Google is Always Updating Its Search Algorithm
By its own account, Google updates its search algorithm regularly, admitting that they update it several thousand times per year. However, the vast majority of these updates are minuscule. Their impact is so small most users don’t even notice them. Often, they fix minor bug issues or help improve user experience. However, there are Google algorithm updates that introduce changes so significant that marketers have to change their SEO strategy.
Every once in a while, Google will update its algorithm to such a degree that the way your SEO strategies have been functioning will no longer work properly. You won’t see the same levels of success unless you adapt to these Google algorithm updates. Fortunately, Google tends to announce these significant updates well in advance, giving marketers a chance to prepare before the change.
Today, we are going to be taking a closer look at some of the more important Google algorithm updates in recent memory and how they impacted marketers. The ones we will discuss in this article have all impacted SEO significantly since their debuts.
The team at Tech Critic prides itself on staying up to date on all substantial changes in SEO across the internet, which include Google algorithm updates. By staying in the know, we put ourselves and our clients in a better position to succeed, making the most out of these changes.
There are several factors that play a role in how well your webpage ranks. One such ranking factor is a quality score, which Google assigns your webpage. The Panda algorithm update assigns these scores.
This update debuted in February 2011, but its effects were minor at best. However, in January 2016, Google permanently added it to its core algorithm. Since then, update rollouts occur more frequently, which allows Panda penalties AND recoveries to happen faster.
Panda looks for content that is duplicated, plagiarized, or thin, penalizing your webpage if found. It also searches for user-generated spam and keyword stuffing. These changes forced websites to update their content to be more original and engaging. Fortunately, it’s simple to adjust to this update.
All you need to do is regularly check your website for any duplicate or plagiarized content, thin content, or keyword stuffing to avoid penalties. A site crawler like SEO PowerSuite’s Website Auditor can help. If you do identify these issues, this tool can help you update your webpage to avoid any potential penalties in the future.
Following Panda, Google released the Penguin algorithm update in April 2012 as a way to end low-effort link building. Penguin down-ranks websites whose links appear irregular. At the time, many web creators were buying their links from link farms or PBNs. As such, Google set out to penalize websites that were engaging in these practices. If your site had spammy or irrelevant links, Google would penalize your site.
Much like with the Panda update, you should regularly be running site audits to check your backlinks to ensure they work properly. There are a host of site audit tools (like the one we mentioned above) that can help you identify any high-risk links.
Google added the Hummingbird algorithm update in August 2013. Google’s goal with this update was to improve search queries by helping Google interpret searches differently, as opposed to focusing on individual terms. The update allows Google to interpret user intent rather than just keywords.
Remember, keywords still play a vital role in search results. However, the Hummingbird update allows pages to rank for a query even if the page doesn’t contain the exact keywords in the search. By focusing on intent rather than individual terms, Google was able to achieve more natural language processing, focusing on latent semantic indexing and synonyms. The Hummingbird update helps reduce keyword stuffing and improve content.
Take a broader look at your keyword research. Look at the concepts and ideas behind them. You should thoroughly examine related search, synonyms, and co-occurring terms (the presence and frequency of similar keywords across various websites). Use Google Related Searches and Google Related Questions, along with Google Autocomplete suggestions.
The information you acquire will give you a better understanding of your target audience’s language and how they search. Doing so will not only allow you to create more engaging content, but you can increase your SEO performance.
The Mobile update is arguably one of the most significant updates Google has released. Over the years, more and more people have been using mobile devices to surf the web. Today, mobile accounts make up over half of all web traffic around the world. Naturally, Google would want to keep up with changing user habits, which is why they introduced the Mobile update in April 2015.
If your website lacks a mobile version or is difficult for mobile users to access or use, then Google might penalize you. This Mobile update (along with those in 2018 and 2020) have moved Google’s focus to mobile versions of websites. Now, mobile-friendliness is a top-ranking factor for Google.
Optimize your website for mobile pages, focusing on page speed and user experience. Google offers mobile-friendly and page speed tests that you can use to optimize your site.
The RankBrain update is an extension of the Hummingbird update. RankBrain relies on machine learning, which it uses to help Google understand and interpret searches to provide the best-matching results possible. Google considers RankBrain the third most vital ranking factor.
At its core, RankBrain gives users customized search results, using more context to provide users with results unique to them. They factor in synonyms, implied words, and a user’s personal search history. Through machine learning, RankBrain learns how to provide better results for each user.
Google introduced the Medic update in May 2018. This update appeared to affect medical websites, along with sites that factor into life-changing decisions (finance, law, education, etc.). While Google has not outright said why, representatives from the tech giant have implied that the update focuses on E-A-T signals (expertise, authority, and trustworthiness) from the Quality Rater Guidelines document. Essentially, Google looks for whether you are an expert in your field, are generally recognized by most authorities in your field, and the quality of your content is true and accurate.
There is no proven recovery strategy for the Medic update. However, SEO experts recommend hiring content writers that are experts in your field to give your website credibility. One way to increase the authority of your website is by improving your backlinks.
Keywords have been a staple in most marketer’s SEO strategies for years. However, recent updates, such as Panda, Hummingbird, and RankBrain how slowly moved away from keywords and have moved towards looking at queries with much more nuance. BERT is the culmination of all these updates’ efforts.
It uses natural language processing technology to build a thorough understanding of search, to interpret text better, identify entities, and much more. At its core, BERT rewards websites with engaging and well-written content. Instead of adding fluff or keyword-stuffing, focus on expository writing, including more relevant entities to add context to your copy.
While most Google algorithm updates are minor, some are far more significant. Google has started to refer to these updates as Core updates. However, it is often unknown what these updates are and how they aim to improve search. Many experts have looked for what has changed by tracking ranking shifts after an update is live, but that hasn’t given them a clear solution. Many assume these core updates are simply updates on previous Google algorithm updates or bundles of smaller updates going live all at once.
As you can see, Google is always making changes to search. While many of these updates won’t affect your day-to-day operations, some are monumental and change SEO forever. It pays to stay in the know on Google algorithm updates to adjust your strategies accordingly. That is where Tech Critic comes in. Not only do we have a thorough understanding of SEO, but we regularly stay up to date on any changes that emerge. Give Tech Critic a call today to learn how we can improve your SEO today.