Some days, it seems we are all just puppets on Google’s strings. When Google makes a change, as SEO experts, we must react. Furthermore, Crush the Rankings prides ourselves on being on top of all of the latest developments, allowing us to not only optimize our websites to avoid algorithm penalty, but giving us critical insights that allow us to assist clients in recovering from a Google Penalty.
What is Google’s Algorithm?
Google uses an algorithm, primarily driven by Artificial Intelligence, to help narrow down search results to what Google believe’s would best serve the searcher’s intent or query. Given the billions and billions of pages on the internet, Google’s algorithm is designed to sort through all of these pages in order to serve the most useful and relevant results as quickly as possible.
Google’s algorithm is comprised of an entire series of algorithms, each working in it’s own way to attempt and serve the most helpful results. Google, as an entity, looks at many factors on people’s websites, including speed, content, formatting, location, and even authoritativeness of the content.
In order to continue to adjust, Google will frequently, as in daily, release updates to these algorithms to help fine-tune the search results. While algorithm updates do happen everyday, sometimes there are much larger and more significant updates, known as Broad Core Updates.
What is a Broad Core Algorithm Update?
In the old days, Google would drop significant algorithm updates without any warning, often sending those unprepared SEO into a frenzy and their clients into a tail-spin. These days, Google tries to give some notice prior to the updates, although they don’t always say what the update will entail. This is where Crush the Rankings and Taylor Kurtz separate themselves from the pack. Taylor takes it upon himself to stay on top of the absolute latest developments within Google and the SEO community to always be prepared for an algorithm update, rather than scrambling to recover after the fact. It’s like the old saying goes: “You’ve got to stay ready, to keep from getting ready.”
The difference between a broad core update and a normal algorithm update, is a broad core update is a tweak to the main search algorithm, which in itself has up to 500 or more ranking factors. During a broad core update, the weight assigned to these various factors and signals may be tweaked, altering the search results. Keeping up with the best practices of SEO can help significantly in minimizing the impact of a significant update or even benefiting from said update.
Over time, Google has released numerous broad core algorithm updates, each working to improve the quality and reliability of the search results page (SERP).
Past Google Broad Core Algorithm Updates
Florida Update (11/15/2003)
Occurring right before the holiday season and rush, this major update from Google who were using spammy techniques to boost their rankings, such as stuffing keywords, copying content from other sites, etc. were penalized.
Caffeine Update (8/10/2009)
This update was aimed at allowing more efficient crawling and storing of data to produce fresher results.
Panda Update (2/23/2011)
This was an extremely significant algorithm update. This particular update focused on quality of content, penalizing websites for duplicate content, spam, and plagiarism.
Penguin Update (4/24/2012)
This update sought to penalize people who had “over-optimized” their content to manipulate the search engines. Specific focus was put on unnatural and spammy links and penalizing sites who were attempting to gain site authority through unnatural linking tactics.
Exact Domain Match (EDM) Update (9/28/2012)
This update sought to penalize websites who had stuffed targeted keywords into their domains and URLS. All of the sudden, websites such as “www.bestattorneyinboston.com” were falling out of search results for unnatural manipulation.
PayDay Update (6/11/2013)
The Google Payday Loans algorithm update targeted queries they felt were associated with questionable industries, specifically payday loans, bail bondsman, debt consolidation, etc.
Hummingbird Update (9/26/2013)
The Hummingbird Algorithm update by Google was one of the largest updates in history. With changes in search behavior, such as the rise of voice search, Google implemented a change to their algorithm that would put emphasis on keyword stuffing and only serving “high-quality” content.
Mobile-Friendly Update (4/21/2015)
Yet another significant update to the Google search algorithm, the “Mobilegeddon” update was meant to put a focus on mobile-versions of websites, penalizing those without mobile-friendly websites and rewarding mobile-friendly by serving them in the search results more frequently. This was a massive update that had a worldwide impact.
Quality/Phantom Update (5/3/2015)
The Quality update was released as an attempt to improve the quality of the websites served in the SERP. For example, websites with numerous ads or a significant amount of pop-ups were penalized.
Intrusive Interstitials Update (1/10/2017)
The Intrusive Interstitials Update was created to further improve the user experience and improve the quality of pages served on the SERP, primarily penalizing websites with a ton of pop-up and disruptive elements which hurts the UX.
Fred Update (3/7/2017)
This was a tremendously large update to the Google Algorithm which targeted low quality content. The focus on this update was serving authoritative and quality content, often written by experts in their field.
BERT Update (10/25/2019)
Google themselves said this was the largest change to search in the past 5 years. The change here is that through the use of BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), the search engine was able to better understand the intent behind search queries and, as a result, serve more accurate results. The impact of this update was quite significant and could be seen throughout the search results. Just over a month later, Google released this update worldwide.
Mobile-Only Indexing Update (coming March 2021)
While Google previously emphasized a mobile-first indexing scheme, meaning their crawlers crawled your mobile-version first and used that to determine your rankings, Google has since announced that in March of 2021 they will switch to a mobile-only indexing system. This means that, regardless of how visually stunning your desktop website is, Google will completely ignore the desktop versions beginning in March 2021, opting to ONLY crawl and index the mobile-version of the websites. This means elements such as user experience, page speed, and mobile-friendliness have never been more important.
Page Experience Update (coming May 2021)
In 2020, Google revealed several new metrics which they deemed “Core Vitals.” These metrics, along with other elements tied to a good user-experience, were announced to become primary ranking factors in 2021. Well, in November 2020, Google announced that the Page Experience Update would be arriving in May 2021. This means that, in addition to metrics such as the core vitals, visual elements such as moving text, buttons, etc. will be heavily scrutinized. Website speed and overall experience are of the utmost importance as search users switch to a more mobile-experience and crave results and websites to be served incredibly fast.
What Do I Do if I Think I Was Harmed by a Google Algorithm Update?
There are several indicators that one’s site may have been negatively impacted by an algorithm update. These indicators can include a loss of rankings and position in the search results, a loss of traffic, declined conversions, and much more. In extreme cases, Google may send you a manual notice of a penalty on your website. If you believe you are the victim of a Google Penalty, it is important to contact a qualified Google penalty expert who can look at every factor of your website and traffic to determine the cause of any decline and how to resolve the matter as soon as possible. Crush the Ranking’s own Taylor Kurtz is recognized as one of the brightest minds in the industry when it comes to not only recovering from a Google penalty, but also being prepared for algorithm updates to prevent any penalty in the first place.