What are Google algorithms?

Tuesday May 1, 2018 - Posted by:

Google aims to deliver the best search results for its users. How does it do this? Through various complex algorithms used to immediately deliver the best possible results for each query. Google can analyse words, match your search, consider context, and ranks useful pages for you.

Just like Google, other search engines such as Yandex, Baidu, Yahoo or Naver use a specific algorithm to deliver results to their users. It is important to be aware that optimising a website for Google, for example, won’t be the exact same process as for Baidu, the major search engine in China.

Google deploys hundreds of updates every year and websites such as Moz are a great resource to keep track of the most important ones. It is vital to monitor search engines for any major updates to not risk any sudden drops in ranking across your whole website. It’s also important to know that ranking fluctuations are totally natural and nothing to worry about. The best thing you can do is keep your website up-to-date, and look for opportunities to make further tweaks which are beneficial to the user and the search engine.

Below we’ve listed some of the major Google updates of yore that you should know about, along with brief explanations about how they’ve impacted aspects of our organic search results. It’s worth noting that some updates are rolled out within months or even years.

Panda Update (Initial Launch: February 2011)

Panda’s main goal was to penalise websites with low quality content. If your website suffers from low-quality, duplicate or irrelevant content, you should consider re-working it so that it delivers enough value to your visitors to actually read your content. So-called “Content farms” were a particular target for this update.

Penguin Update (Initial Launch: April 2012)

The Penguin update targeted websites using manipulative link schemes, unnatural backlinks which are often used by using black-hat SEO techniques. The unnatural repetition of search terms on a webpage is another way to trigger Penguin.

Hummingbird Update (Initial Launch: August 2013)

Updates such as Panda and Penguin had an impact on certain parts of Google’s algorithm and function more like add-ons. The Hummingbird update, however, was an overhaul of the Google’s core algorithm. One of the major impacts of Hummingbird was the implementation of semantic search – a way for Google to make a search more human and to understand concepts as well as the relationships between search terms.

Pigeon Update (Initial Launch: July 2014 – US, December 2014 – Australia, Canada, UK)

Pigeon was an update of Google’s local search algorithm to deliver more quality to search results to individual users which can come with many different factors such as different location and distance.

Mobile Friendly Update (Initial Launch: April 2015)

Google’s Mobile update (also known as “Mobilegeddon”) has been a big step forward for separate Desktop and Mobile searches, ensuring that the latter search results are driven by websites optimised for mobile users. There are a few different configurations to choose from but you can’t go wrong with responsive web design for Google.

RankBrain (Initial Launch: October 2015)

RankBrain was a very important update to Google’s algorithm which introduced machine learning technology. Artificial intelligence (AI) has been an important topic in recent years, and that’s what this update is all about. An extension of Google’s Hummingbird update, RankBrain helps to provide more relevant search results for users when browsing.

Possum (Initial Launch: September 2016)

Possum was another update for Google’s local search results. The five main aspects of Possum were as follows:

  • Filtered results based on affiliation
  • The identification of the physical location of a user
  • Better handling of keyword variations
  • Flexibility on location itself as well as an additional algorithm for local results.

Possum’s primary purpose is said to have been the introduction of more varied local search results.

Fred (Initial Launch: March 2017)

Fred is an update which targets websites with aggressive monetization and affiliate setups in place. These are websites with low to no benefit for users and large amounts of ads.

Updates to Look out for in 2018: It is said that mobile will have a big impact in 2018. In fact, Google has already announced a “Speed Update” for July 2018, and confirmed it as a new ranking factor for mobile searches. We also saw Google rolling out mobile-first indexing in March which brings new and exciting ways of how we work in SEO.

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