Whether you’re an SEO expert, or you’ve absolutely no idea where to start, Google’s algorithms can catch you out and impact your website in ways you didn’t even know. Google is a search engine giant that introduces minor and major changes to its algorithms regularly; sometimes they’re not noticeable, but other times it requires some work to make sure you’re still appearing in search results.

So, if you’re trying to understand Google’s popular algorithms over the last few years, or you want to see if there’s a correlation between updates and your website’s performance, we’ve provided a breakdown of the biggest Google algorithms to help you make sure your website is well-optimised.


The Panda update was launched in 2011 and was responsible for seeking out duplicate or thin content, as well as keyword stuffing. This update to Google’s algorithm meant that a quality score was assigned to web pages, and penalised those sites that had low quality or spammy content. The quality score has an impact on rankings, so it was in the best interests of a business to take a look at their content.

Panda was originally released as a filter, but it became officially incorporated as a part of Google’s actual algorithm in 2016. That means getting filtered by Panda, and recovering from it, can happen faster than before.

To make sure you’re in line with Panda, check your website for duplicate content; run regular audits on your site to make sure you avoid any future issues. You should also identify any thin content across your site and ensure each page has a good word count of relevant, interesting content that isn’t over-optimised for your keywords.


Released in 2012, the Penguin update was designed to down-rank websites that appeared manipulative. In other words, if you had a lot of spammy or irrelevant links, you could be penalised. Google Penguin identified unnatural link profiles and it works in real time, due to being a part of Google’s core algorithm.

Make sure you are monitoring your link profile, identifying any unusual spikes; look into the new links you’re acquiring. If you find spammy links, request removal of these by contacting webmasters.


The Hummingbird algorithm update was designed to improve search queries, and help Google interpret searches better. Aiming to provide results that match searcher intent, Hummingbird makes it possible for pages to rank for queries even if the page doesn’t contain the exact words that were searched.

Released in 2013, it meant that keywords are still important but are not necessary the be-all and end-all of search engines. You can adjust to this update by expanding your keyword research, including related search and synonyms. You should also take the time to understand your audience’s language and create comprehensive content that can help both SEO and engagement.


Google’s Pigeon update improved local searches, making them more useful and accurate. The update, released in 2014, created closer links between the core algorithm and the local algorithm. This meant traditional SEO factors could now be used to rank local results.

Make sure your pages are optimised properly; local businesses in particularly should be putting effort into their on-page optimisation. Google My Business pages can also help, and are the first step to being included in Google’s local index.

A helpful move for Pigeon is to make sure you are listed in relevant local business directories like Yelp and TripAdvisor; this has had a positive impact on rankings. This is because they act like backlinks as well as ranking well in Google themselves.


In 2015, Google released a huge mobile update to its algorithm that ensured mobile-friendly pages appeared higher in mobile searches. Pages that weren’t optimised for mobile were seriously down-ranked. Mobile friendliness was measured page by page; so one page of your site could be up-ranked due to being mobile friendly, while others wouldn’t make the cut.

This meant that websites needed mobile versions of their pages; it was no longer a recommendation, but a necessity. As mobile searches continued to increase year on year, businesses were missing out if they weren’t mobile friendly. The easiest way to make sure you’re on top of this update is to make sure your website is mobile friendly, and make sure you’re checking speed and usability.


Part of the Hummingbird algorithm, RankBrain is a system that enhances Google’s understanding of the meaning behind search queries. It makes sure the best matched search results appear, and has been dubbed the 3rd most important ranking factor by Google itself.

The general consensus of the RankBrain update is that it identifies relevance on web pages and will arrange results in SERPs, according to the amount of relevant features on a page for that particular query. Make sure your content is optimised for relevance and comprehensiveness. You should also look at user experience and make sure it is at its optimal, as this can have an impact.


The Possum update is related to Google’s local ranking filter; Google will return varied results depending on your location as well as how you’ve phrased your query. In other words, the closer you are physically to a business, the more likely you are to see it in your search results. If you share an address with another business of a similar kind, you may be penalised in the search results.

Launched in 2016, Possum required businesses to carry out geo-specific rank tracking; the location from which you’re checking your rankings also plays a part in the results you get. You should also make sure you’ve expanded your list of local keywords.


Released less than 12 months ago, Google’s Fred update targets websites that go against webmaster guidelines. It was mostly websites that had low quality blog posts created purely for generating ad revenue. Websites with affiliate-heavy or ad-centred content are the ones most likely to suffer from Fred.

Watch out for thin content again, and make sure your ads are appearing on high quality pages with relevant information. In other words; don’t try and trick Google! Review its guidelines and make sure you fully understand how to comply.

If you need help in understanding these updates further, or if you’ve been penalised and need recovery options, get in touch with us today.

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