Google Algorithm Updates: Explained

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Google is the most powerful search engine in the world. For over 20 years the company has been trying to achieve one goal:

"to organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."
Tweet from Google, announcing new updates

To achieve this objective, Google constantly updates its algorithms to make sure that the most relevant results are being shown on the search engine results pages (SERPS). The most recent update happened on the 6th June 2019, which involves improvements on ‘site diversity'.

There are hundreds of ranking signals which are picked up by these algorithms so it’s important to understand what they mean.

Major Updates

When Google started, there were only a few algorithm changes but now, there are hundreds of changes every year. Some of these updates have made a huge impact on the SERP results which include:


Launched February 24th 2011, the Google Panda update is focused to look at the quality score of webpages which included:

  • Duplicate content
  • Plagiarised of thin content
  • Keyword stuffing
  • User-generated spam

The update was then incorporated to Google’s core algorithm January 2016, which meant that Panda was no longer attached to Google as a filter.


The main objective for Google’s Penguin was to identify any websites that had any spammy or irrelevant links with over optimised anchor text. The update was launched 24th April 2012 and then was fully integrated to the core algorithm in 2016.


This update was intended to help Google interpret user’s search queries and provide the most relevant results. The algorithm made it possible to rank websites for queries, that didn’t include the exact words the user searched for, but matched their intentions instead. Hummingbird was launched in 2013 and de-ranked any webpages for keyword stuffing strategies or had low quality content.

Google's Humming Bird Update


The Pigeon algorithm affected searches by the users' location. This played an important part for local search queries and how they appeared for local businesses. The update looked into on and off page SEO that ranked websites for local results.


As more people were using the internet on their smart phones, Google had to look into ranking websites which were optimised for mobile devices. Launched in 2015, this update made a huge impact in the rankings for websites that were not optimised as some people called the update 'Mobilegeddon'.

Mobilegeddon Google Mobile update


In October 2015, RankBrain became part of the Hummingbird algorithm. Through the power of artificial intelligence, RankBrain helps Google to understand the meaning of a users search query and shows the best matching result as a response. Machine learning will continue to improve so it will be interesting to see what results will appear in the future based on the technology.


This Google update guaranteed that local results were varied based on your location. Possum gives businesses a boost if you were close to its address. Websites that were affected had tense competition on a target location.


That’s right! Gary Illyes called this update “Fred” as a joke to search journalist Barry Swartz:

Google Fred Update tweet

Launched in March 2017, there was a lot talk around organic position changes with websites and this turned out to be the Fred update. This change helped Google focus on web pages with low-quality content, with the intention to gain revenue.

Updates in the future

Google is always updating their algorithm to improve their search experience for users. These updates will continue more regularly, so news around this subject can be quite repetitive. Just make sure that you follow Google’s guidelines and not try to manipulate Google’s algorithms, and your website should be fine.

Need help and guidance for your website?

If your website has been effected by any of these updates, Avatar Creative will be more than happy to have a look and bring your website(s) back to normal. We focus on both digital and print marketing solutions to help improve your brand as a whole. To find out more information, please contact us on 01344 988 788 or via email on

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