Google Algorithm Updates
Google Hummingbird Estimated Release Date: August 20, 2013
Unlike the previous Panda and Penguin updates which were initially released as add-ons to Google’s existing algorithm, Hummingbird has been cited as a complete overhaul of the core algorithm. While it’s believed that many preexisting components of the core algorithm remained intact, Hummingbird signaled Google’s commitment to an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the intent of searchers’ queries with the goal of matching them to more relevant results.
Google announced Hummingbird on September 26, 2013, but it had actually already been in place about a month prior. Whereas previous algorithm updates like Panda and Penguin sparked significant reporting of lost traffic and rankings, Hummingbird did not appear to have drastic negative impacts on the general web. It was largely understood as having a positive influence on the accuracy of Google’s knowledge base known as the “knowledge graph.” However, the local SEO community theorized that documented effects had been felt in the local search engine results.
Google Mobile Friendly Update
On February 26, 2015, more than two months before the official rollout, Google posted a message telling us that they would be extending the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change was coming on April 21 and that we needed to prepare.
Google’s post started out by stating the reasoning behind the change:
“When it comes to search on mobile devices, users should get the most relevant and timely results, no matter if the information lives on mobile-friendly web pages or apps.”
In the April 21 post, Google gave a quick three bullet list of what this update would impact:
- Affects only search rankings on mobile devices.
- Affects search results in all languages globally.
- Applies to individual pages, not entire websites.
The change was straightforward and massive. Your pages were either mobile-friendly or they weren’t (a yes/no response) and it would impact everyone and roll out over the course of a week.
Google Panda Update
Panda was first introduced on February 23, 2011.
On February 24, Google published a blog post about the update, and indicated that they “launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries.” The expressed purpose of the update was as follows:
“This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”
Search Engine Land founder Danny Sullivan originally referred to it as the “Farmer” update, although Google later revealed that internally it had been referred to as “Panda,” the name of the engineer who came up with the primary algorithm breakthrough.
Google Penguin Update
Almost two years after the 3.0 refresh, the final Penguin algorithm update was launched.
The biggest change with this iteration was that Penguin became a part of the core algorithm.
When algorithm transcends to become a part of the core, it doesn’t mean that the algorithm’s functionality has changed or may change dramatically again. It means that Google’s perception of the algorithm has changed, not the algorithm itself.
Now running concurrently with the core, Penguin evaluates websites and links in real-time. This meant that you can see (reasonably) instant impacts of your link building or remediation work.
The new Penguin also wasn’t closed-fisted in handing out link-based penalties but rather devalued the links themselves. This is a contrast to the previous Penguin iterations, where the negative was punished.
That being said, studies and, from personal experience, algorithmic penalties relating to backlinks still do exist.
Data released by SEO professionals (e.g., Michael Cottam), as well as seeing algorithmic downgrades lifted through disavow files after Penguin 4.0, enforce this belief.
Google Pigeon Update
Launched on July 24, 2014 for U.S. English results, the “Pigeon Update” is a new algorithm to provide more useful, relevant and accurate local search results that are tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals. Google stated that this new algorithm improves their distance and location ranking parameters.
Google Payday Update
Launched on June 11, 2013 – the “Payday Update” was a new algorithm targeted at cleaning up search results for traditionally “spammy queries” such as [payday loan], pornographic and other heavily spammed queries.
Google Pirate Update
Google’s Pirate Update is a filter introduced in August 2012 designed to prevent sites with many copyright infringement reports, as filed through Google’s DMCA system, from ranking well in Google’s listings. … When this happens, sites previously impacted may escape, if they’ve made the right improvements.