A Guide to the Top Google Algorithm Updates

Aug 11, 2014 | Search Engine Optimization

The Google Algorithm is the way in which Google determines which websites turn up in its search results. Major updates to the algorithm occur periodically and most of these updates see minor monthly refreshes.

Google Algorithms

The Google Algorithm is the way in which Google determines which websites turn up in its search results. Google uses over 200 different factors to rank pages. Major updates to the algorithm occur periodically and most of these updates see minor monthly refreshes. Various updates target different pieces of the algorithm such as content, links, and spam.

Google Panda Update

First Launched: February 2011
Latest Update: Panda 4.0 in May, 2014
The Panda update is a filter meant to stop sites with poor quality content from making it into Google’s top search results.

Key Features:

  • Originally developed to go after content farms – sites that create content to match popular searches
  • Targets sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content
  • Targets “thin” or low quality content

Google Penguin Update

First Launched: April 2012
Latest Update: Penguin 2.1 in October, 2013
The Penguin update focuses on catching sites deemed to be spamming Google’s search results, specifically those doing so to buy links.

Key Features:

  • Targets sites using webspam tactics like link buying, keyword stuffing and unusual linking patterns
  • To recover after being hit by the Penguin algorithm, you’ll need to disavow bad links or have them manually removed.

Google Hummingbird Update

First Launched: August 2013
Hummingbird led to the biggest changes to the algorithm since 2001, focusing primarily on conversational search – full sentences rather than keywords.

Key Features:

  • Resurgence of long tail keywords - phrases and questions
  • Greater understanding of context through the knowledge graph (data on your search history)
  • Original and engaging content matters more than ever

photo credit: PiattiLeti via Flickr; cc.