Google Updates: Brief Summary
Google updates are changes or improvements made to the search engine’s algorithms. Google is the world’s most popular search engine, and a big part of its success has been achieved through delivering a great user experience. Algorithm updates are typically designed with this user experience in mind, and the changes are generally intended to present users with better or more relevant search results, along with other valuable information.
Over the years, there have been a number of major Google updates, which have fundamentally altered how web pages are ranked on its search engine results pages (SERPs). Aside from improving the experience for those who carry out web searches, these changes can also have an impact on the visibility of certain web pages. For this reason, website owners, marketers and search engine optimisation (SEO) experts need to be aware of algorithm updates too.
Google Updates: Detailed Summary
Google, or Google Search, is by far the most popular search engine in the world, with an estimated market share of more than 90 per cent, as of the end of 2020. More than 5 billion online searches are carried out using the platform each day, and Google indexes billions of web pages, in order to make as much of the world wide web searchable as possible. This allows Google to provide users with the most relevant and useful results for their search queries.
The precise results that are generated and the order in which they are presented is determined by complex algorithms. These algorithms have to retrieve relevant information from the Google index, determine the most likely user intent, present the results that are most likely to match that intent, and place them in order, with the results that are most likely to be relevant placed higher up on search engine results pages.
Over time, Google has made continuous improvements to its algorithms through Google updates. These improvements have helped to ensure the search engine prioritises high-quality content, penalises poor-quality, low-effort or duplicate content, and presents users with search results that are as relevant as possible. The updates are also necessary to respond to changes in technology and user behaviour, such as the rise of mobile and voice search.
Early in Google’s existence, updates to the algorithms were relatively rare. However, in more recent times, the algorithms are updated much more frequently, with some of these updates being more substantial than others. Regardless of the extent of the update, it is important that those who are involved in marketing and search engine optimisation are able to keep up-to-date with the latest changes, so that content can be optimised properly.
The Most Important Google Updates
As previously stated, Google updates happen on a regular basis, and while the company does provide information about these updates, most are not significant enough to cause major fundamental shifts in SEO approaches. However, some changes have fundamentally shifted the way in which Google produces its search results and ranks web pages. Below, you can learn about some of the search engine’s most important updates.
- Panda Update (2011) – The primary purpose of the ‘Panda’ Google update was to assign a content score to web pages, with a view to ensuring that high-quality content features higher on search engine results pages than low-quality content. In particular, the update penalised duplicate content and keyword stuffing, meaning content creators needed to place a greater focus on the quality of the content itself.
- Penguin Update (2012) – The ‘Penguin’ Google update was designed to prevent websites from using manipulative link building strategies to artificially enhance their performance on search engine results pages. To do this, the algorithms were updated to penalise links coming from sources deemed to be topically irrelevant, as well as links that originate from websites that were specifically designed for link building purposes.
- Hummingbird Update (2013) – A major focus of the ‘Hummingbird’ Google update was achieving better understanding of the meaning behind search queries. Since this update was introduced, synonyms have been more widely used by the algorithms to provide contextually relevant search results, even if they do not have exact keyword matches. The update also served to further penalise low-quality keyword stuffing.
- Pigeon Update (2014) – The ‘Pigeon’ Google update was focused on local search results, including both the main search engine and Google Maps. One of the aims behind the algorithm update was to give preference to relevant local search results, taking advantage of things like user location tracking.
- Mobile Update (2015) – The 2015 ‘Mobile’ or ‘Mobile-Friendly’ update triggered a dramatic response online and was labelled ‘Mobilegeddon’. As part of the algorithm update, Google would begin to categorise web pages as being either mobile-friendly or not, penalising pages in the latter category. This represented a major shift in prioritising the mobile user experience and led to major mobile optimisation efforts among online marketing professionals.
- Fred Update (2017) – The ‘Fred’ update occurred several different stages in 2017 and focused on penalising websites that violated the Google Webmaster Guidelines. The details from Google were not very specific, but analysis showed that, in practice, this meant punishing websites and web pages that were heavily geared towards monetisation at the expense of the user experience, such as those with a large number of on-page advertisements.
- BERT Update (2019) – Introduced at the end of 2019, the ‘BERT’ update was created in response to the rise of voice search and the use of virtual assistants. Aside from helping the search engine to better understand the likely context behind voice searches, the update also rewarded natural language usage within content.
For those involved with search engine optimisation, it is vital to keep up with the latest updates and to develop an understanding of what the search engine is looking for, as well as what it will penalise. Once this understanding exists, not only can future content be optimised, but existing web pages can also be amended to maximise visibility.
Google’s search engine algorithms are constantly being improved, in order to enhance the user experience and present more useful and relevant search results. Over the years, major changes to these algorithms have fundamentally shifted the ways in which web pages are ranked, with a view to rewarding high-quality content, penalising low-effort, poor quality or duplicate content, and providing users with additional information on SERPs.
Those involved in search engine optimisation need to keep up with the latest Google updates and adjust practices accordingly. By adapting to new Google updates, website owners and marketers may be able to gain a crucial advantage over competitors, improving web page or website visibility and attracting more visitors in the process.