Changes to Google Search – How Google Search Algorithm Works

Google search is the most popular search engine in the world, with over eight billion searches per day. Although we use it constantly, the algorithm behind the changes to Google Search is still elusive and confusing at times. Unless you are a die-hard SEO fanatic, that tracks every change and traffic drop from a Google update, it is difficult to know how to respond to a Google algorithm update. However, there are a few key components that will help webmasters and website owners stay in the green no matter what the Google core update is being rolled out.

The first is easy, using SEO best practices, and thinking like a user while implementing them. What I mean by this is, if you were a search engine user, you wouldn’t want to find a low-quality Google SERP result that adds zero value and is full of ads and affiliate links. If you produce high-quality content, that adds value to search engine results and users, Google will most likely keep your content in the green and performing well. This is because Google aims to provide the highest-quality of experience to its users.

Therefore, think like a user, and write website content that you would want to see.

The second way to be prepared for a Google algorithm change is to stay up-to-date on Google’s Algorithm. And that is exactly what we are going to focus on in this blog post. So in this article were going to cover:

  • How does Google determine which websites to show at the top of the SERP results page
  • What impacts do Google changes and updates have on SEO?
  • Overall we will discuss how Google search works and take a look at recent changes to Google’s algorithm.

How Google Search Algorithm Works:

Google’s search algorithm is based on internal processes that crawl, index and rank content. The algorithm is built upon multiple ranking factors. Only Google knows the exact algorithm, and process of how it ranks content.

Some digital marketing experts will claim to have the ‘secret sauce’ to make your content rank. However, this is flat out not true. They, like many SEO professionals, have a good idea of the components that contribute to and influence better rankings. But no one has the complete picture.

That being said, there are SEO best practices that have been tried and tested and produce results. Moreover, these SEO tactics are also based on clues and breadcrumbs left by Google to help digital marketing experts to understand Google’s algorithm.

How Google Search Evaluates Content

Google’s search algorithm is a constantly evolving beast, with over 500 updates made each year. However, there are a few key factors that need to be focused on and taken into account when working to get high, sustainable long term ranking for websites. These include things like relevance, freshness, and authority. These three factors can be further explained as:

  • Relevance: Is determined by how well a website’s content matches the user’s search query.
  • Freshness: Takes into account for time-sensitive queries, such as breaking news stories.
  • Authority: Measures a website’s trustworthiness and is determined by things like inbound links and social signals.

With these three components in mind, we suggest that you always focus on producing high quality content, and not so much on changes to Google search, and how a search engine change to google will effect your website’s rankings. As mentioned above, write content to add value to the topic, do not simply regurgitate and spin someone else’s content. Content should be relevant to your topic, add value, be fresh and unique, and finally be trustworthy and authoritative.

Changes to Google Search: Google Algorithm Updates

Google is always working to optimize search with search engine updates, to provide the best user experience possible. In order to accomplish this, Google releases multiple algorithm updates a year. Therefore, to better understand how Google search works it is important to keep up with algorithm changes. By following the algorithm changes, you can be proactive in monitoring and optimizing your content after large changes in rankings.

Therefore, we are going to look at a few major algorithm updates:

List of Google’s major algorithm changes and their impact

To further round out the list of algorithm changes, check out some of the historic changes we have seen recently.

NameDateHazardsHow to Adjust
PandaFebruary 24, 2011Content that is: duplicate, thin, plagiarized, user-generated spam or uses keyword stuffing.Conduct site checks to ensure content is high-quality and unique. Follow White Hat SEO techniques. Use a site auditing tool to check content status.
Siteliner’s tool can check for content issues
PenguinApril 24, 2012Content that is spammy or has links that are irrelevant. Links with anchor text that is over optimizes.Do not buy backlinks to increase domain authority and SEO performance. Monitor link profile and check for spammy links that are being added to your website. Use tools like Ahrefs to check link profile.
Google HummingbirdAugust 22, 2013Content that uses Keyword stuffing, or that is of low-quality.Stay away from keyword stuffing and utilize synonyms instead. Utilize long-tail keywords and related topics.

Use Google Related Searches, Google Related Questions, and Google Autocomplete suggestions to find topics and keywords to include in your content.
MobileApril 21, 2015Websites with no mobile versions and/or with poor mobile usability.Ensure that the website optimized for mobile searches, focuses on speed and usability, and is highly responsiveness. Google’s mobile-friendly and page speed tests will help you see which aspects of your page need to be improved.
RankBrainOctober 26, 2015Lack of query-specific relevance, thin or shallow content, and/or poor user experience.Focus on relevance and comprehensiveness when developing content. Use Google Related Searches, Google Related Questions, and Google Autocomplete suggestions to build robust content that is comprehensive of the entire topic.
FredMarch 7, 2017low-value content and sites that relied on thin content and aggressive ad placementFocus on providing a good user experience with in-depth content. Ensure that content matches user intent and provides value to them. Don’t over monetize content.
MedicMay 4, 2018Lack of authority on ‘Your Money Your Life’ (YMYL) websites; Websites with weak expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) signals.In order to ensure that a website meets the strict guidelines and critiques that YMYL sites undergo is to build content that is data driven and highly trustworthy.

Additionally, and more importantly, is by increasing the domain authority of the website by growing a backlink profile.
BertOctober 22, 2019Poorly written content that lacks focus and/or context to the topic.Google finally rewards good writing!

Strive to produce high-quality meaningful content for SEO purposes. Avoid fluff words and adopt an expository style of writing.
Core Updates2017-present

Since 2017 Google has been referring to bigger updates as Google core updates.

These updates tend to have less transparency about what part of search and SEO they pertain to.
SEO specialists often try to track post-update ranking changes to try and figure out what has changed. However, conclusions may be speculation.

It is likely that Google core updates are just improvements on previous Google updates or smaller updates tied into one update.

Without concrete information about the update, you can attempt to track SERP history for the keywords you are targeting to evaluate what changes occurred.
Google’s major search engine updates and algorithm changes since 2011

Google’s major search engine updates focus around a few common themes:

  • Reducing Black Hat SEO techniques
  • Penalizing low quality, spammy and thin content
  • Providing the best user experience possible
  • Core web vitals and page speed

The recent Core Updates also focus on the same themes, and it doesn’t look to be slowing down. It is becoming obvious that Google wants to rank websites, that provide informative, valuable, and high-quality content. impact on SEO. This is evident in their push to provide featured snippets for as many different types of queries as possible.

Now that we have looked at some historically important content, let us take a look at recent updates over the last two years.

Recent Google Search Algorithm Changes

Google is on a mission to provide the best content possible to its search engine users. Over 2021 and 2022 Google continues to optimize its search engine algorithm. Let us take a look at some of their updates.

Helpful content UpdateAugust 22, 2022Google is putting an emphasis on helpful content, and trying to get away from AI generated content. Additionally, they are looking to cut down on misleading information and titles that act as click bait. The update will be used as a ranking signal and not as a penalty.
Core Update 2022May 25, 2022Via the Google Search Central blog. With the update being completed on June 9, 2022
Product Algorithm UpdateMarch 23, 2022Google via Search Central Blog announced a Google. product reviews update that would enable them to identify high-quality reviews. 

The update attempts to provide better product reviews to search users. For more information on how to write high-quality product reviews check Google’s blog.
Page Experience UpdateFebruary 22, 2022On Twitter Google shared that a page experience update was being rolled out for desktop search. For more information about the page experience update check Google Search Central blog.
Broad Core UpdateNovember 17, 2021Via the Google Search Console Twitter a broad core update was announced. They referred webmasters to documentation that informs site owners on what they need to know about core updates.
Google Spam UpdateNovember 3, 2021A spam update was rolled out as a part of Google’s regular work to improve search results. Stating webmasters should continue to follow Webmaster Guidelines.
Google Link Spam Algorithm UpdateJuly 26, 2021An algorithm update aimed at identifying and nullifying link spam. Google warned that any sites taking part in link spam tactics could see ranking changes. Especially with their sponsored, guest, and affiliate content.
Core Update CompletedJuly 12, 2021Google Search Liaison confirmed that the July 2021 Core Update rollout was effectively completed. No additional details were provided.
June 2021 Spam UpdateJune 23, 2021Google’s Danny Sullivan announced via Twitter an algorithm update targeted at fighting spam was rolling out to search results. Additionally, a second spam update would follow within a week. No specific details on what Google’s update was targeting.
Page Experience UpdateJune 15, 2021Google confirmed the Page Experience update started rolling out. Sites should were not suppose to see any drastic changes because of the update. Whereas the gradual rollout was meant to mitigate any sudden drops or spikes in traffic.
Known Victims ProtectionJune 10, 2021Pandu Nayak, Google Fellow and Vice President of Search, published a post on ‘The Keyword blog‘. The post discussed Google’s work towards improving the algorithm to demote sites that “employ exploitative removals practices” and “predatory practices.”
Broad Core Algorithm UpdateJune 2, 2021A broad core algorithm update was released. Additionally, a few planned improvements that weren’t ready for this update, were to be rolled out as part of second, related broad core algorithm update.
Product Reviews UpdateApril 8, 2021The search ranking algorithm update was designed to reward “product reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products.” Moreover, Google’s announcement, gave nine useful questions to consider when creating and publishing product reviews.
Passage RankingFebruary 10, 2021Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public Liaison for Search announced that Passage Ranking launched for English-language queries in the United States. According to Google: “This change doesn’t mean we’re indexing individual passages independently of pages. We’re still indexing pages and considering info about entire pages for ranking.” The update allowed passages from pages to be considered as additional ranking factors.
Google’s search engine algorithm updates since from 2021-2022

The impact of Google’s algorithm changes on SEO

Google makes frequent changes to its search algorithm, and many of these changes can have a significant impact on SEO – both positive and negative, depending how your website is set up. For example, the Google Panda update was designed to penalize websites that were spammy or low-quality, while the Google Penguin update was aimed at reducing the effectiveness of black-hat SEO tactics like link spamming.

Google also regularly updates its algorithm to try and combat new types of spam or other changes in the way people search. These algorithm changes can make it difficult for SEO experts and small businesses to keep up, but it’s important to be aware of them and their potential impact on your SEO performance and overall website ranking. Therefore, it is important to try and stay informed and to keep an eye on your website’s overall performance on various SEO tools or on Google Search Console or Google Analytics, so you can make sure that you’re prepared for whatever Google throws your way.

How to stay ahead of the curve with Google algorithm updates

With constant algorithm changes, SEO professionals and website owners can find themselves playing a constant game of catch up to produce content that matches Google’s search updates. Therefore, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest changes. Here are some tips on how to do that:

  1. Keep an eye on Google Webmaster Central blog. This is where Google announces major algorithm changes.
  2. Google also announces changes on their Twitter account, so be sure to follow them.
  3. Subscribe to popular SEO blogs such as Moz, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Journal. These blogs often write about Google algorithm updates soon after they happen.
  4. Finally, don’t forget to test your own website after Google makes an algorithm change. Have a look at your website’s stats on SEO tools, Google Search Console and Google Analytics.

In addition to these tips, it is important to also focus on Google’s core web vitals as they are essential if you are going for advanced web ranking on Google. Google has stated many times, that core web vitals, and the Google page experience updates are major components to having a high-quality page as well as being a ranking factor. If you monitor your web vitals, as well as your page speed, you will be in good shape to rank well no matter the Google Search changes and updates.

Key Takeaways: How Google Search Works

It can be difficult to keep up with all the latest changes. However, if you want your website to rank well on Google search results, it’s important to understand how the algorithm works and stay ahead of the curve. We highlighted some of the biggest Google algorithm changes such as Mobilegeddon, Penguin, Bert and the March Core Update and how they impacted a website’s search engine optimization performance. 

By understanding these changes and how they affect your website, you can optimize your site to ensure that it continues to rank high in Google search results. In order to rank well, and continue to rank well, the best thing to do is avoid any Black Hat SEO practices, and to produce quality content for your SEO.

If your business is in need of an SEO agency to help your business grow and succeed in a world of ever changing algorithm updates, you can contact us. Clear Door SEO is a search engine optimization company that specializes in ranking businesses to help drive organic traffic.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *