Google’s Algorithm History: Past, Present, and Future
Every once and a while Google makes an unannounced update to its core algorithm, targeting various issues that range from weak content to advertisement spam. Understanding each individual update and its purpose helps analysts and webmasters develop optimization techniques to accommodate Google’s adjustments. At Radd Interactive, we pay close attention to these algorithm modifications to help sites reach their best ranking potential. Below you can find a comprehensive guide to the updates Google has made thus far and gain a better understanding of how the algorithm works overall.
- Panda: Google’s Panda algorithm update hit the scene in February 2011 as a means of improving overall user experience. Its aim was to penalize sites considered to be of poor quality, sometimes referred to as “content farms.” Panda looks out for duplicate, plagiarized, or thin content, as well as user generated spam and keyword stuffing. By demoting low quality sites, Panda in turn enhances the performance of high-quality, reliable web pages. You can avoid being penalized by regularly combing your site for duplicate or unsubstantial content and overused keywords.
- Penguin: In April 2012, a little over a year after Panda’s debut, Google introduced Penguin as a way to target spam-like or irrelevant links. Penguin demotes sites that purchase links or use link networks to enhance their rankings. Because of this Google algorithm update, sites that feature a large amount of manipulated links are deemed untrustworthy. This algorithm works in real time, so once rectified, a website can quickly recover.
- Hummingbird: Hummingbird, unlike Panda and Penguin, was a major overhaul of Google’s entire core algorithm. First released in September 2013, Hummingbird’s aims to focus on the meaning of words to provide search results that accurately match the user’s intent. It naturally processes language in a way that mimics the thought patterns of human readers. Rather than focusing attention on individual words, Hummingbird considers a query in its entirety. By putting a greater emphasis on concepts instead of keywords, and researching synonyms and co-occurring terms, you can optimize your site for better results.
- Pigeon: Designed to improve Google’s distance and location ranking parameters, Pigeon was released in July 2014. Pigeon was made to connect Google’s local algorithm more closely to its traditional web algorithm. This update made it essential for businesses to increase their organic rankings to compete with other local companies. In addition, Pigeon narrowed Google’s search radius, prioritizing sites in closer proximity to the searcher. This put a direct emphasis on local and geo-targeted SEO practices.
- RankBrain: RankBrain is a part of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm. It is essentially a machine learning system design to help Google understand the meaning behind queries and provide results better tailored to the search. This is, in fact, the third most important rank factor, meaning it makes it crucial for business owners to produce relevant and comprehensive copy. It specifically targets sites with shallow content and unsatisfactory user experience.
- Fred: Released in March 2017, Fred penalizes spam-like and ad-centered content. It works diligently to demote sites that are in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes blogs with low-quality posts, usually ones that are utilized to generate revenue from advertisements. To make sure your site isn’t penalized by Fred, be sure your ads are found on pages with high-quality content that offers reliable and relevant information.
- Possum: Similar to Pigeon, Possum is an unconfirmed update designed to enhance Google’s local pack and local finder results. It appears to have diversified local search results as well as prevented spam pages from ranking. It began to include businesses in the results located just outside the search radius that may have previously been excluded.
- Mobile: Introduced in April 2015, this update targets sites who have poor mobile device usability. Now more than ever people are using their phones to browse the web, so this ensures that mobile-friendly web pages appear first in smartphone searches. You can use Google’s mobile-friendly test to find out how your site can be optimized for smartphone and tablet usability.
- Pirate: Created to penalize web pages with copyright infringement reports, Pirate showed up on the scene in August of 2012. A large number of sites affected by this update distribute pirated content, such as torrent sites. To avoid dropping in rankings due to Pirate, make sure to share original content only.
- Speed: July 2018 saw the roll-out of Google’s new Speed update. Now incorporated into the core algorithm as a ranking factor, the Speed update affects the slowest sites on the web. Not a whole lot is known at this time, but it has been gathered that this Google algorithm change will impact only a small percentage of queries, targeting pages with exceptionally slow load times. You can measure your site’s page speed and adjust accordingly by using Google PageSpeed or a tool called LightHouse.
- Medic: If you are a health, wellness or medical site this update may affect you. However, recent surveys show that it has also made an impact on e-commerce, insurance, and finance sites to name a few. It should be noted, though, that the e-commerce sites affected appear to primarily be sellers of health-related products. So, although the Medic update seems to have targeted predominantly health-related web pages, take into consideration that it still may cause changes in your rankings. As always, do your best to present well-produced content that is relevant to your field.
Google is always working on ways to present the most useful and accurate search results possible, so be sure to check back with Radd Interactive to stay up to date on any Google algorithm changes. Our team of skilled analysts carefully tailor their optimization strategies to work alongside Google’s adjustments, diligently enhancing overall performance and quality.