Google uses a combination of algorithms and numerous ranking signals to rank webpages on it’s SERPs. These algorithm updates have shaped up the face of SEO. Here’s a list of some updates that had a major impact on the world of SEO.
Google Panda (Feb 2011)
Google Panda is a ranking Algorithm, introduced in February 2011, aiming to reduce the ranking of low-quality websites. Particularly those ‘content farm’ type sites. In turn, Panda aimed to improve rankings of higher-quality sites. Websites that dropped in the SERPs after each iteration of Panda were forced to improve their content in order to recover.
The main triggers for Panda are Thin Content, Duplicate Content and Low-Quality Content.
Google Penguin (April 2012)
Google Penguin was introduced to prevent lower quality websites gaining undeserved traffic and quality. In turn, this rewards high-quality websites. This update (launched in April 2012) attempts to diminish spam like results.
Penguin was introduced to catch sites which were buying links or gaining them for the sole purpose of boosting Google rankings. These website were ‘cheating’ the system by creating unnatural backlinks. Google Penguin works in Real Time.
Google EMD Update (Sep 2012)
The EMD Update — for “Exact Match Domain” — is a filter Google launched in September 2012 to prevent poor quality sites from ranking well simply because they had words that match search terms in their domain names.
When a fresh EMD Update happens, sites that have improved their content may regain good rankings. New sites with poor content — or those previously missed by EMD — may get caught. In addition, “false positives” may get released.
Google Payday Update (June 2013)
Launched on June 11, 2013 – the “Payday Update” was a new algorithm targeted at cleaning up search results for traditionally “spammy queries” such as [payday loan], pornographic and other heavily spammed queries.
Hummingbird (Aug 2013)
Google Hummingbird was the biggest change to Google as a search engine since 2010. It was a complete overhaul on the entirety of Google’s Algorithm, largely focused on the sorting of information. the reason for naming this update ‘Hummingbird’ is due to its speed and precision says Google.
A large improvement to this new Algorithm was a focus on conversational search. E.g. What is the best place to find and eat Manchester deep dish style pizza?”. this Hummingbird update is able to identify this specific phrase by ‘place’, thus showing other ‘restaurants’. This Algorithm understands a search query even if it doesn’t use the exact key term such as ‘restaurant’. This is achieved through the help of natural language processing.
Pigeon (July 2014)
Google Pigeon connects local Algorithm more deeply with Google’s traditional Algorithm. It aims to create an ‘accurate local search’. The location the user is searching from makes a large difference to the results returned. Google’s Pigeon update aims to increase the ranking of local listings in a search, affecting both the traditional search page as well as Google Maps.
Google Pigeon makes the Algorithm more useful and accurate in localisation searches. As well as being more closely related to traditional webs search. This Algorithm update improves specific localisation features such as distance parameters.
Mobile Update (Apr 2015)
Also known as Mobilegeddon or the Google Mobile Friendly Update, this update ensured that mobile friendly sites ranked higher when viewed from mobile devices. In turn, websites that are not optimised for mobile, have seriously reduced rankings or are filtered out of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). This also includes websites with poor mobile usability.
Google RankBrain (Oct 2015)
RankBrain is a core Algorithm component which personalises most relevant search results. Therefore, RankBrain acts as an Artificial Intelligence, that learns as it goes. This cutting edge Algorithm that is part of Hummingbird, helps Google digest, analyse and return the most relevant SERP results. Google RankBrain identifies websites with relevant features which are specific to each individual query.
This Artificial Intelligence, understands the meaning behind a search query and personalises the experience to each user. In turn, Google can provide the most relevant search results for those specific queries.
Possum Update (Sep 2016)
Possum is a further update on the ideas implemented in Google’s Pigeon update, which is an Algorithm change focusing on localisation. Possum ensures local results are returned based on the user’s location. E.g. the closer you are to a websites registered address or local business, the higher it will rank for your search.
Fred Update (Mar 2017)
Google’s Fred update affects largely blog websites with low-quality posts. These posts have the intention of being created purely for generating revenue, often through ads.
Your site is likely to be penalised if your content is thin, affiliate-heavy or ad centred. As this type of content violates Google’s webmaster guidelines. Therefore, the main focus of this update is on-page quality of a website.
Mobile First Index (Mar 2018)
Mobile-first indexing is simply how Google crawls and indexes the web. Instead of looking at the desktop version of the page, Google looks at the mobile version of the page. In more simple terms, Google is crawling and indexing your web page based on how it renders on a mobile phone versus a desktop computer. Now over 50% of what Google indexes is indexed over mobile-first indexing.