7 Google Algorithm Updates That Changed SEO Forever

7 Google Algorithm Updates That Changed SEO Forever

There have been countless Google algorithm updates but only 7 that have changed the way we do SEO forever. To do SEO right, the first thing one should know is how Google functions. Once you are aware of the Google algorithm updates, your life becomes easier by half. 

Since Google functions on AI, it tends to update its algorithm thousands of times in a year but most of it goes unnoticeable. 

However, these 7 Google algorithm updates have had a huge impact on SEO strategies that we practice today. 

So, let’s begin with the first and the earliest of the lot. 

1. Pandas

Not the cute Chinese animal, you animal lover. The Panda Google algorithm update was the beginning of the change and it saw a decent penalization to most of the websites across Google.  

Date Of Release

It first came out on the 24th February 2011. Although the first Panda update was not flawless, there were different versions of it that followed. It wasn’t until 2016 that Panda had become a full-fledged part of Google and had experimented and updated the final rendition of it. 

Whom Did It Affect?

Panda update largely affected websites that had duplicate, plagiarized or thin content. It also kept a keen eye on websites that majorly worked through keyword stuffing. 

We can say that Panda was the foundation for a more user-generated Google that we have today in 2021. 

How Does It Work?

Panda assigned a minimum “quality score” against which most of the websites were checked. It started with a slow effect on websites but by 2016, “quality score” became a top-ranking factor for SEO.

How To Adjust With Panda?

Run a regular site audit to check for thin, plagiarized or duplicate content. There are site audit tools that can help you escape penalization. 

The best way to work towards a high-quality is to use an AI-based content tool like MarketMuse and run a plagiarism check through smallseotools or Copyscape to be clean. 

2. Penguin

I definitely think Google has some affection towards animals with the kind of Google algorithm names it comes up with.  With that here’s what Penguin update had to offer. 

Date Of Release

Penguin Google algorithm update came out in the month of April, 2012 as a successor of Panda. Penguin comparatively saw lesser rectification than Panda and was ready to kick some websites down by 2014. 

Whom Did It Affect?

Penguin focused on websites that had an abundance of spammy or irrelevant backlinks and over-used unnatural anchor texts. 

How Does It Work?

Penguin started heavily downranking websites that either bought backlinks from link farms or had irrelevant yet high backlink scores. 

Although initially there were many websites that got away but with the rectification and updates in Penguin, by the end of 2014 most of the websites that followed unnatural link building strategies saw a dip. 

How To Adjust With Penguin?

With this Google algorithm update, it has become a necessity to keep a check on your backlinking score. 

A safe ratio close to 50:50 backlinks and referring domains is advisable. Ahrefs can help you do a regular check on the number of links you are getting. In fact, run SEO SpyGlass’s Penalty Risk and unlink all the links with a score less than 50%

3. Hummingbird

Oh, there is a bird involved too. 

Hummingbird is one of the Google algorithm updates that revolved around speed and precision much like the actual hummingbird. 

Date Of Release

Hummingbird became a part of Google family on 22nd August, 2013 when websites were already recovering from the side effects of Panda and Penguin. 

Whom Did It Affect?

This Google update affected not only the websites full of low-quality, keyword-stuffed content but also content that was not user-generated. 

How Does It Work?

Hummingbird was Google’s attempt to better understand the search intent and rank queries that matched that intent. 

It also made it possible for content to rank even without matching the exact search keyword. Instead, Hummingbird focused on latent semantic indexing, co-occurring terms and synonyms of the keyword. 

In fact, Hummingbird also tried to understand longer, more complex queries and showed the closest results to it.  Although Hummingbird will later give birth to RankBrain, this is how the entire idea of search intent became a part of SEO ranking factors. 

How To Adjust With Hummingbird?

Publishing high-quality content that adds value to the reader’s life is the first thing you can do. Shifting focus from short-tail keywords to more complex long-tail keywords can help you rank. 

Besides, your focus should not be on using the target keyword throughout the content but to deliver the concept of your target keyword in your content. 

Google Related Search and Google Related Questions can be of great assistance here!

4. Mobile

The biggest shift on Google algorithm updates came with Mobile update. This was one of those updates that focused less on what your content had to say and more on user-experience and outlook of your website.

Date Of Release

Mobile update came in April of 2015 and saw a considerable update by May, 2016. 

Whom Did It Affect?

Since most of the websites focused on the desktop appearance, the Mobile update stood as a hazard to them. This update affected mobile ranking along with all those websites that were not optimized for mobile platforms. 

Any website with poor mobile usability saw a dip in their ranking after April, 2015. 

How Does It Work?

Google saw a hike in mobile users after 2015 which highly influenced the Google algorithm updates. This and consecutively all the updates after Mobile started giving more importance to websites that had a well-optimized desktop and mobile versions. 

In fact, the Mobile update 2.0 increased the effect of ranking signal showing mobile-friendly websites first even on desktops. 

How To Adjust With Mobile?

Focus on speed and precision and optimize your website for Mobile. Including Mobile AMP can really work out for your website. 

In fact, the best way to do it is to get your website made from Zyro

5. RankBrain

RankBrain is a successor of Hummingbird with an introduction of machine learning and artificial intelligence into Google algorithm. 

The advanced Hummingbird has the intention of getting as close to the search query of the users and giving them a more personalized experience. 

Date Of Release

RankBrain update was announced on 26th October 2016. 

Whom Did It Affect?

Similar to Hummingbird, RankBrain largely affected websites that lacked query-specific relevancy, shallow content and poor user experience. 

How Does It Work?

There is no clear information as to how RankBrain functions but it is believed that Google has incorporated an AI. 

This artificial intelligence goes beyond just target keywords. It considers the concept behind a particular keyword and ranks content that satisfies the query. Not just the intent but also the geographical location and previous search history of the user is also taken into consideration. 

In fact, over the time satisfying RankBrain has become the third most important ranking factor on Google. 

How To Adjust With RankBrain?

Competitive analysis is important when adjusting with RankBrain. Make sure that your page is optimized for relevancy and comprehension. 

Focus on synonym keywords and the concept behind a particular query. If your content matches the intent of the user and gives a smooth experience of reading and understanding, you have the calibre to stand up and out on Google. 

6. Medic

Google Broad Core Algorithm Update, Medic saw a huge impact on medical and health-related websites.

Date Of Release 

Medic gave its first look on May the 4th of 2018.

Whom Did It Affect? 

This broad core update saw a visible effect on “your money, your life” websites that revolved around medical, health, finance and law firms. 

How Does It Work?

Although not confirmed openly, it penalized all the websites that affect life-altering decisions which gave out weak E-A-T signals. All the sites that worked in these fields but did not give out authentic content written by experts experienced a heavy downfall. 

How To Adjust With Medic?

There isn’t any classic resolution to adjust with Medi. 

But if you are a website that deals with topics like Health, Medical, Finance or Education, it is advisable to publish content that is written by experts and is authentic in every sense. 

A strong backlinking profile coming for high domain web pages can also help you create a brand and trust among your users and Google. 


BERT, an acronym for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, is a Google algorithm update that majorly revolves around improving language understanding.   

I like the acronym for making most of our lives easier, and the update for making it hard. 

Date Of Release 

BERT gave its first appearance in October 2019. 

Whom Did It Affect? 

Bad news for most of the content writers who write without focus, context and absolutely zero understanding for writing. It affected all those websites that published pages only for the sake of it and had poorly written content with no context or background.

How Does It Work?

Google uses natural language processing technology to understand the search queries and show results according to that.  The idea was to comprehend the intent of the longer, more conversational search queries and try to give the best results around it. 

While Panda, Hummingbird and RankBrain tried their best to make Google a fantastic experience for users, BERT took a step ahead and combined all the three updates for a more user-friendly experience.

It is because of BERT that today even a query that makes no sense in the English language will have a full-length 10-page result on Google. 

How To Adjust With BERT?

This one is a one-liner – write good content. Content that people would love to read. Content that is simply written. Content that is engaging. 

Go easy on fancy words. Do proper keyword research and put in words that have high relevancy with each other. Your copy should not be a loosely connected fragment of ideas but a comprehensive, well-written piece of content that makes sense and adds value. 

To Summarize

If you think that after the newly Page Experience update of Google, all these major Google algorithm updates have lost their focus, well you have got it wrong. 

There is a reason why they are called updates. They just make the last one better and stronger. If you are an SEO strategist, you must know these 7 Google algorithm updates and your strategies should be in sync with them. 

If you think that this is too much, get hold of an SEO tool like MarketMuse that does the content creation for you and an All in One WordPress plugin to increase your website search rankings. 

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