The Most Important Google Algorithm Changes in the Past 3 Years

The Most Important Google Algorithm Changes in the Past 3 Years

Google updates its algorithms a few thousand times a year. While some modifications are inconspicuous, others cause havoc in the search results. In today’s entry we’ll talk about the most important Google algorithm changes in the last 3 years. Keep reading!

Table of contents:

Google is a real tycoon among search engines popular across the globe. It was created in 1998 and since its very beginnings, the Mountain View giant has been determining the ranking based on special algorithms that help to provide users with content they’re looking for. Let’s look at the Google algorithm update history of the past 3 years. 

Google algorithms – what are they?

It’s worth starting with explaining this aspect. In simple words, an algorithm is a mathematical process that a computer uses to answer a question or solve a problem. Search engine algorithms are designed to help users find what they’re looking for within seconds.

Google benefits from a number of algorithms. PageRank was developed first. It measured the parameters of all websites to determine the number and quality of links leading to this website. This helped to estimate page authority and juxtapose the website with other online content. When discussing PageRank, we used the past tense because PageRank is no longer updated, and very few SEO specialists take it into account. Since then a lot of changed and Google’s updating its algorithms on a daily basis.

Once you know what Google algorithms are, it’s time to discuss the most popular ones:

  1. Panda – its main task is to increase the quality of searched content, and get rid of short and duplicate texts.
  2. Penguin – it’s supposed to reduce the amount of spam on the Internet, caused by Link Exchange Systems, or poor quality backlinks.
  3. Hummingbird – it’s fast and precise, helps to understand the user’s needs and intentions when entering the query.
  4. Pigeon – it’s a step towards local SEO and map optimization.

As we’ve already mentioned, Google updates its algorithms hundreds or even thousands of times a year. Optimizing your website according to white hat SEO principles is a guarantee that you’ll actually benefit from the changes.

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Google algorithm update history – from 2019 to 2021

Let’s look at the history of Google algorithm changes from the past 3 years.

2019

In 2019, there were a few modifications that truly shook up the search results. Some core updates include:

  • March 2019 core update – interestingly, there is a lot of confusion around this update as it’s not necessarily clear which elements were affected by this change. When announcing this modification, Google advised website owners to focus on good SEO practices.
  • June 2019 core update – this was the first update announced by Google beforehand. As a result of this modification, Google started to display websites with various types of content (e.g video carousels) higher in the search results. Moreover, Google decided to take a closer look at news sites and rank higher those that are a valuable source of information.
  • September 2019 core update – this update was announced on September 24th and affected mainly the so-called YMYL (Your Money Your Life) websites. It aimed to improve the reliability of the information provided by sites from the medical and financial industries.
  • BERT – the Mountain View giant introduced this update on October 25th. BERT is an open-source technique that helps Google understand better natural language, including both spoken and written queries, especially complex ones. BERT is believed to be the greatest change since RankBrain was introduced in 2015 and it supposedly impacted every tenth query.

2020

In 2020, Google modified its algorithms 4.500 times. The most important Google algorithm changes included:

  • January 2020 core update – this update didn’t target anything specific and it was just supposed to refine the search results and adapt them to users’ needs. Google analyzed new websites and ranked higher those with content that brings value to users. To explain the update, Google specialists used an analogy and compared the search results to a list of top movies you made 5 years earlier. As you may guess, there have been lots of wonderful movies created in that time and you need to refine your list to ensure that it includes all the important titles.
  • May 2020 core update – this update began rolling out on May 4th. This change didn’t focus on the E-A-T principle and it’s actually hard to determine clearly who benefited from the modifications.
  • Suspected Federal Update June 2020 – although Google didn’t comment on that, SEO trackers showed intense volatility in the SERPs at that time. This modification benefited .gov, health, and news websites. Google ranked higher pages with high authority. In the Quality Rating Guidelines, Google refers to the E-A-T metric and its impact on the PA (page authority).
  • December 2020 Broad Core Update – Google launched the December 2020 Broad Core Update on December 3rd. Many specialists were surprised that this update was introduced so close to Christmas as it might have caused havoc in the e-commerce industry. Interestingly, the positions of many websites that dropped in the ranking after the May core update improved then. The update didn’t target any specific elements, it was just supposed to refine the search results to ensure that users get quality answers to their queries.

2021

2021 is almost over, so it’s time to discuss important Google algorithm updates that took place in the last few months:

  • Passage ranking update – it took place in February 2021 and thanks to it, Google can now benefit from artificial intelligence to index individual sentences and paragraphs. These sentences can be displayed in the search results as featured snippets. As a result, users can quickly find answers to their queries and they don’t have to scroll entire articles to find a paragraph they need. This update rewards websites that focus on long tail keywords, provide valuable content, and structure it correctly to make indexation easier for Google.
  • “About this result” – it’s another update that took place in February 2021. Thanks to it, users can access additional information about the source of content and easily determine which website is likely to satisfy their needs. The “About this result” box includes information on website security, or the date when the page was first indexed by Google.
  • Product reviews update April 2021 – this update was supposed to encourage product reviews that provide in-depth analysis and are unique pieces of content. When creating product reviews, you should express expert knowledge, share unique content, juxtapose the product with other models, and help consumers make the right purchasing decision.
  • MUM update May 2021 Multitask Unified Model (MUM) is a natural language even more powerful than BERT introduced in 2019. It’s supposed to help users get the answers they need based on contextual information taken from various sources. Thanks to it, users can type in one long query and get all the information they need right away.
  • Link spam update June 2021 – this update was implemented to reduce the number of spam links. Google works hard to determine which backlinks are of poor quality. Instead of penalizing websites with such backlinks, the search engine simply ignores them.

If you want to learn more about this link spam update, read this entry: https://delante.co/google-link-spam-update-july-2021/

  • Page experience update June 2021 – this update was about prioritizing factors that affect user experience. This time, Google paid special attention to Largest Contentful Paint (loading time of the main page element), First Input Delay (how quickly the page reacts to users’ actions), and Cumulative Layout Shift (the stability of the page layout).
  • Page title update August 2021 – in the past, Google used to tailor page titles to queries. However, the update that took place in August 2021 drastically changed the way Google generates website titles. Now, the search engine creates titles that are supposed to summarize the website as a whole. Titles are generated based on H1 headers, anchor texts, and image tags. This update had a negative impact on numerous pages that were previously ranked in top positions.

And that’s the end of updates introduced in 2021 (so far). Will Google surprise us more this year? We’ll see.

Google algorithm change history – the takeaway

As you can see, Google algorithm changes are an extremely extensive and complicated process, even if we take into account only the last three years. Although it’s impossible to predict modifications introduced by Google, it’s worth keeping track of the updates, because following official recommendations is the best way to rank high in the search results. Remember that Google never sleeps. Daily, it strives to fine-tune its technologies and algorithms to satisfy users.

Following white hat SEO techniques is a continuous, yet rewarding process that can help you take your company to the next level and improve your profits. As this Google algorithm change history shows, it’s important to look out for any changes and act accordingly.

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Delante is an online marketing agency specialized in generating website traffic from search engines and paid ads (SEO / SEM). Over 80% of our clients are from rapidly growing e-commerce industry.

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