Basics of Google Algorithms: History, Types, Most Recent and Effects

Google Algorithms in order

Let’s talk basics of the Google algorithms and how it affects content publishing and marketing industry today.

There’s need to discuss this for if you don’t understand the impacts of these periodic updates on SEO, you’re likely going to be hit any time. And worst still, you may not get out of it anytime sooner.

In this post, I will be taking you by hands and show you:

  1. What Google algorithm is all about and how it works
  2. Google algorithm names or types experienced in the past and if you should expect them again in the future
  3. The current or most recent algorithms (types) and how it’s affecting writers like you and me.
  4. How to Survive possible algorithms coming

What’s Google's Algorithm and How Does it Work

In simple terms, Google’s Algorithm is a system designed to provide the right results for every Google search user. The system helps to ascertain the correctness and quality of content being served in the search results.

Google’s main focus, in its search service, is to help users while the display of your content is secondary. The only way your content will, of course, be favored by these algorithms is if it satisfies the terms and instructions of the updates.

As a result, Google rolls out these updates to clean the internet of what is not relevant and retain what is more relevant to search terms.

Google’s Algorithm is better compared to your local police. Its duty is to upload the laws, arrest criminals and protect lives and properties. The algorithm throws wrong, poor and inferior content off the results and upholds the content that matches Google publishers' guidelines and serves the users best.

I had shared my personal experience with these Google periodic updates in my post, “Google Algorithm: Can It Be Avoided? What to Do If You're Hit?”. In the post, I narrated how I was hit and eventually got out of the mess. I also shared how I had been writing to be free of any future hit.

Google is learning daily - how its users search for information and interact with the results. Therefore, things can’t be static because searches and uses of results are not fixed too.

It’s this system of updates that Google sends online with specific instructions of what they think will serve users the best. This system will sweep the internet and reshuffle the search results to favor content based on the given instructions.

For instance, If Google’s Algorithm is aimed at favoring the authority of the writers, publishers with specified and qualified bio-data, academic and professional details will be favored. If it’s meant to favor detailed content, publishers with skyscraper content will be ranked.

Google’s Algorithm Names or Types Experienced in the Past

Google has been throwing us these updates for years. And if you’ve been writing for some years now, one of the following Algolthims may sound familiar.
  1. Panda: Launched February 24, 2011, was aimed at duplicate, plagiarized or thin content; user-generated spam; keyword stuffing
  2. Penguin: Launched April 24, 2012, was aimed at spammy or irrelevant links; links with over-optimized anchor text.
  3. Hummingbird: Launched August 22, 2013, was aimed at keyword stuffing; low-quality content
  4. Pigeon: Launched July 24, 2014 (US); December 22, 2014 (UK, Canada, Australia) was aimedPoor on- and off-page SEO
  5. Mobile: Launched April 21, 2015, was aimed at lack of a mobile version of the page; poor mobile usability
  6. RankBrain: Launched October 26, 2015, was aimed at ack of query-specific relevance features; shallow content; poor UX
  7. Possum: Launched September 1, 2016, was aimed at the tense competition in your target location
  8. Fred: Launched March 8, 2017, was aimed at thin, affiliate-heavy or ad-centered content
  9. Featured Snippet: Launched Sometimes before 2016, was aimed at The number of quick answer boxes and featured snippets were steadily increasing up until 2016 when they were finally officially announced by Google as Featured Snippets (many of us had been already calling them that).
  10. Featured Snippet (Duplicate Discountinued): Launched January 23, 2020, was aimed at Google officials announced that it has rolled out an algorithm update that will restrict URLs that are shown in the featured snippet to appear again within the first ten organic search results.

Important Lessons Learned From The Past Algorithms

  1. Google has not settled on its periodic updates. It will continually be hitting the world of content marketing with one or two algorithms within months.
  2. The listed updates are the only BIG and well-known. However, there are a few daily algorithms not mentioned here. If you’re in a forum of publishers, you’re likely going to be seeing daily, people sharing notices of minor updates and hits. Google may throw more than once in a day. Though it may not hit us big to warrant industry discussion.
  3. Featured Snippets Update: Even though we’ll be having several mini-updates across the days, yet Google may not be too quick at pushing major updates. Hence, in the meantime, there’s one major and the most recent algorithm that will stand the test of time. It’s the featured snippets update.
  4. Just as featured snippet is dated back to before 2016, this algorithm is here to stay and remain being pushed for several years to come. Such updates may be manipulations of the existing updates.
  5. Google will still be introducing more updates depends on the users' interactions with searches and results.

Question Around the Featured Snippets Updates

  • Can I be hit by this?
  • Won’t I be ranked if my content is not featured-snippet proof?
  • Do I need to be ranked for snippets to succeed at blogging?

In direct response, let me summarise the answers to your concerns on the snippet algorithm.
  1. The snippet is just a result of its own. Hence, if you’re not featured as a result of not being favored by the algorithm, you can still be ranked, as usual, at other positions – 2nd, 3rd or anywhere on page one. Here are reasons you may not be ranked on page one.
  2. Snippet algorithms have caused both harm and good to online content marketers. While some rebuke being featured, some are still dying to have their content at position “0”. I shared my experience on this and how I was favored by the algorithm but instead of increasing my traffic, I suffered a drop. Then, guided those who want to back out of the algorithm or those who want to game it in my post, “How to Stop Content From Google Featured Snippets and Boost Traffic Again”.
  3. Whether you’re favored by this update positively or negatively or you don’t want to be touched, it’s the truth that Google will favor these updates sometimes before any major algorithms.

How to Future-Proof Your Content Against Algorithms

It’s obvious that no one can duck the punches form Google when it rolls any of its algorithms. It’s either you’re favored or you’re sanctioned.

However, there is one thing Google has not been able to avoid in any of the past updates, and most possibly in the future ones. And that’s not firing against its own writers' guidelines.

In fact, it’s best to say that Google algorithms are reminders of how important publishers should follow the laid down rules of writing and publication. If you’re following the basics of quality content, as ever known, you’re more likely to be free from being hit by any rollouts. And if ever hit, all you do is wait for your content to be back online. This can only happen if you’d all things done well before the updates, in the first place. And if you’ve not, it’s time to go back to the basics.

Conclusion

A few types of Google algorithms had come and gone. As mentioned earlier, we’re more likely to see them, or versions of, again. The understanding of history will safe us some pain for the future.

The only way out of being hit is following the basics. It may be obvious but hardly adhered to.

And as for the most recent of all, the featured snippets, being hit doesn’t kill your position in the ranking. It’s not all you need to win more traffic. It’s a fact of finding out if it’s right to take for you or something you should be pleased with.

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