2014 saw Google make a number of significant changes to its algorithms, keeping webmasters working hard to retain and increase their positions within the world’s most dominant search engine. The year also saw Google increase its market share to 68%, further distancing itself from Bing who remained second with 19%.
With Google’s constant stream of updates aiming to provide searchers with the best results and experience, it came as no surprise when the third update to its Page Layout Algorithm rolled out. The update continued with the theme of limiting the number of ads viewable ‘above the fold’, intending to ensure more content-focused pages within its results, and ultimately improving user experience.
Known to frequently release regular updates, Google rolled out the Panda algorithm in May. First introduced in 2011, the aim of Panda was to demote or penalise websites that provided poor quality or duplicate content. The latest update Panda 4.1 is more precise, allowing small and medium sized websites to perform well, based on the quality of their content.
One of the most notable highlights of 2014 came in the form of Google Pigeon, a new algorithm released in July that focused on local search. The algorithm affected both web search results and Google Maps search; with the overall aim of the update to increase accuracy of results, incorporating hundreds of local ranking factors. This was the biggest local update since Venice, resulting in many local businesses rethinking their SEO strategy.
After concluding that the addition of Google Authorship was not as useful to users as had been anticipated and may actually be distracting users, Google removed the concept completely, eliminating authorship photos from listings, and no longer tracking data from content that incorporates the rel=author mark up. The change had very little impact in terms of SEO and ranking positions. However having previously promoted Authorship in 2012 and 2013, the back track by Google further highlighted the speed at which Google and the search industry moves.
(This how Authorship appeared in search results prior to the update).
HTTP to HTTPS
In an attempt to make the Internet more secure. Due to HTTP providing no data security to users, Google announced it would be using HTTPS as a ranking factor, encouraging everyone to move from HTTP and begin using it instead.
Predictions for 2015
With an estimated 30 major SEO updates released by Google during 2014, the above only highlights a selection of the key changes, and in some cases introductions, to the Google landscape. However, since the creation of Google in 1998, the search engine’s objectives have not changed. Additionally, the algorithms and signals used to order data have become more sophisticated, while the goal of providing the most relevant results for user queries has remained.
Looking back at 2014, and the ever-increasing use of mobile now accommodating for over 50% of searches, we can only expect that Google will put more emphasis into mobile-friendly websites; which is already taking place with the introduction of mobile usability reports in Webmaster Tools. Additionally, the loss of Authorship photos in 2014 could also be seen as a move by Google to make its mobile search results more user-friendly.
The introduction of the Hummingbird Algorithm, along with the rise in voice search, coincides to adopt a conversational approach to search. Ensuring that your website is full of unique and valuable content that provides answers to search queries rather than keywords, will not only result in high visibility in Google, but will undoubtedly ensure an increase in conversion.
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