Google algorithm is constantly changing, and updates are very common. Most of these Google algorithm updates are minor and unnoticeable, but you’ll notice there is a big update at least once a year a large-scale overhaul of the SERP (search engine results page) that may impact your business and or your clients, but allows the algorithm to keep up with changing trends.
The algorithms that search engines use to determine what people are looking for on the web are constantly changing. Every time Google makes an update, the content people find on the internet changes.
Changes in the google search engine algorithm can both help or hurt your business.
What is Google Algorithm in simple words? A key internal process at Google that ranks content using a system that lets it retrieve and return data from its search index and the most relevant answers to your query.
It retrieves the best possible results from its search index for a query based on numerous factors like relevance and quality of the content and delivers the best possible results for a query to its customer.
Google uses a combination of algorithmic ranking, user reviews, and other factors to deliver webpages ranked by relevance on its search engine results pages (SERPs)
A Google core update is a major change to Google’s algorithm that has a big impact and causes notable fluctuations in search engine results.
These are the Google core algorithm updates that have had the greatest impact on website rankings around the globe. They can affect even the biggest companies ranking position and visitor traffic.
If you want to build an online presence for your business, you need to understand the basics of what makes the Google algorithm work the way it does.
The search engine uses a combination of algorithms and various ranking factors to deliver pages ranked by relevance on the search engine results pages.
Google was launched in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin it wasn’t the first engine there were many beforehand, but all suffered from the same problem of returning relevant and useful answers to search queries.
As with every business people are looking for the quickest and easiest way to find new customers this was no different as search engines became a common place to find products and services. There became a market for quick fixes, quick ways to get to number one and ranking on google search results. These tactics that developed over time are called black hat SEO tricks. All were designed to speed up the process and find ways “to beat the system”.
To make sure they were serving good quality content that answered the user’s questions they have over time been closing loopholes to encourage good SEO and focus on user experience and quality content. That is why they keep tweaking the google algorithm to help improve search engine results.
Always remember Google has clients to whom it wants to supply the very best answer to their questions. If they don’t someone else will step in to supply what people want.
There are many ways you can help your website perform better in search engine results pages. The most important is not to try and avoid getting rich quick tactics or what we refer to as black hat SEO Tactics. As Google has recently said “create website content that users love”
Basic Website SEO, Basic Technical SEO, On-page SEO and Off-page SEO
Check Traffic – This is the first indicator that something has happened. Check your google analysis or any other software you use to monitor your website traffic. You could either see a drop in organic traffic or an increase in organic traffic, hoping for the latter!
Check Rankings – Check your ranking data to see if you have had a negative or positive impact on your website. Check website rankings in Google Search Console.
Check Impressions – Check the number of impressions your website is receiving. This also can be identified in Google Search Console.
With most google core updates you are highly likely to see some sort of impact on your website either traffic, ranking, and overall impressions. Whether it’s a positive or negative impact on your website you need to know and more important you’ll want to know how to recover or make the most of what has happened.
Whether it’s positive or negative, you really want to know about an update before it happens and start to identify how it may affect you.
You should do your best to keep up with the latest developments. Sometimes Google pre-announces an update coming, and they’ll announce it on their blog. So keep an eye out.
In fact, knowing when the update is happening will give you the opportunity to minimise its negative impact in advance, and will allow you to take the best steps to reduce the impact. Refer to Google best practices to check you are not doing something you shouldn’t!
The search engine giants don’t usually release a full explanation of what the update will change and how it will impact you. We never know exactly what is changing until weeks after the update has completed its rollout.
What Google algorithm updates have had the most impact on websites around the world?
Florida Google Algorithm — November 2003 – The very first google algorithm was named because the algorithm would take the search results by storm. The update’s main aim was to tackle the common spammy tactics being used by many websites.
Update Summary – They would penalise websites that used keyword stuffing, invisible hidden text, and hidden links.
Jagger Google Algorithm— September/ October 2005 – This was a huge algorithm update which took a long time to roll out. The name apparently came about because the rolling stones were playing in Las Vegas at the time.
Update Summary – The main aim was to stop backlink spam by penalising websites that bought large amounts of backlinks, had duplicate content across numerous domains, irrelevant anchor text, sites that carried links from known link farms and sudden peaks in backlink website profiles.
Big Daddy Google Algorithm— March 2006 – Big Daddy update was an extension to the Jagger update, which main aim was to tackle spam links which were making results irrelevant.
Update Summary – Addressing low-quality incoming and outbound links, penalizing websites that had spammy backlink SEO tactics like reciprocal linking and purchasing links to make their site seem more relevant to search engines.
Vince Google Algorithm— January 2009 – Named after Google engineer Vince and the main aim was about big brands after Eric Schmidt said “Brands are the solution, not the problem. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.” Even though big brands were not following SEO best practices, they started to rank for high volume, competitive, and commercial keywords.
Update Summary – Big brands with offline real-world businesses were the beneficiaries because they offered trust which online businesses didn’t and the issue of trust was essential for people to take the information they were receiving seriously or start to consider buying from online businesses.
May Day Google Algorithm— April 2010 – This happened over the May day weekend and focused on the quality of its search results especially focusing on long-tailed keywords which were, and still to this day one of the most profitable keywords to target.
Update Summary – Improve results for Long-tail keywords and penalise webpages with duplicate or poor substandard content.
Caffeine Algorithm— June 2010 – Named Caffeine because its focus was on recency and speed and more of an indexing change than an algorithm.
Update Summary – Aim to provide the most up-to-date information by addressing how Google found new information and stored the data received from websites.
Panda Algorithm— August 2011 – Named after another google employee. It had to address the problems brought about because of the speed update that Caffeine brought. The update made it quicker to access huge amounts of poor-quality content online with the help of the SEO tactic using content farms. Google also started using metrics by penalising sites with high bounce rates, duplicated and repetitive content across pages, and numerous on-site ads and wasn’t aimed at just individual pages, but rather whole websites.
Update Summary – Priority to improve search results by addressing websites that had repetitive content and high bounce rates from google user metrics.
Freshness Algorithm – 2011 – How fresh is your content? Freshest content top of the search results especially subjects that require the most up-to-date results.
Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) queries that quickly became very popular compared to their normal activity and spiked drastically.
Update Summary – Fresh and refreshed content
Penguin Algorithm— April 2012 – Also known as the webspam algorithm and an extension to Panda. Focusing on tackling black hate SEO techniques that tried to manipulate rankings by poor quality and fake building links. It addressed sites that had low-quality links pointing to their website.
Update Summary – Tackle webspam, low-quality results from sites that used black-hat link-building techniques.
Pirates Algorithm: – August 2012 – Pirate targets and demotes sites that are in direct violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Removing and demoting websites that had received a valid copyright removal notice. This was specifically focused on torrent websites that illegally share material like music, films and TV series without the consent from the owner,
Update Summary – Infringement of copyright – Torrent sites that share illegal content.
Hummingbird Algorithm— September 2013 – Hummingbird because it was going to be “quick and precise” using natural language processing (NLP).
Update Summary – Decipher search intent and understand search queries to offer people more relevant results.
Pigeon Algorithm: – July 2014 – Pigeons are known for finding their way home to the right location. One of the biggest changes is to focus on local search results and how local businesses ranked in organic search results for their specific location.
Update Summary – Local search algorithm updates, ranking of local listing and search results shown in Google maps and alternative geographic factors,
Mobilegeddon / MobileZeddon Google Mobile-Friendly Algorithm— April 2015 – The relevance of how people were using mobile phones to search and how Google started to use a website’s mobile-friendliness in search results. This included addressed websites which had slow elements or design falls as parts of construction like using flash, very small text, the spacing of clickable elements, or content that didn’t adapt and scale to different screen sizes.
Update Summary – Focusing on the user experience of those using a mobile device by ranking mobile-friendly, responsive websites as preferred search results.
RankBrain Algorithm— October 2015 – Machine learning for search intent and expanded on the Hummingbird update. Encouraging related terms to be included with a page and providing context information.
Update Summary – Focusing on Search intent by taking language into account and personal search information and history.
Speed Algorithm– 2018 – Website loading speed and user experience. Stated in a Google developers blog post that it will only affect the “pages that deliver the slowest experience to users.” They suggest using tools like lighthouse, Chrome UX Report, PageSpeed Insights and AMP Page Experience Guide (for AMP pages).
Update Summary – Page load speed and user experience(UX).
Fred Algorithm – 2017 – Remove and reduce low-quality results from SERPs using quality raters.
Update Summary – Remove thin ad-focused content from search engine results pages.
Medic Algorithm— August 2018 – Ranking factors for health, medical and life-changing websites. These websites were referred to as Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) because they could either affect either your money or your health. At this point, they implemented their (E-A-T) Expertise, Authority, or Trust signals to identify quality websites.
Based on Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines.
Update Summary – Providing trustworthy results for people searching for money, wealth or health-based keywords and terms.
BERT Algorithm— October 2019 – Google expanding hummingbird and Rankbrain focusing on natural language processing technology to enable them to understand search intent better. BERT is an acronym for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. This has hugely influenced how SEO, marketers create website content and content marketing strategy.
Update Summary – Rewarding websites focused on people over search engines rewarding well-constructed and informative content.
Google January 2020 Core Update — January 2020 – No specific name was given to this update. Google information shared about the update was “create website content that users love” and is focused on YMYL websites.
Update Summary – Update to Medic Algorithm
Google May 2020 Core Update — May 2020
Google December 2020 Core Update — December 2020
The Page Experience Algorithm– June 2021 – Measuring how users perceive their experience interacting with a web page. Websites, and webpages that offer a better experience to users by prioritising pages that offer a page performance like fast load times. They now have three new metrics to measure speed and overall page experience. These new metrics LCP (largest contentful paint), FID (first input delay), and CLS (cumulative layout shift) have all been called Core Web Vitals.
Product Algorithm Update – March 2022 – Identify high-quality reviews
Create better product reviews to search for users
Ranking on Google: Why Your Business Doesn’t Rank Well And How to Fix It?
Google's algorithm is constantly changing, and updates are very common. Most of these Google algorithm updates are minor and unnoticeable, but you’ll notice there is a big update at least once a year a large-scale overhaul of the SERP (search engine results page) that may impact your business and or your clients, but allows the algorithm to keep up with changing trends.
Read More: How do Google Algorithm Updates affect your website?
But what on earth is SEO? Or, for the non-acronym lovers out there, what is search engine optimisation? It is the way you can help increase traffic from search engines organically. What do we mean by organic traffic? Visitors find your website after finding you on a search engine's results page (SERP) and not through paid ads.
Read More: Basic Website SEO Checklist
Technical SEO is the technical changes you can make to help search engines crawl, index, and rank your website content. A successful SEO strategy includes both on-page and off-page SEO aspects. Off-page SEO involves building backlinks. On-page SEO involves the structure, content, and keywords of your website.
Read Me: Basic Technical SEO Checklist
Off-page SEO tactics are actions you can take to help your website rank better in search engine results pages.
Off-site SEO factors like backlinks and reviews are believed to weight ranking by up to 50%. Google Algorithms and ranking factors constantly change, but currently, these are helpful factors.
Read More: Off-page SEO Checklist
On-page SEO or Onpage optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising each individual webpage to perform the best it can. Impacting on the ability of the page to rank better in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Helping it rank higher in organic search results and earn more relevant traffic from the search engines can help you get the visitors your business wants.
Read More: On-page SEO Checklist
E-A-T SEO is Google way to try and be certain of the websites and content they are recommending to searchers. Google want to deliver the most relevant information — but also the correct, accurate information to their customers.
Read More: E-A-T SEO Google Checklist