A complete analysis of major Google algorithm updates

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.

All you need to know about Google’s BERT update

google bert update

On October 25, Google released its much anticipated algorithm updated namely BERT. Hailed as one of the major milestones in the search engine history, BERT (bidirectional encoder representation from transformers) is speculated to be a disruptive force. 

At the core of this new update is Google’s new technology BERT that the search engine giant introduced last year. BERT stands for bidirectional encoder representation from transformers. Here, transformers refers to models that interpret the meaning of conjoining words in relation to each other. 

This means that now Google can understand the proper context and meaning of a search query by interpreting the correlation of words and offer better search results. It is a huge bonus of users and will go a long way in establishing user’s trust and greater brand value.

What exactly is the BERT algorithm?

BERT is Google’s premium deep learning algorithm related to natural language processing. By using BERT algorithm, Google can understand search queries better as BERT is capable of deciphering the exact meaning and context of words used in a sentence. 

As per search engine expert Bill Slawski, Bert is a natural language processing pre-training approach that can be used on a large body of text. It handles tasks such as entity recognition, part of speech tagging, and question-answering among other natural language processes. Bert helps Google understand natural language text from the Web.

Google has open sourced this technology, and others have created variations of BERT.

How SEO will be affected by BERT and should website owners worry?

Like every other Google algorithm update, even BERT is going to impact rankings as well as featured snippets. However, the good news is BERT is not going to be used for 100 percent searches. 

Currently, BERT will be used only in 1 out of 10 searches in U.S English. As per Google, BERT is so complicated that pushes the boundaries of Google’s hardware and this is why it has been restricted to fewer searches for now. 

Google is deploying the BERT model in two dozen countries where featured snippets are used to improve the quality of the snippets. 

So, for now, there won’t be major upheavals in the search ranking, however, post full-fledged implementation of BERT, website owners have to come up with highly optimized content to get better ranking on search engine pages.

The myths surrounding BERT update

Despite clear indication from Google, there were many who failed to understand the BERT update in its entirety. This resulted in the publication of many blogs that spread information that were nothing but myths. Now, it’s time to bust those myths and get the real picture. 

As per a Tweet from Google’s Danny Sullivan ‘There’s nothing to optimize for with BERT, nor anything for anyone to be rethinking. The fundamentals of us seeking to reward great content remain unchanged’.

This should clear the air for now and is enough to bust all myths surrounding BERT update. Let’s have a look at some of the myths that made headlines.


With BERT update you will have to optimize your website for long tail keywords

Absolutely not. BERT update simply intends to understand the user queries better so that the search engine can provide specific results.


BERT update is not that significant

Well, what can I say about such ignorance. Google on record said that BERT is already affecting one out ten English language searches, which is ten percent of all search queries. If 10% is not a significant number, what is?


BERT is the biggest update of all time

I can understand how this myth circulated. Well, it is based on the press release from Google that stated that it is one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of search engine. Now even in this statement, BERT remains as one of the biggest updates and not an all time big update.

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With Google’s BERT update, the search engine is capable of understanding the nuances of language and is certainly is a quantum leap in how search results are delivered. In this process, Google will provide its users with premium search experience. 

It’s still under anticipation how BERT is going to affect Google’s search page ranking as the update is applied on only 10 percent of searches, however, for now the effect seems to be minimal. Though it must be noted that once full implementation of the BERT update, content creators have to come up with unique and highly optimized content to rank better on result pages. 

Although, Google aims to improve the search queries results with BERT, understanding language is still a challenge. Despite the efforts that the search engine firm has undertaken, BERT might not get everything right just yet. However, the industry behemoth is poised for similar such efforts to enhance the search results and provide great user experience.