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Insights from Years of Google Algorithm and Rankings Data

As the world's leading search engine, Google has been a critical factor in determining the success of businesses for many years.

Over the years, Google's algorithm has undergone several updates aimed at improving the quality of search results and providing users with the most relevant and high-quality content.

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What have Google’s Algorithm Updates looked like over the past few years?

Panda 2011 – Worked to weed out the sites that were not offering genuine information about a user’s search, but rather were created solely for the purpose of ranking, with low-quality, duplicative content.

Venice 2012 – Local update, in which after its release Google recognized that a searcher may be looking for local results and included some search results based on your set location or IP address.

Penguin 2012– Looked at where sites were getting their citations and penalized sites using spammy link-building tactics.

Pirate 2012 – Aimed to combat the illegal spread of copyrighted content by, for the first time, considering multiple DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown requests for a website as a negative ranking factor.

Hummingbird 2013 – Provided more relevant search results based on understanding the user's intent, prioritizing readable and natural language. It was also the first time we saw conversational search introduced. Google described Hummingbird as a rewrite of its core algorithm, enabling it to be faster and more precise.

Pigeon 2014 – Considered user’s location and distance between businesses, making local searches more accurate and relevant. This affected both the results pages and Google Maps.

HTTPS/SSL 2014 – Stressed the importance of security and slightly boosted sites with correctly implemented HTTPS.

Mobilegeddon 2015 – Penalized sites for not being mobile-friendly. This was the start of Google’s prioritization of mobile-friendly sites.

RankBrain 2015 – An AI platform that helped Google better comprehend search queries by analyzing past searches to find the best result.

Possum 2016 – Another update to improve local search, which applied several changes to Google’s local ranking filter. Google placed greater importance on the searcher’s physical location. Google also began filtering out similar businesses if they shared the same address.

(Mobile) Speed Update 2016 – After seeing users’ need for instantaneous information, this update made page speed a ranking factor for mobile searches.

Fred 2017 – Focused on penalizing sites with low-quality content and heavy advertising in an effort to better the user experience.

Medic 2018 – Aimed to improve search results in the health and wellness vertical.

BERT 2019 – Introduced Google’s machine learning algorithm, which was better able to understand queries using the full sentence together, rather than individual words.

logo 2021 – Took a more holistic approach to the user experience by using “metrics that measure real-world user experience for loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability.”

MUM (Multitask United Model) 2021 – This model can combine information from a variety of sources (text, video, and audio) in multiple languages to come back with the highest quality, most accurate answer it can.

Helpful Content 2022 – Emphasized the quality of content, returning results that actually answers the user’s search. Rewards quality content written for rather than just for search engines.

And those are just the larger ones. Interspersed throughout the years have also been core updates and updates to a variety of other items (rankings, page experience, reviews, and so much more).

What can we take away to help us in the future?

  1. Quality Content is King:

One of the most important lessons we can learn is that quality content is king. Websites that provide valuable, high-quality content are more likely to rank well in search results. Search engines prioritize websites with useful, informative, and engaging content that meets the needs of their users.

This is especially true following the release of the Helpful Content Updates in August and December 2022. Now more than ever, Google rewards high-quality content written for people rather than search engines that provides users with helpful information and a satisfying experience. Content that demonstrates strong E-E-A-T (Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trust) is vital, especially when it comes to YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) topics that could impact readers’ health or finances. While E-E-A-T is not a ranking factor itself, Google wants to serve content that demonstrates strong E-E-A-T.

  1. User Experience Matters:

The user experience has become increasingly important in determining search rankings. Google's algorithm now factors in elements like page load speed, responsive design, mobile-friendliness, and easy navigation.

  1. High-Quality Citations are Still Relevant:

While Google's algorithm has evolved significantly, high-quality citations are still an important factor in determining search rankings. High-quality citations from reputable sources can help to improve your website's visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) and can also increase your website's credibility and trustworthiness. The quality and relevance of citations matter more than the number of citations.

  1. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are Game-Changers:

Google's algorithm has become more sophisticated with the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence. These technologies enable Google to better understand user intent and provide more personalized search results. As these technologies continue to evolve, we can expect even more personalized and accurate search results in the future.

The insights we have gained from years of Google algorithm and rankings data can help us prepare for the future of SEO. By focusing on creating high-quality content, providing a positive user experience, building high-quality citations, and keeping up with advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, we can position ourselves for success in the ever-evolving world of SEO. And that’s just one piece of what Big Voodoo provides to you.

If you have any questions about Google and their ever-changing algorithm, do not hesitate to reach out to your account manager.

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