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What are the Major Google Algorithm Updates?

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Google is a fickle beast. The search engine is key thing for the success of your website content, but no one truly knows about the Google algorithm and how it works (except for the elusive Google search-quality team, of course).

Google’s search engine is changing day by day. It has achieved this leading position by continually updating its algorithm to meet its user’s needs and delivering the best the possible results (not to mention engaging users with new daily doodles on the Google homepage).

If your content doesn’t meet up with these Google algorithm updates, then you risk losing valuable spaces on the search engine result page (SERP) as well as you may lose potential visitors, leads, and customers.

What is the Google Algorithm?

The Google algorithm is a complicated method that retrieves data from its search index and automatically produces the best possible query results. To deliver web pages ranked by relevance on its search engine results pages (SERPs), the search engine uses a combination of algorithms and numerous ranking signals. Google only made a handful of updates to its algorithms in its early years. But now, every year, Google makes thousands of modifications.

Major Google Algorithmic Updates

1. Google Algorithm Panda

Launch date: February 24, 2011

Hazards: Duplicate, plagiarised or thin content; spam generated by users; stuffing of keywords

How it works?

Panda assigns web pages a so-called “quality score”; this rating is then used as a ranking factor. Panda was initially a detector rather than part of Google’s ranking, but was officially incorporated into the core algorithm in January 2016. Panda rollouts have become more frequent, so it is now quicker for both penalties and recoveries to happen.

2. Google Algorithm Penguin

Launch date: April 24, 2012

Hazards: Spammy or irrelevant connexions; interactions with over-optimized anchor text

How it works?

The goal of Google Penguin is to down-rank sites whose links it considers manipulative. Penguin has been part of the core Google algorithm since late 2016; it works in real time, unlike Panda.

3. Google Hummingbird Algorithm

Launch date: August 22, 2013

Hazards: Stuffing with keywords; low-quality content

How it works?

Hummingbird allows Google to better interpret search queries and provide results that correspond to the intent of the searcher (as opposed to the specific terms in the query). While keywords remain important, Hummingbird allows a page to rank for a query even if it does not contain the exact words entered by the searcher. With the aid of natural language processing that relies on latent semantic indexing, co-occurring terms and synonyms, this is achieved.

4. Google Pigeon Algorithm

Launch date: July 24, 2014 (US); December 22, 2014 (Canada, UK, Australia)

Hazards: Poor on- and off-page SEO

How it works?

Pigeon affects those searches in which the location of the user plays a major role. The update created closer ties between the local algorithm and the core algorithm: in order to rank local results, traditional SEO factors are now used.

5. Google Mobilegeddon Algorithm

Launch date: April 21, 2015

Hazards: Lacks mobile version; poor mobile usability

How it works?

Google’s Mobile Update (aka Mobilegeddon) ensures that mobile-friendly pages are at the top of mobile search, while non-mobile-optimized pages are filtered out or severely down-ranked from the SERPs.

6. RankBrain Algorithm

Launch date: October 26, 2015

Hazards: Lack of query-specific characteristics of relevance; shallow content; poor UX

How it works?

RankBrain is part of the Hummingbird algorithm used by Google. It is a machine learning system that helps Google to understand the meaning behind queries and to respond to those queries by providing the best matching search results. The third most significant ranking factor is called RankBrain by Google. While we don’t understand RankBrain’s ins and outs, the general opinion is that it identifies relevant web page ranking features for a given query, which are basically ranking factors specific to the query.

7. Possum Algorithm

Launch date: September 1, 2016

Hazards: Tense competition in your target location

How it works?

The Possum update made sure that local results vary more depending on the location of the searcher: the closer you are to the address of a company, the more likely it is to be seen among local results. Possum also led to a greater range of results for very similar queries. Interestingly, Possum also gave a boost to companies outside the physical city area.

8. Fred Algorithm

Launch date: March 8, 2017

Hazards: Thin, content that is affiliate-heavy or ad-centered

How it works?

Fred targets websites that violate Google’s webmaster directives, the latest of Google’s confirmed updates. Most of the websites affected are blogs with low-quality posts that mostly appear to be created for the purpose of generating ad revenue.

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