No Need to Panic: Understanding Google’s Algorithm Updates

Elton Tsang15th April 2024 - Elton Tsang

No Need to Panic: Understanding Google’s Algorithm Updates

Google doesn’t stop rolling out algorithm updates, and 2024 remains the same. The latest algorithm update was announced just last month, with content quality, spam reduction and reliability being the priorities.

Here is my take: there is no need to panic. It is not that scary. If your strategy is already centred on quality content and genuine user engagement, then Google’s tweaks are just minor bumps on the road to digital success.

Let’s drill into Google’s algorithm methodology and look back at what the recent changes entail.

What’s Google Search Algorithm?

Google search algorithm is a rather complex set of rules and calculations that determines the ranking order in which websites appear in search result pages.

It considers a few factors like relevance, quality, and user experience to deliver the most useful and trustworthy results to users based on their search queries.

The algorithm keeps updating to improve search accuracy, making sure that people find the information they are looking for quickly and efficiently. So relevancy is key here.

How does it work?

It analyses billions of web pages and ranks them based on various factors to determine their relevance and quality. While the exact details of Google’s algorithm are restricted and constantly updating, here’s a simplified explanation of how it generally works:

  1. Crawling: Google uses automated programs called spiders to browse the web and discover new pages. These crawlers follow links from one page to another, indexing the content they find along the way.
  2. Indexing: After crawling, Google organises the content it finds into a massive index, essentially a giant library of web pages. This index allows Google to quickly retrieve relevant pages when users search for specific terms.
  3. Ranking: When a user enters a search query, Google’s algorithm will determine which pages in its index are most relevant to that search query. It considers hundreds of factors, including keywords, website authority, user engagement metrics, freshness of content, and more.
  4. Retrieval: Once the algorithm has ranked the relevant pages, Google displays them in the search result pages, with the most relevant and high-quality pages appearing at the top. So we must prioritise good quality website content in our optimisation plan.

Ok, what are the Google algorithm updates?

Google continuously refines its algorithm to provide better search results and combat low-quality content.

These updates can range from minor tweaks to major algorithm changes, such as the introduction of new ranking factors or adjustments to existing ones.

Let’s look back at the major algorithm updates from Google in the past decade and see how they shape the results.

  1. Hummingbird (2013): Introduced a new search algorithm focused on understanding the context and intent behind search queries rather than just individual keywords. It improved the understanding of long-tail queries and semantic search.
  2. Penguin (2013): An update to the Penguin algorithm aimed at targeting web spam, particularly manipulative link-building practices. It penalised websites with unnatural or spammy backlink profiles.
  3. Panda (2014): An update aimed at penalising websites with low-quality or thin content. It targeted sites with poor user experience, duplicate content, and content farms.
  4. Penguin 4.0 (2016): A real-time update to the Penguin algorithm, meaning penalties could be applied and lifted more quickly. It also devalued spammy links rather than penalizing the entire site.
  5. Mobilegeddon (2015): An update that prioritised mobile-friendly websites in mobile search results. It aimed to improve the user experience for mobile users by favouring responsive and mobile-friendly designs.
  6. RankBrain (2015): Part of Google’s core algorithm, RankBrain uses machine learning to understand the meaning behind search queries and deliver more relevant results. It helps Google better interpret unique queries.
  7. BERT (2019): Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) is a natural language processing algorithm that helps Google better understand the context of words in search queries. It improves the understanding of nuances in language and context.
  8. Page Experience for Mobile (2021): A significant update focused on user experience metrics, including Core Web Vitals (loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability), mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS security etc. It emphasised the importance of delivering a positive user experience.

March spam updates

Yes, Google have updated their algorithm again and it’s a big one this time. Google rolled out spam algorithm updates on 5th March.

This major core update targets low-quality and unoriginal content. Any such content detected on your website will be deindexed by Google.

With the increased popularity of AI usage lately, the most obvious source of low-quality and unoriginal content would be AI-generated. If you have published pure AI-generated content for your website without human review, its time to stop doing it and rethink your content strategy.

There are over 200 factors in Google’s algorithm, but they don’t all have the same weight. Some have a much more significant impact on your rankings than others, even when it comes to basic stuff.

So, staying ahead of the ever-changing Google algorithm updates and adapting your approach would enable you to engage with long-term success in the competitive online marketing world.

Thanks for reading.

Reach out to us if you want to learn more about the strategy plan for optimising your website and content.

Elton Tsang
Elton Tsang

Elton is an SEO and Digital Marketing Specialist at Friday Agency, known for his keen ability to analyse websites in ways that developers might find challenging.

Previous Post
Challenging Assumptions: How different generations actually use technology
digital marketing gladiator
Next Post
Digital Marketing Specialist role at Friday Agency