Google search algorithm : its evolution & effects on SEO.
Google Search Algorithm is the core component of the Google Search Engine. From hundreds of billions of search indexes, it shows the most useful & relevant result to you. Hundreds of web pages published in every seconds & search term & expected results have also changed a lot. To coup up with your ever-changing & ever growing search patterns & indexes, Google Search Algorithm also evolved a lot. Every day Google processes 15% unique entries!
How does it work?
Before knowing anything about Google Search Algorithm, you may have a question “how Google shows the result after you search?” Showing the result in a millisecond, a hell lot of job needs to done by Google search engine. But it starts before you even thinking about seeking anything! Web crawlers gather information from billions of web pages & organize them in search indexes. Using different tools provided by Google like webmaster tools, a website owner submit a sitemap of this site. Sometimes Google crawlers crawl on a site to get the sitemap. These crawlers then gather information from the site & organize information by indexing. They read your contents, read your picture’s ALT text and much more. Thus they create a complete picture of your website. Then Google ranking system sorts billions of website & create an index as per keyword.
Now comes your search part. After searching anything, you want the answer, right? After entering a word, Google tries to understand your search word, you may enter them wrongly, but it will suggest the right one & show you the results. You may be searching from USA & Google will show your local search results. Amazing isn’t it?
What is Google Search Algorithm?
Google Search Algorithm is a process called PageRank(PR) used by Google to rank websites for a SERP. It was named after one of the founder of Google, Larry Page. He once described that a perfect search engine should understand what you mean by a search & should only show what you want. With the time, the mentally of searcher & searching changed a lot. Now it’s a complicated set of rules that measure a website’s importance for SERP. In a nutshell, PR works by counting numbers & quality links to a page to understand its significance. It was the first algorithm used by Google, and after that, it just evolved, and now it consists of a vast number of rules & regulations to determine a website’s importance for a SERP.
At Google, thousands of scientists & engineers work to improve the Google Search Algorithm. You will be surprised to know that in just 2016, Google has introduced 1600 new improvements!
Google Search Algorithm Updates: Its evolution & effects:
In 90’s, to show a website on the search page, the search engine worked by keyword matching & finding links on the web pointing to that specific site. That time it was possible to rank a website by working on exact keyword & creating tons of backlinks. But different sites started to manipulate the search with cheating. So Google starts to introduce new Google Search Algorithm to keep the SERP logical & clean. You will be astonished to know that Google Search Algorithm have been updated more than 500 times, only major updates are known to us, at least we know what happened after the update.
What are we going to discuss here?
Google Search algorithms are the essential knowledge needed to work effectively in the SEO field. To show your website at the top page of the SERP, you need to know about these updates. Here we I have tried my best to light up every aspect of Google Search Algorithm updates. I have also shown their effects on SEO process. These changes are so drastically that, pages previously at the top SERP lost their rank and just vanished from first 10 or 20 pages. It’s not the end of Google Search Algorithm. While you are reading, Google may have released another minor update already!
Here I have shown the major updates and avoided the minor ones. They are just too many! Most of the minor updates are fixes & refresh types. Suppose a Major Google Search Algorithm update have kicked your page from SERP as a false flag, the next small fix or refresh will remove the false flag from your page.
What will you not find here?
The spotlight of this article is Google Search Algorithm, Its evolution & effects on SEO. I have not discussed any detail process of SEO as well as the topic, SEO for local visibility is absent here. After reading these Google Search Algorithms, you will find the topic “content” interesting. But I have not discussed SEO friendly content here. To learn more about how to write effective SEO friendly content for your website, click here.
To learn more about Google Search Algorithm, we must know when it all started. We already know about PageRank. But the first step which brought all these updates was the launch of Google Browser Toolbar, aka the Google search engine. With it, the Toolbar Pagerank also introduced by Google. Everything started from here. Now you know the background, let’s read them.
Released in February 2011, Panda is one of the most important updates of Google Search Algorithm. It’s a search filter which updates day by day & creates a substantial barrier for poor contents to show in the SERP. After this update, it’s not possible to rank up in SERP without focusing quality contents. It also refreshes regularly to give a chance for updated sites to gain their lost position or remove sites from the SERP which have passed the filter using cheating.
Effects on SEO:
- Avoid duplicate & thin content.
- No plagiarism.
- Ignore user-generated spam & Keyword stuffing.
- Provide a good user experience.
The effect of Panda Google Search Algorithm update is more severe than the others. With this update, Google seriously focused on user experience. To give a better user experience, the website needs to fulfill some criteria. Duplicate content on your site will give a bad ranking from now on. Across the web & on your site, there should not be any duplicate content. Contents copied from the website will be marked as plagiarized content. Contents that add no value to the reader or redirect to another page is called thin content, and it will bring a bad ranking for your page. As always, Google also emphasized on a big no-no to keyword spamming or stuffing on this Google Search Algorithm update. You need to focus on good user experience to get a better rank at SERP.
Google Top Heavy Update:
With the evolution of the internet, the advertisement trend has also changed. Corporate sites are focusing on digital media more & more. Sites are also becoming their place of the ad. As a result, some sites let publisher publish more ads than others. After reaching the top place at SERP, several sites lost their concentration on user experience. To prevent this Google Search Algorithm introduced this update to prevent sites to publish excessive ads at their website thus improves the user experience.
Effects on SEO:
- Keep the focus on user experience rather than making the website heavy with ads.
Excessive ads prevent users from getting a better user experience from a website. Google always prefer the user experience above other things. Hard earn ranking will be thrown away if you let your website a place for excessive ads.
To tune up the PageRank where backlinks were focused a lot, Google introduced Penguin update in April 2012. In this Google Search Algorithm, it aims to identify & down ranks sites that have unnatural link profile. To manipulate the SERP, different sites used link spamming through link networks. These links were primarily designed to boost the site ranking through spamming. It’s now prohibited after the Penguin update. Now you need to acquire quality links rather than quantity.
Effects on SEO:
- Avoid providing links to spammy sites.
- Links are coming from sites created purely for SEO link building (PBNs).
- Provide links to relevant sites.
- Don’t get paid links.
- Don’t use links with overly optimized anchor text.
After this update, it’s time to focus on the quality citation. This Google Search Algorithm is real time, which means you will get the penalty in a quick time & if you flagged mistakenly, you would be removed in a short period. Avoid poor citation over the internet.
At August 2012, Google took the biggest initiative against pirated contents. Hundreds of thousands website lost their ranking after this Google Search Algorithm update. It’s a fight against piracy, that’s why it was named as Pirate. With the popularity of internet different torrent sites have surfaced with contents that are copyright protected. After having numerous complaints from users, Google introduced this core algorithm. This filter will prevent sites with copyright infringement reports to show in the SERP. Through Digital Millennium Copyright Act, websites can be complained about having copyright contents & after proper investigation, SERP will remove the site from its result.
Effects on SEO:
- Don’t put any copyright content on your website.
- Avoid having copyright infringement reports.
Many famous torrent sites have been removed & many favorite sites have lost their ranking after this core Google Search Algorithm update. Never put any copyright content on your website without any approval from the owner. If you already got a copyright infringement reports, remove the content ASAP. Then apply to Google for a review.
Google EMD (Exact Match Domain) Update:
Released in September 2012, Exact Match Domain is a Google Search Algorithm filter to prevent poor quality sites to show in the SERP. Using the other algorithms, sites with poor quality shows at the SEPR simply because they have the exact word in their domain names. That means if a poor quality site having the name pizza will appear if you search “pizza.” Google prevented it by implementing this filter. To appear in the SERP, a site needs to fulfill other criteria rather than just having the word at their domain name.
Improve your site to give better user experience:
To reach the SERP, you need to focus on other aspects of SEO. It created a level playing field for different sites. You will be astonished seeing its effects. Just search FaceBook at search field, and you will see other website locations at the front page of the SERP. It’s the magic of this algorithm.
For a better user experience, Payday update was introduced in June 2013. Overall this update did not affect general websites. That’s why it’s less known to many. Its primary focus was to improve the SERP by cleaning up spammy queries. Some search queries are very very popular & some websites use these keywords spamming to bring more visits to their website such as “payday.” Google implemented this update to clean up these search results.
Effects on SEO:
Keyword spamming is the biggest problem for better SERP. The user often gets a result which is not related to their search or add no value to their queries. Always keep a safe distance from keyword spamming. It may bring a short time result for you but the penalty will be severe & remove Google’s penalty is not a walk in the park.
The name Hummingbird picked to mean the Google Search Algorithm’s “preciseness & speed,” introduced in September 2013. With its introduction, it pays more attention at the whole sentence or the conversion or the meaning of the search. It takes account the full search rather than a particular word. Suppose you are searching “weather: sitting at Britain, it will show you the forecast of the weather or today’s’ weather rather than showing you some weather pages. It shows the pages matches the meaning rather than few words of the search. It applies the meaning technology to billions of pages across the internet which helps to bring better results.
Effects on SEO:
- Avoiding the exact match & consider the meaning of the queries.
- Avoid keyword stuffing.
After this Google Search Algorithm update, search engine focuses on related searched also. Focusing a single word in your content now doesn’t give you any guarantee to get a good rank. Now you have to concentrate on related keywords also. Keyword research is now essential for good content. This update also keeps a close eye on keyword stuffing. It will not bring any good rank for a website after this update.
Released on 24th July 2014, Google Pigeon update first put great emphasis on local SEO. SERP is now significantly influenced by the position of a search. After a search, searcher’s location plays a dramatic role in SERP. The local algorithm now keeps a close tie with core algorithm means now location & distance ranking parameter improves the SERP. If you search something sitting in the USA, the search result will show results near your place.
Effects on SEO:
- Properly optimized website.
- Proper setup of Google My Business Page.
- Same NAP (Name, Address, Phone).
- Qualitative & relevant citation.
The first step after this Google Search Algorithm update is to set up your Google My Business Page. Same business name, office address & contact phone number should be used everywhere. A slight difference will bring severe consequences. Fill up all fields at Google My Business Page properly. The citation is an important part of local SEO. But the citation should be relevant. Quality should be emphasized over quality. To more read here.
Google Mobile Friendly-Update:
Also named as Mobilepocalyse, Mopocalypse or Mobocalypse by the different specialist for its devastating effect on the ranking for mobile search. Released on 21st April 2015, It favors web pages built to be mobile friendly to give mobile users a better search experience. Before this update, Google Search Algorithm was almost same for both mobile & other platform searches. Through this update, Google drew a red line between Mobile browsing & PC browsing. As a result, millions of sites ranked high for being mobile friendly & millions lost their rank for being the opposite.
Effects on SEO:
- The website should have a mobile version.
- Configured viewport.
- Eligible content.
- Mobile friendly plugin.
It updates ranks high if your website is optimized for mobile devices. Still millions of websites are not mobile friendly. You can easily check your website’s mobile view sitting on a PC. If you are using Mozilla browser then press Ctrl+Shift+m or if you are using Google Chrome, simply press Ctrl+Shift+I to check the mobile view of your website. There is another thing; you also need to fulfill all the criteria to be mobile friendly.
Contents need to be eligible for mobile browser view. Plus the plugin used on the website should be responsive on mobile too.
Rank Brain introduced in October 2015, considered as the 3rd most important factor of Search Algorithm Google, is a machine learning system behind search engine that helps search engine to understand the meaning behind the queries better. It’s not a simple task & with the constant changing of search patterns, the Rank brain is also learning & evolving. The rank brain aims to show the best result in a response of a query. It’s a combination of query processing & ranking component. It can summarize a web page by not only some traditional SEO factors like links, page optimization, contents, etc. but also the query itself and thus creates a relevance between page & search.
Effects on SEO:
- Create good user experience for the user.
- Input more query related contents.
Your end user is your visitor to create a good user experience is better for your ranking. Bigger bounce rate will let Google will mark your website as not relevant. To prevent the user from leaving your site, you need to focus on quality contents, links between pages, related topics, etc. You have to check page wise bounce rate to understand which page have more issues. And for query related contents, the only way to focus is keyword research. Keep researching keywords related to your content & incorporate them into your content.
It’s fairly a recent update released in September 2016. It’s another major focus on local visibility after the Pigeon update. The SERP will now show results related to the physical location of the searcher. That means a business closer to a searcher will be more likely to appear in the result if the search is related. It’s a significant boost for the local SEO. With this update, Google created a shield for local small & fragile businesses. Now they can appear on the SERP focusing on SEO rather than investing a large amount of money & time at SEM. It also gives a boost to businesses outside of the physical location. Previously it was hard for these businesses to appear at the local SERP. Now it’s possible.
Effects on SEO:
- Competition for local businesses.
- Physical addresses for local businesses.
This update created a competition among local businesses. The closer the search location is, the better chance to appear at the SERP apart from other core SEO related necessary elements. It creates a healthy place for competition. And also through Google, these businesses will get some extra profit. Before this update, it was necessary to have a physical address to appear at the local SERP. Now it’s not needed.
Fred is the most recent major Google Search Algorithm update, released in March 2017. But everything related this update is not clear or described by Google. It just simply put a light that the update targets sites that have violated the Google Webmaster guidelines. But the studies on the affected sites shows that most of them are content sites (blogs) & Fred removed them from raking for having contents that are created to generate visitors for ads or just affiliation related.
Effect on SEO:
- Ignore low-value contents created to generate the ad.
- Say no to thin contents created for affiliation.
- Review Google’s guideline & maintain them.
Since the release of this Google Search Algorithm update, hundreds of thousands of sites lost their ranking. And the algorithm is integrated with the core of Google Search Algorithm, so any site violates Fred is a potential removed them.
To stay safe, the contents of the site should be relevant & not created to generate ad through a significant amount of visitor. Lots of contents on irrelevant topics will not bring any good.
Also, Google Webmaster guidelines should regularly be reviewed. You can find a complete instruction there for everything. Following the guidelines will keep your website safe.
In a nutshell, Google has evolved a lot after the PageRank & it happens because the search pattern, as well as the searcher, has also changed. Now the internet is a place where people want to find everything. Google Search Algorithms are introduced to make it a user-friendly search engine. Reviewing these updates will keep always keep your site safe you will get a top rank at SERP.