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All You Need to Know About Google’s Main Algorithm Updates

September 23, 2020

Google is always making changes and updates to its algorithm, although some are only minor changes others can completely change up the SERPs. Therefore it’s crucial to always adapt to new trends and constantly revise your SEO practices. Find out about 8 of Google’s major algorithm updates below:


Launched 24th February 2011 this update saw sites become penalised for thin, duplicate or plagiarized content, keyword stuffing and user-generated spam. 

Panda assigns each webpage a quality score. Initially, Panda was only a filter. Panda officially became part of the core algorithm in 2016. 

However, this update is easy to stay ahead of as long as you use a site crawler to highlight thin content, duplication and keyword stuffing.


Launched 24th April 2012, Penguin focused on downranking sites with spammy links and links with over-optimised anchor text. This prevented sites manipulating google’s algorithm from ranking.

From an SEO perspective, it’s important to regularly monitor backlinks and your profiles growth and look out for any unusual spikes in the backlink progress.


The Hummingbird update was the next main one to follow, launching 22nd August 2013. Hummingbird started de-ranking sites based on keyword stuffing and low-quality content. 

Hummingbird now allowed pages to rank for queries without containing the exact keywords the user searched. It also aided google to better understand users search queries and provide results that matched user search intent. 

To stay ahead of this new update your SEO strategy must include keyword research that focuses on concepts and content that is written in natural language. Additionally, research needs to be undertaken in related searches, co-occurring terms and synonyms.


Focusing on poor on and off-page SEO, the pigeon update was introduced 24th July 2014 in the US and 22nd December 2014 in the UK. Pigeon created a closer relationship between the local algorithm and the core algorithm which meant that traditional SEO factors now played a part in ranking local results. 

A great way to kick off your off-page SEO is by getting listed in relevant business directories. This will not only gain more backlinks but will also help your site rank.


The mobile update helps mobile-friendly sites rank at the top of the mobile search. Pigeon was launched on the 21st April, 2015. This change allows for better optimisation and seperation between mobile and desktop.

To keep up with this update it requires SEO to focus on mobile speed and usability. However, Google provides a mobile-friendly test which highlights areas of your mobile version site that needs improving. 


RankBrain is part of Google’s hummingbird algorithm. This algorithm RankBrain is a machine learning system which helps google further understand user queries and the meaning behind them. Released 26th October 2015, Google considers this the third most important ranking factor.

It’s impossible to completely confirm the ins and outs of RankBrain but the general opinion is it identifies query-specific ranking factors.

With SEO it’s crucial to eliminate shallow content and poor user experiences while fully optimising content for comprehensiveness and relevance.


Launched 1st September 2016 the Possum update had a huge effect on local results, ensuring they varied more depending on the user’s location. Simply put, the closer you are to a business and its address the more inclined you are to see it among your local results. 

To adjust to this update local businesses need to start targeting even more keywords due to the competition Possum brought into the local SERPs. SEO experts also need to focus their efforts on location-specific tracking amongst expanding keyword lists. 


Fred, released 8th March 2017 looks out for affiliate heavy, thin or ad-centred content to target websites that violate Google’s webmaster guidelines. This affected low-quality blogs sites created to generate ad revenue.

To avoid losing ranks from Fred it’s important to avoid thin content and only place ads on high quality, value-adding pages. Using ads is fine as long as the purpose isn’t to trick Google with a gateway page full of affiliate links.
Contact us to find out more about the latest Google updates and how we can supercharge your SEO




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