5 Major Google Algorithm Updates You Must Know All About

5 Major Google Algorithm Updates You Must Know All About

It was the year 2011. Back then, there was no WordPress or Wix to help you create websites and webpages. But there was Hubpages– a go-to platform for millions of users to simply sign up and create a webpage for themselves. People would rapidly create innumerable pages on Hubpages and gain visibility and high ranks.

Unfortunately, this led to most of the content on Hubpages being irrelevant and low quality. But the SEO factor was great, so Hubpages was a hit.

However, it all changed overnight. Hubpages lost over 90% of their traffic and over 62% of their SEO visibility. And it took them more than five months to recover from the hit. Yet, it was never back to their original numbers.

So, what hit Hubpages? Panda. No, not the animal, but the Google Update. Panda was one of the most significant Google Algorithm updates that changed the SEO landscape.

In our previous article, we discussed what Google Algorithms is and why it is so essential to SEO. We also shared how Google Algorithm works.

In this piece, we’d like to talk about 5 major Google Algorithm updates (including Panda!):

Google Panda

Launched: 2011-2016 (Several updates were made)

The aim of the Panda update can be summarized by Brian Dean’s famous quote, “You really have to create legitimately great content and a legitimately great Website to rank in Google.” Google Panda was all about content quality. Panda would go over all the webpages on your website and assign it a “quality score’. Then, the score would become a ranking factor. But the bigger question is – what would make Panda give you a low score?

In the series of updates, Google set the following triggers for Panda:


  • Thin content: Doorway pages, low-quality affiliate pages, or pages with very little or no content.
  • Low-quality content: Poorly written content with grammatical errors, low-resolution images, and bad user-interface.
  • Unhelpful, untrustworthy content: Content that spams users or steals their personal data.
  • Duplicate content: Plagiarism content with copied chunks of text.
  • Article spinning: Rewritten articles using synonyms or using article spin tools like Spinbot.

To ensure that you’re not hit by Panda, first and foremost, create original, high-quality content. In addition to that, regularly check your website for duplicate content, keyword stuffing, and thin content using tools like Siteliner and Copyscape.

Google Penguin

Launched: 2012

Google places a lot of value on the links that link back to your website while ranking you. So, to get a high ranking, many websites would buy such links. Penguin came into being to penalize such defaulters. It checked the credibility of the link that linked back to you.

So, what does Penguin see as a bad link? Anything you paid for or is not credible in itself is a bad link. This includes: (refer to image). Apart from putting a conscious effort towards building credible links on your website, you should also keep a track of your links using tools like SmallSeoTools and Ahrefs.

what are bad links?

Google Hummingbird

Launched: 2013

Hummingbird was launched to help Google provide more high-quality results to users by understanding what they’re for better. To do that, Hummingbird allowed Google to rank pages for search queries that didn’t match the query exactly but had relevant information related to the query.

To ensure that your website is ready for Hummingbird, you’d have to include semantic search keywords in your content, as in content that answers the query that users are likely to make. The table in the left shows how semantic search is different from the traditional keyword approach.

In addition to that, your content should be detailed, well-researched, with synonyms and contextually related words. For instance, this article has both the keywords: Google Algorithm updates and Google updates as users are likely to search for either of the words and this article would be a relevant find. Not just that, it would be ranked for a search query like “What are the most important Google updates?” because of Hummingbird.

Google Pigeon

Launch: 2014

Google Pigeon too was an update focussed on user experience and affected mostly business websites that wanted to boost local SEO. Pigeon ranked websites based on their respective business’ proximity to the user: the closer, the higher.

This meant that if a user searched “dental clinic”, Google would rank websites of dental clinics near the user higher than a general page talking about what dental clinics are.

As a business, to factor in the Pigeon algorithm, you need to ensure that your business is listed on Google My Business and other business directories. Additionally, you could also add citations from these directories and reviews from customers to boost your local SEO.

Google Fred

Launched: 2017

Technically, unnamed updates that Google makes to the algorithm were called Fred as a joke by Gary Illyes. However, there was one Fred that shook the search rankings and the name stuck to it. Fred penalised websites that produced content merely for affiliated promotion or ad-revenue. Here’s an example: (refer to image)

As you can see, on this website, the ads are in yellow, given the highest prominence and the rest of the content is vague and thin. A person landing here was looking for the full-form for HSC, and the content does not answer that. It just replicates the keyword

Google Algorithm

innumerable times with the focus being driven to the ads on the page. This update will not harm you as long you ensure that your content is relevant and just not for the sake of displaying ads. You should also go over Google’s Search Quality Guidelines regularly and ensure you don’t violate them.

Web page listing

Google Updates in 2022

Google is probably updating its algorithm while you’re reading this article. In fact, Google reported 3,234 updates in 2018 — an average of almost 9 per day and the number has only gone up since. This year, Google released the COVID-19 pandemic update and a major update regarding the featured snippet (the top result that shows up which has the exact answer to your query) update, among several other confirmed and unconfirmed updates.

Needless to say, Google will keep updating its algorithm. The only way to be least affected by them is to avoid any black hat SEO shortcuts and focus on building good websites with great content. Remember the advice of Lydia Gilbertson, SEO Analyst at Distilled, “Optimize your website for just being a good user-friendly website. It’s generally the most important thing that you could focus on.”