Google make two major algorithm updates — Panda and Penguin — that saw many a site plummet down the rankings, as they were penalized by the new rules.
This was because the changes were implemented in order to rank poor quality sites, such as content mills and link farms, down and give more weight to sites that produce quality content.
This is carried out by making changes to how Google’s spiders recognize a site, giving better rankings to sites with quality, well written content and social media engagement. For web professionals, this created something of a panic, as static sites that were not particularly well written and stuffed with keywords began to fail.
Penguin and Panda updates relied on a new set of rules and more complex algorithms designed to rank a site on a number of different factors.
Content: Google spiders can now tell if a site is badly written, with spelling and grammatical errors, lots of ads and bad quality links. This change is seen to be a welcome one for many SEO and digital professionals, as it immediately knocked poor quality article syndicates and content mills down the ranks, so that high quality could take their place and be more useful to searchers.
Freshness: the “freshness” of copy has become more important to Google than inbound links. This means that in order to compete on Google, it’s necessary to add new content often. The freshness ranking looks at 3 key areas: #1: Trending topics such as the Olympics or US election #2: Recurring famous events such as the Superbowl #3: How recently the content has been added.
Unique content: ever copied and pasted some content into a website to cut corners? Now it will also cut the site’s ranking. Original content is one of the most important aspects of determining position. Content containing unnatural links will also be penalized, so it’s important to ensure that links appear organically and are very relevant to the content. This is only going to become even more important as Google’s Author Rank takes off.
Social: as many of you will know, social is the new marketing and is a very powerful tool for SEO. Google now uses social in search results to determine just how useful a site is across the board. It’s important now for online marketers and SEO experts to include social, ensuring that all brand colors and logos are uniform across social channels and websites. Additionally, it’s important that the social presence is well managed; badly, bot-managed social will harm a site’s rankings.
Free from technical errors: this in particular is important for web professionals, and will no doubt knock a lot of blogging sites off the top perch. A site that has a sound architecture will perform better than a site which is built off templates, Flash, or is more than two years old. This means that code should be standards-based with valid CSS tags and tidy meta data.