The year 2014 has been a tremendous year in terms of some “major” Google updates. Google has always been updating its search algorithms 500-600 times with minor changes, but this year proved a benchmark in the history of internet marketing. Major Updates like ‘the Panda update’, ‘the Penguin update’, ‘the humming bird update’ and ‘the Pigeon update’ were among the key updates of the year.
Search Engine Algorithms are based on an easy ground that revolves around the queries of searchers and giving answers to them. There are thousands of websites for any search on search engines providing potential links related to the query, therefore search engines need to fulfill these 3 goals:
- Suspend or prohibit the sites that are irrelevant to the query.
- List the sites that are relevant to the query.
- Prioritize and rank those sites that are important to identify which sites are the most relevant.
To accomplish these goals, Google and other search engines use complex algorithms that include several factors. These are:
- CONTENT: includes content quality and depth, frequency of their updates and reads and share on social media.
- ON PAGE FACTORS: like speed of page load, responsive mobile design and title tags.
- BRAND METRICS: search volume for the brand, illustrations of brand name in connection with definite keyword.
LINK AUTHORITY: Number of incoming links, site quality and anchor tags used.
This was a brief about search engine optimization so as to make you understand the need of algorithms. It is also important to keep a check about the changes in these algorithms, now and then. It requires a general understanding of search engine and algorithms and that’s how they operate and even the specifics of their recent updates. Let’s have a look at these updates.
1. PAGE LAYOUT 2.1 — February 6, 2014:
This is an update launched in February 2014 of the Top Heavy algorithm by Google. The Top Heavy was launched in January 2012 as a way to prevent sites that became heavy with ads from ranking well in its listings. Since the top heavy is updated periodically, the sites that have removed excessive ads regain their lost rankings.
2. PAYDAY LOAN 2.0- May 16th, 2014:
Google Payday Loan Algorithm was developed in the year 2013 to aim “spammy queries” like payday loan, pornography and other heavily spammed queries. This was rolled out worldwide and not just limited to UK or US. This launch received a worldwide praise and a positive response globally. As a result, Google launched its update on May 16th, 2014 named Payday Loan 2.0 that aimed at “very spammy sites” that tend to have a high number of extremely spammy results. This update was internationally rolled out and had its effects on different languages to different degrees. It has its impact of about 0.2% to a noticeable degree on English language queries. The advantage of this update is that the general queries are likely to receive better search results while preventing the appearance of low quality sites.
3. PANDA 4.0- May 19, 2014:
Google Panda was introduced first in February 2011 against “thin sites” or “low-quality sites” and returned higher quality sites near the top of the search. As a result, a surge was reported in the news websites, social media websites and consequently a drop in the ranking of those websites that had large number of advertisements. This algorithm has helped the companies a lot in their self-evaluation of a website’s quality. After a huge success of its initial version, it has rolled out many minor and major updates since February 2011.
In the year 2014, update of Panda came under limelight, Panda 4.0, on May 20th, 2014. This update is said to be a softer and gentler algorithm change. It was seen that after the Panda update, small business sites have found favour with Google and many of them have seen extremely high traffic in their sites. Also, the sites that have lost their ranking due to Panda Update 3.0 were benefitted from Panda update 4.0. Sites like ask.com and eBay have greatly been affected due to this update.
4. PAYDAY LOAN 3.0- June 12, 2014:
Google Payday Loan 3.0 update was rolled out on June 12, 2014. It was the third update of Google Payday Loan. Its previous update Payday loan 2.0 aimed at spammy sites where as Payday Loan 3.0 aimed at “extremely spammy queries.” This update affects SEO by removing the sites from Google SERPs that have spammy content on their site, loss of their rankings on Google SERPs and decrease in traffic on their websites.
5. AUTHORSHIP PHOTO DROP-JUN 28th, 2014:
Google made an important and shocking announcement on Jun 28th, 2014 that they would be now removing authorship photos from search results. This decision was made for better mobile experience and good mobile design. John Mueller announced that Google would be now dropping authorship photos from all SERPs. By the next day of his announcement, authorship bylines had all disappeared from SERPs.
Ranking of the content is same as it is for websites. This update does not have any impact on the ranking. But if click through rate of your content was high because of photo, it will have an impact.
It also indicates that this is the design update that indicates user experience. So for better user experience and consistency of mobile search result and desktop search result they remove authorship photo and circle count.
6. PIGEON- July 24, 2014:
Google Pigeon is a name given to the Google’s local search algorithm, the ‘Search Engine Land’ update. It was launched on July 24, 2014. Its purpose is to provide preference to local search results which is useful for both users and local business. Some categories were negatively impacted like real estate, much more than others while others were benefited such as hospitality.
This update may have impact on local shopping traffic for many merchants in the UK, Canada or Australia. The Pigeon Update ties deeper into the web search capabilities of local search, including the hundreds of ranking signals they use in web search along with search features like Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms and more. Also, this algorithm improves the distance and locating ranking parameters of Google.
7. HTTP/SSL Update –August 6th, 2014:
According to Google, security of websites is important for them to make Google and internet secure. They have seen more and more webmasters adopting HTTPS (also known as HTTP over Transport Layer Security) which is encouraging. For these reasons, Google announced that they would now take HTTPS as a ranking signal for websites. After months of assumptions, Google announced that the websites that are secure would be given preference by Google and that adding encryption would provide a “lightweight” boost in their ranking within the overall ranking algorithm. This announcement was done by Google on 6th August 2014. Based on their tests, it was said that it will have less than 1% of its impact on global but they might strengthen the signal since they want to encourage the webmasters to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep them safe on the web.
A positive impact was noticed in terms of relevancy and ranking in Google’s search results by taking test for past few months. Also, Google updated its Webmasters tools to handle HTTPS sites in a better way and reporting on them.
8. PANDA 4.1- October 2014:
Panda 4.1 in October 2014. Panda 4.1 was the 27th update of Google Panda is more précised and allows more high-quality small and medium-sized sites to rank better. This update means that the websites that have been penalized by earlier updates of Panda has a chance to emerge and the new sites might get impacted.
9. PENGUIN 3.0-October 17th, 2014:
Google Penguin is a reference given to a Google algorithm Update released in April 2012 that aimed at websites that violates the guidelines of Google Webmaster by using ‘link schemes’ techniques that are involved in increasing artificially the rank of a website manipulating the number of links pointing to the page. It affects approximately 3.1% of search queries in English and about 3% of searches in Greek, Chinese and other languages and bigger percentage in highly spammed languages. This scheme forced the website owners to audit their own links. If suspected were detected, website owners may be required to audit their entire link profile and work hard to remove poor quality links. Numerous updates have been rolled out after the success of its release.
In the year 2014, Google released it’s another update Penguin 3.0 on October 21st. It was mere a refresh and aimed at demoting the sites with bad link profiles and to help those sites that were previously hit and cleaned their link profiles. Unlike Panda, it was a worldwide launch.
10. Google Pirate 2.0- October 21, 2014:
Google announced the Pirate Update 2.0 on October 21, 2014, two years after the release of its basic algorithm best known as Google DMCA/Pirate algorithm. The Pirate algorithm rolled out to help stem piracy after facing many criticisms. Google processed all the sites it knew about through the Pirate filter. The new update aimed at lowering the search rankings of the most notorious pirate sites that would be clearly visible and the results are the same as was assumed by Google. This pirate update was intentionally destroying sites that break law.