Are Google’s Algorithm Updates Overkill?

The simple answer is – No, they are actually incredibly important and we’re going to tell you why in this article.

The most recent confirmed update was ‘Fred’ (March 8th). This update was set alongside some interesting other new updates that came out with the development of some paid search tool updates. It’s worth keeping in mind that any update that affects SEO is usually released around the same timeframe as PPC updates, which are pretty consistent so far.

The SEO community was aware of a substantial fluctuation in rankings and alongside traffic loss. Barry Schwartz recently responded to the updates feedback with a jib at SEO experts ‘that all updates be named Fred’. Reading into that, it’s obvious that they have much more in store for SEO professionals who really have to do their homework now to keep up to date with new expectations to get consistent performance from websites.

Whilst the recent update caused a stir in the optimisation community, there is a method to the madness. Initial suggestions came forward to point out that the update was designed to combat link spamming. In reflection, we know Barry Schwartz points out that the update was actually aimed at sites which are known to be affected by ad heavy, low-value content and affiliate sites.

This has had a resounding effect amongst the online world as a large chunk of sites house all three issues. Google tries its absolute hardest to provide the highest relevancy to a search and is making sure that the searcher has the best possible experience. It goes without saying that, in order for that experience to actually occur, it will be required to review and evaluate the current status of websites listed on their platform and serve penalties where they are due.

With all this in mind, we should look at the history of Google Updates to really understand why they have all served their individual purpose. There were 149 major updates since December 2000 – below is a list of the ones which bear the most weight to SEO practice.

“Florida” – November 2003

The Florida update was the death of low-value, late-90s SEO tactics, such as keyword stuffing

“Big Daddy” – December 2005

The Big Daddy update was an infrastructure update which changed the way Google handles URL canonicalization, redirects (301/302) and other technical issues.

“Caffeine” – June 2010

The Caffeine update was a refreshment to Google’s infrastructure which not only boosted Google’s raw speed but integrated crawling and indexation much more tightly, resulting in (according to Google) a 50% fresher index.

“Panda” – 23rd February 2011

The Panda update was a major algorithm update which hit sites hard, affecting up to 12% of search results (a number that came directly from Google). Panda is mainly focused on low-quality (thin) content, sites with high ad-to-content ratios, and a number of other quality issues.

“Penguin” – 24th April 2012

The Penguin update was a major algorithm that targeted sites spamming its search results, in particular, those doing so by buying links or obtaining them through link networks designed primarily to boost Google rankings.

“Hummingbird” – 24th August 2013

The Hummingbird update was a major overhaul to the all-important concept of semantics or meaning. It was rolled out to combat the increasing longer search queries key in searches.

“Pigeon” – 24th July 2014

The Pigeon update focused on local SEO to dramatically alter some local results and modify how they handle and interpret location cues.

“Panda 4.1” – 23rd September 2014

Google announced another significant Panda update, which included an algorithmic component. It was estimated to affect around 3-5% of queries.

“Penguin 3.0” – 17th October 2014

Google launched another Penguin refresh. This update appeared to be smaller than expected (<1% of US/English queries affected).

“Mobile Friendly Update” – 21st April 2015

Google made an official update announcement on their Google Webmaster Blog. This change affected mobile searches in all languages worldwide and also had a significant impact on mobile search results.

“Panda 4.2 Update” – 17th July 2015

Another Panda Update was officially confirmed. The only difference this time was that it was a slow roll out, and took as long as a couple of months.

“RankBrain” – 26 October 2015

Google introduced a new ranking signal called RankBrain, which uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to deliver better search results. This covers all languages and is mainly used for the 15% of everyday search queries which Google hasn’t seen before.

“Unnamed Update” (aka John Doe update) – 8 January 2016

Google introduced an update but details remain sketchy on what is it all about. They only confirmed it as a “Core Algorithms Update”.

“Penguin 4.0” (Real time) – 23 September 2016

After a much-awaited 2-year gap, Google has rolled out Penguin 4.0. This will be the last update in Penguin as it will now run in real-time and is also more granular.

“Fred” Update — March 8, 2017

Google rolled out a major update, with reports of widespread impacts across the SEO community. When asked, Gary Illyes of Google jokingly referred to as “Fred” update and the name has been stuck ever since.

Conclusion – So, Google has been busy lately and is moving up their frequency of updates. These are not the only updates Google has ever released. Some sources suggest that Google updates their platform 365 times in a year. You don’t need to be a genius to realise why – there are more and more websites being created to absorb traffic in high numbers based on what the user thinks is a relative search. Luckily, we have a team of geniuses on hand to help you combat the constant evolution of Google’s algorithm updates. Get in touch if you need our help.

Written by Alex Ridley

Having spent the last 3 years working on over 800 PPC campaigns, I’m a Google certified PPC expert with a passion for bringing fresh ideas to the table. Im also working on expanding my SEO & Social Media knowledge. With many years working in customer service I know that 'it's not who you are that matters, it's what you do that defines you'.

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