Google’s Biggest Algorithm Updates and What They Did for SEO

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Google’s Biggest Algorithm Updates and What They Did for SEO

Every year, Google handles over 2 trillion searches (roughly 40,000 every second). With 3.7 billion humans using the internet, what we search for and how we search shifts and evolves. To keep up, Google also needs to evolve. Part of this evolution is rolling out algorithms to match the world’s ever-changing demands.

Google Search has one simple goal—deliver the best user experience possible. They provide exemplary service by consistently tweaking and refining how they find, rank, and answer queries. And they do this via algorithm updates.

Contrary to some commonly held beliefs, Google rolls out hundreds of updates each year. In 2018 alone, they reported 3,234 updates. While many of these updates were minor, Google occasionally releases major algorithm updates that significantly affect search results and how we do SEO.

Here is a high level explanation of  Google’s most impactful or ‘named’ updates and how they changed SEO for Boostability and our partners:

May Core Update – 2020

While we are still learning the breadth and depth of this update, it seems to focus mainly on content quality and appears to impact larger websites the most. SEMRush data shows the industries most impacted were travel, real estate, health, pets & animals, and people & society.

January Core Update – 2020

Google recommends users use Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) when creating content for their websites. Content aligning with these objectives are prioritized by Google and sites that follow this acronym have a better chance to rank higher.

BERT – 2019

Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT as we like to call it (thank goodness), is grounded in natural language processing and is used to better understand the context and nuance of a query. Google said, “These improvements are oriented around improving language understanding, particularly for more natural language/conversational queries (…) You can search in a way that feels natural for you.”

Fred – 2017

According to Brightedge, Fred appeared “…to crack down on sites that emphasize display ads and/or traffic monetization widgets over content as well as making said elements difficult to differentiate from actual on-page content.”

Possum – 2016

This update significantly impacted how results were filtered in Google’s local pack (the map-looking section of Google’s search results that list local businesses associated with your query). It helped diversify local results and prevented spam from ranking.

RankBrain – 2015

Considered part of the Hummingbird update, RankBrain introduced artificial intelligence to Google’s arsenal. According to Moz, “RankBrain uses machine learning (the ability of machines to teach themselves from data inputs) to determine the most relevant results to search engine queries (…) it is believed that the query now goes through an interpretation model that can apply possible factors like the location of the searcher, personalization, and the words of the query to determine the searcher’s true intent. By discerning this true intent, Google can deliver more relevant results.

Mobile-Friendly Update – 2015

Like the name suggests, this update revolves around mobile optimization. With more and more people searching via smartphone, this update encouraged businesses to have a mobile version of their website.

Pigeon – 2014

This update improved Google’s distance and ranking parameters, providing more useful, relevant, and accurate local search results.

Hummingbird – 2013

This update revolutionized the search landscape as Google’s algorithm began to better interpret searcher intent and context. This caused a shift toward longtail keywords—keywords or phrases that are more specific, and longer, than regular keywords (more like natural speech).

Penguin – 2012

Largely focused on backlinks, Penguin was designed to reduce spam and encouraged quality content for searchers. Google rewarded sites with quality, organic backlinks, and penalized sites that artificially boosted their rankings via link farms or other spam sites.

Panda – 2011

Goodbye, poor SEO content. Hello, Panda. This update targeted spam and content that didn’t help the end-user. Duplicate content, thin content, and content with spammy ads were all penalized.

How we keep our clients and partners ranking when the Google algorithm keeps changing

If you look at all of Google’s algorithm updates, there is a crystal-clear purpose for each one. Every update is centered on improving the user experience and helping searchers find the information they’re seeking quickly and easily. Google is the #1 search engine in the world and they got there because of their focus on the user experience.

At Boostability, we have 11+ years of data and track over 2.3 million keyword rankings per month. Because we track so much data, we notice algorithm shifts as they happen and pivot our strategies accordingly. We’ve gotten so good at it that our customers haven’t been negatively impacted by a Google algorithm update since 2013. Our SEO experts constantly monitor search traffic, trends, and rankings; often spotting algorithm updates before they’re even announced.

We also heavily focus on the quality of our SEO. Here are a few things we keep in mind when optimizing websites for Google’s search engine results page (SERP):

  • When developing content for a website, we focus on the end-user.
  • We identify and prioritize keywords with the intent to buy in mind.
  • We ensure our clients’ websites are easy to navigate and friendly for both desktop and mobile use.
  • We create quality content that is engaging, fresh, genuine, and useful.
  • We don’t focus solely on written content— we use a variety of images, videos, and infographics to engage the end-user.

And if that seems like a lot of work, let Boostability do it for you.

Our partner-centric focus makes offering online marketing solutions to your clients quick and simple. Our custom SEO partner program is designed to meet your specific needs, work with your existing client database, and quickly create an additional revenue source for your business. If you have the market, we have the SEO expertise and service.

To learn more about our partner program, give us a call at 1-877-679-5049 or click here to find out more!

Sara Beth Preston
Sara Beth Preston
[email protected]ty.com

Sara Beth Preston is the Partner Marketing Manager with Boostability