Search engine optimization isn’t a one-and-done deal. To keep your rankings high, you need to refresh your content and refine your strategy on a regular basis. Why? Because a Google algorithm update can drastically affect your SEO in the blink of an eye.

Before you get out the pitchforks, it’s important to note that Google isn’t updating out of malice. A search engine’s primary purpose is to deliver results that meet searchers’ needs. As Google identifies ways to better achieve this purpose, it updates its algorithms. Unfortunately, that sometimes means your site may move around in the rankings.

To get the most from your SEO strategy, it’s essential to stay on top of the latest Google algorithm update. Here are rollouts from the past three years that have had the biggest effect on SERPs.


“Possum” (Not Officially Confirmed): September 2016

Google is notorious for keeping mum about updates, even when they have a huge impact. Though the company didn’t officially confirm this rollout, changes in SERPs were noticeable enough that experts gave it an unofficial name: Possum.

This Google algorithm update marked a major change in the consideration of location keywords. Previously, businesses that fell just outside city limits didn’t appear in results for that city. Now, the algorithm considers businesses that once fell through the cracks to be “local” based on association in addition to address.


Penguin 4.0: September 2016

Penguin was an old name by September 2016, but this update was a major change in implementation. When first introduced, the Penguin filter applied to searches. Penguin 4.0, however, was now incorporated into the “core” algorithm.

The major difference was Penguin’s ability to recognize and value new content. As part of the core algorithm, Penguin ran in real time, instead of needing periodic refreshes. This means that improved sites saw better rankings more quickly than in the past.


Intrusive Interstitials Update: January 2017

This Goggle algorithm update penalized pop-ups for impacting mobile users. With this penalty, pages with a large number of pop-ups and banners didn’t rank as high in mobile searches. How many was too many? Google specified that if interstitials made a page difficult to read, that page would see a change in ranking. With nearly 60% of online searches conducted via mobile devices, webmasters took note.


Fred: March 2017

Fred is another Google algorithm update that caused a massive ripple through SEO. Rather than being an algorithm on its own, “Fred” refers to a collection of quality updates. Its big impact came from its effect on multiple algorithms all at once.

So what did it do? Fred targeted low-value content. Pages that had performed well due to keywords fell. Content that wasn’t as SEO-friendly but was more relevant rose.


Brackets: March 2018

Brackets was the name web experts gave to a core update. Again, Google didn’t offer much information, which is understandable given the update’s purpose. Rather than knocking down low-value content, this Google algorithm update tried to help under-rewarded pages.

Of course, content creators and webmasters wondered what exactly that meant. The tech giant advised companies to create “great” content but were vague on what that entailed. Since Brackets wasn’t a quality update, many webmasters saw their rankings shift without a clear way to combat the change.


Video Carousels: June 2018

Sites that utilized video saw a major shakeup when Google switched from thumbnails to video carousels. A thumbnail is a single picture that represents a video. A carousel allows users to swipe through several graphics.

The aim of this move was to bring mobile and desktop SERPs into line. Carousels had long been the norm for mobile. As a result, companies had to reevaluate how they presented videos to searchers.


Medic: August 2018

One of the largest upsets was the Medic Google algorithm update. This one also focused on content quality. SEO experts saw a clear correlation between rankings and Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines. This public document explains what factors affect quality:

  • Content comprehensiveness
  • Navigation intuitiveness
  • How well a site fulfills visitors’ goals

The document is rather long but worth a read. Owners of underperforming sites claimed to see improvement after implementing changes based on the guidelines’ recommendations.


Florida 2: 2019

Although Google spokespeople confirmed that the Florida 2 core update was massive, details on what it did were sparse. It wasn’t until the rollout hit that the SEO community saw the effects. Florida 2 seemed to undo several elements of previous updates, which the community responded to positively.

Pages with links seemed to take a hit, however. The algorithm devalued the overuse of anchor links. This dropped the rankings of some previously well-performing sites.

The internet landscape is dynamic. With search engine algorithms constantly changing, it can be hard stay visible. Boostability can help you manage your online space and use updates to your advantage. To find out more, call (800) 261-1537 or visit the Boostability website.


Mike is a former SEO Manager at Boostability and has been in the online marketing industry since 2012. He has extensive experience with SEO, email marketing and link building campaigns for in-house and agency teams around the country.