The SEO community has spent the last few weeks waiting with interest and apprehension for the latest Google search engine algorithm update to be applied.
Webmasters were expecting a bolt-on fix, such as a Google Penguin update, to be applied to the search algorithms. Instead, they were surprised when the most recent update was confirmed by Google to be a core algorithm change.
What Is Google’s Core Algorithm?
Google uses a complex set of algorithms to determine the best websites to list on their search results page for any given key phrase.
The algorithm is really just a family of various systems and pieces of coding that crawl the Internet periodically to look for various ‘factors’. These might be page content, keywords, social recommendations or backlinks pointing to and from a page.
In reality, there are many different algorithms forming the bulk of Google’s core search factors. Collectively they aim to provide Google’s users with a positive search experience.
Panda and Penguin
Periodically, Google applies some add-on updates which occur in conjunction with the existing core Google search engine algorithm. These can cause a major shift in search rankings for millions of websites.
Google Panda, for instance, was originally rolled out in February 2011, but there have been many Panda updates since then. The aim of Google Panda was to lower the rank of sites with poor quality content.
Similarly, the Google Penguin update hit the web in April 2012 and was in charge of reducing the ranking of websites that used spammy SEO tactics, such as belonging to link farms.
Ease Of Recovery From Bolt-On Fixes
Whilst bolt-on fixes, such as Panda or Penguin, have done a great deal to upset the apple cart for many site owners, their existence has been somewhat transparent.
The Google community has always been able to provide advice on why the updates have occurred and what webmasters can do to improve their ranking positions.
For instance, the Google disavow tool was made available which allows publishers to tell Google which links they want them to ignore as part of their quality control checks.
Core Google Search Engine Algorithm Updates Cause Industry Confusion
However, the recent core update is a different story altogether. Searchmetrics Top 100 Websites by SEO Visibility reports a 50% change in the sites that are listed in their top flight.
Gary Illyes from Google has confirmed on Twitter that the recent fluctuations in rankings are due to a core Google search engine algorithm update rather than a Penguin or Panda reincarnation.
Other news from the Google camp suggests that Panda and Penguin have now been merged into the core Google search engine algorithm family. This is because Google is finally satisfied that they work adequately enough not to require further experimentation.
The problem with this for SEO experts is that there is a lack of information given to webmasters when there’s an update to the core Google search engine algorithm.
It is also much harder to track what is happening as core updates don’t usually follow a particular schedule. Some core algorithms use continuous crawl data and others have their own fetch systems.
There are also variations on a global scale depending on how long it can take to roll out a piece of code change. If a website loses its ranking, it may take webmasters a while to analyse what has gone wrong before they can try to fix it.
Does this mean the end of Google’s bolt-on fixes?
Probably not. Google will always need a method of trialling out their new search quality experiments.
Watch this space to see what Google hits the SEO community with next, whether it be a core update or a new and improved style of bolt-on.
About the Author
Danny Hall is the Co-Director of Freelance SEO Essex, a leading SEO company in the UK. Danny has developed a specialty over the years in technical SEO, by incorporating stylish design and quality content into his work.
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