If you spend any time paying attention to the SEO world, you know that Google occasionally comes out with significant changes to their search algorithm. Often they get named after animals, with Penguin and Panda being the most famous. The industry tends to hear about these big updates and then hold our breath on the day they come out to see if our client or are own sites slip in the rankings. Even white hat SEO’s like myself that follow the rules know that sometimes Google kills an ant with a sledgehammer and legitimate work gets devalued because the black hat folks push the limits and abuse certain ranking factors. Therefore to punish these people, they sometimes have to draw that line somewhere that can deevalue legitimate work.
With all that being said, a year or so ago Google came out and said they will no longer have these big updates, but that updates are an ongoing and incremental thing. That makes sense as they tweak the algorithm. To Google’s credit, that may be how they see it, but we have still seen significant shifts in the past year on certain days such as the “Mobilegeddon” update and even this past weekend it appears there was something substantial. Google has come out and said the Panda algorithm, which addresses site quality and much of the spamming and breaking of the rules, is now baked in to the core algorithm, so there will no longer be big Panda updates.
So a lot of this is semantics and a lot of it comes from the fact that many updates probably take place that aren’t as noticeable, but that we tend to name the big ones. Google is constantly trying to get better or at least update how they do things. Whether it is better or not is up for debate. For example, this year they seemed to shift the way they handle local listings help for Google partners, and it is definitely not better. However, as they make these regular algorithm updates we are going to notice some more than others, and may give them a new name. With Panda it is just a matter of making sure you are doing things the right ways and following the rules as Panda is always getting better at punishing the cheaters.
The industry has also been waiting for the next big Penguin update, which Google has actually discussed by name, even though they say they aren’t doing these any more. Many expected it at the end of 2015, and then moved on to January 2016. There are thoughts that the changes this past weekend may have been Penguin but others say it isn’t. We will keep an eye on it.
For those unfamiliar, Penguin is all about punishing bad links. Many sites get manually penalized and try to recover and wait for the next Penguin to get them out of trouble, so these updates are very important and I can see the value of announcing dates for it, as many are relying on that, if they have been caught in trouble. However, if that is the case, why tell us there are no more specific updates. Penguin seems like something that may continue to happen. Some say that this next version will make it live and constant, so there will no longer be a need for future ones. However, those that break the rules, in my opinion, probably should have some defined time in the penalty box. I’m sure Google has thought of that too and can probably even force a time period of penalty.
With all that being said, whether updates have names or not, they keep happening, and we need to keep following the rules and not try to outsmart Google, because they do this every day and invest a lot of time and resources. We can adjust to shifts in priority, such as the thought that links may lose value or that local NAP information may increase in power. This is what SEO’s are paid to stay on top of. It all can be confusing, but if you have a good trustworthy SEO, like me, you can make sure you are ahead of the curve. For now, stay tuned. We just had at least one core update and possibly Penguin to come.