Sites that contained low value content with the sole goal of revenue generation saw drops in rankings with this update.
Don’t “overmonetize” your site. If your goal is to make money, run an e-commerce site. Or run a content site with amazing content that breeds an audience of rabid fans. Don’t buy or create “blah” content and slap ads or affiliate product links all over it.
Google actually announced several months in advance that on January 10, 2017 they would begin to algorithmically penalize sites that had intrusive popups or interstitials that disrupted the mobile user experience. The update affects sites using popups that block content when the mobile user first comes to the site. Interstitials between site pages and exit-intent popups do not put a site at risk for lower rankings. Similarly, popups that are needed for the user experience, such as sign-in forms, etc. are also free from concern.
Google’s Penguin algorithm to eliminate sites trying to rank based on spammy links is no longer an independent update. It’s now a part of Google’s core algorithm. This means that sites using spammy links will be downgraded in real-time, and sites that get their act together will recover in real-time, without having to wait months for an algorithm refresh. Here’s what a real-time Penguin means for your SEO (with infographic).
In an update to local SEO results, Google started filtering business listings that appear to be connected – so only one will appear per keyword search. If you share office space or a physical address with another business in the same niche, only one of you is going to show for any search, even if you were both showing before this update.
For as long as most of us can recall Google search results, Adwords have appeared on the right side of the results, sometimes joined by Adwords at the top or bottom of the results. No longer. The right-hand ads have been taken away, and there are now 4 potential ad spaces at the top of the results instead of 3. While technically this is a PPC issue, it affects even organic SEO. With 4 ads at the top, organic results are pushed further down the page, changing the playing field and adding challenge to already competitive fields.
Google announced that machine learning has become an important part of Google’s algorithm. 15% of Google queries daily have never, ever been searched in Google before. RankBrain is an AI (artificial intelligence) technology that enables Google’s algorithm to make sense of these ambiguous, unique queries. In October 2015, Google announced that what RankBrain says is the best result for any given query constitutes the 3rd most important factor of Google’s ranking decision, trumped only by the factors of links and content. The announcement is after the fact, however: RankBrain has been a significant part of the algorithm since early 2015. If you want to delve deep into RankBrain and how it works, Search Engine Land put together a great FAQ that covers both RankBrain and Google’s algorithm in general. Or take a look at our guide (for total non-techies) to Google and machine learning.
Most algorithm updates come as surprises – or at most, there were hazy predictions from search engine seers. For months before Mobilegeddon, however, Google was announcing that if your site is not mobile-friendly, you are soon likely to regret it. Google rolled out a mobile-friendly testing tool. It sent warning messages to webmasters of non-mobile-friendly sites through Google Search Console. It even gave the exact date of Doomsday: April 21, 2015.
Google announced that it would give a minor rankings boost to secure sites, but the extent of the impact could increase over time.
Unnatural, over-optimized link profiles were again the prime targets, and those were the main sites hit. Although search marketers were surprised to see a good number of spammy sites that still have not been caught.
Pigeon was focused on local results. One major change was to give priority to businesses based on proximity to the searcher’s real-time location, not proximity to the city center. Another change was to integrate more general web ranking signals into the local ranking algorithm.
Most other recorded updates had been improvements or changes to the existing algorithm. With Hummingbird, Google replaced its algorithm entirely. It took the parts that were working, and replaced the parts that weren’t. One of the goals of Hummingbird was to be able to better understand and respond to semantics – the intent of the searcher’s query, and not just the words.
Traditionally, having an domain that exactly matched a keyword phrase (e.g. www.bestseofirm.com) was almost a shoo-in to high rankings for that keyword. The Exact Match Domain update attempted to crack down on these low quality exact match domains and eliminate them from the search results (or at least from showing up in the top results).
The Penguin 2.0 update was aimed at combatting websites trying to artificially influence their rankings in Google with manipulative link building. “This is the fourth Penguin-related launch Google has done, but because this is an updated algorithm (not just a data refresh), we’ve been referring to this change as Penguin 2.0 internally,” according to Matt Cutts, former head of web spam at Google.
While Panda went after low quality content, Penguin targeted over-optimized content and links. Keyword stuffing has become more subtle since the updates of 2003, but sites still try to write unnatural content to get their keywords in an unnatural number of times. Google doesn’t like that.. Sites also try and get links with unnatural anchor text (“best doctor in Birmingham”). Google doesn’t like that. And Penguin came down hard on sites that had used the above techniques, impacting 3.1% of queries.
Google announced that a new update giving priority to new, fresh, updated content would impact 35% of all queries. While the uproar over this was huge, in actuality the queries were restricted to certain industries and niches where time-sensitive content is important: sports, entertainment, events, news, product reviews.
One of the most wide-reaching algorithm updates ever, Panda impacted 12% of search queries. The update was intended to weed out low quality content in the search results. The losers were content farms, that had lots of content on a wide number of topics, but the content was low quality. It also impacted sites that had many ads (especially above the fold), as compared to actual content.
Prior to this update, each domain was limited in the number of times it could appear for a query. 1-2 times max, with subsequent results indented after the first result. With this update, a domain could have multiple listings return for the same search engine results page.
May Day impacted long-tail keywords. The losers were sites with lots of low-quality content, foreshadowing the Panda update.
Vince focused on “trust” signals, trying to give more credit to “trustworthy” sites. The result was that big brands won in the search results, particularly for more general queries. While Google called Vince a “minor change,” many webmasters felt it made a big impact.
The major search engines of the time – Google, Yahoo! and MSN – came together to instate the Nofollow attribute for links. Since a link was considered to be one site giving a thumbs-up to another site, if you didn’t want to be giving that thumbs-up, you could put a “nofollow” on the link. Search engines would then know they could discount it in their algorithm. Nofollow was intended primarily for links where the webmaster didn’t have control over them – for example, links in blog or forum comments.
Austin was a follow-up to Florida, Google’s determined attempt to weed out spammy SEO tactics. If your keyword stuffed content or meta-tags, or your hidden text or links were still helping your site, now they didn’t.
Florida was one of the most impactful updates up until that time. Google seemingly changed the algorithm to try and filter out keyword-stuffed pages and other low-value SEO techniques.
The first update that received a name was Boston, because it was announced at SES Boston.