don’t let your CMS let you down here)
2. User-friendly content
- High levels of engagement, low bounce rates and exit rates
- A navigation system that encourages clicking
- Healthy internal (and external) linking
3. Natural external link profile
- No evidence of ‘dodgy’ link-building or undue manipulation of search engines
- Try to build links naturally and always maintain a diverse link profile
4. Page authority
- Links from high-authority, relevant sites
- Backing from professional bodies
- This Ofcom report from late 2015 found a third of all web browsing is now done on mobiles
How much should I be feeding them?
Don’t overstuff your poor Panda
Just following Google’s requirements blindly to the letter will not necessarily mean success.
Google doesn’t own the internet (yet).
Think about Google when writing and designing, but PLEASE don’t target your site at a Google bot.
Target it at a living, breathing human being.
Perfect Panda Feeding for SEO
Perfect Panda feeding for SEO is a dynamic partnership between writing content that people actually need and want to write, and making your site and content as visible and intelligible to Google as you can.
Don’t starve your Penguin
Don’t ignore the changing landscape of digital marketing either.
If you don’t move with the times, it can be very hard to recover rankings and achieve results.
Cheap shortcuts are just that: cheap shortcuts that won’t stand the test of time.
Don't try to trick your Penguin
Trying to trick your Penguin is probably a bad idea – it might just turn on you….
In all seriousness, it’s probably best to avoid the most flagrant search engine manipulation methods.
Who needs to be worried?
As Penguin 4.0 launch date approaches, white-hat SEO marketers can collectively rejoice.
White Hat SEO marketers haven’t got anything to be afraid of - no penalties for dodgy link-building for us!
Working in a digital agency using ethical SEO methods means that we can actually look forward to Google updates like these, allowing us to see the results of our quality SEO practices.