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Top Google Search Algorithm Updates

Top 9 Google Search Algorithm Updates
February 16, 2019

Top Google Search Algorithm Updates

Feb 16, 2019
Bhanu Yechuri
Bhanu Yechuri, a post-grad of comp science, freelance writer, web developer, blogger, internet savvy, and a volunteer. Currently reinventing her career into the field of Digital Marketing. And occasionally indulges in painting, cooking, and gardening.

When was the last time you Googled about “organic gardening,” or “images of cute animals”? The search engine must be pouring in millions of resulting sites. Weren't you curious to find out how these results are generated and ranked, and on what basis? - Algorithms.

Google's complex algorithms are becoming more and more complicated day by day, which focus on generating the most relevant results and rank them at the top of the search engine results page. The cheat sheet will help get an idea about the algorithm updates and google penalties rolled out in recent years.



Launched: 23 Feb 11
Rolled out: monthly
Hazards: Plagiarism, Thin content, Keyword stuffing, Duplicate content

Google Panda’s algorithm was mainly proposed to higher the ranking of high-quality content and to lower the ranking of sites with thin, spammy, duplicate content. Initially, it was called ‘Farmer’ update as it seemed to affect content farms, sites which generated information from other sites to increase their web pages and to rank high.

Stay Attack Free

  • Panda triggers the duplicate content internally, so run regular SEO site audits to make sure no duplication issues found. 
  • Plagiarism, external duplication is another threat; if there is suspicion of duplication of pages, there are online sites available like CopySpace wherein there is a possibility to verify the uniqueness of the content.
  • Avoid thin content, i.e., when the content of the page is inadequate, filled more with ads, affiliate links and lacked originality in the content. Measures have to be taken such that the word count should be a minimum of 300 and the outgoing links on the page should be less than 100 links.      
  • Avoid keyword stuffing, over optimization of a page for a keyword. Website auditor tools are available using which one can analyze the areas like the headers, description and content where there is a possibility of keyword stuffing.

 Before the next Panda iteration, try to fix the Panda-prone vulnerabilities.



Launched: 24 April 12
Rollouts: 25 May 12; 5 Oct 12; 22 May 13; 4 Oct 13; 17 Oct 14; real-time since 23 Sep 16
Hazards: Employing link schemes, i.e., links from spammy, low-quality or unrelated sites, paid links, links with overly optimized anchor texts

Google Penguin's webspam algorithm update targeted link spam and manipulative link building practices. Penguin is a part of Google's core ranking algorithm and operates in real time as per Google's announcement in 23 September, 2016, which means that penalties are now applied faster, and recovery also may take less time.

Stay Attack Free

  • Spammy sites, backlinks can become one of the major issues. Check out for an unusual increase in the link profile. 
  • The Google Disavow tool can be used to get rid of spammy or harmful links. 
  • Spammy content would receive no ranking benefits.
  • Avoid over-optimization of anchor texts, i.e., using a particular keyword or a key-phrase too many times in anchor texts or linking the anchor texts to irrelevant pages..



Launched: Aug 12
Rollouts: Oct 14
Hazards: Pirated content, reports of copyright infringement

Google Pirate is a filter designed to penalize sites with many copyright infringement reports, filed through DMCA system. Well known and significant sites that made pirated content such as movies, music, or books are affected. These sites are available to visitors for free, some being torrent sites.

Stay Attack Free

  • Owner’s permission is essential in order to share their content. Avoid publishing any pirated content in any form of media to avoid penalty from Google's Pirate



Launched on: 23 Aug 13
Hazards: Keywords stuffing, Exact-match keyword targeting

Google Hummingbird, as the name suggests, indicates speed and accuracy. Emphasis is on semantic analysis of the search query, simple language, prioritizing the substance and semantics without being verbose, and looking more in-depth at content on individual pages of a website, with the ability to lead users directly to the appropriate page that has the content they are looking for.
Many SEO's are hypothesizing that this might be in conjunction with Google voice search.

Stay Attack Free

  • Create content that answers user’s queries rather than incorporating keywords in the web pages.
  • As the Hummingbird update is semantic, one can use synonyms and other closely related phrases in the content. Also, make sure to place those keywords and other related phrases in a way that is appropriate and contextual, and preserves the readability of the content.



Launched: 24 July 14
Rollouts: 22 Dec 14
Hazards: Improper setup of Google Business page, NAP(Name, Address, Phone) inconsistency, lack of local SEO optimization

Google Pigeon, the algorithm's primary initiative is to provide relevant search results taking into account the searcher's location. Google Pigeon has also replaced its older 7-pack
style of local results with just 3 listings. The Pigeon update connected the Google's local algorithm more deeply to their core web algorithm which further implies that local businesses need to have a strong organic web presence in order to compete for local rankings.

Stay Attack Free

  • Local businesses need to create a well-optimized website so that it can land in Google's local indexes.
  • Set up a Google My Business page and verify the ownership of your listing. Categorize the business correctly and include the local area code in the address.
  • Positive reviews play a vital role in improving local search ranking.
  • Business name, address and phone number listed in the local directories should be consistent.

Google Pigeon adheres to proximity-based results.



Launched: 21 April 15
Hazards: Lack of a responsive and mobile-friendly website, improper viewport configuration

Google Mobilegeddon, prioritize the websites that display well on smartphones and other mobile devices.

Stay Attack Free

  • Google’s recommendation is responsive designs with proper viewport configurations and mobile-friendly content.
  • Use Google's Mobile-Friendly test tool to make sure your website is responsive and mobile friendly. Google's Mobile-Friendly test tool results are binary, that is either your site is mobile friendly or not, there is no middle ground.

Google Mobile friendly evaluations are instant, no intentional time delays.



Launched: 26 Oct 15
Hazards: Lack of query-specific relevance in the content (content that doesn't address users' queries) and poor quality content

Google Rankbrain, is an AI system that uses machine learning to filter the search results and improve the way they have placed in SERP. It deciphers the queries better and provides more relevant search results by understanding the users search queries more effectively.
Rankbrain makes an analysis of even unfamiliar words to its nearest possible meaning and generates the results.

Stay Attack Free

  • Create content that addresses the users' queries by incorporating variant keyword phrases in the content, both short tail and long tail, in natural language that reflects the way humans search and speak.
  • Do a competitive research and analysis, and create quality content based on what the users are searching for.

With the advent of Rankbrain the core component in Google algorithm, the query goes through the interpretation model; what really the searcher wants. User’s intent based on the location and the words in the query determines the search results.



Launched:1 Sep 16
Hazards: Sharing a physical address with a business belonging to the same category of yours; competitors located nearer to the searcher's location 

Google Possum, is unconfirmed but documented the update. It has a significant impact on local finder results. Google Possum, did affect the local business of the same category which shared the same physical location.

Stay Attack Free

  • Improving the factors like the DA, content and local reviews convince Google to display your business in the results section of the local pack.
  • If filtered out as multiple businesses are catering to the same type of businesses, then experiment by making changes to the primary category.

According to Joy Hawkins, columnist, the local ranking of business whose physical located beyond Google's city borders have increased.
Despite low organic rating some local packs/searches are doing well, as Google local filter is running independently of the organic filter.



Launched: 8 Mar 17
Hazards: Having low-quality webpages with ad-centered content; thin content with heavy affiliate links.

Google Fred is designed explicitly to reduce the sites mainly orchestrate with the intent of revenue generation by placing ads and affiliate links. Google Fred primarily affected sites with heavy-ads, unnatural backlinks and the content that is of low-quality to the users.

Stay Attack Free

  • Following Google webmaster guidelines and Google search quality guidelines, will keep the site Fred free.
  • Avoid thin content, upgrade low-quality content with useful, informative and insightful content.
  • Avoid placing too many ads or affiliate links and focus on improving the user experience on the site by placing ads in a way that do not interrupt or vex the user.

Everything breaks down to producing and publishing high quality, unique and informative content.



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