Google’s Algorithm Updates : Panda, Penguin, Pigeon, and Hummingbird. What all internet marketers need to know.

It is online marketing 101 that you have to stay updated and keep up with the ever-changing trends and upgrades. Most SEO services providers dread the updates to Google’s algorithms. This fundamentally means that you have to work on your website again and make it better for the upgraded algorithm so that it gets a nice spot on the ranking list.

  • Surprise Fact: Google makes changes to its algorithms almost 600 times a year, almost twice a day. Only some of the major changes are announced and explained by Google.

Google has sent out numerous updates in the past years that have had a considerable effect on the websites. As an internet marketer, it is vital to know about these updates. Here are the four of the core algorithms you need to know about:

Google Panda

Launched: 23rd February 2011



When it was first launched, it was unnamed and people started calling it Farmer Algorithm. Why? Mainly because it affected content farms which are basically websites that take or rather steal information from multiple sources to create better and bigger content in order to rank better. It was later named Panda by its inventor Navneet Panda.

The work of this algorithm is to rank the websites with good content higher and to remove websites with copied content or low-quality content from top search pages. The thing that makes Panda so formidable is that it does not deal with pages; it measures quality for a whole website and declares it as a low or high-quality website based on overall content. In some scenarios, it limits few sections of a website because of low-quality content.

Dealing with Panda

For determining whether your website is up to the quality of this algorithm, you can use the checklist provided by a Google employee. These questions are based on real-life users and how they would rank your website.

Top Tips

  • In order to have a better ranking, avoid thin pages. Pages that have little or no value to a reader are considered thin pages (pages with very few words).
  • Duplicate content is another large contributor as Google can recognize content taken from other websites. If you have duplicate pages problem, you can solve it with canonical tags.
  • Quality remains to be the best way to rank high. Good quality content is simply the content that is relevant.

Google Penguin

Launched: 24th April 2012



This algorithm targets website with backlinks. It only has a specific goal to lower the ranking of the websites with manipulative methods to get better SERP Ranking. In past, some websites had unnatural links created to get their rankings high as search engines rely on links to rank websites.

  • Google Penguin affects almost 3.1% search queries.

That may seem a small amount but it has affected a lot of websites.

Are backlinks Still Important in 2016 and Beyond?

Yes, but after Penguin, only the natural and quality backlinks.



Links work like a recommendation: a recommendation that increases your rank. If a reputed website is linked to your site then your website will have a high ranking. If a low ranking website links to your website then it will not really affect the ranking.

Another player in this algorithm is anchor text which is text that is hyperlinked. If you are getting linked with a specific anchor text, e.g. best SEO solutions, then Google will know that people visit your website for these query words.

People manipulate ranking by creating links by themselves. Even if they are from low-quality websites, if the number is high enough the ranking improves. This algorithm chases after these very websites that have created their own links. It has not been revealed how it manages to do that but what we do know is Penguin too is a site wide algorithm.

Top Tips

  • It runs periodically and reevaluates the ranking of the websites. You can simply identify unnatural links to your website and remove them.
  • Alternately, use a Disavow tool to tell Google to not use them. It can take 6 months to process a disavow file. You must only disavow unnatural links as disavowing good links can be detrimental.
  • For businesses, there is no way around the high-quality content that is naturally shared by authority websites in the industry.

Google Pigeon

Launched: July 2014

It aims to affect the ranking of local listings in a search. This algorithm will also affect Google Maps along with Google search. It currently is working in US English results and soon will be working with other languages. It is aimed to improve results using the searcher’s location.

It will give preference to local websites and have a dramatic effect on local businesses. However, it got mixed responses from critics saying that ranking will decrease as a result of this algorithm. It uses the location and distance of a user as its key strategy. This way the local directory listings get preference over other websites.

Top Tips

  • Google Pigeon is a blessing for small location based businesses. It provides a perfect opportunity to target location-based keywords to rank higher in local searches, both on Google Search and Google Maps.

Google HummingBird

Launched: August 2013

Hummingbird uses semantic search i.e. it considers the meaning of the query and gives results catching up the meaning with content strategy. Ostensibly, the goal here is to give out results that are accurate and relevant.



When it was first announced a lot of people claimed that their websites’ ranking dropped significantly due to this algorithm. However, there is no proof that this particular algorithm was to blame. This algorithm is not so much a filter as it is a search engine in its own. It tries to understand what the user means behind the query words.

Top Tips

  • The solution is simple: create content that is answering people’s questions.
  • Again, it cannot be emphasized enough on the quality of your content. And quality arises from genuineness and relevance of content.




These four algorithms should be kept in mind when creating or upgrading your website.

  • Panda targets the content of your website and if you have good quality content, you have nothing to worry about.
  • Penguin, on the other hand, deals with back links. The more unnatural links your website has the lower the ranking.
  • Pigeon algorithm can, in fact, help your ranking in local searches and give you more outreach.
  • Hummingbird is a complex algorithm that can be tricky to deal with as it searches for answers rather than keywords.

All in all, content remains the best way to handle these smart algorithms and get your website on top. There is no sure fire way to go about improving rankings, you can also get creative and come up with new solutions as long as you adhere to the rules.