Google, the search engine giant, is at the forefront of shaping the digital SEO landscape. Google continuously refines its search algorithms to guarantee users access to the most valuable search results. Join us at SEO Melbourne as we delve into the history and evolution of the Google algorithm update. From the early days to the innovations in artificial intelligence, we will uncover the significant transformations that have not only reshaped but also redefined the way users explore and engage with the Internet. \
What are Google Algorithms?
Google algorithms comprise a sophisticated system designed to retrieve data from the search index in the pursuit of delivering the best possible results for a given search query instantly. Each of these algorithms operates by a series of predefined rules, combined with data from the index, to determine which web pages are the most fitting responses to a particular search query. In this process, Google uses its programmed ranking signals to hierarchically organise pages based on their relevance on the search engine result page (SERP).
When it comes to SEO, digital marketers aim to align their strategies with these algorithms. Google’s evolving landscape has introduced numerous major updates, each leaving an impact on SEO best practices. Google has implemented thousands of updates throughout the years. While many are relatively minor, some stand out as game-changers that significantly influenced SEO and user experience.
The Google Algorithm Update: Key Updates Over The Years
In June 2010, Google unveiled its Caffeine indexing system, aimed at expediting search results for users and ensuring visibility for web content. This system revolutionised the way Google crawled and stored data, significantly enhancing its efficiency. Among its SEO implications, Caffeine introduced an enhanced focus on site speed, establishing it as a ranking signal. This development prompted brands to prioritise and optimise their website performance, recognizing the direct impact it had on search rankings and user experience.
The Panda update introduced a new ranking signal that penalised websites for engaging in keyword stuffing and publishing spammy content. The primary aim was to achieve Google’s mission of delivering high-quality content to users. This update enhanced search results by identifying and demoting low-quality content from top search rankings. It mainly focused on on-page factors and targeted affiliate sites, which are websites primarily created to link to other pages, as well as sites with thin content. This had a notable impact on brands, as it forced them to abandon black hat SEO tactics and prioritise valuable, user-relevant content. It no longer allowed websites to thrive by creating low-quality pages.
The Venice algorithm update enhanced search results by prioritising products and services that were geographically closer to the searcher. This update reflected Google’s recognition that searchers often seek results within their local vicinity. As a result, Google’s search results started factoring in user-set locations or IP addresses. This change had a significant impact on local SEO, particularly benefiting smaller businesses. It levelled the playing field, allowing them to compete with larger businesses and well-known brands in high-volume keywords with local intent.
This Google algorithm update was implemented to deter websites with copyright infringement issues from achieving high rankings in search results. Google acknowledged the significant problem of piracy, and as a response, it established a mechanism to address it. Consequently, if Google confirmed that a website is in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), it resulted in a significant drop in the site’s organic search rankings.
The Penguin update primarily focused on assessing the authenticity of backlinks within websites, distinguishing between genuine and manipulated ones. Google identified the practice of some websites paying for links as a shortcut to improve their rankings. Consequently, if artificial links were detected, they were assigned a negative value, affecting the ranking of the site. This change had a direct impact on websites that had been purchasing artificial links. They were compelled to shift their strategy towards organically building links and acquiring valuable, relevant links from authentic sources.
The Hummingbird update served as a critical step in paving the way for voice search, which was gaining prominence and remains relevant today. This update had a clear objective: to enhance the comprehension of users’ queries and provide them with direct answers rather than merely presenting a list of search results. It empowered Google to grasp users’ search intent more effectively by establishing context between user queries and website content. Essentially, this update encouraged websites to produce SEO content that is reader-friendly, using natural language instead of excessive keyword optimization.
The 2014 Pigeon Google algorithm update centred on local SEO and had a notable impact on both SERPs and Google Maps. It brought about more precise localisation, enhancing ranking factors linked to physical proximity. This change significantly influenced the local search landscape, simplifying the process for small businesses to connect with local audiences and increase their prospects of achieving high rankings on the SERP.
This update had a key goal of enhancing internet security and ensuring that users accessed safe websites through their search results. Consequently, Google encouraged websites to transition from HTTP to HTTPS by implementing SSL certificates on their servers.
Mobilegeddon update (2015)
The mobile-friendly update marked a significant milestone in Google’s mobile-first initiative. It emphasised the need for websites to adapt their proportions to suit the screens of mobile devices, particularly smartphones. This update left a notable impact on SEO, as mobile-friendliness became a primary ranking signal, receiving priority in search results. It’s important to note that this change applied to individual pages rather than entire websites.
This was an introduction to the new machine-learning artificial intelligence to enhance the precision of search results for specific queries. It facilitated a process where queries passed through an interpretation model, factoring in variables such as location and word count to decipher users’ intent and provide the most fitting results. RankBrain accomplished this by analyzing prior searches. However, it’s worth noting that RankBrain couldn’t be optimised using traditional methods. As a result, websites needed to persist in creating high-quality content to be perceived as such by RankBrain’s ranking signal.
The Possum update brought significant enhancements to local search results. Before this update, businesses located just outside the physical city limits faced challenges in ranking for related keywords. The Possum update rectified this issue, emphasising the significance of physical location. It also increased the sensitivity to variations of local terms. This had a notable impact on websites, as it aimed to diversify search results, making it an important change for local SEO.
Intrusive Interstitials Update (2017)
In this update, Google took measures to reduce the prevalence of intrusive interstitials, which are large pop-up ads that obscure a significant part of a page, hindering users from easily accessing the content they seek. As a result, these interstitials incurred an SEO ranking penalty for websites.
Mobile Speed Update (2018)
In this update, Google introduced a significant change by incorporating page speed as a ranking factor for mobile searches. Prior speed updates primarily targeted desktop searches. During this period, Google placed a strong emphasis on First Contentful Paint (FCP) and DOM Content Loaded (DCL) as key indicators of a fast-loading user experience. The impact was most noticeable for websites with slow mobile loading speeds. Consequently, web developers were prompted to address mobile speed issues to prevent any loss in search rankings.
The Medic update brought about improvements in the recognition of Google’s E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness) framework within online content. This had a direct impact on websites that exhibited certain characteristics, such as limited reviews, sparse backlinks, thin content, infrequent updates, and incomplete business and author profiles. As a result of this update, these websites were more likely to experience a decline in their SERP rankings in favour of pages that better met the comprehensive criteria outlined in the checklist.
Bert Update (2019)
The Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) is a machine learning system focused on natural language processing. Its primary function was to enhance Google’s comprehension of search queries, leading to the identification of high-quality and pertinent content for specific queries. This development empowered Google to discern the nuanced and subtle contextual meanings of words. The impact of BERT was particularly felt by SEO copywriters. The importance of specific keywords diminished, while the significance of using natural language associated with keywords increased. Consequently, SEO writers were encouraged to prioritise providing accurate information and high-quality content related to the given topic. This approach allowed their content to be recognised by Google as relevant.
Among our history of the Google algorithm update, BERT’s implementation held some of the most significant implications in the way we approach SEO; with its emphasis on natural language use and automated learning, content gained a critical lease on life in the arsenal of SEO criteria, directly influencing the nature of user search, Google’s interpretation of relevance, and how their searching behaviour would come to reflect more intuitive, instinctive approaches.
Featured Snippets (2020)
This Google algorithm update aimed to eliminate duplicate URLs within the SERP that included featured snippets. As a result, websites experienced an impact due to a shift in user behaviour. Specifically, featured snippets received fewer clicks compared to the first standard organic listing. This was particularly concerning for websites ranking in positions similar to both the featured snippet and the first organic listing, as they encountered substantial traffic declines for these specific queries.
Passage Ranking (2021)
The Passage Ranking update enabled Google to individually rank specific sections or passages from a web page in its search results. This signified Google’s ability to extract and rank portions of a site’s content independently, separate from the rest of the page. This development had a notable impact on the SEO community, placing increased importance on specific on-page SEO practices, including the use of header tags and long-tail keywords. Additionally, there was a growing incentive to create long-form content, as Google’s improved parsing capabilities favoured such content, leading to enhanced search rankings.
Page Experience Update (2021)
While page experience had been a ranking signal to some extent, this update introduced a significant shift. It merged existing page experience signals with Core Web Vitals, which are real-world metrics assessing user experience elements. It included the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), gauging loading speed, responsiveness, and visual stability to evaluate overall user experience. Consequently, this update imposed penalties on websites that exhibited slow loading times, delayed responsiveness to user interactions, or visual instability. This was a reflection of Google’s growing perspective on on-page user experience, underscoring the importance of delivering a more holistic and user-centric web experience.
Multitask United Model (2021)
This MUM update ushered in a significant transformation. It showcased the capability to concurrently undertake various tasks, such as reading, comprehending, and learning across a vast spectrum of over 75 languages. Leveraging a multitude of sources, MUM was designed to amalgamate information, resulting in multifaceted responses to intricate search queries. Its initial application was demonstrated through COVID-19 vaccine searches, marking just the initial phase of its potential.
Helpful Content (2022)
This update placed a heightened emphasis on the quality of content displayed in the SERP. It rewarded content that effectively addressed users’ questions and delivered a satisfying user experience.
The Future of The Google Algorithm Update
As evident from the evolution discussed above, Google has significantly advanced since the early 2010s. The major updates undertaken during this period have consistently aimed at enhancing search results, catering to the needs of desktop, mobile, and local search users. With continuous emphasis on content quality, it is probable that this focus will persist in the future. The overarching goal remains to make the Internet more accessible and valuable.
Therefore, it is essential for your brand to maintain an outstanding website that consistently offers fresh, pertinent, informative, and top-notch content. This not only aligns with Google’s evolving criteria but also ensures your brand’s relevance and accessibility in the digital landscape.
Stay on Top of Algorithm Updates With SEO Melbourne
As Google’s algorithm updates continue to evolve, it becomes increasingly crucial for your brand to adapt and excel in today’s competitive business landscape. To establish a strong online presence and ascend the rankings through ethical, white-hat SEO practices, SEO Melbourne is your trusted partner. Our comprehensive services encompass SEO campaigns, copywriting, website design, consulting, and PPC services, ensuring all your digital needs are met. What sets us apart is not only the ethical foundation of our strategies but also the tangible results we’ve consistently delivered. Contact SEO Melbourne today to enhance the success of your business and stay at the forefront of the digital environment.