Google Algorithms

Updates: Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird


Have the number of people visiting your site dropped all of a sudden? Do the numbers tend to fluctuate? Or have you received warnings of unnatural links? As you probably already know, you may have been hit by one of Google’s algorithm updates Panda and Penguin being the most famous, and Hummingbird the most recent (an overhaul rather an update).

Google have introduced hundreds of these over the years and some of the

biggest have turned the SEO world upside down, generating thousands upon thousands of words of debate and comment.

What this post aims to do is summarise how these changes has affected (or should affect) local business’s web strategies.

NB As readers as well as content producers, we all know what we want to find online is good content these aren’t just for the benefit of search engines Your business will benefit from the commandments because people will enjoy looking at your and keep coming back. Hell, maybe even buying something from you!

Panda Overview

This important update first hit Europe in April 2011. With it, Google attempted to crack down on the rubbish content that was, frankly, making the web a boring place to be at the time. Content farms were its main targets websites who had bibles-worth of meaningless content, created only to push their websites higher in Google’s search rankings.

Panda Commandments

Thou shalt not copy content from other sites.

That includes scraping, ripping or any other black hat techniques. If you’re having problems with plagiarisation yourself, here are 7 tips and tools to stop it happening.

Thou shalt not write thin content.

Here’s Google’s definition of thin content in case you’re wondering. Providing rich, quality content that people will spend a bit of time on will help increase your ROI (return on investment) and lower your bounce rate (the number of people leaving your site after viewing only one page).

Thou shalt not keyword-stuff your content.

Keyword density used to be all the rage and we’ve all seen sites with unreadable text. More often than not the reason for this text was simply to provide lots of keywords that Google would latch onto. Google penalizes sites for this content now, so there’s no point doing it.

Thou shalt create content aimed at the people who are likely to land on it.

The relevance and context of content is much more important than the number of visitors it brings in. For instance, a dental surgery may attract a lot of visitors with a post about cute cats in tutus, but those people won’t hang around to read posts on root canal work.

Penguin Overview

The Penguin update targeted unnatural, suspicious-looking link profiles. Up until then, unscrupulous companies were manipulating their search rankings by buying links to their site, and sites with links from very low quality sites were doing better than they should as a result. The quantity of links they had was helping them move up the search engine results, rather than the quality of those links. That changed after Penguin.

Penguin Commandments

Thou shalt not encourage links with overly optimised anchor text.

The reason being, Google likes to see a natural link profile. Interested websites are more likely to link to you using your company’s name or the title of your В article, rather than a nicely search engine optimised piece of text. Check your backlink profile on Majestic SEO.

Thou shalt not encourage links from sites not relevant to your own content.

Only people interested in the kind of content you offer are likely to link to you, so if the dental surgery receives links from a porn site, Google goes Caught you!

Thou shalt not over-optimise your web pages.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t optimise them  just that unscrupulous and not very good SEOs have gone overboard with these practices.

Thou shalt not receive lots of links all at once.

A website that hasn’t been doing terribly well in attracting links, then all of a sudden brings in a hundred all at once may well be buying them or using some other nefarious method. Unless of course it’s a website that’s invested in a piece of fantastic content that’s been shared here there and everywhere. A pattern of links gained slowly but surely over time looks more natural.

Thou shalt brand thy business to the hilt

Branding includes everything from targeting your message and being consistent with your business’s voice, to networking on social media, to making good use of a logo.

Hummingbird Overview

Precise and fast is what Google calls its new Hummingbird algorithm. Whereas Panda and Penguin were updates to the existing algorithm, Hummingbird is a big wholesale replacement of the old one. That doesn’t mean that Penguin and Panda are obsolete the principles behind them have been incorporated into Hummingbird.

It’s early days yet and there will be more updates coming to Hummingbird over the coming months. Here’s an amalgamation of the best theories on working with Hummingbird.

Hummingbird Commandments

Thou shalt not panic.

It’s a major overhaul yet no-one’s died “ SEOs didn’t even notice it happened (Google announced its existence a month after it arrived). Although Google is a moneymaking business whose main aim is make a profit, searchers will desert it if doesn’t actively try to seek out the most relevant content on any given topic. If you provide that content and share it where you can, you’ll be seen.

Thou shalt keep providing excellent content that’s aligned with the intent of your visitor.

Google is all about intent these days. Search for will I need an umbrella tomorrow on Google and you’ll be provided with a weather forecast. Google has learned to work out what the customer actually needs even if they don’t ask for it in the normal search engine way, eg weather forecast London. Put yourself in the mind of your potential visitor and customer and decide what their intention is when they ask for something.

Thou shalt find ways of search engine-proofing your site so you don’t have to worry about algorithms.

Find other ways of getting traffic to your site so that you’ll be shielded to an extent from the vicissitudes of Google’s algorithm-fiddling. Build an audience that you can rely on even when you aren’t getting shown in the search engine ranking pages by growing email lists and marketing to them, blogging, networking yourself and being active on social media.


Much of what Google is asking for is common sense. To appeal to your customers, you should have them in mind when you create your content. And that content that’s attracting your customers interactions and visits to your site is what will help you rank in Google. Our next web post is the type of content local businesses can use to get their customers attention.