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Google’s Biggest Algorithm Updates: Why You Need to Know About Them
SEO / 03 May 2022
Back when Google was a new kid on the block, it only had a handful of updates, so it was much easier to keep track. Now Google updates its algorithm hundreds of times a year, which is why keeping on top of them feels like a full-time job. Psst – this is where outsourcing to an SEO service comes in handy.
Understanding the inner workings of Google’s algorithms is no easy feat, even if you’re an SEO whiz. You feel like you’ve just got on top of the latest update when a new one is dropped out of nowhere – most likely on your day off.
But which are the most important? Whether you’re doing your own research or planning to invest in an SEO service, this blog will take you through a brief history of the most important Google algorithm updates. Of course we can’t take you through all of them, otherwise you would be here all day.
Updates of the 2000s: The First Major Changes
Cast your mind back to 2003, the time of Craig David and keyword stuffing. This was when Google dropped its first important update, Florida. It signalled the start of a new approach to SEO, which targeted commonly used spamming tactics of the 90s. Keyword stuffing, hidden links and invisible text no longer cut it.
The launch of the Jagger updates in 2005 targeted more of these black hat SEO techniques. These updates focused on unnatural linking, a fairly common practice at the time.
2009 brought with it two significant updates, Caffeine and Venice. Caffeine was a new indexing system, providing ‘fresher’ results but allowing Google to crawl data more effectively.
Venice gave more weight to bigger brands by favouring first page rankings with greater domain authority. It pushed down affiliated sites that had gained their ranking purely through SEO tinkering.
The Dawn of a New SEO Era: Panda
The early 2010s was when Google started to up the ante in terms of its updates. Mayday was the first big update of this decade, focusing on finding the best match for long-tail queries.
But one of the most influential algorithm updates came in 2011, which would have long-lasting effects on SEO agencies – Panda. Panda created quality classification for pages as part of an attempt to clamp down on so-called ‘content farms’. This drove more traffic to human-friendly, useful content than sites that managed to rise through the rankings by unnaturally ticking off a checklist of tricks.
Panda remains to be one of the most significant updates. It became part of Google’s core algorithm in 2016 and is still considered by SEO agencies today when thinking about user experience.
Penguin, Page Layouts, and Venice
The Page Layout update of 2012 was also an attempt to provide a better user experience. It targeted sites stuffed with adverts. Whether these were top-loading sites (placing adverts before all their content) or sites that had too many static ads, forcing you to scroll down for too long to get to the content.
Penguin was another soldier in the fight against over-optimisation. It took another stab at sites that tried to increase their ranking by stuffing as many keywords as possible inorganically throughout their content.
Not all essential updates were about content though, as Venice goes to show. Venice focused on the location of a user’s IP address, aiming to bring them more localised content. This continues to be a large part of the strategy when it comes to SEO services.
Flying Through Updates: Hummingbird and Pigeon
The next significant round of updates, in 2013, focused on predatory websites. The Payday Loan update was the first of these, targeting sites that used unethical business practices. This wasn’t just aimed at payday loan websites, but the update was nicknamed after them as they were some of the hardest hit.
As technology advanced, so did the way people used search engines. Hummingbird put a greater focus on conversational searches due to the rise in voice-activated searching with the launch of Siri in 2011 and Alexa in 2014. This has affected the way SEO copywriting services structure their content to this day.
Pigeon was an update that revolutionised the user experience of Google searching. Its aim was to give users more local search results on Google Maps. It did this by rewarding local businesses that had a strong organic presence with better visibility on Google Maps.
Mobilegeddon, Quality of Life, and Fred
In 2015, Google started to get with the times and focus on improving the user experience for mobile users. Mobilegeddon was the first move towards this, rewarding more mobile-friendly websites. To this day, considering the mobile user is vital, with 68% of all searches in 2020 coming from mobile devices. So, any SEO service you hire needs to pay attention to mobile compatibility.
The 2017 Quality of Life update also benefited mobile users, targeting websites with too many ads on mobile devices. The year 2017 also brought with it one of the most infamous algorithm updates – Fred.
Fred was another attack on sites with low-quality content with aggressive ad placement or affiliate sites. Many websites using these strategies that had made it through Panda and Penguin were caught out by Fred.
Turns out there is actually more than one Fred. Shortly after the initial update, Google’s trend master and analyst, Gary Illyes, announced that every unnamed update will now be called Fred.
How to Keep Ahead of the Curve
Being on top of Google’s major algorithm updates is essential to maintaining your ranking and keeping organic traffic coming in. With hundreds of updates every year, keeping track of them can be a nightmare.
Using an SEO service takes off the pressure to keep track of algorithm updates and frees up your time to focus on your clients.
Luckily, SEO is our bread and butter. Book your discovery call with Beesting Digital today to find out about our SEO services.
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