Knowing the major Google Algorithm updates and how they may affect your website will help you optimize your site content, and give you the best chance of being found by your target audience and gain new customers. Here is a guide to each of the major updates of the past 5 years. When you are ready to navigate the inner workings of Google search, the SEO Experts at Thrive are here to help.
Google Mobile Update
Google has released several mobile-centric updates in the past 2 years including the most recent, the “Mobile Speed Update,” in July 2018. Mobile updates are critical to Google’s strategy to match user queries with intent. Since most searches start on a mobile device, Google’s intentions with its many mobile algorithm updates have been to reward mobile friendly sites, and those with mobile-friendly content.
How it affects you: It is imperative that you have a website that is mobile ready. Google’s bots are set to crawl mobile versions of websites, and if yours does not pass the major sniff tests (mobile-readable font sizes, elements spaced far apart for clickability, readability, image and page load speed), then you could show very low for queries you once ranked high for – or worse, below your mobile-ready competitors.
Google Quality Update
Early 2015 delivered to us the Quality Update, which brought an influx of quality content to the forefront of web results. By tweaking the algorithm to seek out and reward deep content and weed out thin content, Google rewarded sites who spent the time to reward their users with content that truly matched their searches. Google’s intention was to be sure that the site shown for a query truly matched the user’s intent.
How it affects you: If you have many pages of “thin” or poor quality content on your site, Google may ignore them in favor of sites who have a lot of well thought out, longform content.
Google Pigeon Update
In mid 2014, Google’s Pigeon update dramatically increased the chances of local businesses to rank. By adjusting the algorithm to identify local cues from the searcher, the algorithm was able to reward smaller businesses with a chance to be found at the top of search results.
How it affects you: If you have local locations and relay on nearby searches in Google to grow your business, paying attention to the ranking factors that signal localization are a must. Optimizing for the Local Pack, Map Pack, Google My Business and consistent NAP are crucial to your success. Not sure what these are? Our Local SEO experts at Thrive can help.
Google Penguin Update
In April of 2012, Google rolled out an “anti-spam” update, called Penguin. With the goal of adjusting many spam related factors, Penguin hit sites hard who were buying links or obtaining them unnaturally through link networks, bots, or link farms. Google subsequently released dozens of “tweaks” to the pigeon update, all with the same intent – penalizing sites with spam links. Eventually, Google softened its penalties for black hat link spam, but top web agencies are still very aware of the risks involved in link schemes.
How it affects you: Be wary of any suspicious sounding website optimization company or overseas SEO company that tries to sell you any cheap links or fast links. Google has severe penalties for black hat link tactics that violate its webmaster guidelines, and your website could be removed from the Google index entirely for violating these terms of service. Choose a local, user-verified, highly rated SEO agency that follows the guidelines and sets you up for long term SEO success.
Google Panda Update
In February 2011, Google created an algorithm update that wreaked havoc across the Internet. If you are involved in online marketing or SEO then you’ve probably heard of this new ranking factor shift and its deceptively cute title: Panda (also called Farmer). Here’s a summary: it was designed to improve search results by boosting higher quality site rankings and decreasing the rankings of lower quality websites, mainly through determining content quality. Google subsequently released 13 updates to “tweak” the Panda algorithm throughout that year and into 2012, to fine tune the results.
How it affects you: Many sites with duplicate content, repetitive keywords, or heavy advertising took a hit in their rankings when Panda was released, while sites with original, relevant content saw a boost in their rankings. Basically, Google set out to improve search results by downgrading sites that didn’t add positively to the user experience.
Google Hummingbird Update
Google rolled out the Hummingbird Update in 2013, which was intended to leverage new deep learning models to increase the precision of the search algorithm. No longer would Google be just looking at keywords within the query, but would also look at the context. Google began to use both text and entity based signals to determine the quality and relevance of the returned search results; basically, Google wanted to answer the query, not merely point a user to where they can get the answer.
How it affects you: Long tail queries (5 or more keywords) will matter more. Businesses will need to answer more questions through comprehensive FAQs, Q&A blog posts, “How To” articles, Ask The Experts, Where can I…, Why…, or What… content.
Although Google has admitted that they release algorithm updates every week and sometimes more, these major updates should be the ones you use as the blueprint for success as you design your SEO strategy. Should you need some expert web design help, Thrive is here for you!
Are there any other Google changes you’d like to discuss? Please leave your comments or questions below and we’ll do our best to answer them!
Filed Under: Search Engine Optimization