Google Algorithm Updates History

Has one of Google’s updates affected your site?

In December 2014, Google was the largest, most-used search engine in the world. The industry giant strives to provide the most relevant, top-rated websites to users conducting search queries. In order to ensure that websites are ranked accurately, and that spammy sites filled with little information, malicious code, and even poor designs are not among the top ranked sites, Google continuously updates its indexing and crawling algorithms.

There have been hundreds of Google algorithm updates over the last few years, and you can track updates back to 2000. But we’re going to focus on the most recent big changes so that you can make sure your website is staying on Google’s good side.

Google Algorithm Update History, 2014

Google often names it’s major updates, and the few times it hasn’t, SEO bloggers and leading companies have done so for Google. We’ll give you a rundown of the most important algorithm updates in 2014 that can still affect your website’s rankings.

Top Heavy Update #3 (Released Feb. 6)

This algorithm targets page layout and determines whether there is a disproportionate number of advertisements at the top of the page (often called “above the fold”) in relation to relevant page content. According to Matt Cutts, a distinguished engineer with Google and the head of the company’s search spam, the goal of this update is to help users “find more high-quality websites” so that content is instantly identifiable when the page loads.

Payday Loan Algorithm 2.0 (Released May 18)

The Payday Loan Algorithm 2.0 is an update to Google’s Spam Algorithm which attempts to identify queries which return a plethora of spammy results in the markets of porn, pills (like Viagara) and casinos. Again, this was the for benefit of users as there are plenty of legitimate reasons to search for sites within these markets, but many of the credible websites were buried under less-than-reputable websites which were ranking well.

Panda 4.0 (Released May 20)

Poorly written content was in the crosshairs of the Panda 4.0 update. Websites that contain poor or thin content, and those sites that copied content from other websites, were hit the hardest when this update was released.

Payday Loan Algorithm 3.0 (Released June 12)

It didn’t take long for Google to release another Payday Loan update as there are several industries and markets that are inundated with spammy results, such as payday loans, accident or injury claims, and insurance.

Google Local Algorithm Update (Released July 24)

This update helps Google return more relevant and accurate results based on location, and the results were so severe that Search Engine Land named the update “Pigeon.” Local directories saw the biggest benefit of the update as, for some search queries, directories now hit the top of the rankings. Some local businesses saw a dip in their website rankings, but those that practiced in solid White Hat SEO techniques weren’t buried.

HTTPS Update (Released Aug. 6)

Security has always been a priority for Google, and users can see that GOogle places more weight on websites that utilize HTTPS, or Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure. HTTPS websites encrypts data with a Secure Socket Layer, or SSL, Certificate. Users can identify sites that employ an SSL through a lock icon next to the URL or by the presence of “https” (rather than “http”).

Google Authorship Removed (Released Aug. 28)

Google’s John Mueller admits that authorship wasn’t being as useful as they had hoped, so they removed it. According to Mueller, websites did not receive an increase in clicks with authorship, and the removal of it would not majorly affect rankings. This update doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include an author on content for authenticity -- in fact, posts with a clear author may rank better -- but that the author’s name and Google+ profile will not appear in search engine result pages.

Panda 4.1 (Released Sept. 23)

Very few website owners failed to notice the release of Panda 4.1. Like Panda 4.0, this update targeted poor quality content but with better results. Google stated that based on feedback from Panda 4.0, they were able to make several improvements to better identify low-quality content in order to boost the rankings of sites that provide better content.

Penguin 3.0 (Released Oct. 18)

This Penguin update, often referred to a refresh, helped websites that were trying to recover from Panda 2.1. Sites that cleaned up webspam signals identified through 2.1 were able to rank again while offending sites were penalized.

Pirate Update #2 (Released Oct. 21)

Google has increased its anti-piracy measures to comply with MPAA demands and DMCA complaints by further penalizing and demoting sites that contained more DMCA complaints or sites that were known for piracy.

This is in no way a comprehensive list, so if your site is suffering from Google penalties, contact Gainesville Marketing to see how we can improve your ranking.