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The 7 Most Important Updates in Google History — and How They Impact Your Website

In the 21st century business world, it’s hard to overstate how important a strong internet presence and online discoverability are to most enterprises — whether the business is strictly based online, primarily brick-and-mortar or a blend of the two. Why? Because ever-growing numbers of consumers are finding businesses online and basing their purchase decisions on online research. Consider this: Statistics show that 35% of U.S. consumers perform online searches for local businesses multiple times per week, while over 20% do so daily.

And the leader in online search — by a longshot — is Google. If you’ve been awake over the past 15 years, you’ve almost certainly heard the name. The tech giant has become so prominent in the online search world that “Googling” has become a go-to verb among Americans (and internet surfers the world over, for that matter) for performing an online search. And for good reason: Google owns more than 90% of the search engine market share globally.

7 pivotal Google updates

Clearly, for businesses and marketers worldwide, understanding Google trends and updates can be critical to realizing and sustaining successful SEO efforts. That’s why The Brandon Agency has put together this list of (in our opinion) the seven most important Google updates in the company’s history, along with how each can impact your brand’s website. Read on to gain some powerful Google-focused insights that can help your company position itself for success with the most influential search engine in the world:

1. Panda (February 2011)

This algorithm update was made in an effort to prevent websites from using dubious tactics like black hat SEO (such as cloaking, keyword stuffing and employing private link networks), plagiarized and/or duplicate content, user-generated spam, and content farming to boost their SERP rankings. As a result of the update, sites that avoid such trickery and instead deliver high-quality content that actually serves user needs and answers their questions are rewarded with a high “quality score,” boosting their Google search rankings.

2. Penguin (April 2012)

This update targeted sites seeking to rise in the Google search rankings by using manipulative link-building (such as purchasing links from link farms) and/or spam links — each of which are detrimental to the user experience. Sites that steer clear of such low-effort tactics for building their links are rewarded with higher search rankings. And to ensure that a site’s links are up to par, SEO professionals can perform link audits.

3. Hummingbird (August 2013)

Made in an effort to help Google provide its users with search results that better match their search intent, this update enables the Google algorithm to provide more relevant results to conversational search queries. Using natural language processing to account for queries that may not contain specific individual keywords but deliver a match for a particular search concept, this update made it possible for a webpage to achieve a high SERP ranking for search queries that might not contain the exact words typed in by the searcher. SEO professionals looking to leverage this update’s impacts to improve rankings should consider synonyms, related searches and concurrent terms when conducting keyword research. Harnessing Google Related Searches and Google Autocomplete predictions can also be a big help in doing this.

4. Mobile (April 2015)

This update sought to improve users’ search experiences on mobile devices by lowering the SERP rankings of web pages lacking a mobile version or delivering a poor user experience on mobile devices. To avoid having their websites penalized, brands should optimize their pages to be mobile-friendly, making sure that they are fast and offer minimal hurdles to usability on mobile devices. Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test can offer assistance in identifying any issues users of mobile devices may encounter on a website.

5. Medic (August 2018)

This update sought to penalize websites providing less-than-trustworthy information on topics with inherently significant impacts on users’ lives, such as those related to health, finances, safety and general well-being. In doing so, the update is widely thought to have included implementation of some of the E-A-T (expertise, authority, trust) ranking measures that aim to ensure that websites are providing reliable information. One way to prevent a brand’s website from seeing lower rankings as a result of this update is to ensure that online content is well-written and provides genuinely helpful answers and valuable information on topics related to users’ queries.

6. BERT (October 2019)

Known by an acronym that stands for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers,” this update rounded out preceding Google updates seeking to better interpret the user intent and nuance behind search queries employing natural language/speech patterns. For brands, this update made it even more important to focus on delivering high-quality, well-constructed, meaningful online content that provides high value to users.

7. Page Experience (2021/2022)

This 2021-2022 Google search algorithm update adds the quality of users’ on-page experiences to the website characteristics that factor into Google’s SERP rankings. To ensure that Google — as well as their website visitors — consider their web pages user-friendly, brands can take steps to improve their websites’ core web vitals, mobile friendliness, browsing safety (freedom from malware, hacked content, etc.) and connection security (https status). Plus, brands can ensure that no critical on-page content is blocked during browsing sessions.

Need some expert help boosting SEO results for your brand? At The Brandon Agency, our data-driven, Google-proficient SEO team has a wealth of experience moving clients up in the SERP rankings — and we’re ready to do the same for you. And that’s not all we can do for you. As a fully integrated marketing firm, TBA can cover the full spectrum of your brand’s marketing needs — from social media and email marketing to e-commerce, digital marketing, creative, analytics and more — all in one place. To get started with help ranging from a simple keyword analysis to a comprehensive strategy built to boost all of your brand’s marketing campaigns, contact us today.


Nick McNeill

Interactive Director

Nick uses his talents in computer science and graphic design to grow the online presence of brands such as Santee Cooper, Southern Tide, frogg toggs, Farmers Telephone Cooperative and Blue Force Gear. A serial marathon runner, his steely determination shines through every brand he grows. As lead user interface designer of the GuestDesk software suite for online hotel reservations, he watched it explode from $1 million in reservations to over $400 million annually.

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