Algorithm updates and Google filters - is there anything to be afraid of?
Every year, the Google algorithm is updated many times - in 2018, Google announced more than 3,000 updates, an average of nine changes per day.
Every year, the Google algorithm is updated many times - in 2018, Google announced more than 3,000 updates, an average of nine changes per day. This is more than 8 times more than in 2009. Some of the algorithm updates make significant changes to the search results that are visible in SEO tools. What updates had the biggest impact on search results? What are manual filters and fines from Google, for what actions can you get them and how to remove them?
Learn all the ins and outs of Google's algorithm updates, as well as fines and filters, and you'll protect your site from falling search engine rankings.
Google Algorithm Update History
What is Google Algorithm? This is a complex system that takes data from the search index and, based on it, displays the specific pages that match the query in the correct order. Google has been updating its algorithm regularly over the years. Everything is done to ensure that search results match the query as closely as possible and that users receive high-quality content. For this, a number of important algorithms and updates have been implemented. The first changes were few and minor, but as the Google search engine evolved, more and more updates appeared that were of increasing importance. Among them, it is worth highlighting such algorithms as:
- PageRank (1998),
- Panda (February 2011 for English-language search queries, August 2011 for non-English search queries),
- Penguin ( April 2012 ),
- Pirate (August 2012),
- Payday Loan (June 2013),
- Hummingbird (August 2013),
- Dove (July 2014 - USA, December 2014 - UK , Canada, Australia),
- Mobile Friendly Update (April 2015),
- RankBrain (October 2015 - confirmed),
- Possum (September 2016),
- Updated no medical information (August 2018),
- BERT (October 2019).
Of course, this is not a complete list, but we included those around which there were the most doubts, fears or, as in the case of BERT, hopes.
Google's first update
Page Rank was the first update of the Google search engine introduced by its creators in 1998. Based on this algorithm, the pages with the most inbound links were ranked first. However, the content of the page was not taken into account, which led to the fact that pages with a large number of links, but automatically generated or low-quality content appeared at the top of the search results.
Google's first content update
Introduced in 2011 (in February for English-language searches, in August for non-English-language queries), the Panda algorithm targeted sites with content:
- low quality or automatically generated,
- of little value to users (thin content)
- copied inside the site or from other sites (duplicate content),
- overloaded with keywords (keyword stuffing)
- introductory misleading or outdated,
- spam and user generated content.
The Panda algorithm, which worked as a filter until 2016, is now subject to numerous and frequent updates, which makes it important for site owners to ensure high quality content. To do this, you should cooperate with an SEO agency. Specialists look for topics that are relevant and interesting to users, supplement the content with keywords, but at the same time create articles, graphs and infographics that are valuable from the user’s point of view.
Google Algorithm Fights Spam Links
Another Google algorithm called Penguin was created to deal with sites that have a spammy inbound link profile. What sites make Penguin suspicious? Such sites:
- In cases where there is a surge in the number of incoming links in a short period of time,
- links to which come from spam or automatically generated sites,
- where links are placed on pages that are not related among themselves thematically.
Like the Panda, the Penguin has gone through several updates through 2016. Since then, it has become part of the main algorithm and evaluates the site's link profile in real time, with changes being made all the time.
Google's update in the fight against copying content
The "Pirate" algorithm, introduced in 2012, was aimed at combating the copying of copyrighted content. As a result, sites offering illegal downloads of music, movies, and sites linking to such sites have dropped in search results.
Google algorithm against financial companies
One of the most important updates of 2013 is the so-called Payday Loan. This algorithm has been introduced against financial companies offering loans at high interest rates, as well as against pornographic sites. Matt Cutts stated that this update will affect 0.3% of searches in the US, but up to 4% of searches in Turkey.
Refreshing is the first step to understanding user intent
The Hummingbird algorithm was implemented to help Google better understand user intent and provide results that best match the query.Hummingbird allows the search engine to:
- understand whole phrases (especially long phrases), not just single words,
- recognize synonyms.
Thanks to it, the search engine can display in the search results even the site that does not contain the keywords entered in the search box. Why is he in the top 10? Because:
- the entire page is centered around a question related to that keyword,
- the page contains terms that are synonymous (Hummingbird makes Google understand that "car rental" and "car rental" are one and also).
It is thanks to the Hummingbird algorithm that we need to make sure that the content on the page, whether written by copywriters or planned by SEO agencies, is intended for users, and not just for robots.
The Google algorithm is designed for local search
The Pigeon algorithm has had a significant impact on local search results. It uses the user's location to display the most relevant results. If we are in Poznań and we search for "mechanic" without a city name, the search engine will still show results for Poznań using our location. With the Gołąb update, positioning elements such as:
- placing contact information on the site,
- creating and optimizing the Google Moja Firma business card,
- ensuring the consistency of address data in all places on the Internet (including directories and local sites; the so-called NAP - Name, Address, Phone).
Update for mobile devices
Google update to support mobile search
The rise in popularity of mobile devices has led to the fact that the Google search engine has begun to promote (and, accordingly, display in higher positions) sites, having mobile or responsive versions (i.e. sites whose design adapts to devices with different screen sizes and resolutions). The changes were made as a result of the Mobile Friendly algorithm, which was subsequently updated. Since March 2018, the Mobile First Index algorithm has been in effect. This means that Google robots, when indexing and determining the position in the search results, primarily take into account the mobile version of the site.
How to check if our site is mobile friendly? Using the Mobile Friendly Test provided by Google.
Artificial intelligence at the service of the Google search engine
In October 2015, Google confirmed that algorithms use artificial intelligence to rank websites. This update is part of the Hummingbird algorithm, which has also focused on better understanding verbose, long-tail queries and displaying the results that best match the query.The RankBrain algorithm collects data about the user and his actions on the Internet (for example, how long he stays on a certain page) and thus recognizes his intentions.
How to satisfy the artificial intelligence of the RankBrain algorithm? It's a good idea to check what phrases your competitors are using, as well as take into account suggested similar queries displayed by the search engine itself. However, as AI advances, it will become increasingly difficult for SEOs to understand why Google lists certain pages in the top 10. The AI will make decisions about the value of pages based on a number of unknown factors.
Google update based on GPS location
In 2016 SEO agency specialists had to include another algorithm - Opos. It, like Pigeon, considers local requests and makes the results dependent on the user's location. How it works? The closer a user is to a particular service business or institution (restaurant, cinema, post office, shop), the more likely it is that that institution will appear in search results. In order to satisfy the Opos algorithm, it is worth investing in local positioning, which includes but is not limited to:
- acquiring links to our site from valuable sites and directories with local coverage,
- creating content optimized for a specific places (including the name of the city in the page title, headings, main content),
- creating and optimizing the Google My Business card.
Health Information Update
Algorithm Update for the "Your Money is Your Life" industry
The Your Money Your Life (YMYL) industry, which is related to our health and life, was recognized by Google as extremely important. Therefore, it was introduced a series of updates called the Medical Update that first rocked the SEO world in August 2018. Rapid changes in search positions were seen primarily in the medical industry (hence the name), but also in other areas:
- financial and insurance
- e-commerce stores
Why did the algorithm update happen?Google wanted to reduce the visibility of pages containing false, misleading content in important areas such as finance and health.However it is worth noting that this update had several stages and sites that were first lost, then gained, only to lose again in the next stage of changes.To tame the Medical Update algorithm, it is worth following the E-A-T principle, synonymous with quality.E-A-T is based on several assumptions:
- E (Expertise) - content authors should be experts in their field, so create an image of experts for them, emphasizing their experience and achievements;
- A (Authoritativeness) - the site must be an authority in its field;
- T (Trustworthiness) - actions should show users and algorithms that the site is trustworthy.
How do you do it? It's worth it, for example:
- give users the opportunity to rate products and leave reviews about services,
- develop a company's online reputation - not only on your site, but also outside it (especially reviews in Google My Business Card). card and on social networks),
- provide the sources on which the content for company blogs is based,
- complete contact information and update it if it changes,
- create a Google Moja Firma profile.
The next step in applying artificial intelligence to search results
Announced in October 2019, Bert's update is described by experts as the biggest update in five years. The BERT algorithm is an evolution of the RankBrain algorithm. How it works? Due to this, the search engine gains the ability to understand the context that occurs between individual words in the search phrase, especially with pronouns. So far, Google's algorithms have not noticed search elements such as "not", "on", etc. This should change, but Bert's update is rolling out to English search for the time being and will gradually roll out to others.
Google employees claimed that the new update would affect up to 10 percent of search results (more than Panda and Penguin), however, contrary to expectations, there were no significant differences. Why? Because Bert primarily deals with the so-called long-tails and, in addition, will allow content specialists to write in a more casual and user-oriented manner. In practice, the algorithm changes how the search engine understands the query, so that valuable pages with interesting and relevant material for the user should win.
Google Filters and Penalties and Algorithm Updates
Filters are applied by Google both by changing algorithms and manually by Google employees. In practice, imposing a manual filter assumes that someone from Google employees is browsing your site and, if they notice that one or more elements of your site violates the official webmaster guidelines, impose a fine on it. Its impact can range from a slight decrease in search results to the complete removal of your site from them.
In contrast, broader changes and algorithm updates usually affect more than one site, and can have both negative and positive effects.Moreover, it takes some time to see changes in search positions caused by algorithm updates, making it difficult to find the source of any drop.
Remember: you can not only lose, but also benefit from an algorithm update, but checking what caused the fall is more difficult, especially if Google does not officially announce the changes.
Manual filter from Google - how to remove it?
How do I know if my site has been punished? If a manual filter has been applied to your site, you will be notified by a message sent to Google Search Console under "Security and Manual Actions". In the Manual Actions report, you will find information about any manual filters. There, Google employees point out the problem and provide examples of links to subpages where manual actions have been taken.
When does Google impose a manual penalty on a page? There are a number of reasons why Google may manually apply a filter to a site, resulting in lower search results or removal of the site from the results. Possible causes include:
- an unnatural profile of incoming links to your site,
- hiding images and content,
- a problem with the structural data that allows Google's algorithms to identify content on the site,
- so-called "keyword stuffing",
- content with poor content and style, containing errors,
- "tricky" redirects to spam sites.
In order to remove the manual filter, you should contact the specialists from the SEO agency. Why?
- If the penalty is related to the inbound link profile, do not remove all links, but only those that are the cause of the penalty.
- Google employees indicate only an approximate list of subpages that have been filtered - there may be more, and an SEO agency specializing in auditing such sites will find all subpages that have been sanctioned.
The SEO agency and its specialists will determine which links are harmful and leave those that work in your favor. After the suspension is lifted, you must submit your site for reconsideration. This is how you ask Google to remove the filter. What should be included in the request? An apology and a statement that you know what you were punished for and will avoid similar actions in the future. It is also worth specifying what steps you took to remove the filter. You will receive a response at different times - from several days to several weeks. It can be cryptic, so it's worth revisiting the "Security and Manual Actions" tab. If Google thinks you've done everything you're supposed to do and also determines that you won't break the rules in the future, they'll remove the filter.
The ability to request the removal of punishment is another element that distinguishes the filter from algorithmic changes.In their case, Google does not inform us of changes or which pages have errors.
Algorithms and filters from Google - how to protect your site from their impact?
Google employees do their best to ensure that search results meet the expectations and requests of users as much as possible. So, despite appearances, avoiding penalties from Google and limiting the impact of algorithm updates on search results is not as difficult as it might seem. However, this requires a lot of time and a lot of work. Why? Because in order to achieve a stable position, a number of actions must be taken, such as:
- placing links from valuable sites
- creating original and valuable content for the user,
- appropriate technical optimization of the website,
- monitoring the effect, the number of conversions (i.e. the desired user actions, such as purchases, subscriptions to the newsletter, etc.) and the implementation of possible changes.
Therefore, effective positioning of stores and websites brings the best results when you decide to work with an SEO agency. A whole staff of experts specializing in a certain field works on the positions of your site - copywriters who create content, SEO specialists involved in technical optimization, and many others. Moreover, SEO agency employees are familiar with the Google Webmaster Guidelines and know what steps to take to achieve results. They also constantly monitor possible changes in the algorithms and can react at the right time.
At the beginning of cooperation with an SEO agency, you will receive a professional audit of your site and find out what needs to be improved. In the event that your site is penalized by Google, positioning specialists will correct the errors and take action to remove the filter. You should not try to do this yourself, because if the errors are not corrected, it may take much longer for Google to re-evaluate your site. It is better to immediately resort to the help of specialists.