Google Algorithm are ever-changing to create a better user experience for casual Internet surfers. Google’s algorithms are improved at least 500 to 600 times a year, making it difficult for the SEO community and websites to stay at the top of Search engine results pages (SERPs). Below is a brief history on some of the major Google Algorithm Updates History has made to their algorithm
2011 – Panda
Obviously, Google was around long before 2011. We’re starting with the Panda update because it was the first major update in the ‘modern SEO’ era. Google’s Panda update tried to deal with websites that were purely created to rank in the search engines. It mostly focused on on-page factors. In other words, it determined whether a website genuinely offered information about the search term visitors used.
Two types of sites were hit especially hard by the Panda update:
- Affiliate sites (sites which mainly exist to link to other pages).
- Sites with very thin content.
2012 – Penguin
Google’s Penguin update looked at the links websites got from other sites. It analyzed whether backlinks to a site were genuine, or if they’d been bought to trick the search engines. In the past, lots of people paid for links as a shortcut to boosting their rankings. Google’s Penguin update tried to discourage buying, exchanging or otherwise artificially creating links. If it found artificial links, Google assigned a negative value to the site concerned, rather than the positive link value it would have previously received. The Penguin update ran several times since it first appeared and Google added it to the core algorithm in 2016.
2012 – Pirate
The Pirate update combatted the illegal spreading of copyrighted content. It considered (many) DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown requests for a website as a negative ranking factor for the first time.
2013 – Hummingbird
The Hummingbird update saw Google lay down the groundwork for voice-search, which was (and still is) becoming more and more important as more devices (Google Home, Alexa) use it. Hummingbird pays more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole search phrase is taken into account, rather than just particular words. Why? To understand a user’s query better and to be able to give them the answer, instead of just a list of results.
2014 – Pigeon
Another bird-related Google update followed in 2014 with Google Pigeon, which focused on local SEO. The Pigeon update affected both the results pages and Google Maps. It led to more accurate localization, giving preference to results near the user’s location. It also aimed to make local results more relevant and higher quality, taking organic ranking factors into account.
2014 – HTTPS/SSL
To underline the importance of security, Google decided to give a small ranking boost to sites that correctly implemented HTTPS to make the connection between website and user secure. At the time, HTTPS was introduced as a lightweight ranking signal. But Google had already hinted at the possibility of making encryption more important, once webmasters had had the time to implement it.
2015 – Mobile Update
The SEO industry dubbed this Google update ‘Mobilegeddon’ as they thought it would totally shake up the search results. By 2015 more than 50% of Google’s search queries were already coming from mobile devices, which probably led to this update. The Mobile Update gave mobile-friendly sites a ranking advantage in Google’s mobile search results. In spite of its dramatic nickname, the mobile update didn’t instantly mess up most people’s rankings. Nevertheless, it was an important shift that heralded the ever-increasing importance of mobile.
2015 – RankBrain
RankBrain is a state-of-the-art Google Algorithm Updates History, employing machine learning to handle queries. It can make guesses about words it doesn’t know, to find words with similar meanings and then offer relevant results. The RankBrain algorithm analyzed past searches, determining the best result, in order to improve.
2016 – Possum
In September 2016 it was time for another local update. Google’s algorithm update Possum update applied several changes to Google’s local ranking filter to further improve local search. After Possum, local results became more varied, depending more on the physical location of the searcher and the phrasing of the query. Some businesses, not doing well in organic search, found it easier to rank locally after this update. This indicated that this update made local search more independent of the organic results.
2018 – (Mobile) Speed Update
Acknowledging users’ need for fast delivery of information, Google implemented this update that made page speed a ranking factor for mobile searches, as was already the case for desktop searches. The update mostly affected sites with a particularly slow mobile version.
2018 – Medic
This broad core algorithm update caused quite a stir for those affected, leading to some shifts in ranking. While a relatively high number of medical sites were hit with lower rankings, the update wasn’t solely aimed at them and it’s unclear what its exact purpose was. It may have been an attempt to better match results to searchers’ intent, or perhaps it aimed to protect users’ wellbeing from (what Google decided was) disreputable information.
2019 – BERT
Google’s BERT Google Algorithm Updates History was announced as the “biggest change of the last five years”, one that would “impact one in ten searches.”
It’s a machine learning algorithm, a neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP). The name BERT is short for: Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.