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It was Google who introduced us to search engine optimisation (SEO) with a set of guidelines on how we can optimise our websites to rank better on Google search engine results pages.

Effective search engine optimisation makes a website more crawl-able and individual pages easier to find. This is done by web crawlers that search the internet and visit website site maps. A web crawler or ‘spider bot’ is an internet “robot” that systematically browses the World Wide Web for the purpose of indexing the web – similar to reading the contents page of a book.

If you don’t have a site map, get one because Google doesn’t know you exist.

SEO includes keyword research to ensure that words commonly used to search for your business are included in your website copy.  As a result of this, black-hat SEO became quite rampant and Google stepped in to stop users from employing unethical practices that boost website rankings abnormally.

Enter Google Panda in February 2011: This development was intended to stop websites with ‘poor quality’ content from working their way into Google’s top search results. This means that Google has put an automatic process in place that ranks ‘higher-quality’ websites near the top of the search results and lowers the ranking of ‘poor or low quality’ websites.

One of the black-hat SEO methods used in this case is called keyword stuffing which skews search engine results through the over-use of certain keywords on a website page. In March 2012, Google updated Panda to deploy an “over-optimisation penalty“, making it a content quality filter and thus safeguarding the user experience.

Google Penguin was first announced in April 2012. It was aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by manipulating the number of links pointing to the page so that they rank higher. Such tactics are commonly described as link schemes, another black-hat SEO technique. Penguin was another Google intervention introduced to safeguard the user experience.

Google Hummingbird was launched in September 2013. The purpose of Hummingbird was to better, and more accurately, answer the long complex queries it was receiving, particularly now that users were increasingly using their smartphones for search. The aim of this new algorithm was to give context to the search questions as opposed to serving responses to individual keywords as users began asking Google more and longer questions.

Google’s goal with all these ranking changes or updates is really to help searchers find websites that offer a great user experience that meets their informational needs every time you are on Google search.

Brands will benefit from ranking in the top five on search results pages as consumers (users) have trusted Google for fifteen years to point them in the right direction.