Annually as online demands and practices change Google is forced to develop new algorithms, which occurs between 500 and 600 times. Typically, changes are small but on occasion, an algorithmic update is quite significant.
While these Google’s main algorithms consist of precise guidelines and rules, they are all designed to benefit both the end-user and online business owner by improving the way in which a website ranks and is searched. Some of the more recent algorithms developed by Google include Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon, and Armageddon, each being unique. Understanding what each new algorithm is and how it affects your site is imperative.
The first version of the Penguin algorithm rolled out on April 24, 2010 as Penguin 1.0, which affected less than 3.1% of queries. A spokesperson for Google announced that the Penguin would go through continuous updates by optimizing along the way. Historically, updates of this algorithm were processed offline and then pushed out live at a set time. Because of this, there were changes in overall search results.
The Penguin algorithm was introduced as a means of fighting web spam in search results. The main function of this particular algorithm was to prevent sites from using spam or black hat techniques to profit from the system.
The Panda algorithm was first released back in February of 2011 with the goal of reducing the rank of sites deemed “low quality” or “thin” while bringing higher quality sites back toward the top of search results. The Panda 4.1 update was a search filler type of algorithm, which went through several updates in order to grab sites that might have escaped in earlier versions.
As part of the Panda algorithm, websites with poor content that did not rank well were penalized. Initially, roll-out was slow but it was completed within two weeks, affecting up to 5% of search queries. According to a Google spokesperson, the 4.1 version was more precise and allowed both small and medium-sized companies to rank better.
Although the Hummingbird algorithm was first used by Google in August of 2013, it was not announced until September on the company’s 15th anniversary. According to Matt Cutts, Hummingbird would have an impact on 90% of all searches although not in a real obvious manner. With 3.5 billion searches performed daily, Hummingbird affected over 3.15 billion.
Of all adjustments made by Google, the Hummingbird algorithm was the most ambitious since 2001. Essentially, this algorithm was a complete revamp version of Google’s search algorithm opposed to being just a patch or slight update.
Launched on July 24, 2014 for US English results only, the Pigeon algorithm was developed to provide local search results that were more relevant, useful, and accurate, but also tied in closely to traditional ranking signals. As explained by Google, Pigeon would improve ranking parameters for both location and distance.
In addition to conventional search results, changes associated with Pigeon would affect results associated with Google Maps. Although the initial launch was for US English results, a newer version will be released at some time in the near future for other locations and in other languages.
According to Google, by 2018 online search engines performed using mobile devices will surpass searches via computer. In order to make websites more mobile-friendly, websites must adopt Armageddon changes prior to April 21, 2015. As a result of the changes, people using mobile devices will have a more positive experience but in addition, online business owners will see increased traffic.
Unless changes are made, site owners could be penalized. However, there is also a significant risk of losing valuable customers that conduct online searches using a smart phone, tablet, or iPad. Google offers a testing page whereby online businesses can determine if their site is already mobile-friendly and if not, the exact changes that need to be implemented.