Quick Guide to Google Algorithm Updates

Are you current SEO agency losing you with SEO speak? DOM Marketing presents a quick guide to Google algorithm updates and to self-help for Google Penalty Recovery.


Google Panda

Google Panda is used to give pages a content quality score.  Sites with thin or spam laden content are given a low score.  It was originally launched as a filter, but since January 2016 it has been a core part of the Google algorithm. Panda is now applied in real time to search results, meaning changes are seen much more quickly than before.

How to Improve your Google Panda Score

  • Create worthwhile original content
  • Don’t keyword stuff
  • Give a good user experience


Google Penguin

Google Penguin finds and marks down sites with unnatural link profiles.  It is now part of the core Google algorithm. Penalties are quickly applied and quickly removed once the work is carried out to resolve the issue.


How to Improve your Google Penguin Score

  • Don’t build links from ‘spammy’ websites
  • Monitor your backlink profile regularly and use Google Disavow tool if needed.
  • Make your links come from sites that are relevant to your site
  • Paid link networks and link exchanges can cause issues
  • Linking text should not be over optimised


Google Pirate Update

This is one that rarely affects businesses unless your servers have been hacked. It is designed to look out for content such as movies, music and books that are been offered illegally.


How to Escape the Google Pirate Update

  • Don’t host stolen files
  • Check your server for pirate files that may have been left there without your knowledge


Google Hummingbird Update

Google Hummingbird was an update to the core algorithm.  It was part of the move towards conversational search as it focused on searcher intent rather than individual keywords.  It tries to find meaning in the questions, it also tries to match with synonyms more than past keyword-based systems

How to optimise for Google Hummingbird

  • Do not keyword stuff
  • Write about ideas rather than trying to exact match words
  • Do not write thin content
  • Write more naturally and use synonyms to increase your chance of getting shown in SERPS


Google Pigeon

Google Pigeon is a relative old update now (it launched in the UK in 2014) But it still crucial to the way we need to think about our SEO.  For English language results, Google Pigeon tied together the local algorithm and the core algorithm.  This means the same factors are now used in both local and non-local results.

Local pack results are now returned with far less frequency before, however, Google maps and the web search were tied together.


How to Catch the Google Pigeon

  • Optimise pages for local results (for example creating location-based store pages)
  • Set up Google my Business.
  • Ensure that any local directory listings for your name, address and telephone number are consistent.
  • Get listed in good local directories (Chamber of Commerce, the phone book etc.)


Google Mobile-Friendly Update

This update was launched in April 2015.  As mobile and the mainstream desktop web get ever closer, this app may not last that much longer.  The update prioritises pages that are mobile friendly when a user searches on mobile devices, effectively meaning that it ranks down sites that are difficult to use.  This is a page level factor, although, if you are using a CMS that isn’t mobile-friendly, you will likely see the problem sitewide.

How to Get Mobile Friendly

  • Configure your viewport properly
  • Use a mobile-friendly theme for your site
  • Simplify content
  • Don’t rely on old plugins that don’t render properly on mobile



RankBrain Machine Learning

Google RankBrain is a machine learning system that is designed to help the big G, better match search queries with results.  It is suspected that it can use something akin to the precis feature in Word to gain a better understanding of the content of a site.  However, it is also known to use more traditional SEO factors including page titles and links to calculate this relevance.


How to Beat the Google RankBrain

  • Maximise your user experience and give people content that is meaningful and imparts information
  • See what your competitors are talking about. The chances are that your top competitors in Google are providing content that is relevant to your customers. Develop your own quality content around similar themes


Google Possum

There are a lot of cute furry creatures running loose in Google’s HQ. Google Possum is in some ways rather like the Pigeon update.  The idea behind this update was to give a choice of nearby shops and service providers.  It also slightly undid some of the earlier work, giving a boost to companies who offered their services online. The main danger from Possum was for businesses that share an address with another business of a similar kind. These businesses may often be delisted.  So, take note of any competitors also using your virtual office service.

Dealing with Pesky (Google) Possums

  • Try not to share addresses with competitors
  • Use your VPN to track ranks from various locations to see how you rank at a distance.
  • Expand your list of local keywords
  • Create branch specific pages, not an “all stores” page


Google Fred

Launched in March 2017, Google Fred exists to rid the web of blog sites, not interesting blog sites, but sites that appear to have no purpose other than promoting affiliate links.  It’s relatively easy to avoid falling into this trap.  High-quality unique content, new pictures and no following of links have all been in the webmasters’ toolbox for years.

Avoid ‘Barney Rubble’ with Google Fred

  • Create deep, interesting content
  • Place content first and foremost and ads secondary
  • Involve customers – it’s likely that the bounce rate is an important consideration here.


Consult an Expert

If just reading this list is exhausting, then it’s probably worth getting in touch with a Google Penalty Recovery expert such as DOM Marketing. Our business is staying on top of all these changes and making sure your site succeeds.