Every effort we make to boost our rankings is a result of the parameters that Google sets out. Over time, Internet users found ways to game the system to gain results, taking shortcuts to get to the top of rankings. Google quickly started to take notice, and developed algorithms to crack down on shady or “black hat” SEO practices. These updates have only become more advanced since their inception. Below we provide a brief history of Google’s most prominent algorithm updates.


Google Panda launched in February 2011. The main focus of this update was to evaluate content on webpages and crack down on poor content. Panda became an official part of Google’s ranking algorithm in 2016.

Panda is known to track down elements of poor SEO such as duplicate and plagiarized content, keyword stuffing, and content that provides a poor user experience.


Google Penguin launched in April 2012. Its purpose is to locate sites that employ poor or “spammy” links to increase their rankings. Penguin has caught many sites using poor linking tactics and has severely punished them. It is believed that Penguin can crack down on websites in real-time, but it also allows these sites to mend the damage faster.

Penguin penalizes sites that link to spammy sites, links that are paid for, and links that come from overly-optimized text.


Hummingbird launched in August 2013 in order to produce the most relevance to search queries. This means that searches are tailored to match the true intent of the user, rather than having a search based on keywords. Hummingbird sets out to find more meaning to searches, rewarding sites that produce high-quality original content.

Hummingbird penalizes sites that suspiciously attempt keyword matching, sites that stuff their content with keywords, and sites that have a poor user experience.


Pigeon launched in July 2014. Pigeon is designed to bring more relevance to searchers based on their location. Pigeon’s launch means the same SEO factors are being implemented to rank local and non-local results. This process emphasizes local directories and enhances the search capabilities of both Google Search and Google Maps.

Pigeon is may penalize webpages that are not optimized well and sites that do not have a strong backlink profile.

Mobile-Friendly Update

Google’s Mobile update was launched in April 2015 to reward sites that feature pages that are properly optimized for mobile browsing. This was an important update, as a huge number of searches now come from mobile devices. Websites are now being judged for how mobile-friendly they are.

When evaluating how mobile-friendly a site is, Google bases it off factors such as viewpoint configuration and eligible content.


RankBrain was launched in October 2015 as a way to secure better results from more relevant searches. RankBrain helps Google find “meaning” behind searches and, in turn, delivers better results. RankBrain is reliant on finding query-specific searches and evaluates the value of a site.

We highly encourage you to find out as much as you can about these updates to how your site complies with their regulations. Again, do not look for a shortcut around them. When it comes to detecting faulty SEO, Google has a very particular set of skills. They will find you, and they will penalize you.


In early March 2017, it was widely reported that Google had implemented a significant new, unverified search ranking update. An update that essentially no one saw coming, “Fred” purportedly caused a considerable number of websites’ rankings to decrease within the search engine results pages (SERPs), alarming SEO professionals.

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