2019 Guide to Google Algorithms

Important Google Algorithms & How They Impact Page Rank

Google Updates Impact SEO

 If you are a digital marketer, you probably know that Google makes subtle changes to its algorithms very frequently.  As a matter of fact, Google’s algorithm changes can be seen on a daily basis.  Although algorithm changes occur all the time, most of the changes are not obvious to users and don’t always affect search engine optimization or ranking. 

This past April, an indexing bug effected Google Search Console.  Alterations to indexing were reported, and it was established that a large number of sites had been dropped from the Google index.  Many websites lost their rankings for keywords and search terms they would have ranked for previously.

Although Google’s algorithm change did not affect the majority of websites, it did have an impact on many people and businesses. 


A tweet by @searchliaison announced the problem had been fixed when Google had resolved the issue.

March 2019 Core Update

The March 2019 Core Update was put in motion on March 12.  As many are aware, Google does broad core updates at least several times a year.  Although this update wasn’t a big deal, it was given a name in order to prevent confusion with the changes.  Read Google’s statement below:

 “This was a noticeable update that we felt warranted confirming, in keeping with what we’ve said before.  But it is far from being the biggest update Google has ever done. We’re not characterizing it beyond that.”

What Is An Algorithm?

Before we begin to discuss some of Google’s major algorithm changes that were highly publicized, let discuss what the word algorithm actually means.  In computer science, an algorithm is a set of rules or processes that are to be followed in calculations and automated reasoning.  As described by Wikipedia:

“In computer systems, an algorithm is basically an instance of logic written in software by software developers, to be effective for the intended “target” computer(s) to produce output from given (perhaps null) input.”

Let’s look more at some of the major algorithms below:

Past Google Updates Digital Marketers Should Know


Google Panda

Background: In February 2011, the Google Panda algorithm was introduced.  Panda initiated a change to Google’s search ranking algorithm that was based on quality of content.  If a site didn’t meet the updated quality standards, signals would be sent that would lower the site’s ranking.

This major change with Google’s ranking algorithm aimed to give priority to higher quality sites.  This, in turn, would provide an enhanced user experience and filter any websites containing “thin” or duplicate content.  Content farms in particular were targeted.  For more information on thin content, visit this page from Yoast SEO.

The Introduction of Panda commenced a new focus on quality content to maintain higher standards for ranking sites.  The websites found to have a lower level of quality content (such as the thin or duplicate content mentioned above) were prevented from ranking in organic results.  You can read more about Google’s guidelines for quality content here.

To Do:  Use canonical tags to show search engines which page within a website is most important (the main page of a website).  This technique is especially useful in combatting situations where duplicate content is present and the Panda algorithm would lead to a lower ranking.

Tools to Use:  Siteliner or Small SEO Tools to identify duplicate content within your webpages.  Small SEO Tools goes through each sentence of content, line by line.  SEMrush can also be used to find quality content issues.


Google Penguin

Background: The Penguin update focuses on identifying spammy links and penalizing those sites.  This update was launched in April 2012.   Penguin enables Google to identify and penalize websites that don’t meet Google’s quality standards.  This update distinguishes websites that buy links, use PBN’s or attempt to manipulate Google in other ways to achieve a higher ranking and lowers their ranking.

Google Penguin 4.0 came out in 2016.  Penguin 4.0 can pinpoint spammy or manipulative links in real time.  Rather than it taking weeks or months for a site to be penalized for low quality links, Google has the ability to know immediately the quality of a link.

Google Hummingbird

Background: Google’s Hummingbird update, which was launched in 2013, is said to have preceded Google’s RankBrain algorithm (which is somewhat of a continuation of Hummingbird).  This important update was a major change to Google’s core algorithm.  Hummingbird aimed to understand the intent of the user when doing a search on Google. 

The Hummingbird update enabled Google to better understand what a user is searching for in a search query.  In effect, the ensuing results are much more relevant than results from previous times.  Hummingbird provides a level of sophistication and artificial intelligence to SEO that had previously never been observed.


 Google Pigeon:

Background: The Pigeon algorithm was released by Google in July, 2014. The Pigeon update came before the Possum update of 2016, and both impacted search results of local listings.. 

Pigeon was introduced to improve local SEO results and increase the rankings of local listings.  The changes impacted organic and maps results and were seen across the board.

To Do: Make sure name, address, and phone number are consistent in all local listings.  Discrepancies can affect local ranking and confuse Google (which could also lead to faulty search results).


Google RankBrain:

Background: Following the major developments with Hummingbird came Google’s RankBrain algorithm.  RankBrain was first confirmed in 2015. RankBrain is a progressive update which uses AI and machine learning to improve upon the way Google determines search results.  In addition, search results are constructed around user queries and a combination of other online signals that are carefully analyzed and understood by Google.

RankBrain marks a huge innovation for Google in the ability to measure user intent and experience in a way that is always improving on it’s own.  Google’s ability to interpret and comprehend the intent of the user has improved with both the Hummingbird and RankBrain updates.

Google Possum

Background: The Possum algorithm was introduced by Google in 2016.  The possum update impacted local results and organic search.   Five major changes were observed to assist in effecting ranking. 

  1. the location of the searcher
  2. variations of keywords conducted in search
  3. the location of the business (NAP)
  4. more “location” flexibility
  5. local algorithm improvements

Increased focus on local quality signals (to determine ranking results) was created with Google’s Possum algorithm update.

In Conclusion:

Google changes and improves upon it’s algorithm on a daily basis.  These changes don’t always affect page ranking or search engine optimization, but many times they do.  By staying on top of the latest digital marketing news and understanding major algorithm updates, it is possible to make changes as they come and maintain a positive ranking.  It’s also important, as a long term strategy, to have many of the same long term goals as Google when evaluating the quality of your site.

Rankings change here and there all the time.  Things are updated and improved frequently in the digital marketing world.  Staying informed and following best practices will help you be more prepared to any such changes which could effect your website.

Don’t forget, it’s also essential to know where your website stands.  If you want to be fully prepared for anything that can happen in the future, you should take a deeper look at your site with a full site analysis.  You can visit here to find out your SEO score for free.  Being in the know will help you as you continue to improve your site and ranking.

Maintaining higher standards that abide by Google’s guidelines is the only good preventative to being negatively impacted by updates and changes.  By focusing on quality and staying informed you will realize there is really nothing to worry about.  Just stay on top of everything and make changes as they come!