Google Algorithm Updates and Changes Over the Years

A complete history of all the important updates and changes to Google's search algorithms have affected SEO, such as Google Panda, Penguin, and more!

Yazgülü Kurtar
Yazgülü Kurtar - 22 December, 2020 - 6 min read
Google Algorithm Updates and Changes Over the Years

What is an Algorithm?

Search engines develop algorithms that are copyrighted and maintain confidentiality in order to show users the most accurate search results. The most important factor that enables search engines to give accurate and meaningful results is measured by how accurate their algorithms are and the contribution of the improvements made.

What is Google Search Algorithm?

Google defines the term algorithm as computer programs that work to answer your search for the answer to your question.

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Google constantly makes minor changes in its algorithms to optimize these results, and frequently announces major changes to website owners and SEO experts.

The websites and twitter addresses that provide news and information about Google updates are as follows:

  • John Mueller
  • webmasters.googleblog.com
  • Google SearchLiaison
  • Moz
  • Rand Fishkin
  • Search Engine Land
  • Search Engine Roundtable
  • Matt Cutts

2011 - Google Panda Update

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Previously, although the content quality was poor, website owners were publishing too much content in order to rank high, and they were plagiarizing by combining content from many different websites. This situation did not go unnoticed by Google, and they realized that users could not reach the right result because of these websites. Although 10 years have passed since the Panda update, it is one of the most important updates aimed at showing quality websites to the user, which is still effective and negatively affects low-quality websites.

After the first update in 2011, 12% of search results have changed and there are still websites affected by that loss. This update, which first showed its effect in 2011, still continues to be effective through various regulations.

The Panda algorithm focuses more on on-page topics and pays attention to weak, irrelevant content, duplicate content, and meta tags. The situation of keyword cannibalism, also called keyword stuffing, that brings more harm than good, has emerged with the Panda update.

2012 - Google Penguin Update

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With this update, links from low-quality and irrelevant sites that are considered spam and manipulative work and an important step is taken in terms of backlink quality.

Now, not the number of backlinks, but the domain value of the site from which the link is received, the page value, the word from which the link is obtained are much more important, and poor quality links bring more harm than good. The Penguin update, which was announced for the first time in 2012, has been improved over the years and efforts have been made to ensure that the algorithm gives more accurate results.

2013 - Google Hummingbird Algorithm

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The Hummingbird update has made a big improvement in Google's core search technology and now aims to understand the user's intent and show appropriate results instead of providing keyword-basis results. With this update, which is especially needed with the increase in voice searches, the term search intent has started to be used more frequently in the SEO world. After the Hummingbird algorithm update, the importance given to long and medium tail keywords has increased.

Knowing your target audience and using the appropriate communication language will prevent you from being negatively affected by this update. It has also been seen that using a language close to human language in meta tags and content can lead to improvements in ranking factors.

2014 - Google Pigeon Algorithm

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Pigeon Algorithm one of the updates made by Google to bring the local search algorithm closer to the web algorithm and to provide better service. With the Pigeon update, it aimed to show the search results according to the location of the user by addressing the geographical locations. Sites with incorrect or missing Google My Business pages are affected by this update.

Local businesses must create a My Business account and make sure that it matches information such as contact and location on your website.

2015 - Mobilegeddon AlgorithmMobilegeddon Algoritması

The fact that more than 50% of searches are made from mobile devices has made it necessary for Google to put forward the mobile compatibility algorithm. With this update, the importance of mobile devices has increased and while it has increased the sites with mobile-optimized pages to the top, it has caused a decrease in the non-improved pages. This update only affected mobile searches.

With the launch of the mobile compatibility test, Google asked you to check whether your pages are mobile-friendly and suggested responsive design. With mobile first indexing announced in 2018, it has announced that indexing will be determined according to your status in mobile searches.

2015 - Google Rankbrain Algorithm

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Rankbrain is an update that is compatible with machine learning and aims to show the user the correct results in the queries made. In this way, words can be completed, predicted, the most relevant results can be listed by analyzing the content against the queries.

One of the most important issues that this algorithm update focuses on is user experience. If your website has high bounce rates and low session times, the user's next query is much less likely to rank well.

Because according to the user's query purpose, it performs a machine learning based on historical data and aims to show much more relevant results based on the location, search query, age, gender, education and previous searches of the user.

2016 - Google Possum Update

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It is an update that affects local searches and has impacted search results. It shows the search results targeted with the Possum update, depending on the user's location and business locations. Sites that share the same address as another business were negatively impacted in search results. Some businesses that are poorly listed in organic searches have made it easier to rank locally with the Possum update. This revealed that the update parsed local searches more than organic results.

2018 – Google Mobile Speed Update

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With this update announced in 2018, Google stated that mobile speed is a ranking factor. Back in 2010, Google said that page speed is a ranking factor, but it's determined by the desktop device only. It started in July 2018 by looking at how fast your mobile pages are and using it as a ranking factor in mobile search. This update mostly affected sites with slow mobile versions.

2018 – Google Medic Core Update

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The Medic Core Update has affected the health, medicine, medical, diet, fitness, medical device industries a lot. Most of the websites in these industries suffered traffic loss of over 30%. In order not to get caught in the Medic algorithm, the content to be created should be developed according to expertise, competence and reliability, the About Us page should be well optimized, the information on the contact page should be real, reputation management (comments, press, user generated content and press) should be applied very well.

2019 - Google Florida 2 Update

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It is a rooted kernel update. Google has announced that YMYL sites are the most affected by the relevant algorithm. What is YMYL? If your site contains content that will affect a user's health, happiness, safety or financial situation, this site is YMYL (Your Money Your Life). 

With the effect of this situation, finance, health, law and shopping sites were most affected by the algorithm. The accuracy of the contents has become even more important.

2019 - Google BERT Update

google-bert-update

BERT update is a neural network based technique for natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning algorithm. The term BERT is used as an abbreviation for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers”.

BERT is Google's development of NLP technology so that it can fully understand what the words in a sentence mean with machine learning. With BERT, Google can reveal the full context of the related word by looking at the words and phrases before and after it. In this way, it uses the context of all the words in the sentence and their relations with each other. This development represents a major improvement in the intention, meaning and interpretation behind an inquiry. Therefore, out-of-context sentences, words, links can be followed better.

2021 - Google Page Experience Update

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It is a revolutionary update in the history of Google updates. After May 2021, Google officially started considering user experience as a metric by which they rank websites.

With this update, the Search Performance report in Search Console has been updated to understand and filter pages with good or poor page experience.

Mobile Usability: In order to be ranking well on Google, the pages should not have mobile usability errors.

Security: If any page on the site has a security issue, all pages will cease to be in Good Condition.

HTTPS Certificate: To be considered a good page experience, the site must be served over HTTPS with an SSL certificate.

Ads on Pages: Websites should not implement ad placements that will negatively affect the user's experience and take up most of the page. Otherwise, it cannot be considered a good user experience.