Whether you own a small blog or an eCommerce business, you have probably heard about Google’s algorithm updates. The thing about Google is that it is by far the most popular search engine. In just one month, Google records more than 80 billion visits. And its algorithm updates impact every website owner.
The Google algorithm is the most important SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) factor for any website, small or large. This article aims to explain how (and why) Google updates its algorithm and how to prepare your website for future algorithm updates.
What is Google’s Algorithm and How Does it Work
Let’s start with the basics and understand what Google’s algorithm actually is. You can think of Google as an endless database. In this database, there are billions of indexed pages. The algorithm helps Google’s users search for something and find the best result for their query.
But how exactly does this work? Well, the Google algorithm uses hundreds of filters to find the optimal answer to that query. Those filters are widely known as ranking factors. Let’s take a look at them.
Google Algorithm: Ranking Factors
Throughout the years, Google has been enhancing its algorithm with new ranking factors. This helps the platform to eliminate spammy, low-quality websites from its search results while promoting SEO-friendly ones.
When Google’s algorithm was developed, it was set to rank a website based on the number of backlinks. The more links pointing to a website, the higher it ranked in search results. But, it was too easy to cheat the system and the search results were flooded with irrelevant listings, which made it less efficient for users to find an answer. Since then, Google’s algorithm has been updated multiple times.
In 2022, some of Google’s main ranking factors are:
- Content quality (readability, writing quality, length, visuals, etc.)
- Mobile optimisation
- Page speed and core vitals
- User experience (UX)
- Internal links (useful links pointing to other relevant pages)
- Backlinks (external links signalling authority)
- On-page optimisation (keywords, metadata, etc)
Every time Google introduces a new update to its algorithm, some of the factors above are slightly modified to make the ranking process more “fair” (at least, by Google’s standards).
But, what does an update include? Let’s have a deeper look.
Google Algorithm Updates: Everything There Is To Know
Google’s SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) are not static. This is the main reason why Google’s algorithm updates are very important for every website. Every once in a while, webmasters are called to adjust their SEO-related strategies according to the latest algorithm update.
What is an Algorithm Update?
As the name suggests, a Google algorithm update is nothing more than an update Google applies to the formula (or rules) it uses to rank web pages. In other words, an update is Google’s small (or sometimes large) tweaks and adjustments to the algorithm that sorts its listings.
Well, historically, certain websites found ways to manipulate Google SERPs. In that way, they helped their web pages rank higher for search enquiries when they shouldn’t. And this is exactly what a Google algorithm update aims to terminate.
In the last 10+ years, Google has been regularly optimising its algorithm. This is why it is important to have a look at the most important updates that took place during this period.
The Most Important Algorithm Updates
- Panda (2011): Back in 2011, Google improved its main ranking factors concerning plagiarism and spam. Since 2011, valuable content has always been Google’s top priority.
- Penguin (2012): A year later, Penguin focused on the quality and relevance of backlinks.
- Hummingbird (2013): With Hummingbird, the algorithm was improved to understand more than just keywords (goal: to eliminate SEO-tailored, low-quality posts).
- Mobile (2015): As the name suggests, Mobile introduced a new era when mobile optimisation started playing a crucial role in a page’s rank.
- RankBrain (2015): RankBrain was much more than just an algorithm update. With this new MLS (Machine Learning System), the algorithm was taught to take UX, content value and relevance into account.
- Bert (2019): Bert introduced a new (natural language) processing technology to the algorithm, employing machine learning to handle phrased search queries. This allowed Google’s algorithm to REALLY understand the context of keywords and searcher intent.
- Google Core Updates (2017-2022): Since 2017, Google has applied a few major changes to the algorithm’s core. The basic elements of the Google Core update usually revolve around a page’s mobile-friendliness, speed, safety, stability and interactivity.
Google’s Algorithm Updates: Trends in 2022
It becomes evident why Google’s algorithm updates are a big thing for SEO efforts. Although Google’s tweaks aren’t always transparent, it is safe to say that a few elements will always play an important role in keyword rankings.
For starters, the quality of the content is very important. In 2022, long posts (1500+ words) that really aim at helping the reader deeply understand the topic usually perform much better. Mobile-friendliness is also a must for websites nowadays. The more mobile-friendly a page is, the better it will rank in Google.
Additionally, visuals (images, videos, infographics, etc.) and audio (e.g., podcast) also help pages rank higher in 2022. Finally, backlink quality (authority, no-follow/do-follow), internal links, and relevance play an important role in SEO.
But, the next algorithm update could change some of the ranking factors above. So, what tips will help you prepare your website for upcoming SEO-related updates?
Preparing for an Algorithm Update: 5 Tips To Follow
There are a few things you can do to make sure that your rankings will be improved (or at least won’t be affected) after a Google algorithm update:
- Always focus on quality: By creating valuable content, you make sure that your pages will always rank higher than your competitors.
- Aim on mobile-friendliness and UX: No matter what tweaks Google applies to the algorithm, responsiveness and user experience will always be important ranking factors.
- Prioritise visual and audio content: Images, videos, infographics, and audio content are most likely the future of SEO.
- Read the Google report: After every update, Google publishes a Web Vitals report explaining a few changes. Reading this report will help you understand the update better.
- Hire an SEO strategist: By hiring a digital strategist, you won’t have to stress about any upcoming updates to the Google algorithm. A top-notch professional will adjust your SEO strategies accordingly and, therefore, save you time and money.
By reading this post, you have learned everything you need to know about Google’s algorithm and what those pesky updates are really all about. Most importantly you should be more confident knowing how to prepare for updates to come.
With SEO there are some very important things to keep in mind. Don’t try and cheat the system. Google prioritises quality, so if you are already creating valuable, helpful content and optimising well, you should have nothing to worry about!