Google Wildlife SEO Safari

The Google menagerie just keeps on growing these days, and it isn’t getting any less difficult for the uninitiated to keep their Pandas separate from their Hummingbirds and understand how it all fits into SEO – but never fear. We’re going to take a little Google wildlife SEO safari to find out more about these various beasts and how to placate them, as well as having a look at some potential new species that we could see evolving into the search engine in the near(ish) future.

First up are the truly dangerous animals; monsters that will shred and mangle your website’s visibility if you don’t take steps to placate them.

The Panda

Google Panda - SEO Safari

The panda is generally a gentle beast unless you’re living back in the 1990s with rubbish, spammy content, a bucket of duplication and more ads than anyone would want to shake a bamboo stick at. He’s also to be feared – Panda penalties are tricky to recover from and usually very costly, in some cases requiring complete website rebuilds.

  • Attacks onsite organic search issues
  • Provoked by thin content and poor structure
  • Chows down on duplicated content
  • Sinks teeth into spammy over-optimisation
  • Placated by a good user experience
  • Soothed to calm by value-adding content

The Penguin

Google Penguin - SEO Safari

The penguin is to be feared indeed. Responsible for more website deaths than a server farm fire, penguin was built to combat black-hat SEO techniques and spammy linkbuilding. It hunts down sites who are trying to heavily manipulate search results using links and shows no mercy. A penguin penalty is swift, merciless, and takes a long time to clean up. More than one brand has had to abandon a domain and start all over again thanks to the penguin’s wrath.

  • Attacks offsite organic search issues
  • Enraged by too much rich inbound anchor text
  • Pecks furiously at inbound links from spam sites
  • Divebombs at high velocity link acquisition
  • Appeased by brand based, value-add links
  • Pacified with co-citation and link earning

Secondly, two members of the Google zoo who can be hazardous if provoked, but are generally a bit more tame than the ferocious hulks above.

The Pigeon


Most big brands won’t see enormous impacts from pigeon but it does swoop in on poor practices around local searches, for example for a portfolio of stores or branches which are not being managed well on Google Places (now Google My Business). Keep your NAP integrity and think carefully about where you think your users are going to find you – if they’re genuinely likely to browse through a local area directory than to do a broad search, make sure you’re there.

  • Greatly modifies results for local search
  • Pokes at Maps, Mobile and main Web search
  • Not a fan of local SEO over-optimisation
  • Likes a flutter on local directories as well as sites
  • Loves an accurate Maps experience
  • Likes to perch on traditional web rank signals

Google Hummingbird

Google Hummingbird - SEO Safari

Hummingbird was not an update or a tweak but a whole new algorithm that changed the Google game entirely. Reworking the heart and brain of Google’s engine to place a renewed focus on thinking about what users are actually looking for, rather than the string of words they type in, has the potential to transfer the entirety of the search market as we know it.

  • Rewards user-centric search marketing
  • Gets in a flap over keyword-focused strategies
  • Isn’t keen on sites ignoring semantic signals
  • Hates sites with no associated brand presence
  • Loves the taste of topical, informative content
  • Is best friends with strong brands and semantics

So that’s the existing algorithm tweaks and updates – but looking into the future, taking hints from evolving trends and patterns in ranking and visibility signals, can we potentially extrapolate some future Google species? Here goes…

Google Squirrel for Mobile UX

Google Squirrel - SEO Safari

Squirrels are fast, agile and like to be everywhere at once – just how Google wants search results to be. There are so many indicators suggesting that mobile usability, rather than just speed, will become a ranking factor soon; the mobile-friendly SERPs notices, SLOW notices, and of course the “UX tester” hitched onto the Pagespeed Insights tool which shows that Google is already looking at machine-assessment of UX using things like tap target size and link proximity. Look for this one to land soon.

Google Sloth for Lazy Robots

Google Sloth - SEO Safari

Sloths are pretty slow moving which has given them a reputation for being lazy – and sooner or later search robots and algorithms are going to stop being so nice to us and get lazy too. At the moment Google does its best to handle the crawl and indexing of websites which are sloppily put together – messy code, poor content, rubbish architecture, other problems where developers and poor SEOs haven’t addressed even the most fundamental basics of good practice. But that won’t last. Soon, the ability of machine algorithms to read and process the information on a site is going to start joining the user-friendly drive we’ve seen to date. As more searches are conducted by bots acting on behalf of users (say, for example, Siri and Cortana) rather than users themselves, machine readability for content will become more critical – a Google update is sure to follow, so fix your coding and architecture problems now!

Google Platypus for Multimedia Use

Google Platypus - SEO Safari

Google already loves a good bit of video on the page, but as HTML5 and CSS continue to develop new rich features in leaps and bounds alongside the capability of network technology to deliver those features agnostic of device type or screen size the chances are that, Google is going to stop merely preferring and start actively demanding rich, multimedia content. New technologies like augmented and virtual reality are already being tested on platforms like the upcoming Windows 10, and will only offer even more ways to engage users on websites than text and images. Users are going to demand more immersive and multimedia-rich content experiences – so you can bet Google will too.

Oh, and why Platypus? A platypus is made up of a little bit of all other types of animals (beaver, duck, seal…) – a “little bit of everything” – just like the type of varied “more than just text and images” content Google is going to love!

Google Tardigrade For Resilient UX


A tardigrade (or “water bear” or “moss piglet”) is, for those that don’t know, an absolutely awesome micro-animal that measures less than half a millimetre long when fully grown, has eight legs and is pretty much indestructible.

Just like Google wants websites to be.

Peak periods like Black Fridays have shown that many major brands are still woefully underprepared to meet their users’ needs, and in fact many websites slow to a creak or collapse under even everyday traffic levels thanks to poor integration and lack of communication between IT, marketing and operational teams. Add into that the plethora of missing images, errant CSS files and other detritus that messes up user journeys on the average website and it isn’t hard to see that sites which are more resilient, and proactive in addressing those UX-damaging problems, are going to be better for users. That means that sooner or later that hardiness is going to become a ranking factor.

And you’d better hope your website performs as impressively as a tardigrade when it does.

To further discuss the awesomeness of tardigrades, geek out about dragons (my favourite fictional animal) or even have a chat about the future of organic search with Google and beyond, drop me a line on Twitter via @lady_rheena, give 4Ps a ring, drop us an email or pop into one of our offices.

4Ps isn’t just another London SEO agency. To discuss how SEO and content are evolving together in order to keep pace with new developments in user interaction all over the world, give us a call on +44 (0)207 607 5650 for a no-obligation coffee and chat about data, marketing and user behaviour across all inbound channels.