There’s been a Panda, a Penguin, a Pigeon, and maybe even a Hummingbird? As Google continues to roll out animal-themed algorithm updates, it can be difficult to keep it all straight. One day your SEO might be putting you at the top of Google’s front page, and then the next rollout is released and suddenly you’ll find yourself at the bottom of page 3. We’ve broken down all you need to know about SEO as of January 2015 so you can stay on top of the game.
It started with a Panda
Google’s Panda update in 2011 was designed to combat sites with poor-quality content. Sites that didn’t have enough content plummeted in the rankings, while sites with good content soared to the front page. These days, if a page on your site doesn’t have at least 250 words, Google isn’t going to display it in the top search results unless someone is searching for you specifically.
This update was the beginning of Google getting smarter. Quality content doesn’t just refer to amount–Google will be able to tell if visitors don’t find your content helpful by the bounce rate of your page. The bounce rate is how many times people come to your site and quickly hit the “back” button because it wasn’t what they were looking for.
Something else worth mentioning on the subject of content is keyword stuffing. This is when your content is heavily loaded with the keywords you want to be found for. For instance, if you’re a new home builder in Kansas City, you’re probably using the keyword phrase “new homes in Kansas City.”
Before Panda, you’d be able to write something like the example below and suddenly find yourself at the top of search results:
Looking for new homes in Kansas City? We build new homes in Kansas City. You’ll love the design of our new homes in the Kansas City area. Feel free to browse our available new homes located in Kansas City. And don’t forget, we’re your Kansas City new home builder.
If your content looks like this now, you’re in trouble. Google recognizes this as keyword stuffing and hates it. Seriously, your site will be punished.
Then there was Penguin
Penguin targeted sites with unnatural and paid backlinks. These are links to websites that are sprinkled all over the Internet in weird places, like comments on a blog post that’s not relevant to the content of the site, paid links (different from a Google Ad), and links on websites that have nothing to do with your industry.
This is basically an attack on spam. If you’re, say, going to a popular cooking blog or YouTube channel and pasting links to your website in the comments section, you probably want to stop doing that. Okay, you definitely want to stop doing that.
Then came Hummingbird, and keywords became irrelevant.
Yes, you read that right. Keywords are irrelevant. Hummingbird was designed to better understand the meaning behind search queries so that people don’t get frustrated when the top result returned on Google has nothing to do with the information they were looking for.
It used to be that Google would pull the specific words people used in a search query and return sites that had those specific words in their keywords data or text. For instance, a few years ago if you searched “Where’s the closest place to get a cheeseburger?” Google might have shown you a blog post in which the writer went on vacation and wrote that the closest place to get a cheeseburger was 20 miles away. Not helpful.
Now, with the Hummingbird algorithm, Google understands that words like “closest” and “place” mean that you’re looking for a physical location. It will look at “cheeseburger” and find businesses with physical addresses that say they sell cheeseburgers. That’s more like it.
While you still have the ability to enter keywords in your website meta data–the admin portion that visitors don’t see–it’s really not worth your time anymore. Google isn’t even looking at it. A better use of your time would be to take the necessary measures to help Google understand the meaning behind your business, that you are local to specific areas, and to have high quality content (that, yes, can and should contain some level of keywords and keyword phrases relevant to you!).
Along came Pigeon.
The latest major update from Google–we’re talking as of July 2014–is called Pigeon (thanks to MOZ), and it’s all about Local SEO.
Without diving into technical details, this update basically supports what Internet users have been doing for a while now, which is using their phones to look up business locations when they’re out and about.
Now, if a website represents a business with a physical address, and that website is optimized for Local SEO, when someone searches for that business’ keywords, the website has a bigger chance of popping up on page 1 of Google, especially in the new maps results section.
What this means for homebuilders
If you’re wondering if Google’s latest algorithm updates affect homebuilder websites, the answer is a resounding yes, a thousand times yes.
Gone are the days when homebuyers only consulted your website after they first heard of you through word of mouth. Today, the majority of homebuyers are beginning their home search on Google’s homepage. When someone searches “new homes in Kansas City” and your website doesn’t have local SEO, you’re not going to show up.
Want to test how real this is? Do a search right now on Google for new homes in your area and see where you rank among your competitors. Next, do a search for your business on Google maps to find out if Google understands yet that you’re a local business. Whether you show up or not, you’ll want to make sure that you create or claim a Google My Business page–this is a great place to start building some Local SEO for your website.
As always, Builder Designs is here to help you with SEO so that you can get more leads out of your website!