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Today we are going to talk about some serious stuff: algorithms. And believe it or not, it involves a panda, a hummingbird, a pigeon and a penguin.
Nope, we are not taking you on a virtual zoo ride, despite what this extreme click bait title might have led you to think (sorry but not sorry, we need traffic on our website).
It might seem like a boring topic, but it’s both important and super interesting when you realize that Google’s algorithm is one of the most famous and powerful formula ever conceived.
Every year, this algorithm deals with more than 2 trillion searches. That is like 2 000 000 000 000 searches! Which means like 63 000 searches per second.
Quite a lot? Indeed, but it’s understandable when Google gathers 90% of the searches worldwide.
In short, this algorithm has the power to give or hide any piece of information to the whole world. It has such a huge power that Google is banned in China - one of the reasons being that the company refused to filter Search results. This shows how powerful the number 1 search engine is and by extension, how powerful algorithm is.
Now that you know why this algorithm is so important and how incredibly powerful it is, might want to know more about it.
Well, my friend, you’ve come to the right place. Grab a drink, sit back and read on.
Like we said in a previous article, the web is immense. And Google only knows a part of it.
According to some estimations, the deep web (the part of the web that is not indexed on classic search engines) is 400 to 500 times bigger than what is indexed in Google.
Firstly, Google runs a software called web crawler to discover publicly available pages on the Internet. It scrawls through the web, and analyze web-pages.
When this software finds a page, Google records a key signal (keywords, website freshness, etc.) and keeps track of it in the Search index. When the web page is being indexed, it is then
So, when you type keywords in your Search bar, it will not only scan through all the indexed pages that matches your keywords, but it will also rank them depending on various criteria. In fact, more than 200 of them.
How many times does this page contains your keyword?
Do the words appear in the title? In the URL?
Is this page from a quality website?
What is this page PageRank?
Depending on how well a web-page answers these questions, Google will display results in a different order on the search engine results page (also known as SERP).
All this happens in less than half a second. Impressive, right? What’s the magic behind it?
Well, this is not magic. This is algorithms.
Let’s start with a bit of history.
Google’s first algorithm, PageRank was developed by Sergey BRIN and Lawrence PAGE - hence the name, as a research project in Stanford University.
Fun fact is that it was patented by the university itself and Google only had the exclusive license rights. The company had to give the university 1.8 million shares to be allowed to use the patent.
For the record, these shares were sold in 2005 for $336 million.
But Google kept improving its algorithm to increase the accuracy of the searches and gives its user the best results possible. The algorithm also had to evolve for more practical reasons: cheaters.
Indeed, every algorithm has its weaknesses and can be cheated. For a long time, one of the cheat was to have the exact matching URL.
When typing in the search bar « best coffee in town » Google wouldn’t bring you to the coffees with the best reviews around the location, but to the website with the URL « bestcoffeeintown.com" which wasn’t necessarily a business located in the city of the users and which might just be an online coffee platform. So many websites, especially spams, were trying to get their URL matching keywords.
Another cheat was to buy links coming from other websites, redirecting to one website to increase its ranking on Google (it is called black hat SEO, but don’t worry, we’ll get back to it in another article).
Indeed, Google algorithms takes in consideration the amount of links directed towards your website (called backlinks) to assess its importance. So, the company had to include a tool to check the quality of these links and penalize the cheaters
« Don’t be evil » is Google’s oldest motto. It applies to them but also to its users and therefore Google decided to go hard on all the cheaters trying to fool the algorithms. Hence the need for updates.
Another reason why Google keeps updating its algorithm is that technology evolves and brings new possibilities. Now everyone has a smartphone, geo-tracking allows more accurate results and enhance user’s experience since Google knows where you are and can adapt the results accordingly.
Hence another algorithm modification.
But what is the connection with our click bait pandas title?
Well, chill my friend, chill, we are getting there.
=A hummingbird to rule them all
Since the company is obsessed with optimizing user’s experience and improving accuracy, Google keeps adding filters, tools and pieces of algorithms to the main one. This is when pandas come into the game.
Google has made four major updates recently, and we will explain to you how each one of them affects Search results.
Added to the main algorithm in 2011, Panda was developed to value quality content and to make sure this content was showcased first on the SERP. Basically, Panda set new rules on how to optimise a website on Google and 12% of the researches were affected by this new algorithm. Now, Panda is used to filter spams and everything that is added on a website without bringing any actual value like duplicated contents, plagiarism and contents with spelling mistakes.
Other criteria were added since this date. For the record, this update was not named after the animal, but after the name of the engineer who developed the technology necessary for this update: Navneet Panda.
Penguins might be cute creatures, but the one developed by Google is more like a super cop filtering the traffic: 2.3% of the searches were affected.
This update was designed to prevent poor backlinks.
Indeed, like we said earlier, it is possible to buy links pointing at your website to boost your ranking.
Problem is, now Penguin is watching and if he catches you, you’ll be drastically penalized.
Hummingbird is more than an update.
Just picture the algorithm as an engine: the previous updates were just like new devices added to the main engine to make it better. Hummingbird is a new engine.
Google engineers called this new algorithm hummingbird because it is supposed to be fast and precise… just like a hummingbird (now you get it).
The goal of this update is to understand users’ intentions behind their searches.
When you type « What’s the closest place to buy the iPhone 7 to my home? ».
Traditional search engine would focus on finding web-pages for « buy » and « iPhone 7 ».
Hummingbird will try to understand you and will where know your location is, if you had shared this information with Google.
With the booming of mobile devices, and the apparition of geo-tracking, new opportunities arose.
In 2014, Google launched the Pigeon update which takes into consideration the localisation of users when they do their search.
If I type: « best pigeon pies » it will show me all the places baking pies around me, without even having to mention my localisation.
This is the reason why Google My Business is mandatory for any business.
There are many more updates (Caffeine, Pirates, etc.) but we can’t talk about all of them since this article is already long enough.
If you want any info about them, don’t hesitate to send us a message and our team will be happy to share what we know with you!
Well first thing first, if you are the proud owner of a website you need to stay aware of all these evolutions if you want your website to stay on the top - or to reach the top.
One update can affect positively or negatively the number of visitors on your website.
If digital marketing is your job, you probably know all that. I’ll give you a break, you can skip this part.)
Problem is Google keeps its algorithms a secret. But it is known that there are a bit more than 200 criteria that the firm uses to rank websites.
We will write many articles about how to optimize your ranking - it is called SEO (Search Engine Optimization), to give you all the tips that we know.
But for now, we can give you three pieces of advice:
1. Stay aware
The algorithm is constantly evolving and you need to know what is going on in order to stick to Google’s criteria.
Here is one cool tool (enjoy the rhyme) to help you know what’s going on: Mozcast.
Just like a weather forecast, it will tell you if some big changes are occurring on the algorithm. The hotter and the stormier it gets, the bigger the changes are.
You don’t have any other choice: if you want to play the game, know the rules.
2. DON'T CHEAT
Some people are tempted to buy backlinks.
It is easy and cheap and it can work quite effectively in a short period of time.
However, the risks are getting higher and if Google catches you, you will be penalized badly on your website.
Unless you know exactly what you are doing, just don’t.
If you want to play the game, listen to the referee.
3. Chose quality over instantaneous
There are many techniques and tricks to help to improve your SEO.
However, the number 1 advice is to produce quality content, with the right keywords: it has to be original, not duplicated, nor copied from another website.
Start working on it and you’ll be just fine.
Now you know that Google Search deals with 63 000 searches per second.
And you know what Google algorithm is and you understood why Google is constantly updating it.
Congratulations, it’s a good start and you probably know more than 90% of your relatives. You can go and show off tomorrow during the coffee break at work.
You also know that SEO is not dead: it is constantly renewing itself and yes, it is getting more and more difficult to trick this algorithm.
You also know that quality is the main criteria and that quick paid solutions are not viable on the long run and they are risky.
Talk about it with your boss if he/she is tempted by evil voices. You might prevent him/her from making a huge mistake.
You also know that Google engineers are probably the coolest nerds ever. They have both the sense of humour and a vivid imagination when it comes to complex maths stuff.
Now you have learned all that, feel free to leave us a feedback and to send us some topics that you would like us to write about.
Technology, apps, marketing, SEO, social networks, we are open!
And if you need any advice on your SEO strategy, you can give us a call or send us a message, we will be happy to exchange ideas and tips.
 Danny SULLIVAN, "Google now handles at least 2 trillion searches per year", Search Engine Land, May 24th, 2016
 "White Paper: The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value" Volume 7, Issue 1: Taking License, August, 2001, The Journal of Electronic Publishing
 "How Search Works", Google Inside Search
 John KOETSIER, "How Google searches 30 trillion web pages, 100 billion times a month", Venture Beat, March 1st, 2013
 "How Search organizes information", Google Search
 Richard BRANDT, "Starting Up, How Google got its groove", Stanford Magazine Alumni,
 Sam SAVAGE, "Stanford Earns $336 Million Off Google Stock", RedOrbit, December 1st, 2005
 Danny SULLIVAN, "FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm", Search Engine Land, September 26, 2013
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