Over the years Google has made many changes to how its search engine ranks websites (known as Google Algorithm Changes or updates), for better or worse, they have managed to adapt and improve it’s algorithms to make sure only genuine websites with high quality and most importantly relevant content, backlinks and well optimised pages get the best rankings.

Technology is constantly evolving and so too is Digital Marketing and SEO. Staying abreast of these changes is hard work but worth it in the end. These updates have changed the way webmaster’s approach SEO because it now requires a team effort from the whole business, to make the website presentable and ultimately drive the traffic organically from the search engines and encourage users to stay on the site.

Panda And Penguin Updates

Panda – First launched by Google in Feb 2011, the real first huge, mainstream update to the search engines algorithms. It introduced measures to tackle websites that were producing low-quality content and penalising them in the search rankings as a result. Panda is still being updated to this day and is part of Google’s core algorithm.

Some other examples of sites that were penalised were ones that were spamming or duplicating content and overusing ads.

How to make sure you don’t get penalised? High quality content is the simple answer. Make sure you go through all your pages and update them if they need more substance.

Penguin – launched in Apr 2012, a year after the Panda update. The update mainly took into account the backlink profiles of websites as factors that determined the ranking of a site. Those with spam links were the ones penalised in this update.

Before this update, many users figured out they could abuse Google’s algorithm by getting 100’s and 1000’s of backlinks that were spam and irrelevant but overall rank well because of it. Now the focus is on backlink quality, the biggest determining factor, not the amount you have.

Hummingbird – Came a year later and updated Google’s search capabilities. They noticed a lot of people used the search engines in a conversational manner, so the update helped Google to understand these types of search queries a lot better.

Content on websites had to change again as well, past the keyword, showing understanding of users and what they want to learn.

Mobile Update – The first two year gap in major updates. Launched in 2015 the mobile update was a huge deal and seriously impacted websites that weren’t prepared for it, and Google warned them which was a first.

Mobile is rapidly beginning to dominate a lot of search engines behaviour and Google noticed this. In simple terms, if your website is mobile optimised, you are fine and should see a boost to your search rankings.

Sites that weren’t optimised, risked falling down the rankings unless they optimised for mobile and made it a user-friendly experience.

Other Updates – There were two other updates in 2015. The first was what people dubbed as a quality update that Google didn’t acknowledge straight away. It focused on the user experience and distribution of content as a ranking boost for websites.

Near the end of 2015 Google started to put its hat into the Artificial Intelligence ring, by announcing a rather unique algorithm that learned and predicted user behaviour. Google have even called it their third most important ranking measure, which is a big deal.

Google ads have now disappeared from the right hand side of the page altogether on the desktops, the significance of this is a big impact in the amount of ads being served on the desktop platform. Being the second largest in click share, Google side ads still only made up the low 10’s percentages of the overall share, which may not be a huge deal to some. At the same time Google have increased the number of ads from 3 to 4 appearing at the top and the bottom of the page to make up for the loss of the side ads.*

*Source: Merkle RKG


The Google search engine has changed a lot. It is a system that is constantly seeing improvements and being refined to provide a consistent and fair level playing field to all webmaster’s trying to rank well for their respective websites.

So what can you do to make sure your website is optimised based on these algorithm updates?

  • High quality content. Content is King. Make it relevant to the user.
  • Factor in all optimisation techniques for your site, including optimising for mobile.
  • Gain those high quality backlinks. Remember it’s about quality not quantity!

Google have got a system that is improving each day for the searcher and the people who want to be searched. Keeping abreast of the latest Google algorithm changes is key to making sure your SEO stays on point and doesn’t suffer any unexpected hits in performance. You need to Adapt or face the potential consequences and hopefully I have helped you achieve that by sharing some Google algorithm changes that you didn’t know about.