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Major Google Algorithm Updates Explained

Major Google Algorithm Updates Explained

Have you noticed when Google started showing “Showing results for “ instead of “Did you mean” whenever you make a mistake in typing a search query? Well, this was a Google algorithm update. Google makes several small and large algorithm updates every year. Some of them go unnoticed while for others, we can see big changes in the rankings on the SERP. Let us take a look at some of the biggest Google algorithm updates and understand how they have changed the landscape of SEO.

Biggest Google Algorithm Updates in History

Panda – 2011

Aim: To provide quality content to the user and improve user experience

Google’s Panda Algorithm update is said to have affected 12% of the search results. It eliminated sites that were having thin content, poor quality content, or duplicate content. It was also aimed to take strict action against ‘content farms’; sites that used to create a large amount of content just to get better rankings for advertising. These were not of any real use to the user. Even now, the impact of Panda is still great.

Penguin- 2012

Aim: To combat spammy and black hat linking techniques

Google’s Penguin update was to eliminate sites that used poor link-building tactics. It impacted pages getting a lot of like from spammy and unrelated sites, having a high percentage of anchor text that links with targeted specific keywords, links that were purposeful, unnatural, and clearly purchased. This affected around 3% of the search results at the time of launch. There have been multiple Penguin updates to curb pages that use manipulative link-building strategies.

Hummingbird -2013

Aim: Giving importance to the contextual meaning of the query over individual words.

The Hummingbird update has been a precursor to google’s RankBrain update. This was one of the most important Google updates since Caffine Update in 2009(Caffine focused on speed and building a faster web). Hummingbird aimed to be closer to understanding ‘search intent’. It also tried to bring users relevant search results based on the context of the search. Local search results became more precise and it laid foundations to voice search.

RankBrain -2015

Aim: Better understand human search using semantic indexing.

Semantic indexing looks at the usage of synonyms and relevant words or phrases for topical relevance to a query. RankBrain is an AI-based machine learning algorithm that sorts through search results and uses various signals to index and rank pages. This update brought Google closer to interpreting search queries and understanding the intent behind a user’s search. Creating content that best suits users’ needs were emphasized with the RankBrain update.

Google Algorithm Updates on Mobile-Friendliness – (2015, 2018)

Aim:  To give precedence to mobile-friendliness when ranking websites.

Mobile-friendliness updates in 2015 popularly known as Mobilegeddon gave importance to mobile-friendly websites. It paved way for the Mobile-First update that came in 2018. The number of people using mobile devices was soaring and Google was giving importance to mobile-friendly sites over desktop sites. This emphasized responsive design when creating websites.

Medic- 2018

Aim: To ensure the quality, authority, and expertise of the content given online.

The Medic update was aimed to scrutinize the pages that affect the health, happiness, or wealth of people. These pages are called YMYL pages or Your Money, Your Life pages. Pages giving information about medical, financial, insurance, and legal advice gets were checked thoroughly. Ecommerce websites, health websites, financial and business websites were most affected. Entertainment, technology news, etc. also undergo thorough scrutiny to ensure the authority and quality of information.

BERT- 2019

Aim: Use natural language processing and deep learning to understand the nuances of context.

BERT was another important update that helped to understand the context of search queries. It helps in identifying different entities from content, and the relationship between them. This helped Google to identify focus on content and provide the most relevant content to the user. BERT was a breakthrough in natural language processing and deep learning. 

Google Core Updates -(2017- Present)

Aim: Significant changes in Search, Indexing, and Ranking to create a User-centric web

Google Core Updates include several important changes made to Google algorithms that help to make it easier for users to find what they are searching for. There is not much transparency about these updates. 

MUM -2021

Aim: Breaking language barriers in search and gaining deeper insights about search

There have been several important Google algorithm updates in 2021. 

The Google Multitask Unified Model (MUM) update is an AI algorithm said to be much powerful than BERT. MUM considers multiple searches that a user makes, geography, etc to better interpret queries. It is able to process textual, video, and audio content and provide the most relevant results to users. MUM is said to be a milestone in search and is expected to revolutionize search.

Page Experience Update -2021

Aim: To provide users with the best experience on page and on the web

The page experience signals include Core Web Vitals that measures loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability of the webpage. Other page experience factors are mobile-friendliness, HTTPS(security), no intrusive interstitials(accessibility). These updates ensure that the user has the best experience on the web.

What Not To Do After A Google Algorithm Update

Google only publicizes very little information about its algorithm updates. They name the most important updates and provide information about some on official websites and social handles. If after a major algorithm update, you see your ranks dipping, do not panic. Make sure that you don’t make sudden changes to your website. Just keep monitoring the performance of your target keywords and their performance. Only believe information about Google Algorithm Updates from reliable and authoritative websites and official pages. Make sure that you don’t practice any black hat SEO tactics and provide the best user experience. You can use Google Analytics reports, audit your website, check that you are using disavow, robot. Txt files and nofollow tags correctly. Make sure that you are providing relevant and reliable content that serves the user’s purpose. 

To Sum Up

There are thousands of Google Algorithm updates all year round. Google announces some of these updates while it does not announce some. All these Google algorithm updates aim to create a user-friendly web and to understand the user better. The passage ranking, rich snippet updates, etc are examples of how Google is trying to close the gap between user intent and results shown to them. So, to get better SERP rankings, make sure to focus your SEO efforts on being user-friendly, providing high-quality, relevant content that serves the user. Get expert advice and the help of SEO analysts who monitors these algorithm updates regularly to make progress in ranking.

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(Head of Digital Marketing)

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