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Expert Feature: Google’s Menagerie of Animals Has Businesses Scrambling

Google’s menagerie of animals, Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird are new rules that have been put in place that may have some businesses scrambling to adjust their online marketing practices.


google's panda, penguin, hummingbird updates

It seems that Google has come up with a regular menagerie of animals lately.

What’s up with Google PandaGoogle Penguin and the latest, Google Hummingbird?

Have you heard of those?

As business owners, what do these critters have to do with us?

Is Your Business Invisible?

In my internet marketing classes, I often tell people that, “If you aren’t found on Google, your business is invisible.

The point is that nearly all of us use Google to search for businesses that we want to do business with.

If your business can’t be found for anything but your company’s name, then you’re invisible.

So what does that have to do with the Google “zoo”?

Google makes changes to their search engine algorithms every day. That’s a fact.

Keeping up with the changes can be a challenge for businesses that market online.

Every so often, Google comes out with major changes that are given a name.

These changes cause a lot of online chatter, and discussion about how to adjust our online marketing activities.

Are these changes good or bad? Well, that depends on your perspective I suppose.

Google’s goal is to provide useful information to those who are searching, and each of these changes have been designed to give the searcher a better result.

It can however, make it more of a challenge for online marketers if we don’t toe the line that Google tells us.

Google Panda

This was the first salvo at online “cheaters” who have been working hard (and winning) by building poor quality content to get listed on the search engines.

Things like keyword stuffing (repeating keywords in the content or even hiding keywords) is a technique that yields low-quality content for the reader, just for the sake of getting rankings.

There have been several Panda updates since the original February 2011 and they’ve done a good job at culling out the poor quality content that had dominated the search results before that.

What does it mean for us?

Create great quality content that is useful for our readers.

Stop trying to figure out the “formula” to get rankings, and just produce great, useful, readable content that gives value to the reader.

Make sure you follow Google’s Quality Guidelines for great content.

Google Penguin

A little more than a year after Panda was released, Google Penguin came out.

We’ve been long told that links are the way to getting to the top of the search engines.

If someone links to your article from their website, then that’s a “vote” in your favor.

So if some links are good, more must be better, right?

Unfortunately, this created content farms that spewed articles on thousands of sites, with keyword links coming back to the target website – thus cheating the system.

For a long time, this worked.

However, Google’s Penguin updates have penalized a lot of websites that have hundreds or thousands of artificially produced links coming from poor content.

Now there are all kinds of folks who are needing to undo the damage caused by all this artificial linking, and it’s a lot of work.

Google has now de-emphasized keyword links on external sites.

What does it mean for us?

Artificially inflating our rankings by manipulating the links on the ‘net no longer works, and can actually penalize a website.

The best way to see this is by getting your website set up in Google Webmaster Tools and making sure there are no bad link reports in there.

Again, by creating high quality content, people will naturally link to you.

This is what Google is looking for, not artificially created links.

Google Hummingbird

This update was just named recently, but has actually been in place for the last month.

It’s not intended to penalize “bad” websites.

It’s a whole new way of delivering search results for semantically related search terms.

It’s called “hummingbird” because it’s meant to be quick and light.

By delivering better search results for more “conversational” search terms, it gives the searcher a better experience.

The Old Way

So searching something like “What’s the best Mexican restaurant near me?” in the “old” way would have focused on the words “Mexican” and “restaurant” to deliver the results.


The New Way

Hummingbird takes the entire sentence into context to try to determine the meaning. If you then search “How far away is it,” Google understands that you’re referring to the previous result.

This has huge implications for mobile searchers on their smart phones and even using Google Chrome’s voice search (have you noticed the little microphone in the search bar?).

What does it mean for us?

Making sure your content has semantically related words and great content is going to win the day.

The bottom line for all of these “animals” is to make sure you generate useful, readable, shareable content that readers will love.

Stop focusing on trying to “engineer” the search results because in the long run, quality wins.


Image created using photos from: Katie Tegtmeyer,  George Lu, & Martin Pettitt

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About Thomas Petty (47 Articles)
Thomas Petty is a Digital Marketing Trainer at Thomas Petty Digital Marketing Solutions. He is a popular blogger and speaker and has trained businesses from around the world in digital marketing, search engine optimization and WordPress.