What good is a website if it cannot be found in the search engine result pages (SERPs)? I remember being so proud when I built my first website more than 15 years ago. Soon after its completion, I searched Google for my new site. I searched and searched and, finally, there it was at position 314. How many people do you know that browse Google search results to the 30th page? Right, no one unless they’re a green webmaster.
Thousands of articles have been researched and written about search engine optimization (SEO) and how to optimize a website in order to achieve high rankings. Landing a place in the coveted top three positions in Google requires skill, knowledge and experience. Oh yeah, it also requires perseverance and patience. Fifteen years ago it was fairly simple to achieve top rankings. Acquire links, links and more links. Most articles about SEO back then simply touted the importance of keywords in the domain name, placing the most important keywords first in the title tag and acquiring more and more backlinks.
Today, I work at Webolutions, a Denver SEO company, and achieving top rankings is not so simple. Over the years, Google has continued to modify its search algorithm in order to deliver improved (meaningful) results to its users.
Quick History of Major Google Algorithm Updates
1. February 2011 – Panda Update
Google’s Panda update was initially released in early 2011 and has reportedly had 24 or more updates over the years. Essentially, Panda placed greater emphasis on quality content and began focus on poor quality and unnatural link schemes implemented by many websites to manipulate search engine rankings.
Google’s Matt Cutts Video About Panda Update
Matt Cutts Covers Qualities of a Good Website – Historical Perspective from 2011
2. April 2012 – Penguin Update
Google’s Penguin algorithm update, released in early 2012, continued focus on improving search results by devaluing poor quality and unnatural backlinks. Approximately 65% of websites were impacted by the Penguin update.
Learn More About Google’s Penguin 1.0 Update
May 2013 – Google’s Penguin 2.0 Update
3. September 2013 – Hummingbird Algorithm Update
Google’s Hummingbird update was implemented in fall of 2013 in an attempt to move toward recognition of conversational type language to achieve an understanding of the meaning behind words. Google said the Hummingbird update pays attention to each word in a query to understand the meaning of the sentence, rather than simply keywords. The meaning or context of a page is considered more in totality than simply keyword(s) density.
Matt Cutts – Discusses SEO, Hummingbird and Other Ranking Factors
4. July 2014 – Pigeon Algorithm Update
Google’s Pigeon update, released in summer 2014, focused on improving users local search results to be more relevant by changing the distance and location ranking parameters.
Impact of Google’s Pigeon Update on SEO
The article referenced in the video is found here: Factors Affecting Pigeon – A 5,000 Page Case Study
Quick Video Recap of SEO Ranking Trends in 2015 from Google’s Matt Cutts
What to Expect for SEO in 2016
1. Mobile Optimization – Optimizing Websites for Smartphones, Tablets and Other Mobile Devices
In 2015, Google confirmed that mobile searches surpassed desktop search volume. Google has been consistent with its approach toward continuous improvement of its search results. Today and into 2016, the improvement in Google’s rankings will focus on delivering websites that are responsive (change their layout depending upon the device being used) and quick.
As more individuals use their phone to search Google, businesses must ensure their website is fast and mobile friendly. Failure to make a website responsive, will place an organization at a competitive disadvantage.
2. More Precise Local Results
As indicated above, the use of mobile devices for search, particularly local search results, has been steadily on the rise and now surpasses desktop search volume. In response to the majority of mobile searches for local results, like “Italian restaurants near me” or “closest car wash,” Google will continue to focus efforts on delivering accurate, meaningful results based on the user’s precise location. Rather than delivering results that are simply city related, as has been the case, local results will be honed even more to show more relevant local neighborhood and street results.
3. Content on Social Media More Readily Indexed
Google has recognized for years the importance of social media as an indicator of social trends and authoritative websites providing useful, shared content. One has likely begun to see in Google’s search results citations from Facebook and Twitter. In 2016, additional social platforms will become more heavily indexed and social posts will become more prominent, subsequently, blurring the lines between web pages and social media.
4. Mobile Apps Will Likely Play a Greater Role in Rankings
Google has been indexing mobile apps for years. As the use of mobile devices continues to rise, so too will the use of mobile apps. Google, therefore, continues to see the increased value of apps and the information they provide. Look for mobile apps to become more important within Google’s search results.
5. Video Content Reach and Engagement
As technologies continue to improve, we’ve seen greater use of video on websites and in advertising. As attention spans continue to decline and apps like Vine, Periscope and Snapchat encourage the use of video, acceptance of video, including video advertising, will continue to rise. Many project that the ROI of video advertising will outpace other forms of advertising. Google is now experimenting with video advertising placement among search results. The use of video on a regular basis will become even more critical for business marketing and branding.