Google Loves You: Algorithm Changes in the Last 12 Months

Anup Batra


Penguins, pandas, pigeons and hummingbirds – Google’s algorithm updates could easily be confused with some sort of exotic cyber zoo. Yes, modern day SEO can seem like a conundrum at times, but it’s really all about creating the best user experience possible.

Here, we’re going to take a look at the last 12 months of Google’s algorithm updates. You will notice some discerning, common patterns across these changes, including:

– Google’s primary desire to create the most positive and relevant user experience possible
– Their intention to get rid of web spam and reduce the rankings of those who try to game them
– The rise and fall of Google Authorship
– The coming of ‘Mobilegeddon’ and mobile-friendliness; and,
– Prompting webmasters to address major website security issues

When it comes to Google, they’re all about YOU. The algorithm changes they make are all about YOU, and you might even say that ‘Google loves you’.


1. Mobile Update (“Mobilegeddon”) – April 22, 2015
This was the most recent update, and chances are you will have heard about it. This is where Google finally realised that mobile domination has finally overtaken desktop usage, creating the need for websites everywhere to be optimised for mobile devices. This had been a long time in the making, and mobile usage now eclipses desktop usage considerably. It was appropriately named ‘Mobilegeddon’, and we at Arrow Digital even wrote an article about it.

2. Unnamed Update – February 4, 2015
No one knew anything about this update when it first came out. Even Google, who had previously named each and every algorithm update, said nothing at all about what it would entail. There was, however, a lot of uproar from SEO companies in Melbourne and all across the world about some very drastic changes in rankings that had occurred. Since then, Google has not confirmed anything about it.

3. Pigeon Expands (UK, CA and AU) – December 22, 2014
Initially incorporated into the US version of Google, the Pigeon update assisted other countries in producing the most relevant results for their users. These countries included the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, and shortly after it was released, Google said that they also launched the update in other countries too.



4. Penguin Everflux – December 10, 2014
This was the update where Google told the world that they would continue optimising the Penguin algorithm constantly. It’s where they found that instead of relying on an update every now and then, we should expect to see it constantly evolve and change as user behaviours change. This was a brand new and innovative algorithmic revelation that means user’s experience will enhance and push the need for quality websites and content.

5. Pirate 2.0 – October 21, 2014
As the name suggests, the Pirate updates are Google’s attempt at quelling online piracy. After plenty of criticism that they weren’t doing enough about piracy, Google release its second version of the Pirate update about 2 years after the first one. What the update actually means is that websites with copyright infringements or who violate the DMCA system are meant to receive a significant drop in ranking. However, while some websites did drop; others didn’t. Chances are that we will see another Pirate update coming up in the next 12 months.



6. Penguin 3.0 – October 17, 2014
Penguin 3.0 was a world-wide roll out that affected less than 1% of English queries. There were no new signals added, as it was more of a refresh of the prior Penguin updates. This was a particularly useful updates to those who went through the effort of improving their link profile following the previous updates – but if you were one of the sites that didn’t – chances are Penguin 3.0 would get you!



7. “In the News” Box – October 2014
This change was a big surprise and ultimately a cause of celebration for independent news publishers all across the world. The purpose was to show the most relevant news information, without relying on traditional news outlets. For example, depending on the newsworthiness, a Reddit post might appear if it is engaging and provides enough value.



8. Panda 4.1 – September 23, 2014
Remarkably, this was the 27th version of the Panda update. Google said that this algorithm change impacted around 3% to 5% of search queries (depending on the location match of the search). However, judging from the voice of webmasters world-wide, this particular change impacted more people than had been expected and typically reduced the rankings of newer websites with thinner content.



9. Authorship Removal – August 28, 2014
First, Google removed the little images from their search engine. Now, they removed authorship all together. Authorship allowed you to track data through the use of the rel=author mark up tag. To give you a brief eulogy of authorship: it all began in 2007, with bloggers all over the world praising Google for such an evolution. However, things quickly began to slide during the following years.




10. HTTPS/SSL Update – August 6, 2014
As the name suggests, this Google update was all about security. Google is very vocal in their suggestions about the importance of security for their users – and rightly so. They’ve invested in the very best security available; assisting people who use Gmail, Google Drive and Search to have a secure connection. The aim of this update was to encourage website owners to implement HTTPS technology into their website.


11. Pigeon – July 24, 2014
Pigeon’s purpose was to provide a newer and more accurate alternative to local search results, tying them closely with traditional algorithmic updates. These changes are visible through Google Maps, and assist people who are trying to optimise their website for local search rankings. Google was very secretive about this update, as they don’t like people trying to game their search engine for advantage.


12. Authorship Photo Drop – June 28, 2014
Yes, it was a dark, dark day when authorship photos were removed from the search engine rankings pages (SERPs). Content writers could include an image with their article and it would show up when people search for a specific query. This massively increased click-through rates, and gave people who optimised their posts with Google Plus a real advantage over those who didn’t. RIP Google Authorship!


13. Payday Loan 3.0 – June 12, 2014
This third version of the Payday Loan algorithm change came only a few weeks after the second was released. Head of the Google web spam team, Matt Cutts, noted that version 2.0 went after spammy websites, while 3.0 targeted spammy queries – such as Viagra, casinos and of course, payday loans.


14. Panda 4.0 – May 19, 2014
Panda’s aim is (and always has been) to penalise websites which don’t have quality content. With this particular version of Panda, Google made changes to how they indentify certain websites based on the degree of content they contain. For example, a website with articles full of blatant keyword targeting is likely to be looked down upon; compared to a website that looks more natural. This is a big part of modern-day SEO.


15. Payday Loan 2.0 – May 16, 2014
The Payday Loan algorithm change is essentially unrelated to the Penguin and Panda updates. The purpose of the change is to remove “very spammy queries” according to a Google spokesperson. The initial Payday Loan algorithm update came on June the 11th, 2013. Both updates have an international effect and have done a good job at removing spam in countries with high amounts of it (such as Turkey).


If you’re looking for a local SEO company in Melbourne who have the skills, experience and knowledge to help you achieve your short and long-term business goals, get in touch with Arrow Digital today!

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