Keeping Up with Google; Your Guide to Algorithm Updates

If you’re managing an SEO strategy for your business, you’re going to want to know how Google ranks your site and the factors that could help or hinder your success. If you want to understand the traffic patterns for your website and follow best practice for SEO then it’s vital to keep up-to-date with the changes to Google’s algorithm.

Algorithms can change up to 600 times a year as Google consistently strives to deliver the best results for their searchers, changing the information they’re looking for and the way they look for it. Although the changes are usually minor and won’t cause a drop in your rankings, every now and again, Google rolls out updates (Panda and Penguin) which have a significant effect on search results. Here’s our cheat sheet to help you understand each update and how it may affect your rankings now and in the future.


Google panda update

When? February 2011

How does it work?

Panda is designed to penalise websites with low quality or sparse content. The Panda update officially became an integral part of their ranking algorithm in January 2016 and gives the pages on your site a quality score based on the content of that page. This update looks for duplicate, low quality, spammy, thin and keyword stuffed content.

Believe it or not, the Panda algorithm update is now able to take user experience into account when it comes to ranking your website. This might mean that you need to run an audit of your site to make sure the content is as user-friendly as possible.

How do I optimise my site?

If you’re constantly updating your site with content, always make sure it’s high quality and provides value to your website visitors. Avoid keyword stuffing too! It doesn’t make for interesting content and the days of tricking Google into showing your website higher in the SERPs simply by adding keyword after keyword into your web pages are long gone. Google has become far too clever to be fooled in this way.

Other factors the Panda update looks for are duplicate content and plagiarism. So, make sure all of the content on your website is original and run regular audits to make sure nothing’s duplicated. You should also make sure other websites are not copying YOUR content because this can harm your rankings too.



When? April 2012

How does it work?

The Penguin update scans your website for unnatural link profiles. So, if you’re using manipulative link tactics to build authority, Google might be on to you! Here’s the factors we mean when we say manipulative tactics:

  • Links from poor quality, ‘spammy’ sites
  • Links from sites created purely for SEO link building
  • Links from irrelevant sites
  • Paid links
  • Links with overly optimised anchor text
  • Keyword stuffing

How do I optimise my site?

In order to avoid being penalised by the Penguin update, you should remove as many spammy or low-quality links from your website as possible. Any ‘black hat’ SEO techniques you’ve been taking part in may leave you with a drop in rankings AND traffic so, when it comes to link building, stick to best practice to keep your site on Google’s good side. If all of your links are high quality and you’re not spamming the search results, you’ll have no problems!

Run through your content and make sure your keywords are mentioned naturally and do not affect the flow or readability of the text.



google hummingbird update

When? August 2013

How does it work?

The Hummingbird update looks at user intent when they’re searching in Google rather than the keywords within the search query. This allows Google to show their users even more relevant content when they’re searching. Although keywords are still important, this update looks at each individual word in the query, taking the whole phrase into account rather than just the keywords, this is known as ‘conversational search’ and takes into account voice search when people are searching on their mobile phones.

You might have also heard of an update named RankBrain too which is integrated into the overall Hummingbird algorithm.

How do I optimise my site?

As long as you follow best practice in your SEO strategy, produce high quality content and make sure everything on your site is as user friendly as possible, your site should remain unaffected by Hummingbird. Its main purpose is to remove spammy or irrelevant content from the search results and give industry leaders and influencers a better chance of appearing highly.

The use of long-tail keywords has also become more prevalent with the Hummingbird update. So how to guides are likely to see your content be more successful.


When? December 2014

How does it work?

The Google Pigeon update is tied to local search results and aims to provide better local search results. The update rewards local businesses with strong organic presence with better visibility in traditional search results.

How do I optimise my site?

Factors causing problems for local businesses after pigeon:

  • Poorly optimised pages
  • Lack of quality backlinks
  • Improper set up of a Google My Business page
  • NAP inconsistency
  • Lack of citation in local directories


google mobilegeddon update


When? April 2015

How does it work?

In another bid to move with technology and people’s searching habits, Google recognised the importance of mobile-friendliness in their algorithms. The mobilegeddon update ranks pages which are optimised for mobile devices in mobile searches over those which are not mobile friendly.

As more and more people move to searching on their mobiles, this will become increasingly important.

How do I optimise my site?

The mobile-friendliness of your site now impacts greatly on your site’s rankings. So, make sure all of your pages are as mobile friendly as possible and they load quickly.

If you want to find out how mobile friendly your site is, Google provides a free tool which will run tests on your site and show you the results. Click here to use the tool.

If you’re confused by these updates and how they effect your website, please contact us for more information.

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