From cracking down on dodgy SEO strategies to favouring mobile optimisation, Google algorithms have come a long way over the last decade or so.
Let’s take a stroll down Google’s memory lane to see how their updates have shaped the digital landscape.
Now that you know how Google algorithms have changed over the years, you’ll be better prepared for future updates. As you may have guessed, there are plenty of algorithm updates that we couldn’t squeeze into this brief history. But if you’re an SEO nerd like us, don’t stress. You can read more about Google’s algorithms and all things SEO-related on our blog.
From start-up to world domination, Google has come a long way since its inception in the mid-1990s. This brief history of Google’s algorithm* updates sheds some light on how we got here.
*What’s an algorithm? A technical term for the formula Google uses to sort through billions of web pages to find what it believes to be the most relevant search results.
Released in late 2003, Florida was one of Google’s first major algorithm updates. It made keyword stuffing and other dodgy SEO tactics less effective, changing the search engine landscape forever. Many businesses lost rankings, leading to confusion and anger among users.
Big Daddy was a major infrastructure update designed to improve the quality of search engine results. By altering URL canonicalisation, it fixed a ton of technical issues.
The Vince update worked in the favour of big brands. It made well-established organisations easier to find by making them appear at the top of SERPs.
This update changed the way long-tail keywords work. The main purpose of May Day was to crack down on low-quality sites ranking for long-tail queries.
Panda was a pretty big deal, ushering in a new era for Google. It demoted websites that lacked authority, sending high-quality sites to the top of SERPs.
Penguin discouraged sneaky SEO tricks like keyword stuffing and buying links, preventing users from spamming search results.
Named for its precision and speed, Hummingbird emphasised high-quality content by giving Google’s algorithm the ability to interpret full-question searches more accurately.
The mobile-friendly update made it (even more) worthwhile for website owners to optimise their sites for mobile devices. Websites with mobile compatibility started being rewarded with better rankings.
RankBrain is an artificial learning system. Google relies on RankBrain to interpret queries and filter search results accordingly. Since its launch in 2015, RankBrain has continued to develop and Google’s understanding of user behaviour is now stronger than ever.
To cater for the rising number of searches being made on mobile devices, Google started rolling out its mobile first index in 2018. This update ranks search listings based on the mobile version of a site.