We all know how difficult it is to keep up with what Google is doing these days and 2013 has been no exception to this. Generally we can expect over 500 – 600 minor Google Algorithm updates each year. But which ones of these should you take notice of? And also which ones are likely to affect our businesses? For online marketeers knowing the dates of these Google updates can help you pinpoint fluctuations in rankings, search traffic and help you improve your search engine optimisation. Well let us put you out your miseries and have a strong start to the new SEO year by giving you a breakdown and overview of the most popular and relevant Google algorithm updates of 2013.
Penguin 2.1 (#5) October 2013
Late one Friday afternoon, Google’s Matt Cutts announced on Twitter that they unleashed Penguin update 2.1. Given the 2.1 designation, this was probably a data update (primarily) and not a major change to the Penguin algorithm. The overall impact seemed to be moderate, although some webmasters reported being hit hard.
All over SEO and Webmaster forums, many screenshots exist of Google Analytics showing websites that were totally destroyed by this update, we’ve also seen screenshots of websites that have recovered in a major way from previous penguin updates. This had huge swings both ways for online marketeers and Web Masters.
Hummingbird August 2013
Announced on September 26th, Google suggested that the “Hummingbird” update rolled out about a month earlier. Hummingbird has been compared to Caffeine, and seems to be a core algorithm update that will make ongoing changes to semantic search and knowledge graph over future months.
It is suggested that the Google Hummingbird update will also be making changes to “Conversational Search” and “Location Based Search”. In particular, Google said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.
In-depth Articles August 2013
Often when you are searching on Google for a person or organisation, or other broad topic, you’ll find a block of search results labelled “In-depth articles”. These search results provide high-quality content to help you learn about or explore a subject. We know Google released this update around the beginning of August and these results appeared across about 3% of english search results.
Knowledge Graph Expansion July 2013
Seemingly overnight, queries with Knowledge Graph (KG) entries expanded. We now see brands large and small reaping the benefits of KG results for their relevant search terms.
It provides structured and detailed information about the topic in addition to a list of links to other sites. The goal is that users would be able to use this information to resolve their query without having to navigate to other sites and assemble the information themselves.
Panda Recovery July 2013
Google confirmed a Panda update, but the community was unsure whether this was one of the 10-day rolling updates or something new. The speculation was that this was algorithmic and may have “softened” some previous Panda penalties.
Panda Dance June 2013
At SMX Advanced in Seattle, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of web spam, announced that the Panda algorithm is still being updated every month, but that update is rolled out slowly throughout the month. It is like a Google Dance, but in this case, a Panda Dance.
“Payday Loan” Update June 2013
Google announced a targeted algorithm update to take on niches with notoriously spammy results, specifically mentioning payday loans and porn.
Penguin 2.0 (#4) May 2013
With months of speculation and hype, the 4th Penguin update dubbed 2.0 by Google arrived with only moderate impact. The exact nature of the changes were unclear however Matt Cutts specifically said that 2.3% of english search queries will be noticeably impacted by this spam fighting update.
Domain Crowding May 2013
Google released an update to control domain crowding/diversity deep within the search results pages (pages 2+).
The timing was unclear but it seemed to roll out prior to Penguin #2.0. For those of you that don’t know, a domain crowd is anywhere you see sequential results in the SERPs from the same domain. This is especially visible in the travel industry where a site like Trip Advisor might be visible for multiple results on a search like “Hotel reviews London”.
“Phantom” May 2013
During May 2013 there were many reports of algorithm updates, although nothing was confirmed by Google and the nature of the updates are unknown. Moz was able to verify algorithm changes due to high MozCast activity. Little is known but many sites reported significant traffic loss during this period.
Panda #25 March 2013
Matt Cutts pre-announced this Panda update at SMX West and suggested it would be the last update before Panda was integrated into the core algorithm. Many Web Masters and Marketeers were claiming rank changes for better or worse. Panda #24 January 2013 In January 2013 Google announced via Twitter that they pushed out the 24th iteration of the Panda update since its launch in February 2011. Google confirmed this update had a noticeable impact on 1.2% of english queries. In all honesty, the forums were not that noisy about this change and many marketers saw little to no effect on their campaigns.
So there it is, a whole year of Google algorithm updates and an overview of the ones most likely to affect your business, whether that be positively or negatively. So here’s to a happy new year of 2014 Google updates, we keep up to date with the changes so you don’t have to. If you want be kept up to date with the latest search trends of 2014, then all you need to do is subscribe to our blog and we’ll be more than happy to bring you up to speed on changes as they happen in 2014.