google algorithm updates

A complete analysis of major Google algorithm updates

Google, by far, is one of the best search engines to have graced the digital world. Not only the search engine provides great user experience, it makes sure that search queries are directed to the most relevant results. This is unique to Google and this can be attributed to its complex algorithm. 

Google’s algorithm has always been the talk of the town but nobody could understand it completely. On top of that the search engine giant keeps updating its algorithm frequently to improve the search quality. 

In this blog, we will have a look at some of the major algorithm updates that Google introduced from time to time and analyze what it intended to do and how it effected SEO. Let’s begin.


Google’s Panda update was launched on February 24, 2011. This update aimed to eliminate content that were duplicate or plagiarized, which had user-generated spams and where keyword stuffing was used to rank higher. 

With Panda algorithm update, many websites were penalized and some even removed from SERPs (search engine result pages). Panda algorithm assigned quality scores to websites, which was used in ranking. 

The impact that this algorithm update had was immense and coerced content creators to come up with unique and fresh content, thereby enhancing the overall user experience. 

Exact Match Domain Update

This update did not have a nickname and went by EMD update. This was launched in 2012 and targeted websites that used exact match domains with thin or zero-value content. 

The basic flaw with such website was that they used specific keywords to build a site and populated it with spammy, irrelevant or plagiarized content. Google warned such websites beforehand and when EMD was released such sites were heavily penalized. 


Launched on April 24, 2012, Google’s Penguin update aimed to rank down websites that contained irrelevant or spammy links or links that had over-optimized anchor text. Basically, Google wanted to penalize websites that appeared manipulative. 

Google incorporated Penguin as a part of its core algorithm in 2016 and unlike Panda it can work in real-time. 


‘Content is King’ and who understands it better than Google. With an aim to rank down websites that had poor content quality or had too many keywords stuffed into it, Google released Hummingbird update on August 22, 2013. 

With Hummingbird update, Google was able to interpret the intent of the search query and provide results that were the most relevant. While keywords are important, Hummingbird made it possible for a website to rank higher even if it did not have the exact keyword that the user searched. This is done with the help of natural language processing that uses semantic indexing, co-occurring terms, and synonyms. 


Released on July 24, 2014 in US and December 22, 2014 in UK, Canada, and Australia, the objective of Pigeon update was to rank down websites that had poor on- and off-page SEO. In this update, user’s location played a pivotal part and with Pigeon, Google attempted to bridge the gap between local and core algorithm. 


This update was released on April 21, 2015 with an aim to reward websites that created mobile versions of their website. Seeing the rise of mobile technology, it was obvious that users would like to visit good website even from their smartphones. And hence it was necessary to have a framework that forced website owners to create mobile versions of their websites. This was accomplished by Mobilegeddon. Google even filtered out or seriously ranked down websites that did not follow the mobile-friendly approach. 


A lot has been speculated about RankBrain, but what exactly it does, still could not be comprehended. RankBrain is a part of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm and uses machine learning systems to understand the meaning behind queries and therefore offer the best search results. 

Basically, RankBrain identifies relevance features for web pages ranking for a given query, which are query-specific ranking factors. This update ranks down websites that lack query-specific relevance feature, shallow content, and poor user experience. 


Google’s Possum was one of its kind where the search engine combined search results with user’s physical location. This implied that a user’s location became an important part of Google searches. For example, if a user searched for a food outlet, the ones that are near to the user’s location will be displayed in the result pages. With Possum update, even businesses located outside the city area were benefited hugely.  


Fred is one of the most recent algorithm updates and was released on March 8, 2017. This update targeted websites and blogs that have poor content and were created only to earn ad revenue or for the purpose of affiliate marketing. In a nutshell, Fred penalizes every website that violates Google’s webmaster guidelines. 

BERT [Bidirectional Encoder Representation from Transformers]

BERT is the latest Google update and was released on November 4, 2019. BERT stands for bidirectional encoder representation from transformer. It is a natural language processing based algorithm created to understand the correlation between words. With BERT, Google will be able to understand search queries much better and provide extremely relevant results. 


Google’s algorithm updates are the basis of great search experiences. In this blog we explored some of the major updates that changed the course of search engine results. To get the hang of these updates, we need to stay on top of trends and understand them in its entirety.

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