Marketing Strategy Blog

Google Algorithm Updates, Summer 2014


We hate to break it to you, but summer is over. We know it’s hard to hear, but it’s time to move on. Put away the flip-flops and the crop tops and anything else related to the warmest season of the year. It’s time to get back to business, as soon as you post that last set of vacation photos to Facebook.

Here at Digital Marketing NOW, we’ve been keeping an eye on all the latest trends and Google updates so you could work on your tan, take a family road trip, or binge-watch Season 2 of “Orange is the New Black.”

Today we’re catching you up with a quick recap of some of the recent changes to the Google algorithm to help you with your SEO efforts. Here’s what you may have missed while you were taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge or reading up on Apple Watch rumors.

What’s New

In July Google released an unnamed update to its local search algorithm that led to the nickname of Pigeon. This significant upgrade means local search results are incorporating more ranking factors currently found in traditional Google search results. Search features like synonyms and Knowledge Graph are also influencing local search results.

The Google update helps directories like Yelp, UrbanSpoon and OpenTable to gain higher rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPs). In the past it was suspected that Google was manipulating organic search results to favor Google’s own local listings. With the Pigeon update, search results seem to be better balanced now. With all of this being said, it appears that individual businesses are largely being pushed down in the SERPs compared with directory sites.

When comparing local businesses (truly and authentically local, like Bob’s Auto Repair on 123 Street Road, etc.) to national brands and franchises, however, it appears that Pigeon is favoring the authentically local businesses in general.

What’s Different

While you were waiting in line to see the latest incarnation of “Godzilla” in May, Google released a monster update of its own impacting approximately 7.5% of English language queries: Panda 4.0. The focus of Panda has always been on quality content, so what’s new here? Now in its fourth year, Panda has evolved. Its new algorithm is smarter than ever, specifically and more accurately targeting spam sites and low-quality content and pushing them down in the rankings.

Another minor update, Payday Loan Algorithm 2.0 was released just ahead of Panda 4.0. This algorithm homes in on “very spammy queries” and reduces their SEO visibility. It may seem at times like the US is the spammiest country in the world, but we’re not even close. Matt Cutts of Google mentioned Turkish queries far outpacing most countries. Payday Loan 2.0 will have a small impact stateside, affecting less than 1% of queries.

On August 28th, Google announced that its Authorship markup would no longer be supported in web search. This news came as a surprise to content creators, but Google Authorship simply didn’t provide the kind of results to justify sustaining it. As we have learned with Google, if something isn’t working, they are not afraid to shut it down. It should be noted that Author Rank, different from Authorship, still exists.

What’s Next

Security continues to be an issue, as evidenced by the recent celebrity photo scandal that rocked Hollywood. Beyond two-step password verification and the implementation of security software, what else can business owners do to protect the security of their websites? Google thinks HTTPS for every site is one solution. By protecting your visitors and encrypting your content, HTTPS everywhere provides a more secure web experience.

So what does this have to do with SEO? It appears that Google is in the very early stages of using HTTPS as a ranking signal, with encrypted sites rising higher than their less secure counterparts. Currently the signal is only a minor ranking factor, but as more sites move from HTTP to HTTPS, you may find a greater urgency to switch, particularly if Google strengthens the impact of this signal.


Now that you’re up to date on the latest Google updates, you can start enjoying post-summer activities like apple picking, PTA bake sales and the new football season. Seriously, dude, lose the rad board shorts. Summer’s over.