Google are constantly tweaking and updating their algorithm, but it is their major updates that have had the most impact on SEO copywriting. Over the last few years, best practice for SEO copywriting has evolved as a result of these algorithm changes. In this blog we look at each of these updates and the impact they have had on content requirements for SEO.
Rolled out in 2011, Panda focused on removing low quality and duplicate content from search results, with around 12% of all search queries affected. Sites penalised were mainly content farms and directory sites that were essentially written to perform well in search engines rather than for the reader.
- Panda’s impact
Panda signalled the beginning of the end for low quality content, with tactics like keyword stuffing being forced out. Sites were penalised for “over optimisation” and articles containing no useful or unique content no longer ranked well, encouraging better, original online writing.
In 2012, Penguin was the follow up to the changes implemented in the Panda update. Penguin focused on removing sites that were manipulating the rankings through purchasing backlinks. Instead, sites with natural links from authoritative sources were rewarded. Over 3% of search results were impacted by Penguin.
- Penguin’s impact
With unnatural link building now frowned upon, the focus for copywriters is now to create valuable content that others naturally want to link to.
Released in 2013, Hummingbird signalled a big change in how search queries were answered. Up until this point, search results were shown based on matching keywords, with the position of the ranking determined a range of other factors including the number and authority of linking domains. With the launch of Hummingbird, all this changed, with Google moving their focus to semantic search and understanding user intent – displaying results on what they interpret the intent to be, rather than results that match the keywords.
- Hummingbird’s impact
Hummingbird signals a big change for SEO copywriting – the use of semantic search to interpret user intent has radically changed the results users will be shown. For example, users searching for “weather” will be shown a forecast rather than pages about the topic “weather”. This means copywriters need to be more in tune with user’s needs and create content that matches user intent and wider interests, rather than just exact keywords they are searching by.
Termed “Mobilegeddon”, Google’s mobile update is the most recent algorithm change, in effect from April 21st this year. This update puts the emphasis on sites being mobile friendly, with sites that are accessible and fast to load on mobile devices prioritised in the rankings.
- Mobilegeddon’s impact
Although the mobile-search algorithm has less direct impact on copywriting and more on responsive web design, it is still important to optimise content for people reading on mobile devices.
Although every update has impacted on SEO copywriting, arguably Hummingbird has had the largest impact. Although keywords are still important, the focus has shifted from including specific words to creating valuable, useful content that people want to read, share and link to.