google-2013How the 2013 Google Algorithm Changes Have Affected the Way the Search Engine Works

In 2013, the search engine giant Google released algorithm update after update after update. The most notable being Panda, Penguin and the recently released Hummingbird. Because there have been so many dramatic changes in the way the search engine finds and compiles data, many smaller business owners and webmasters are worried about how the updates will affect their online businesses. If you’re worried about the new Google Algorithm Changes, keep reading to get an idea of how these changes will affect your search engine results and the traffic to your site if you have an online web presence.

Panda Updates

In early 2013, Google made several updates to its Panda algorithm. These changes were designed to weed out sites containing low-quality, mass-produced content and to reward those that published regular, relevant content with a higher search engine ranking. These Google algorithm updates prompted the search engine to give high-priority to content that was factual, thorough and unique. It also “punished” weak, biased content, or sites that were ad-saturated or whose written content was irrelevant to the subject matter of their site. The most highly-affected by this change were so-called “content mills” that sold or published weak, biased and non-authoritative content to online businesses. This included article directories such as Amazines, ArticleBase and EzineArticles; which were commonly used in SEO for contextual back link building.

Panda had a huge impact on eCommerce websites. Over 60 percent of small to mid-sized eCommerce sites saw a n0table drop in traffic and rankings. Much of this can be attributed to the reselling of goods; where product descriptions are simply copied from the manufacturer site and reproduced on several other online stores. Sites who took the time to write unique product descriptions and who regularly published high-quality material, especially material that was linked to authoritative sources, probably were’nt much affected by the change.

A quick way to see if you’re copy or product descriptions are unique is to use the Chrome Browser, highlight a paragraph of text and then control click on that text and select “Search Google for. . .” See the screenshot below.

check duplicate copy

The following screenshot shows a sampling of many different eCommerce sites using almost exactly the same product description (there are literally dozens of result pages).

duplicate copy results

Penguin Unveiled

The Penguin algorithm that was unveiled in May of 2013 was meant to hit spam-filled sights even harder than the Panda update. In-depth, knowledgeable content and quality backlinking are now favored even more highly by the search engine. Obviously, this change has had a huge impact on search engine optimization and webmasters who built their websites according to the old rules. In the years past in many ways links were links and for many the goal was simply to get as many as possible. Well, that philosophy has come back to bite the many.

Here is a quick summary of things you should stop doing if you haven’t already:

• Don’t submit your site to a ton of directories
• Don’t ever hire link builders on
• Don’t use article submission services
• Don’t hire Forum Posting services
• Don’t use blog commenting services
• Don’t use press releases for anchor text links

When you check out SEO service providers that will seem like a pretty big list of don’ts; so what the hell do you focus on? Focus on building your brand by producing authoritative subject matter and reinforce your brand through social media networking which is now more important than ever.

If you have spent the past few years building links from directories and low quality articles and such, now would be a good time to get acquainted with, webmaster tools, and the Google disavow tool.


In September, Google announced the biggest change to it’s algorithm since 2009. This latest algorithm update, called Hummingbird, is designed to move away from single-keyword searches and instead put focus on longer, multi-word and sentence-based search engine queries. Much of the reasoning behind this change is that smartphone users account for a huge portion of online traffic, and those using mobile devices are much more likely to type an entire question into the search bar or even speak their query out loud . The influence of how mobile device owners use their tablets and smartphones is huge–according to experts, mobile devices will overtake PC’s and laptops as the most frequently-used web-connected devices in as little as 2 years.

Encryption Changes

Although not technically an update, Google also announced this year that all keyword data would be encrypted. This makes it harder for online marketers and webmasters to gauge and study keyword data for their business. Google’s reasoning behind this encryption isn’t well-known, though many speculate that it was a reaction to the NSA spying scandal that came out in the news earlier in the year. While it will make analyzing keyword data more inconvenient, there are still many tools available for marketers to use. Interestingly enough, PPC campaigns won’t be affected by the full-scale encryption, using Adwords is an excellent way to build and analyze keyword data.

How These Changes Could Affect You

If you are a webmaster or have an online business, these algorithm changes probably have affected you to some extent already and could have a huge impact on the Google ranking of your eCommerce website. Many people believe that these changes were made to favor those business that used Google Ad Words on their site. Others criticize that the changes will alienate small and medium-sized online companies and instead give precedence to huge companies like Amazon and eBay. Many businesses have noticed that their page ranking on the search engine has dropped significantly. While it’s unclear yet whether these changes will ultimately be good or bad for online businesses, it is clear that many will need to revamp their sites to accommodate the new way Google technology is performing searches. Focusing on social networking, high-quality web content and authoritative links should help many websites bounce back from the initial dive they may have taken when these algorithm changes were unveiled. Google also offers many tools for webmasters on its site that are designed to help people wade through the changes.

The Google Panda & Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm updates are sure to affect the results of a search engine query and the way online business optimize their sites. While the long-term repercussions for online businesses are still unclear, it is certain that many will have to revamp their online marketing strategy to satisfy the new preferences of these changes. If you have an online business and you’re worried about the changes, use the tools Google has made available on its webmaster forum. For now, this seems to be the best way for confused marketers and business owners to improve their page rankings and learn the ins-and-outs of the new system.