Oct 2, 2013 1:27:00 PM

Google Algorithm Updates That Changed SEO Forever

Posted by Matthew Campion

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Google Update | Google Algorithm Updates That Changed SEO Forever

The search engine we all know and love has made an awful lot of changes over the past 5 years – some huge and announced, others small and subtle. Some would change the way we think about content, while others would drastically change how link building services were offered by SEO’s.We’ve compiled some of the most important ones to show you just how quickly things can change.

August 2008 – We’ve Got a Suggestion…

Google rolled out “Google Suggest”, suggesting potential queries that aligned with what a user was already searching for in a box below the search field.

February 2009 – “Vince” Comes Calling

While this one was unannounced by Google, several SEO’s noted a major change in the algorithm that seemed to tip the scales in favor of brands. Google acknowledged a “minor update” had occurred.

December 2009 – Getting Real

Google introduced real-time search, integrating twitter, new content, news feeds and other time-sensitive sources into search results.

April 2010 – Google & Google Places Get Friendly

When Google Places officially launched (it was first introduced in September of the previous year), users found that Places were now integrated into regular search results for localized queries. This would have a profound impact on SEO for local businesses.

May 2010 – May Day! May Day! The Long-Tail Is Going Down!

In what was called the “May Day” update, Google rolled out an algorithm change targeting long-tail keywords. Website with sub-par content saw the greatest decreases in traffic.

June 2010 –Better, Faster, Stronger

In June, Google’s “Caffeine” infrastructure was completely finalized. The new infrastructure greatly improved Google’s processing speeds and allowed them to index new content up to 50% faster.

September 2010 – Gone in an Instant

Google introduced “Google Instant”, showing results for a user’s query as it was being typed into the search bar.  

February 23, 2011 – The Panda Strikes!Google Panda

One of the most famous and memorable updates in recent years, Google Panda aggressively targeted websites with thin content. The impact was substantial, affecting up to 12% of search results. Content farms and ad-heavy websites saw their revenue dry up overnight, forever changing the industry’s stance on effective content models.

Panda updates would roll out monthly on a regular basis from here on out.

June 2, 2011 – Search Engines Get Structured

While not necessarily an update, Google, Yahoo and Bing all agreed upon a new markup language that would help the search engines understand structured data. This would act as a precursor to the knowledge graph and would get more SEO’s talking about online “entities”.

June 28, 2011 – Google+ Arrives

Demonstrating the importance of social media, Google entered the ring with Google+. The platform would become a focal point of Google’s strategy and a hub of integration for other Google properties like Places and HotPot.

November 3, 2011 – The Fresher, The Better

An algorithm change focused on rewarding fresh content and time-sensitive results rolled out, impacting up to 35% of all search results. Freshness became an important metric and many businesses began to strategize as to how they might publish on a more ongoing basis.

January 10, 2012 – Search + Your World Makes it Personal

“Search + Your World” was announced, a change that would heavily personalize search results for those who were logged in to Google+ based on their histories, preferences, circles and social data. SEO’s and average users alike had extremely mixed feelings (mostly negative) about the quality of results.

January 19, 2012 – Top Heavy

An algorithm change targeting websites with an excessive amount of advertising space above the fold rolled out, frustrating affiliate marketers all around the world. Page layout was thrown into the spotlight once again.

February 2012 – A Trip to Venice

Though little fanfare was made initially, Venice was an important update that had a substantial impact on query localization.  Results became far more localized, even on generic queries without a localizer.

April 24, 2012 – The Penguin Cometh!Google Penguin

April 24th is a date well known to virtually every online marketer in the industry. Penguin was a massive update that penalized manipulative linking schemes and seemed to be heavily weighted towards anchor text abuse. This update would change the way most SEO agencies thought about link building and pave the way for the popularity of content marketing.

A second Penguin update would strike on May 22, 2013 –slapping down SEO’s who hadn’t gotten the message the first time.

May 16, 2012 – Google’s Knowledge Graph Rolls Out

Semantic search became hugely important upon the arrival of the “Knowledge Graph”, Google’s attempt to capture entities within search results. Integrated right into the results page, Knowledge Graph displays pertinent information about real-world entities like people, places and things, without users having to click through to a website.

September 27, 2012 – Exact-Match Domains (EMD’s) Lose Ground

Exact-match domains had long carried too much value in search engines. That changed in September of 2012, when a large-scale update turned down the value knob on EMD’s.  Though the hubbub was massive, the impact was less than enormous (just 0.6% of searches).

May 22, 2013 - Penguin 2.0

Just in case Google hadn’t made it clear, Penguin 2.0 reaffirmed that linking schemes were going to be penalized – and penalized hard.

September 16, 2013 - The Hummingbird Takes Flight

The newest Google update is designed to serve up relevant results when users use voice activated search on their phone and/or ask more involved questions.

Tough to Keep Up!

There have been hundreds of algorithm updates over the past 5 years – these are just a handful of the most pressing. If anything this timeline shows just how much SEO evolves over time. To stay current and future-proof your business, you’ve got to have a capable SEO team in your corner!

What was the most memorable update for you? Let us know in the comments!

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Topics: Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Website Analytics, Link Building & Acquisition

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