As we know, Google has come a long way since its launch in 1998 and partly due to its continuous upgrades and Google Algorithm Changes, it is now considered the best and the largest search engine in the world. It has over 90% of the entire search engine market share and processes more than 6.5 billion search queries a day worldwide.
But what sets Google apart from other search engines? A big part of their success is due to its unique algorithm.
What are Google Algorithms?
Google algorithms are complex systems designed to sort through the billions of pages from their search index in order to find the most suitable results for users who typed in a query in a matter of milliseconds. Google’s Search algorithms currently look at more than 200 factors and ranking signals when selecting the most helpful results, including the relevance and usability of the pages, your location, and even past search history.
Google also builds language models which “read” the intent behind every query we type in and even interpret spelling mistakes in order to ensure users receive the most useful answers. Even though in the beginning, Google only made a few updates per year to their algorithms, they now make a few thousand changes every year.
Below, we’ll talk about the most significant updates, which have considerably changed the way the search engine works.
What are the main updates in the history of Google algorithm changes?
Florida (November 2003) – This was the first major update which is also considered to have put the SEO industry on the map. This change was designed to bring an end to any so-called “black hat” SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing, invisible text, and hidden links.
Brandy (February 2004) – This is the update that gave us Latent Semantic Indexing, or in other words, the index expansion which helps Google understand synonyms & related keywords and phrases.
Panda (February 2011) – According to Google, this major update, which affected up to 12% of search results and rolled out over a couple of months, was meant to penalize content which was spam-like, thin, or too saturated with ads.
Penguin (April 2012) – Google addressed spammy tactics and factors such as keyword stuffing and suggested that webmasters focus on “creating high quality sites that create a good user experience instead of engaging in aggressive spam tactics”.
Hummingbird (August 2013) – This core update was focused on better understating complex queries and returning the most relevant results to users. Google stated that around 90% of searches worldwide were affected by this change.
Pigeon (December 2014) – Update meant to provide more accurate local search results, including improvements to distance and location ranking parameters.
Mobilegeddon (April 2015) – Google announced that they would start using mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor. At this point, mobile devices had become so common for web searches that Google wanted to reflect these changes in their SERPs as well.
RankBrain (October 2015) – Google’s official machine-learning artificial intelligence system, called RankBrain, becomes public information. RankBrain was the third-most important factor for ranking webpages, with the first two being content and links.
Fred (March 2017) – This update mostly hit sites engaged in over-advertising, pages with thin content and poor backlinks.
Further broad core algorithm updates were confirmed by Google in March and June of 2019, however, they didn’t state any specifics other than that the update was focused on providing better search results.
Why is it important to track major Google algorithm changes?
For search marketers, tracking any core algorithm updates is important because it clarifies any sudden changes in rankings which could occur after such updates. Even though Google doesn’t disclose the exact changes they make to their algorithms, their purpose in recent years is to improve the user experience, to better understand and satisfy the users’ intent/ Thus, any efforts which could improve the areas mentioned above are worth making if we want to maintain our good rankings or improve our falling ones.
Luckily, platforms like Moz and Search Engine Journal, among others, track any core updates announced by Google, as well as smaller changes that happen throughout the year.