Google Search Engine Algorithm Updates

With the advent of Search Engines, businesses have gone online to promote their brand, product, or service. Moreover, they have relied on free and online tools to help gain a prominent search engine ranking position (SERP).

Although, Google started is search engine service in 1998, it wasn’t until 2000 that it introduced a complex set of the algorithm to help rank a webpage. The minimal set of rules such as website content, keywords, and keyword density helped a webpage rank in its search engine pages.

In the next 10-15 years, it took a large leap. With the realization of competition among the businesses, the possibility of growing business through online medium and promising ad revenue, Google started rolling newer and complex algorithms. Today, there are billions of webpages, millions of businesses, and billion-dollar amounts of advertising invested in Google Search Engine making it the largest database in the world.

What is the Google Algorithm update?

Google’s algorithms are a complex set of mathematical and logical rules used to retrieve data from its search index and instantly deliver the best possible results for a query or the keyword.

The search engine uses a combination of algorithms and numerous ranking signals to deliver webpages ranked by relevance on its search engine results pages (SERPs).

Google Algorithm Update is a continuous process of tweaking algorithms to provide better results. Why does Google need to update its algorithm time and again?

As pointed out by Neil Patel,

People change. Plain and simple. And as our behavior changes, technology evolves to keep up with our wants and needs. So, search engines have to change too.

People’s preferences and the need to keep changing. To cater to these changes, Google must keep updating its algorithm to ensure people are getting what they need.

Why is the Google Algorithm update necessary?

Given that Google handles over 2 trillion searches per year (that’s about 40,000 every second), even the smallest changes to their algorithm can have a massive impact on any given site.

Google Algorithm update is necessary because it ultimately affects the user experience. Every search is centered towards the interest of the user, and Google is likely to show only those webpages which prove to be highly user-friendly.

What are the different types of Google algorithm update?

The search engine rolls out major algorithmic updates that significantly impact the SERPs such as:

  • Fred
  • Intrusive Interstitials Update
  • Mobilegeddon
  • RankBrain
  • Panda
  • Penguin
  • Hummingbird
  • Pigeon
  • Payday
  • EMD (Exact Match Domain)
  • Page Layout Algorithm

Some of the recent algorithm updates carried out by Google were:

  • October 25, 2019 -BERT Update
  • September 24, 2019 - Broad Core Algorithm Update
  • June 2, 2019 - June 2019 Core Update
  • March 12, 2019 - March 2019 Core Update (a.k.a. Florida 2)
  • February 13, 2019 - Valentine’s Day Update
  • October 31, 2018 - Unconfirmed Halloween Update

Google Penguin

Google Penguin is one of the algorithm updates made by Google.

What is Google Penguin?

Google Penguin is a major algorithm update that targets the link spams and manipulative link building practices. It was rolled out in 2012 to help curb spam links from the search engine. The blackhat SEO technique gave rise to many spam websites that populated the search engine result pages, hence, affecting the user experience.

The webspam algorithm later became known (officially) as the Penguin algorithm update via a tweet from Matt Cutts, who was then head of the Google webspam team. While Google officially named the algorithm Penguin, there is no official word on where this name came from.

What is the importance of Google penguin?

Penguin was Google’s response to the increasing practice of manipulating search results (and rankings) through black hat link building techniques such as link spamming. Before the rollout of Google’s Penguin update, marketers mostly relied on link spamming and keyword stuffing to gain prominence in the search engine result pages.

Link spamming was an infamous technique to create dominance of a webpage by linking it to different websites through blog commenting, forums, guest posting, etc. Keyword stuffing helped to dominate certain key phrases by increasing the keyword density over the limit.

Drawbacks of Google Penguin

Two of the major drawbacks of Google Penguin are as follows

1. Too secretive

Google Penguin update was secretly rolled out giving the marketers less or no time to amend the changes. Sometimes people or internet users were not even fully aware of what new changes have been done? Google’s tends to keep everything about their algorithm secret.

2. Discouraging for small businesses

Small businesses rely on SEO techniques to keep up with larger, more established businesses. With the introduction of this update, not only are they penalized for using SEO techniques, but they are also given a lower priority on the search results, thus making them lose traffic and, then, profits.

What are/were the major updates on Google Penguin?

Google Penguin 1.1: March 26, 2012

This was the first time the Google Penguin update was rolled out. This wasn’t a change to the algorithm itself, but the first refresh of the data within it. Websites that had initially been affected by the launch who had been proactive in clearing up their link profiles saw some recovery, while others who hadn’t been caught by Penguin first time round saw an impact.

Google Penguin 1.2: October 5, 2012

This was another data refresh. It affected queries in the English language, as well as affected international queries.

Google Penguin 2.0: May 22, 2013

This was a more technically advanced version of the Penguin algorithm and changed how the algorithm impacted search results. Penguin 2.0 impacted around 2.3 percent of English queries, as well as other languages proportionately.

Google Penguin 2.1: October 4, 2013

The only refresh to Penguin 2.0 (2.1) came on October 4 of the same year. It affected about 1 percent of queries.

Google Penguin 3.0: October 17, 2014

While this was named as a major update, it was, in fact, another data refresh; allowing those impacted by previous updates to emerge and recover, while many others who had continued to utilize spammy link practices and had escaped the radar of the previous impacts saw an impact.

Google Penguin 4.0: September 23, 2016

Almost two years after the 3.0 refresh, the final Penguin algorithm update was launched. The biggest change with this iteration was that Penguin became a part of the core algorithm.

Google panda

Google Panda is one of the algorithm updates made by Google.

What is Google Panda?

Google Panda is one of the major algorithm updates made by Google following the rise in low-performing websites.

It was released in February 2011, which aimed to lower the rankings of websites with thin or poor-quality content. This helped bring the sites with high-quality content to the top of the SERPs. The Panda search filter is integrated into Google Search Engine which keeps tracks on every new and old website, along with penalizing websites that do not follow the criteria.

On February 24, Google published a blog post about the update, and indicated that they “launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries.”

What is the importance of Google Panda?

The Panda algorithm update is targeted to downgrade, penalize, or nullify websites from search engine rankings that have less or low-quality content.

Here are some of the reasons Google Panda was rolled out.

  1. Thin content – Thin content stands for webpages with less content or with very little relevant or substantive text and resources.
  2. Duplicate content – Website who has copied content from another website fall under the radar of Google Panda. Duplicate content stands for content that appears on the Internet in more than one place. Duplication of content inside a website is also possible if the website features the same content in multiple pages.
  • Low-quality content – Low-quality content provides little value to human readers because they lack in-depth information.
  1. Lack of authority - Content produced by sources that are not considered definitive or verified.
  2. Content farming - Large numbers of low-quality pages, often aggregated from other websites. A content farm is a website that employs large numbers of writers to produce a vast variety of low-quality and keyword-stuffed contents with a core purpose to simply gain a search engine ranking.
  3. Low-quality user-generated content (UGC) - An example of this type of low-value User Generated Content would be a blog that publishes guest blog posts that are short, full of spelling and grammatical errors and lacking in authoritative information.
  • High ad-to-content ratio - Pages made up mostly of paid advertising rather than original content.  Drawbacks of Google Panda

What are/was the major updates on Google Panda?

Here is the timeline of Panda updates is a consecutive order.

1.0: February 23, 2011. The first iteration of a then-unnamed algorithm update was introduced (12 percent of queries were impacted).

2.0 (#2): April 11, 2011. The first update to the core Panda algorithm. This update incorporated additional signals, such as sites that Google users had blocked.

2.1 (#3): May 9, 2011. The industry-first called this Panda 3.0, but Google clarified that it was just a data refresh, as would be true of the 2.x updates to come.

2.2 (#4): June 21, 2011

2.3 (#5): July 23, 2011

2.4 (#6) International: August 12, 2011. Panda was rolled out internationally for all English-speaking countries, and for non-English speaking countries except for Japan, China, and Korea.

2.5 (#7) and Panda-Related Flux: September 28, 2011. Following this update, on October 5, 2011, Cutts announced to “expect some Panda-related flux in the next few weeks.” Confirmed flux dates were October 3 and October 13.

3.0 (#8): October 19, 2011. Google added some new signals into the Panda algorithm and also recalculated how the algorithm impacted websites.

3.1 (#9): November 18, 2011. Google announced a minor refresh, impacting less than 1 percent of searches.

3.2 (#10): January 18, 2012. Google confirmed a data refresh occurred on this date.

3.3 (#11): February 23, 2012. A data refresh.

3.4 (#12): March 23, 2012

3.5 (#13): April 19, 2012

3.6 (#14): April 27, 2012

3.7 (#15): June 8, 2012. A data refresh that ranking tools suggest was more heavy-hitting than other recent updates.

3.8 (#16): June 25, 2012

3.9 (#17): July 24, 2012

3.9.1 (#18): August 20, 2012. A relatively minor update that marked the beginning of a new naming convention assigned by the industry.

3.9.2 (#19): September 18, 2012

#20: September 27, 2012.

#21: November 5, 2012

#22: November 21: 2012

#23: December 21, 2012. A slightly more impactful data refresh.

#24: January 22, 2013

#25: March 14, 2013. Cutts seemed to suggest that this would be the final update before Panda would be incorporated directly into the Google algorithm, although it later became clear that this wasn’t quite what was happening.

“Dance”: June 11, 2013. Cutts clarified Panda wasn’t going to be incorporated directly into the algorithm, but rather that it would update monthly with much slower rollouts.

“Recovery”: July 18, 2013. This update appears to have been a tweak to correct some overly harsh Panda activity.

4.0 (#26): May 19, 2014. A major Panda update (impacting 7.5 percent of queries) occurred on this date, and most in the industry believe that this was an update to the Panda algorithm.

4.1 (#27): September 23, 2014. Another major update (impacting 3 to 5 percent of queries) that included some changes to the Panda algorithm. Due to the slow rollouts, the exact date is unclear, but the announcement was made on September 25.

4.2 (#28): July 17, 2015. Google announced a Panda refresh that would take months to roll out. Due to the slow nature of the rollout, it’s unclear how substantial the impact was or precisely when it occurred. It was the final confirmed Panda update.

Google Pigeon

What is Google Pigeon?

Google Pigeon was rolled out to improve the local listing and improve Business listings in Google Maps. It was released on July 24, 2014, for the US and expanded to the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia on December 22, 2014.

What is the importance of Google Pigeon?

The importance of rolling out Google Pigeon updates were:

Emphasis on traditional, organic signals - Intelligent link building, publishing exceptional website content and growing Domain Authority all support high local and local organic rankings.

Emphasis on hyperlocal content - Creating text, video, and image content that associates your business with a specific neighborhood or local region will strengthen your authority as a resource for a narrowed search radius.

Emphasis on local SEO basics - Improve the accuracy and breadth of your citations, removing duplicate listings, gaining favorable reviews, and many more fundamental tasks. Large brands should pay particular attention to these foundational to-dos.

Spam reporting – You can report the spam to Google. This will help the search engine to inspect a spam listing and remove it.

Drawbacks of Google Pigeon

  • The stronger directory sites will gain greater search visibility as compared to the weaker individual business websites.
  • Local sites that haven't had much SEO help may face a downward spiral as Google shifts the focus to authority, which again comes from backlinks and SEO.

Google Hummingbird

Google hummingbird is a recent update to Google algorithm which helps to deliver better and improved search results.

What is Google hummingbird?

Hummingbird enables Google search engine to provide better search results through an improvement in semantic search. As conversational search becomes the norm, Hummingbird lends understanding to the intent and contextual meaning of terms used in a query. It was rolled out in 2013.

What is the importance of Google hummingbird?

It places greater emphasis on-page content, making search results more relevant, and looks at the authority of a page, and in some cases the page author, to determine the importance of a website.

It uses this information to better lead users to a specific page on a website rather than the standard website homepage.

For example, if a user performs a search for the term “weather”, it’s much more likely that they are looking for a forecast for their area, not an explanation of the science or history of meteorology.

So, in this example:

  • “Weather” is the subject of the search
  • The desire for a local forecast is the user’s intent
  • The difference between a weather forecast and an explanation of meteorological concepts is the context

Drawbacks of Google hummingbird

  • Google becomes more powerful. So the webmaster will totally dependent upon Google.
  • Small blogs having great content usually get penalized.
  • Large website in the corporate world mostly gets more exposure.
  • It is harder to get profit from your own original content.

Difference between Google Penguin and Google panda

Google Penguin is a search engine algorithm targeted to prevent spam websites from showing up in the search engine. It discourages the website intended for link spamming and keyword stuffing to be shown in the top results.

It was first rolled out in 2012 and has constantly been updated to improve search results.

Google Panda is a search engine algorithm intended to prevent websites with low-quality content from showing up in the search engine. It discourages websites that have low-quality content, irrelevant, or duplicate contents.

It was first rolled out in 2011.

How many algorithms have changed according to Google until 2020?

Google is reported to change its search algorithm around 500 to 600 times each year. In 2018, they reported an incredible 3,234 updates — an average of almost 9 per day, and more than 8 times the number of updates in 2009. Most of these changes were small in proportion.

How Google Algorithm Updates affect SEO?

Every time the Google algorithm update takes place, it helps to refurbish search engine results.

Each of these algorithms updates focus on different SEO topics such as poor content quality, keyword stuffing, duplicate content, copyright infringements, and poorly optimized pages

How do we stay updated about Google algorithm updates?

As a marketer, you should keep a tab on:

  • Major and minor changes made by Google Search Engine. For this, you can subscribe to their blog.
  • Check Webmaster and Google analytics on a regular basis, and keep a tab on the sudden spike in visitor rate.
  • Subscribe to popular SEO and Marketing blogs such as and Hubspot.

Google Algorithm Update 2020

The two major updates have taken place at the beginning of 2020. Google has confirmed to roll out many more major and minor algorithm updates later this year.

Unconfirmed Algorithm Update – February 8 – 13, 2020

Google has made an unconfirmed algorithm update on February 8-13. Thanks to Danny Sullivan, the SearchLiaison twitter handle has been doing a great job, keeping webmasters informed about impending updates.

Featured Snippet Algorithm Update – January 23, 2020

Google officials announced that it has rolled out an algorithm update that will restrict URLs that are shown in the featured snippet to appear again within the first ten organic search results. The update was around in January.

Google’s Danny Sullivan, while replying to a question on twitter confirmed that a webpage that gets featured in the snippet position AKA #0 position, will not show up again in the listing.

According to Danny, Google’s Public Searchliaison, the new tweak in the algorithm will ensure the Search Results page is not cluttered, and only relevant information gets displayed.

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