Understand the impact of Google’s algorithm on your SEO

Defintion Google Algorithm

Google endeavors to update and test its algorithms very frequently.

The aim is to offer users content that is relevant to the search query they type into the search engine.

These regular updates have a significant impact on the referencing of certain websites.

The purpose of these updates is to filter out low-quality content in favour of a site with high-quality content.

To make sure your site is well-placed in Google’s search engines, it’s important to keep up to date with these changes on a regular basis;

In this article, you’ll find the key points for understanding the main factors that algorithms use to rank a website in search results.

Google algorithm definition

Google has developed not one, but several algorithms that are continually updated. It’s a complex calculation system that makes it possible to retrieve and cross-reference data from several million web pages for a specific query.

Combined with ranking factors (optimization for mobile devices, site speed, number of links pointing to the web page, etc.) Google offers a list of the best results found on the Internet.

Depending on the type of search (informative, transactional, etc.) and the web context, Google may use specific algorithms.

In short, the relevance of the results displayed on Google is closely linked to the quality of the various algorithms.

Google algorithm servers

Google’s various algorithm updates

Google’s algorithms are modified and adapted very regularly. Some experts estimate that systems and algorithms are updated between 500 and 600 times a year.

These modifications are generally referred to as CORE update + the month of implementation.

Sometimes, some of them are made public by Google and a name is assigned.

Especially if they have a significant impact on search engine results.

Here are the must-know updates that Google has rolled out since 2010, ranked from most recent to oldest.

CORE update

These are the most widespread and frequent updates. Google suggests naming these updates CORE update + the month of release.

Numerous CORE updates have appeared in recent years. In all, there will be no fewer than 6 updates between 2018 and 2021.

On this subject, the last “CORE update” appeared in March 2023. It had a huge impact on many websites, which saw their organic traffic drop significantly;

We all agree that this update is intended to favour sites with a very good user experience and useful, actionable content;

It is therefore essential to rework certain pages that are limited to listing purely informative content.

Here are the details of the various updates:

March 2023  – CORE update

Latest update from Google. It was launched on March 15, 2023 and rolled out over 15 days. This update does not penalize websites, but rewards sites with useful content and an optimized user experience.

April 2021 – Product review

This update has been put in place to promote articles created by experts in their field. The latter offer relevant data on the various products that are sometimes tested.

Introduced in the U.S., Google is set to extend it worldwide in the near future.

January 2021 – Speed and Web Vitals

This update is aimed primarily at sites that prioritize user experience. Using three main criteria, Google ranks the sites it crawls to offer an enhanced user experience.

December 2019 – Bert

This update is based on “machine learning” and “artificial intelligence”, hence the name BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations for Transformers). As a result, Google is much better at understanding queries with spelling mistakes or of a conversational nature.

October 2015 – Rankbrain

This update is the logical follow-up to Hummingbird. Thanks to machine learning, Google is able to offer relevant results to its users. With lexical fields and semantic search, new queries are now covered.

June 2015 – Pigeon

Important update, especially for local search. Google has introduced geolocated results and the famous local search. Google my business has also become a must-have, especially for businesses with a physical presence.

Mai 2015 – Phanthom quality

At first, this algorithm update was not officially communicated by Google (hence the name Phantom). However, within the SEO and digital communities, many changes have been reported.

Google later admitted to having updated the algorithm. Once again, it was aimed at the quality of content published in its search results.

April 2015 – Mobile friendly

With the democratization of mobile use for web searches, Google has implemented an algorithm that favours web pages optimized for mobile.

So if the query comes from a smartphone, then responsive pages (or pages offering a mobile version) will be highlighted.

September 2013 – Hummingbird

A major update from Google. Called Colibri in French, Google is focusing on the quality of its search results and adapting the way web pages are ranked.

In this way, Google is greatly improving its understanding of queries, notably by integrating semantic search.

Google algorithm

June 2013 – PayDay

This update was designed to reduce spam on specific queries. (credit, sex, counterfeit, casino, etc.).

This is the first time that Google has communicated its desire to protect its users above all else.

September 2012 – Exact match domain

The purpose of this update was to penalize websites whose domain name consisted solely of targeted keywords, such as “schoes-in-sale.ch”. From now on, the domain name matters little in terms of search results ranking.

April 2012 – Penguin

The algorithm update in the form of a filter focuses on the off-site part of a site. Its aim is to penalize sites with too many artificial links and optimized tags.

2011 – Panda

In filter form, this was one of the turning points for SEO activities. With this update, Google initiated the filtering of low-quality web pages and sites. The main reason for this is to avoid putting forward content that is exclusively optimized for search engines.

2010 – Caffeine

This was Google’s first major update in 2010. Its aim was to greatly improve the page indexing process. As a result, once a page was discovered (or crawled) by Google, it could be indexed very quickly. This was a real change, especially for web designers.

We can see that, over the years, major efforts have been made to ensure that Google remains the number one search engine;

On this subject, Google is working on a version of search engines assisted by artificial intelligence (Generative Search Experience), a radical change within search results;

So we can expect Google to continue to evolve and refine its algorithms, offering ever greater precision and relevance in its search results.

Frequently Asked Questions

To summarize

Google’s algorithm updates have a significant impact on SEO.

Each of them guides SEO efforts by focusing on different aspects of content and user experience;

So it’s crucial for site owners and SEO experts to stay informed and adapt quickly to these changes.

In 2023, the trend is to focus on quality user experience and relevant content, highlighting the importance of understanding user expectations (search intent) in order to stand out in search results. 

The race for the longest article to reach the top position is definitely over;

SEO is not an exact science, but a discipline that is constantly adapting to changing technologies and user behaviour.

If you’d like some help with your SEO strategy, don’t hesitate to contact us, I’d be delighted to discuss your project with you.

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