How to play fair with Google or get disqualified! Major Google Algorithm Updates
Having a purposeful website of your niche still, it does not get significantly ranked well as your competitor’s website? Perhaps you are lacking somewhere in not fulfilling solely the search engine but also the user’s requirement additionally. Here are some of the major Google algorithm updates which you ought to keep in mind before doing a rewarding SEO for your website. Suppose you want to rank for a keyword like “Best Digital Marketing Company in Bhopal” but you are not getting a noteworthy position as your competitor’s website. In such an instance, you need to abide by search engine algorithms and get yourself rewarded.
Each search engine uses a fusion of algorithms and several ranking signals to bring webpages on their Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) depending on the relevancy, usability, and authority. The entire ranking system of the search engine comprises numerous algorithms that inspect diverse factors such as quality, relevance, or usability of the webpage.
Google Search Engine algorithms are complicated structures that grant Google to discover, rank, evaluate, and then revert the most relevant and significant webpages for a specific result of a query.
Since 2002, Google started introducing updates. Some of them are minor updates that have gone unnoticed but some of them are such major updates that they cause heavy ranking fluctuations in the SERP. Google is frequently dispatching its updates every month to improve its search quality, user’s credibility, fulfill their intentions, and give searchers the best possible results.
Here are some of the Google algorithm updates Google announces to improve its search quality.
- Mobile-Friendly Update
- Intrusive Interstitial Penalty
- Mobile Speed Update
Initiated on: 16 November 2003
Key Points: Keyword stuffing, Invisible text, and Hidden links
Impact: Florida was the first major Google update that was confirmed by Google. It has majorly impacted the SEO industry. Many of them lost their ranking in SERP, and business owners were raging. Many of them came up with the question “How can Google be permitted to hurt my business?” Websites owners who mainly lean on the affiliate to drive traffic, and using 90’s SEO spammy tactics like keyword stuffing, hidden text, invisible links, and make use of the same brand name for multiple sites, to rank high, are starting to see that their ranking was wiped out.
Initiated on: 1 February 2004
Key Points: Expand its index size, LSI keywords, Anchor text, and neighborhood linking
Impact: It is also a confirmed update. With the introduction of the Brandy update, Google massively expanded its index size and stored more than 130 trillion web pages into its database. With this update, Google introduces Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), which makes Google analytics searches more meaningful, and related searches according to the query. Each link should have a relevant anchor text, resource, and relate to that topic. This update also gave freedom to buy focused inbound links from well-known websites.
Begins on: 1 September 2005
Key Points: Low-quality links, Link farming, and Paid links.
Impact: Jagger was the second major update introduced by Google after Florida. It was released in three phrases i.e. Jagger 1, 2, and 3. With the introduction of this update, Google can acknowledge spammy link building tactics and primarily focuses on low-quality link building tactics which include link farming, reciprocal links, and paid links. The substantial impact is shown with the second phrase of Jagger’s update which rolled out in October and this will finally be updated in November 2005.
Begins on: 23 February 2011
Key Points: Low-quality, or thin content, Plagiarized content, Keyword stuffing
Impact: Panda update is also known as Farmer. It was the major update from Google which directly affected 12% of search results. Google frequently announces the Panda updates. In total 28 times, Google updated the Panda from 2011 to 2015. It primarily focuses to prevent websites that tend to rank higher using thin content and keyword stuffing. On 17 July 2015 Google re-ran the Panda and implemented it in the core algorithm and this update can now run in real-time which makes the SERP filtering and website penalization even faster than before. If you want to rank for a particular keyword such as “Affordable Digital Marketing Services in Bhopal” and the frequency of that keyword on the webpage is beyond the limitation then surely Google will deindex your webpage to rank for that keyword.
Begins on: 27 February 2012
Key Points: Users location or IP address
Impact: Venice is another confirmed update from Google. It tends to show organic local results depend on the location user has set or based on the IP address. With the Venice update, Google now recognized that users wanted to see results that are closer to their geographical location. Venice provides an opportunity for small businesses or brick-mortar businesses to show up in SERP.
Begins on: 24 April 2012
Key Points: Artificial or Paid links, Link with over-optimized anchor text
Impact: Penguin was another one of the major and confirmed updates by Google. With this update, Google analyses website backlinks quality, whether websites are trying to gain an unnatural or paid link to boost their ranking. After this update, Google discourages buying or exchanging links from link farms, and if it is found so then Google will assign a negative value to that website. According to Google, the Penguin algorithm impacted roughly 3% of the search results. In total 9 times, Google has rolled out the updates on Penguin from 2012 to 2016. On 23 September 2016 Google officially announced the Penguin 4.0 update and made the Penguin a part of its core algorithm which could now run on a real-time basis. Suppose you have taken an anchor text like “Online Reputation Management Services in India” for your website URL and build 100s of the link using the same, in that case, Google will detect that you are establishing the links only for the sole purpose to get ranked for that specific keyword and will penalize you for that.
Initiated on: 10 August 2012
Key Point: Multiple copyright violations
Impact: With the Pirate update, Google started to rank down or penalized sites that have multiple copyright infringement reports filed through Google’s DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) system. To prevent the entertainment industry from piracy, Google starts penalizing websites that made pirated or stolen content available for free to visitors. With this update, more than 96% of pirated search results get affected. Total 2 times Google updates the Pirate algorithm, one in 2012 and another in 2014.
Initiated on: 20 August 2013
Key Points: User intent and Semantic Search
Impacts: Hummingbird is also one of the major Google updates. Although is it not for penalizing like Panda and Penguin. Google estimated that it would affect 90% of all searches worldwide. It was meant to enhance the searcher’s experience with the help of Google’s Knowledge Graph and Semantic Search. With the Knowledge Graph, Google contains millions of objects and billions of facts to help users discover any information more easily and quickly. And with Semantic Search, Google emphasizes the intention behind the search query to give results more related to the search term. This algorithm makes use of 200 ranking signals to deliver the best possible result. This update has changed the SEO industry and made them think “How does one best answer the question of the user?” And rely on this question websites are started to rank for that query also even if the webpage does not have that exact keyword. For this, websites need to focus on co-occurring terms and synonyms. This update was introduced to deal with conversational queries (i.e. voice search), especially on mobile search. Google named this update “Hummingbird” because of the accuracy and speed of that species. Presume that you have a web page and want to get it ranked for the keyword “PPC Services in India”. For that, you have to make your webpage content to be related to that keyword and also use similar or related keywords.
Initiated on: 24 July 2014 (For US) and 22 December 2014 (For UK, CA, AU)
Key Points: Local Search Result, or Local SEO
Impact: With the release of this update, searcher’s locations play an important part in any local search queries. In this update, the small businesses that have brick and mortar locations tend to show up in the search just like any other businesses. Google announces that this update refines their distance and location ranking boundaries. This update affected almost 50% of the local search queries and rank local directories like Yelp, and many more up the SERP. By this update, Google emphasizes on the Google My Business profile set up and making every business NAP (Name, Address, and Phone No.) should be consistent across all the local listings. Just like, if your business is set up in Bhopal and you want to do Search Engine Optimization for that. Either you search for “Best SEO Services in Bhopal” or “Best SEO Services”. For both the results Google will automatically fetch your location from IP address and the best Digital Marketing agencies which tend to rank locally come up in SERP and also in GMB (Google My Business).
10. Mobile-Friendly Update
Initiated on: 21 April 2015
Key Points: Mobile friendliness of a website
Impact: Google’s Mobile update is also known as “Mobilegeddon” and with this update, Google takes mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal and honors mobile-friendly websites to rank high on mobile searches. The website which has their webpages well optimized for mobile usability tends to rank at the top in the mobile searches and those websites which are not optimized much for the mobile-friendliness are ranked down. This update also takes the page speed of a website into account to rank them. In total 2 times, Google updated Mobilegeddon one in 2015 and another in 2016. Deemed that you have a web page for “Social Media Advertising Company in India” and it is well optimized for the mobile then Google will rank your web page or that query on mobile searches.
Initiated on: 26 October 2015
Key Points: Raise user experience with machine learning
Impact: With the RainBrain, Google wants to enhance a user’s search engine experience with the help of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Machine Learning helps Google to upskill itself to decode the meaning behind the queries and provide the most relevant search results for those queries. RankBrain is a segment of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm and Google claims it’s the third most major ranking factor. At its initial stage, RankBrain used to deal with 15% of all the searches which are brand new search queries that Google had never encountered before but nowadays it’s being implemented to almost every search query. With the help of RankBrain, Google can better recognize the user’s intention behind their search query. Take it, you have an adequate website but lacking in content. For that, you searched for “Content Writing Services in India” so Google will understand your intention behind it that you want to acquire services and will get the results accordingly.
Initiated on: 1 September 2016
Key Points: Local listing or Physical location
Impact: Possum was a major update by Google but Google never officially announced and confirmed it. But by the local SEO practitioner Joy Hawkins, it boosts the local ranking for the businesses that have a physical location in a city and also for the businesses that are beyond the city borders. Before this update, Google was not supposed to show up the result if a business is outside the physical location. With this update, Google shows a local pack of three organic results in a local search query depending on the physical location of the searchers. A study suggested that this update affected 64% of Google’s local results and reduce the number of duplicate listings to show up in the local search result. Think you are someone with skills in Website Designing and Development but want to achieve expertise in that and also want to earn from that. For that, you searched “Web Development and Designing Internship in Bhopal”. For your query, Google likely to appear results nearer to your location in SERP.
13. Intrusive Interstitial Penalty
Initiated on: 10 January 2017
Key Points: Pop-ups on Mobile devices
Impact: On 23 August 2016, Google announced this update but rolled it out on 10 January 2017. This was a confirmed update that affected and punished those websites that aggressively show pop-ups and interstitials that impair the mobile user experience. This update makes a negative impact on the website that shows a pop-up or standalone interstitial that encloses a small part of the website which users have to dismiss first to navigate the whole content. The effect of this update on the ranking is very nominal.
Initiated on: 7 March 2017
Key Points: Ad-centric content, and Affiliated links
Impact: Initially Fred was an unconfirmed update from Google but on March 24 Google officially confirmed it. This update affected those websites that provided little-to-no or very thin content to the users and made for the sole purpose of generating affiliated revenue over quality content which tends to tamper with Google Webmaster and Google Search Quality Guidelines. Each website should consider doing a competitor’s analysis, acknowledge their keyword, and update their website for thin or low-quality content to recover from Fred.
15. Mobile Speed Update
Initiated on: 9 July 2018
Key Points: Page speed for mobile searches
Impact: Mobile Speed Update which is also known as Speed Update is a confirmed update from Google. This update was first announced in January 2018. After this update, Google took into account the page speed of a website as a ranking factor for mobile search results. Loading speed and user interactivity play a key role in this update. This update affected those websites which did not improve their website speed, especially in the mobile version. Suppose that you have a website for “Digital Marketing Training in Bhopal” and the loading speed is good and well optimized with AMP then Google will revert you and rank and show your website on mobile searches.
Initiated on: 1 August 2018
Key Points: EAT and YMYL of a website, Intent, and Result
Impact: Medic was a “broad core algorithm update” from Google. After the launch of this update, MozCast recorded its highest temperature peaking at 114 degrees and noticed a heavy ranking flux. The sites which provide E-A-T content or seem to have more authority or expertise about that topic are getting ranked higher after this update. This update affected the organic results and local results as well. All of the niches are affected by this update but the medical, health, fitness niches, and also YMYL sites are getting more affected by this update which tends to impact someone’s fortune such as physical health, safety, finance, etc. Almost 70% change has been seen in the page’s visibility.
Also with this update, Google tries to show up the most relevant result that matches the intent of the search and abide search quality rater guidelines. For this purpose, the website tries to better understand the search queries and the intent behind them and eventually build a website that people want to visit.
Initiated on: 25 October 2019
Rollouts: 9 December 2019 internationally in 70 languages
Key Points: Relevant results to the next level, focus on the user’s intention
Impact: BERT is short for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers”. BERT is an extensive leap ahead over the past five years and impacts 10% of all search queries. It is a machine learning algorithm that depends on a neural network-based method specially made for the Natural Language Processing (NLP) pre-training. With this update, Google can now understand the full context of all the terms in a sentence just like a human being rather than one-by-one in order and uses pattern recognition to deliver the more relevant result. With Natural Language Processing, Google understands the prepositions and terms that come before-and-after of a word in a whole search phrase. As Google already mentions that 15% of all searches are being searched for the very first time and with the time passed the searches are more considered on long-tail for any type of query. BERT helps Google to better recognize the relations of all the words in a sentence to interpret the intent behind it and shows the most accurate and relevant result to the user.
How to recover from Google Updates?
There are exactly no such tactics one can follow to recover from any Google update. To hold the rank one position on SERP is not a one time exercise. The techniques a website owner can do is check for any thin, low-quality, or plagiarised content, mold your content in such a way that it can fulfill the user’s intent, perform a checkup for their link building techniques whether they get any low-quality or spammy backlinks because this type of links can potentially cause your website ranking, do competitor analysis, and work with E-A-T framework, Also, make regular updates on the website content is beneficial too which makes the website to get crawled frequently that can help in ranking. There are many online tools available to help you to improve your website and stay updated.
I wrote this article to help you to understand the major Google algorithm updates. All of these updates emphasize one thing “Importance of Context”. If it is said that the Content is the king then, Data is the Kingmaker. Google update from Florida to BERT has revolutionized the SEO industry. When you stay in Google elegance, you don’t need to work as hard. By regulation, yourself with the Google objective of improving the user’s search experience you’ll keep your website, and its traffic always moving in a positive direction. I prospect that this article will assist you in your upcoming project.
Aman Agrawal is an experienced, keen, and passionate Digital Marketer with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. Skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Microsoft Word, Web Design, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and Online Marketing. Strong marketing professional with a Bachelor of Science – B.Sc. focused on Computer Science from Barkatullah University, Bhopal.