Google keeps on updating its core algorithm to enhance the search results and improve their user’s experience. While there are many updates that Google has brought in, there are a few that are more significant than the others.
In this article, we’ll be talking about Google’s top 7 updates till date that every SEO should know about.
- Say Hi To “Fred”
Fred is the name given to all the minor updates that Google brings in from time to time. In the year 2017, webmaster analyst Gary Illyes mockingly tossed the name “Fred” to a major update for this resembled the character from the popular cartoon series of the 90s “The Scooby-Doo Show”. The way this update analyzed the content on the internet is similar to the way Fred analyzed evidence to resolve a mystery, as argued by Gary Illes. Thus the name “Fred”.
Google considers the content that has some valuable information for the user as legit. This was significant from the aftermath of this update. The websites that served just the purpose of raising money from excessive ads and sponsored content were no longer making it to the top search results. On the contrary, websites which were delivering valuable content managed to find a good spot in the SERPs. As suggested by Backlinko, some of these websites enjoyed a hike of about 200% in their traffic, post this update.
In nutshell, The “Fred” was focused around the content expertise, its quality, and its popularity amongst the readers. Any content that didn’t match these criteria didn’t score a high rank in search results.
- The “Pigeon” Has Always Been A Messenger
“Pigeon’ was introduced in the year 2014. At the same time, Google started promoting local businesses by bringing them up in local search results. Quite evidently the name was coined because of the task that this update performed specifically. Just as pigeons were used to deliver messages in a localized region, Google’s “Pigeon” records the geographical location of a search made. It then combines this data with the search terms and helps deliver better-localized results to the user.
Let’s make it easier to understand for you. If you’ve ever used the ‘near me’ tag in a Google search, it will be easier for you to understand. Say you search for ‘salon near me’. The “Pigeon” will record the data for your location, look for salons near you in local directories, and then deliver you the best suitable results. Isn’t it amazing?
Since its introduction, the horizon for “Pigeon” has been expanding. This update has not only improved the user experience, but the local businesses have also benefitted from an increased number of leads.
- Here Comes The “Humming Bird”
Around August 2013, the “Humming Bird” was rolled out to improve the responsiveness of the search engine to search queries. Google emphasized that this update was swift and precise in delivering results, just as a hummingbird is.
Although, Google’s original algorithm has had a few additions to it from time to time, “Humming Bird” came out to be a complete remodel of the core algorithm.
Instead of the traditional search algorithm, when Google ranked webpages based on the keyword density, it now ranks the webpages by establishing the relevancy between the search terms and keywords.
In other words, Google started analyzing the context of a search made by the user. Now, more than just how the keywords are included in the content, the relevancy of the terms with the content and the information that it provides are factored.
The primary aim was to understand the human queries with the help of machine language and programmable memory, a.k.a. Artificial Intelligence. This Machine Learning Programme was named as RankBrain by Google. The crawlers were reprogrammed to index key terms and combine them for sensible formations. This understanding of formations of key-terms made Google as we experience it today. That is, it shows results for almost everything between the earth and the sky.
- Streamline Your Content Just Like A “Penguin”
Before 2012 Google factored just the number of backlinks into the ranking process for a webpage in search results. This changed around in April 2012, when Google introduced “Penguin” into its search algorithm.
Now the webpages are ranked based on the quality of backlinks as well. For example, a webpage about cooking necessities should have backlinks from relevant niche pages only. If a webpage that serves cooking content has backlinks from a fashion page, it is likely to be considered as phishing or spammy content by Google. This would bring down the rank for the page or may even lead to penalizing the domain for black-hat SEO practices.
“Penguin” compares the contents of both the linked pages and establishes relevancy. It is indeed this relevancy of the text, along with the authority of these domains, that this update uses for ranking websites in any search result.
Extending the same example further. Say the webpages that are linked together have contents focused around Chef-style ‘Goulash’. If these pages have appropriate traffic flow, along with a low bounce rate, it is very likely that Google would reward these webpages with upranking.
Establishing relevancy between the content and the search terms further enable Google to show suitable results for the intentions behind every search that a user makes.
- Don’t Mess With The “Panda”
The content-based factoring of the webpages was more refined even before “Penguin” or “Fred” were introduced. Before 2011, the internet was full of spamming and phishing websites. The primary aim for any website was to gain higher ranks regardless of the practice employed but it all changed with the introduction of the “Panda”.
In February 2011, Google rolled out “Panda” update. “Panda” was entirely focused on removing these spammy websites from its search engine results pages. Google made sure that the websites that ranked higher in the search results had characteristic expertise and authoritativeness of the content, and were trusted by the readers.
“Panda” in association with Google’s RankBrain, focused on understanding the nature of the content, the intention of the search made, and the cohesiveness of the search terms. It not only understood the meaning of words but also considered keyword variations.
For Example, Google now understands that ‘wearing a shoe’ is a variation of ‘putting on boots’ and likewise.
Within an hour of the “Panda” being rolled out, the pages having any sort of duplicate, untrustworthy, spun, or irrelevant content was brought down in the search results.
- Mobile Users Demand “Mobile-Friendly” Websites
Pretty simple and yet entirely focused, the “Mobile-Friendly” update was introduced for webmasters to optimize their websites for responsiveness to mobile devices. The reason behind the “Pigeon” was not just the promotion of local businesses. In fact, Google made sure that its users can access relevant information from any device.
As we all know, the majority of Google users access their search results from mobile devices. Almost after a year, Google introduced the “Pigeon”, it rolled out “Mobilegeddon”. Well, that’s what Chuck Price dubbed this new update as.
At first, there were only 15-20 per cent of the search queries that catered mobile users, but now all of the searches are mobile-friendly. This means that a website which is not optimized for mobile devices will definitely lag behind in scoring ranks in SERPs.
- It’s “Payday”!
This update has a lot in common with the “Panda” and the “Penguin”, but it is not to be confused with them. This was entirely specific to its target and a full-fledged independent update in itself. In the year 2013, Google started draining websites that did not provide any beneficial information to the user.
The update was straightforward in attacking the specific websites associated with spammy, adult or pornographic content or unethical monetary practices. Overnight, the websites that were associated with these niches were removed from Google’s directory and un-indexed.
Result? Better user experience to provide valuable benefits to the user.
Apart from these, there were two other updates that helped webmasters understand how Google plans to refine search experience for every user. These were- EAT and YMYL.
Google has made it very clear that only the legitimate content that benefits the user somehow, is the true king. That is why it guided the webmasters to ensure that their content lays according to YMYL (Your Money or Your Life). According to Google, any webpage or website that can affect someone’s health, safety, financial stability or safety is considered to be a YMYL page. Pages that served shopping or financial information, medical or pharmaceutical information, and, the ones that provided legal advisory fall under this category. Out of these, websites that served medical information suffered the brunt of YMYL update.
The other update (E-A-T) abbreviates for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. This update was also very specific. The content is now evaluated based upon the expertise of the contributor as well as the content itself. Then there is a certain level of authority that should be associated with the content and the domain publishing the content. And lastly, the content should be trustworthy.
Sufficing all these specific factors, the webpages are analyzed for content and accordingly ranked in the search results.
For every search engine optimizer, these updates are like foundations for a strong strategy. Optimizing your website in compliance with these updates can assure that it will rank top in the search engine results. Google will keep on rolling out more updates, and there are many more, indeed. Staying updated with these changes is the only strategy for SEO.