What is Google’s algorithm?
Google’s algorithm is a complex system used to retrieve and rank search results, determining which web pages best suit a user’s search query.
Why does Google update its algorithm?
Originally, Google only made occasional updates to its algorithm. However, they now make thousands of changes each year to ensure they provide users with the most useful and positive experience.
Though Google’s updates are kept relatively private, in order to prevent spam and black hat SEO tactics, the updates may:
- Improve the way Google comprehends language
- Develop new features
- Enhance Google’s ability to determine webpage quality
- Help Google determine a user’s search intent
Some major algorithm updates
Many of the updates Google makes to its algorithm are so small they go completely unnoticed. However, occasionally it makes major updates, such as:
The Florida Update
The Florida update was Google’s very first update, released in November 2003. It was mainly implemented to prevent the overuse of keywords. Previously, online stores would often stuff their websites with keywords, often in a text that was the same colour as the page’s background, so that they weren’t visible to a casual user. The update had a major impact on websites selling products and services, including retail stores and hotels.
The next significant update to Google’s algorithm was made in 2005. It had a negative impact on newer websites and positively affected more established ones. It also tackled sites using black-hat SEO tactics, such as hoarding backlinks, spamming keywords and spreading the same content across multiple domains.
Panda was a major algorithm update. It assigned a ‘quality score’ to websites and mainly affected those with low backlink profiles or those that contained duplicate content. These web pages were penalised and began to rank lower in search engine results.
The 2012 Penguin algorithm update targeted spam, primarily link spam and black hat link building. Prior to the update, the volume of links a website contained played a critical role in its ranking. This allowed poor-quality websites to hoard links and achieve positive search engine results, despite containing low-quality content. Penguin worked to ensure that high-quality, optimised and organic websites were rewarded in the algorithm while these spam websites were penalised.
In 2012, Google also released their Pirate update. This targeted pirated content and copyright infringements. Websites that were known for distributing pirated content, or those that had received multiple copyright infringement notices, were prevented from ranking high in search engine results.
The Hummingbird algorithm update, which was announced in September 2013, impacted the majority of web searches and influenced how users engaged with search results. It took human intent into account – allowing users to search for longer, more conversational queries and still receive relevant results. This meant that users didn’t require background knowledge on a subject before making a search.
In 2014, Google released its Pigeon algorithm update, which worked to improve local search results. It impacted businesses globally and rewarded local businesses that had a strong presence online. It made updates to its location and distance proximity rankings, making them more accurate and able to perform wider searches. It also meant that local search results would appear in order of proximity to the user.
The 2019 Bert update rewarded good writing while ensuring that poorly written content ranked lower in search results.
In June of 2021, Google released its first core update of the year. A core update refers to general changes in Google’s algorithms and systems that may cause notable fluctuations in search results. It included a list of updates to its algorithm, including spam updates and an update that aimed to “employ exploitative removals practices”. They did not provide further details on what spam was being targeted. The next core update was rolled out in November and rolled out through Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
In July, Google rolled out the desktop version of the page experience update. This update contained all the same signals as the mobile version, except for the page needing to be mobile-friendly. Next, the Product Algorithm Update released in March allowed for the identification of high-quality reviews. Product reviews identified as high-quality would be rewarded with better rankings. Google stated that helpful and detailed reviews containing unique information and coming from people who have used the product would be the key criteria for high-quality reviews.
The broad core update released in May was part of a series of updates to the overall ranking process. This update was the first core update in more than six months and was designed to improve the overall search functionality. Similarly, the Helpful Content update was launched in August as a means to help people find original and helpful content. Helpful content will be rewarded with better rankings, while below-average content may not perform as well.
What do algorithm changes mean for businesses?
As Google is regularly updating and improving its algorithm, businesses need to stay on top of their strategies, constantly fine-tuning and fixing their techniques to ensure that websites and businesses remain relevant and don’t get left behind.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about how Google Algorithm Changes may impact your website’s search engine rankings, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Our team of SEO experts is here to assist you and help your business succeed online.