What is a Google Algorithm?
Google Algorithm as it relates to Google, refers to the process the search engine uses to rank websites. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, you’re right. It is simple. Or rather it was simple. Then Google decided to change things up. And then they changed things up again. And then again.
Three major Google Algorithm updates
Google has issued Three major Google Algorithm updates, named (in chronological order) Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird. In between these major updates, Google engineers also made some Google Algorithm tweaks that weren’t heavily publicized but still may have had an impact on your website’s rankings in the search results.
Below, I’ve broken down each and every one of the major Google Algorithm changes piece by piece.
What is an Google Algorithm change?
First of all, let’s start by discussing the Google Algorithm. It’s immensely complicated and continues to get more complicated as Google tries its best to provide searchers with the information that they need. When search engines were first created, early search marketers were able to easily find ways to make the search engine think that their client’s site was the one that should rank well. In some cases it was as simple as putting in some code on the website called a meta keywords tag. The meta keywords tag would tell search engines what the page was about.
What is the Panda Algorithm?
Panda first launched on February 23, 2011. It was a big deal. The purpose of Panda was to try to show high-quality sites higher in search results and demote sites that may be of lower quality. This algorithm change was unnamed when it first came out, and many of us called it the “Farmer” update as it seemed to affect content farms. (Content farms are sites that aggregate information from many sources, often stealing that information from other sites, in order to create large numbers of pages with the sole purpose of ranking well in Google for many different keywords.) However, it affected a very large number of sites. The algorithm change was eventually officially named after one of its creators, Navneet Panda.
What is the Penguin Algorithm?
The Penguin algorithm initially rolled out on April 24, 2012. The goal of Penguin is to reduce the trust that Google has in sites that have cheated by creating unnatural backlinks in order to gain an advantage in the Google results. While the primary focus of Penguin is on unnatural links, there can be other factors that can affect a site in the eyes of Penguin as well. Links, though, are known to be by far the most important thing to look at.
What is Hummingbird Algorithm?
Hummingbird is a completely different animal than Penguin or Panda. (Yeah, I know…that was a bad pun.) I will commonly get people emailing me telling me that Hummingbird destroyed their rankings. I would say that in almost every case that I have evalutated, this was not true. Google made their announcement about Hummingbird on September 26, 2013. However, at that time, they announced that Hummingbird had already been live for about a month. If the Hummingbird algorithm was truly responsible for catastrophic ranking fluctuations then we really should have seen an outcry from the SEO world of something drastic happening in August of 2013, and this did not happen. There did seem to be some type of fluctuation that happened around August 21 as reported here on Search Engine Round Table, but there were not many sites that reported huge ranking changes on that day.