There is one surefire way to avoid Google penalties, and that is to leave your website alone and don’t even dabble in SEO, right? No link building. No content creation. No anything. Well, that’s wrong. Even if you weren’t doing any link building or trying to push your website up in the SERPs, if you had an older design that wasn’t mobile-friendly you would have gotten dinged by Google’s algorithm.

This is why I stress the importance of staying up to date on what Google is doing, even if you are just running paid traffic to your website and not relying on organic exposure and traffic at all.

It’s funny though, because I speak to a lot of companies that say, “We don’t need to worry about SEO, because we just run Facebook ads.” Well, now that Facebook ads have been getting much more expensive and their reach has been crushed, this has led many businesses to start to scramble and try to compensate by going after organic traffic. This is why diversifying your traffic sources is so important.

Currently, there are six Google algorithm updates that you need to be aware of, and proactively dance around. If you notice your traffic takes a huge decline almost overnight, you have more than likely been hit by one of these.

I wanted to break each Google Updates down in a way that everyone can understand what they are, what they do, and how to avoid them.


Update #1: Penguin

Its Purpose: This update solely revolves around links. We all know that backlinks are the number one ranking signal, and since the beginning of SEO links have always been the main focus. They still are today – you just have to be careful how you build them. Now you need links in relevant content and on high authority websites, and a diverse mix, if you plan on ranking high in the SERPs.

Why You Get Hit by Penguin

There are three main reasons you will get nailed by Penguin:


  • Fiverr quality links: If you purchased mass link blasts in the past, consisting of thousands of blog comments or directory links, you are at risk.


  • Exact match anchor text and no diversity: Exact match anchors with no diversity is a big red flag. You need diversity and very little to no exact match text that reeks of keyword spam.


  • PBNs exposed: If you buy PBN links from “public” networks that are discovered, then you will feel the wrath of Penguin.


How to Recover from Penguin

There are several link audit tools available, and since none of them crawl 100& of the internet, I suggest using them all to download reports. Then, identify the links you want to remove from your profile and either manually contact all websites and request removal, or load them up into Google’s Disavow tool.

Listen, Google knows that a lot of the issues are due to poor SEO choices, and you should not fear using the Disavow option if you have thousands of bad links. Once you do recover, make sure you only build natural looking authority links.



Update #2: Hummingbird

Its Purpose: This update was rolled out to improve the user experience, and not necessarily penalize websites. This is where AI comes to play, as Hummingbird is an update designed to predict what the searcher really wants to see, based on a number of factors.

Why You Get Hit by Hummingbird

You really don’t get “hit” by this, as you just simply don’t appear in the search results if your content isn’t up to par and provide value or help to explain to Google what it’s exactly about. If you have content that just has your main keyword, without relevant keywords or in-depth context related to that keyword, then Google isn’t going to rank it high.

How to Recover from Hummingbird

Rather than thinking of it as recovering, you need to be prepared for Hummingbird and plan your content creating with Hummingbird in mind. Your content has to be well researched, have a lot of value and references. This is why Wikipedia results are always on the top of the search results. They typically contain in-depth information that is packed with details and references.



Update #3: Panda

Its Purpose: This is the most common Google update, and most traffic drops are because of Panda. This update revolves around identifying thin content and spammy content. This is the update that caused all of the SEO gurus to start talking about “content being King.”

Why You Get Hit by Panda

There are multiple ways that you can get hit by this update:


  • Publishing low quality Fiverr articles: A lot of SEOs stress the importance of long-form content, which is definitely the way to go, but if it’s still poorly written, it does no good. Google uses AI more than many realize, and it’s able to read on a human-level, which allows it to quickly determine whether or not content is well researched, or just fluff to fill a page.


  • Thin blog posts: The days of 500-word articles are long gone. While you don’t have to publish monster 2,000-word articles every time, you need to make sure your content has some substance to it.


  • Duplicate text: There are still many websites that re-publish content from other websites or allow their writers to re-purpose content that is from another blog. You can argue about it all day long, but the easiest way to avoid any duplicate content is to only publish unique content that exists nowhere else online.


  • Incorrect info: Remember how I said Google is using AI to crawl content? Well, it can easily determine whether or not the information is correct, as well. They are stepping up this ability in an attempt to combat fake news from appearing in the SERPs, so you better be sure that anything you post is accurate.


How to Recover from Panda

It’s very simple: improve your content. Re-write thin content and make sure it’s all well-written and provides value. There is no magic sorcery required. Fix your content.



Update #4: Mobilegeddon

Its Purpose: This is another update that has user experience in mind, which is really why all of these updates exist. Google announced that mobile-friendliness would be a ranking factor, and even starting notating mobile-friendly websites in the search results. If you were an older HTML website that was not responsive, you saw a big decline in organic exposure. Google announced this was coming and gave businesses plenty of time to take action, and why some didn’t will always puzzle me.

Why You Get Hit by Mobilegeddon

This update affects you if your website doesn’t pass Google’s mobile-friendly test. It’s as simple as that. This is really the easiest Google update to avoid, simply by creating a website that offers a good user experience on all devices. Not only will you avoid Mobilegeddon, but you will convert more traffic as well.

How to Recovery from Mobilegeddon

This is how you ensure Mobilegeddon doesn’t impact you:


  • One website version: Before, many websites has a mobile version and a desktop version. This can’t be the case any longer. You need one version only.


  • Fast loading website and clean coding that isn’t bulky: Today, website have to be fast and right to the point, without a lot of fancy features. Visitors want to quickly access the info the seek and not be bothered with widgets and plugins that disrupt their flow. Remove all the unnecessary plugins and add-ons from your website and hire a coder to clean it up and only use what is needed. If you are using a theme template, remember that they have so many features, many of which you will never use. Have someone remove all the code you aren’t using to improve the performance and load time.


  • Easy to read font: Forget fancy font. Those days are over. Google loves basic font that is clear, easy to read and large enough to give an enjoyable experience on devices of all sizes. If a font looks nice on a desktop but becomes difficult to read on a mobile screen Google will penalize you for that.


  • Responsive design: You have to be working with a responsive design these days. If not, then I have no sympathy for you. Even the most budget strapped businesses can afford $50 for a responsive theme and another couple hundred dollars to customize it. If not, the business is doomed regardless of its rank in Google.



Update #5: Pigeon

Its Purpose: This was the update that was rolled out that impacted local SEO, in an attempt to clean up the local pack section, which appears on top with the map. There were a lot of companies ranking when they didn’t even have a presence in that particular area, and Google rolled out Pigeon to put an end to it. In order to rank now, the location of a local business plays a key role, so on-site optimization is more important than ever.

Why You Get Hit by Pigeon


  • Incorrect location data: If you were building local citation links with P.O. Boxes and virtual office addresses, then you were more than likely removed from the local pack results. There were a lot of low quality doorway pages being built with fake addresses, resulting in companies having thousands of local results, when in fact they had no location at all. The majority of the offenders were virtual companies.


  • No physical office: This update also removed a lot of companies that were using virtual offices. While it’s a perfectly fine business practice, it did nothing to help local consumers, as most of those companies don’t have staff or even offer their service out of those addresses. Now, the local results are brick and mortar locations that consumers have an interest in visiting. The update really cleaned up the local results.


How to Recovery from Pigeon

It’s about how to make sure you get listed, providing you have a physical local business, rather than recovering. You have to make sure your physical business address is found on all pages of your site. The footer is the easiest location. You also need to make sure your NAP (name, address and phone number) is also found on all the major local business directories and it’s consistent in format everywhere it’s found. Lastly, you need to acquire high authority links.



Update #6: Fred

Its Purpose: This is the update that is constantly running, and really targets websites that put users at the end of their priority list. Think of the song lyric websites or scraper sites like phone number listings, etc. These sites are just trying to suck traffic in so their AdSense revenue increases. These websites exist for no other reason than to generate advertising revenue. They offer nothing of value for the visitor.

Why You Get Hit by Fred

If your website is low quality with poor user experience and it exists only to generate ad revenue you are in trouble. Some examples:


  • Pop-up ads: You have probably landed on sites in the past that hit you with a full-page pop-up ad or have some crazy i-frame that shoves a banner ad in your face. These setups are just trying to get as many impressions as possible and mistake clicks, where they hope someone clicks on the actual ad when trying to exit it. Google is really hammering these sites to try to rid them from its search results.


  • Ads dominating above the fold: Avoid placing all 3 AdSense units above the fold. This is an easy way to be penalized. Instead, spread them out and make them flow nicely with your content and website layout. There is nothing wrong with ads, as Google knows websites need to generate revenue. Heck, they want the revenue! They just want them displayed in a way that isn’t annoying to the user.


How to Recover from Fred

Most website hit by Fred have zero intention when it comes to creating a better user experience or providing value. They tend to just rinse and repeat. Spam. Get hit. Rebuild on a new domain. If by chance you have a legit blog that was hit, remove ads, increase focus on quality and see if that helps.



Final Thoughts

Hopefully this helped you understand what these Google updates really are and how you can avoid them. There is nothing worse than seeing your traffic suddenly stop because you were hit by an algorithm update.

While it’s not always possible to avoid every update and refresh, you stand a much better chance when you fully understand how they work. This is yet another example of why it’s so important to work with SEO providers that understand these updates, as most don’t. There are far too many “agencies” that order packages from Fiverr and other freelance marketplaces without a game plan. In the end they collect their payment and the client is left with a ruined domain and business.

If you have any questions related to these six Google updates, please leave them in the comments below. Also, if you have anything to add or want to chime in with your own experiences, please do so.

Tommy McDonald

Tommy is an SEO professional with years of experience running highly successful SEO companies, founded SerpLogic after noticing there was a major void when it came to options for SEO agencies needing a reliable and professional one-stop outsource solution.You can read all about me in the “About” page here on our blog!

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