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Google introduces algorithm changes and updates almost every day for the last 20 years. While some of them are simple changes, others are big updates that make a significant difference. We created a list of 10 major updates with detailed information that will help you learn about the most important SEO changes of all time.
Introduced in 2011, Panda is a Google update that aims to reduce the prevalence of duplicate or thin content in search results. Panda gives scores to websites, and that score is used as a ranking factor. According to Google, the update impacted about 12% of the organic search results, and it mainly affected those websites that had weak content, high ad-to-content ratios, content farms, and other quality issues. The Panda update was rather significant at the time of its first launch, impacting millions of websites while influencing the development of more quality content on the internet. If you don’t want to lose your top rankings on Google, you can regularly check your website with a site crawler as SEO PowerSuite’s Website Auditor.
Penguin is another major Google algorithm created in 2012, the goal of which is to down-rank sites that have spammy or irrelevant links with over-optimized anchor text. This algorithm also can identify and impact those links that are either bought or obtained in order to rank higher on Google. If you want to beat up the Penguin update, you can always check your website with a backlink checker like SEO SpyGlass.
Hummingbird is another big Google update launched in 2013, designed to interpret the intention behind user search rather than matching words with the exact query keyword. While keywords still remain relevant, this algorithm helps websites rank higher on Google despite them not matching the exact search keyword. This algorithm is very important nowadays because most users use natural/everyday language to conduct searches on Google. This means that the content on your website should be more natural or somewhat informal to be relevant to the intention of users’ searches.
Pigeon update, released in late 2014 is Google’s local algorithm which intends to improve the ranking factors based on location and distance. It only affects those searches in which the user’s location plays an important role. According to Google, this update was created to connect their local algorithms to traditional web algorithms and to provide better & more relevant local search results.
In 2015, Google released its Mobile-Friendly Update, also known as Mobilegeddon that focused on the mobile optimization & usability of sites. This update ensured that mobile-friendly websites rank high on Google while those who weren’t optimized for mobile or had problems with usability would downrank. This change was immense because most pages were either mobile-friendly or not, so there was no in-between. Mobile optimization is a very important factor for SEO up to this day, and therefore, there are many check tools that help websites with mobile usability. One of the most known of them is integrated into WebSite Auditor, in Page Audit, under the Technical factors tab.
RankBrain is integrated into the Google Hummingbird update of 2015, and it uses a machine learning system to help Google understand the intention behind users’ queries, while providing best-matching search results relevant to those queries. According to Google, RankBrain is the third most important ranking factor. In fact, depending on the level of your SEO skills, RankBrain may have a minor or major impact on your strategies or practices.
Launched in 2016, Google Possum update concentrated on local searches and made sure that they ranked higher based on the users’ location at the time of their query. To put it simply, the closer you are to a business’s address, the more likely you are to see it in the top list of local results. This update is specifically helpful for businesses that want to rank high on local searches. If you are a business owner who wants to rank on top positions of Google, all you need to do is to adjust your site’s keywords to the specific location searches and competitive keywords.
This update was brought out in March of 2017 to mark out those websites that have obvious thin content which is only created for the purpose of generating ad or revenue. Google’s primary objective with this update was to emphasize how determined they are towards low-quality content and in fact, lots of blogs were affected by this change. Google’s Fred algorithm showed how serious they are about quality content and its relevance. If you don’t want to be impacted by the algorithm, make sure you read Google Search Quality Guidelines and watch out for low-quality, thin content.
BERT update of 2019 was introduced in October, and according to Google, it was one of the biggest updates in the last five years. This update was designed to better understand user search queries by analyzing the query words in relation to the other words in the sentence rather than by order. This technique allows BERT to interpret the meaning of the query much more accurately. Google claimed that BERT targeted 1 out of 10 queries, and it impacted both search rankings and featured snippets.
Last but not least is the Google core update of June 2019, which has caused a significant upheaval in the global search results. Being the first major update of 2019, this update specifically adjusted the search results with a particular focus on various sensitive topics. Many of the affected websites are from the health industry that provide information on YMYL search queries (Your Money or Your Life). All in all, many site owners were ahead of this update and therefore saw an increase of organic page views and only 27% actually noticed a measurable decline in organic traffic.
As you can see, Google SEO history has gone through many notable updates and changes during the last 20 years, all of which contributed to the development of the SEO algorithm as we know it today. So far, Google has always succeeded in reinventing the algorithm in a way that it becomes more relevant and accurate for its users. And if you want to beat Google’s algorithm and rank higher, the number one tip is to always keep up with the new changes and updates.
P.S. – If you want to learn more about SEO and how to beat it in 2020, read our latest blog post here.