What is PageRank?
PageRank, the algorithm used by the Google Search Engine that ranks every document in a hyperlinked set, essentially determines the top results of a Google search by calculating the probability that a user randomly selecting a page would end up on each individual page. In other words, the websites that appropriately matched the keywords of the search, that also have the most references on other parts of the web, end up higher in the list of results. Google’s system, while extremely effective, and widely seen as the best search engine algorithm, however, is not perfect, and undergoes numerous modifications and changes in order to improve its performance. It is not uncommon for Google to make 50 small changes to its search algorithm in single month. Most of these changes are miniscule, however, and have no real impact on the majority of searches. They do, however, release a “major” update several times a year.
What is Google Panda?
Google Panda is the code name for one such modification to the Google PageRank algorithm. Panda, specifically, was first released in February 2011. The purpose of the Google Panda project was to lower the ratings of irrelevant or lower quality sites. Since the ranking was originally determined mostly by a site’s popularity, many of the top results in Google searches were undesirable websites. After the implementation of Google Panda, there was a noticeable increase in the number of news websites and social media websites in the top results. At the same time, sites plagued with enormous amounts of advertisement that was accompanied with little or no content were moved very far down in the ratings. Panda was revised several times after its release to tune its performance, and was implemented globally in April of 2011. To go along with Panda, Google released a documents explaining, in their eyes, what made a high quality site and therefore why the highest ranked sites were indeed highest ranked.
Google Panda implemented a system to utilize artificial intelligence more effectively than ever before. Numerous human quality testers rated the quality of thousands of websites on criteria including design, trustworthiness, and speed. Then, Google was able to use computers to analyze these sites and their ratings, in order to group the characteristics of highly and poorly rated sites. The analysis allowed Google to then implement the Panda system, which could rate the sites by following the characteristics that it determined were connected to the quality of the sites.
What is Google Penguin?
Google Penguin, another update to their search algorithm, was released on April 24, 2012, and then officially named two days later. Penguin, according to Google only has a small effect on the results of everyday searches, with only about 3.1% of English queries receiving different results. However, queries in some of the “more spammed” languages were more significantly affected. Penguin 1.1, an update to the original project, was released on May 12, 2012, and affected an even smaller percentage of average Google searches. A second update, Penguin 3, was released on October 5, 2012 and had similar effects to the first update. Penguin differed strongly from other updates to the Google PageRank algorithm. While Panda and other updates focused more on fixing the top results and improving the ranking algorithm.
Panda, specifically did this by applying the logic used by Google’s human quality raters to determine a website’s quality rating. Penguin, however, was almost entirely focused on entirely eliminating the possibility of a “spamdexing” or “link bombing” site from reaching a high rating. Penguin significantly decreased the effectiveness of such undesirable sites. Along with releasing numerous updates attempting to improve their algorithm, Google also wanted to gather information about their users’ opinions of these changes. After the Penguin update, Google released a feedback form. Two groups of people could find it beneficial to submit this feedback form: those who still found highly ranked but undesirable sites, and those who believe that their site was unfairly affected by Penguin. Google received hundreds of thousands of requests through this feedback system and honored them by reviewed the questionable sites on a case-by-case basis.
Knowledge of the individual changes to the Google Search Algorithm can be useful for several reasons. Search marketers and others who are responsible for analyzing the traffic and search results of a company or organization’s website can use the information about projects like Panda and Penguin to improve a site’s ranking or increase their traffic. On the other hand, the availability of information about the Google Search Algorithm, the changes made to it, and the motivation behind each change can have negative effects on the quality of the top results. Even though Google attempts to perfect their system and wants to inform their users about what they are doing, by releasing information, they also allow the people who’s sites they are trying to move down in ranks to invent ways to get around the system.