Google updates are famous and feared. Because the success of a website often stands and falls with them. But which updates were particularly extensive? We take a look at the most important algorithm changes over the last ten years.
Do you remember the beginnings of Google Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
When the search engine algorithm was so rudimentary that you had to mention a keyword – let’s say “garden furniture” – 30 times in the text so that the search engine would display the blog text at the top of the results when someone Googled “garden furniture”.
Since then, the algorithm has become finer and smarter. For example, he is increasingly recognizing whether a website is relevant and well designed or just spam. But one thing has remained the same with all the changes.
It is still this algorithm that decides which results are displayed in which order when a search query is made.
Google updates create a mess
Accordingly, changes to this algorithm often cause confusion when your own website is accessed via Google. This is even sometimes true when your own content is actually very good.
That’s why the Google updates aren’t just popular. Because they often also mean that you have to adapt an entire website in order not to drop too much in the ranking.
Now it has to be said that Google is constantly changing something in its search engine algorithm and we often do not notice it. But the big Google updates rarely go by without a trace on the Internet.
So we look back at the eleven most important algorithm changes over the past ten years.
One of the most important previous Google updates was “Panda” from 2011. Because it finally put an end to the keyword madness.
The focus was very clear: rewarding quality, unique content and punishing annoying websites. Content farms, for example, which merely stuffed texts with certain keywords and produced a lot of content that was meaningless in return, were left out.
Panda also introduced an internal evaluation of websites. There were (presumably) high scores for the pages that were particularly popular with users. This score also determines how high you land in the ranking in the search results.
Finally, in 2012, Penguin ensured that another extremely annoying SEO method was no longer successful: spam links.
Until then, links to a website, in whatever form, were considered pushes. Because if a lot of users link a website, the content has to be good after all. The algorithm rated links as positive.
The problem: Some then tried to place links to their own website everywhere. In comments. In forums. With reviews.
However, the update ensured that the Google algorithm now assessed not only the quantity but also the quality of the links. Currently, the algorithm can even recognize whether links are relevant or trustworthy.
Page Layout, 2012
Panda wasn’t the only significant Google update in 2012. “Page Layout” also brought new features.
This is because the algorithm used to punish websites that displayed too much advertising. Most people on the internet find this annoying after all. Accordingly, Google improved this to guarantee a better user experience.
Hummingbird was a decisive step in the Google updates: away from mechanical scoring for different words or features in a text and towards a better understanding of our language.
The update ensured, for example, that Google now understands relationships better and recognizes that a text about skiing will most likely also contain words such as snow, mountain or winter.
Websites that filled meaningless content solely with the keyword “skiing” were therefore penalized. At the same time, Google was able to show users more suitable results for their search queries.
The Pigeon update experimented for the first time with a phenomenon that we can now increasingly observe in the Google universe (but also beyond): the importance of the location of the search query.
Because when someone Googles the term “supermarket”, they most likely want to shop in the immediate vicinity and not find the best website in the world on the topic of “supermarket”.
Since then, local search has been firmly anchored in Google search. You can also find this function on Google Maps when you search for things or places “near me”.
The name of this Google update shows why the changes in the algorithm can also cause a lot of chaos. With this update, Google decided to reward the mobile-friendliness of websites in view of the increasing number of mobile users.
Individual websites (not complete websites) that worked well on mobile devices moved up the ranking accordingly. Pages that were not played correctly on mobile devices were sometimes completely deleted from the search results.
Google is now using the Mobile First Index to rate the mobile friendliness of the entire website.
Rankbrain again focused on the relevance of the displayed content in relation to the search query. To do this, Google used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to better understand what the best possible results could be, depending on the search query.
The algorithm should also be able to learn better from previously unknown search queries. Rankbrain is considered the third most important ranking criterion on Google.
Fred is one of the Google updates that has not been officially confirmed by the company. Gary Illyes, “Chief of Sunshine and Happiness” once jokingly said that all Google updates would be called Fred.
The unconfirmed Fred update allegedly targeted websites that did not offer users any added value because they were overloaded with advertising, for example.
Bert is without a doubt one of the biggest Google updates of all time. It influenced every tenth search query.
Google was concerned with understanding more complex long-tail searches and showing better results. With the help of Natural Language Processing (NLP), this time it was less about punishing bad websites, but more about bringing the algorithm closer to human language.
After Bert, the algorithm began to increasingly analyze words in the context of a sentence.
Google Core, Mai 2020
In May 2020, a Google core update came in the middle of the corona pandemic. This clearly had an impact on the search results displayed. In particular, websites in certain industries, such as finance or health, appeared to be affected.
Some experts believed that the Expertise, Authority and Trust (EAT) quality standards were an important part of the updates. Others believed that Google improved a previous EAT update here, which actually dropped high-quality smaller websites in the ranking because their backend was not mature enough.
Google Core, December 2020
Just a few months ago, Google carried out another core update. Again, it was about EAT. Business, industry, beauty and fitness, as well as the Internet and telecommunications, then performed better. Shopping, encyclopedias and news, on the other hand, fell.
The aim was to penalize websites that have little content and a weak brand.
Google updates: what can we expect in the future?
There’s no end in sight to Google updates. The group has already announced another update with the new Google Core Web Vitals for May 2021.
Factors such as SSL certificates, loading speed and mobile friendliness should become more important. The Core Web Vitals will also be measured specifically.
Anyone running a website may find one or the other update annoying. But at the same time, Google is always concerned with rewarding websites that offer users really good and sophisticated content and do not annoy them with spam or advertising.
If you already do that, you don’t have to worry too much about the Google updates. After all, the Google algorithm and website operators should be about the same thing: producing high-quality content.