Google’s stance on its audience has always been pretty straightforward – it wishes to improve searchers’ experience. And to ensure that it meets its aims, there have been several updates to its core algorithm since it was launched in 1998.
Before we say anything else, it is noteworthy that Google’s original algorithm, “PageRank,” used backlinks for ranking pages in search results. In those early days, the only things that mattered for ranking in search results were the keywords and the links. However, the norms have gradually changed, and now Google serves a more refined search experience to its users.
Now that we know the importance of backlinks, it should make sense how Google has been constantly trying to alter the link-building strategies. And also how it considers links to measure the quality of a website and its contents.
Here are some of the most significant turn points in Google’s Core Updates’ List. Keep reading to learn more about these updates.
Florida Update 2003
The first-ever update to roll out from Google search labs, the Florida Update, changed the search forever. In 2003, when the update was rolled out, spammy practices like keyword stuffing and hidden links were common. But, with the rollout of the Florida update, all this changed for good. Most of the websites that were affected witnessed a drastic drop in their traffic almost instantly. Some of the industries that were affected by this update include hotels, clothing, and jewelry.
The Jagger Update 2005
In September 2005, Google rolled out a significant update, and it was informally named the Jagger update. Though many believed that Google favored old websites because this update affected mostly newer websites, this isn’t entirely true. Indeed the update focused on irrelevant anchor texts and spammy links. If you’re thinking about how to build backlinks in 2021, this update is still essential for you. Since most of the new website owners bulk buy links, it triggers spam and ultimately drops them down in the SERPs.
Big Daddy 2006
The next big update Google rolled out was in 2006, named it as the Big Daddy update. Although this update was an extension to the Jagger update, many marketers still consider it separately. Nonetheless, it further refined the search quality for results affecting sites with low-quality inbound and outbound links.
Caffeine Update 2010
The next big update concerning links was rolled out in June 2010 and named Caffeine. The name supposedly signified the recency and speed that Google adopted in indexing fresh and new content online. The update changed how SEOs were using old pieces of content to gain more and more traffic online. According to a spokesperson, Google could now crawl, index, and show the most recent content in search results using links only.
The Panda 2011
Between 2005 and 2011, Google rolled out several updates to its core algorithm. And they all intended to offer a more streamlined user experience. However, it wasn’t until August of 2011 that Google rolled out an update solely concerning backlinks. The update was formally named Panda. Websites with irrelevant backlinks from thin or low-quality content pages witnessed a drop in rankings post this update.
Within six months of rolling out Panda, Google rolled out another major update to its core algorithm – Penguin. This was also the first time Google also coined the term “Black Hat SEO.” Websites that used link farms or bulk links from just about any website were negatively affected. We recommend you read more, constantly been about this update for a better understanding. Nonetheless, since Penguin was rolled out, link farming has reduced significantly.
The Hummingbird 2013
Since, Caffeine back in 2010, Hummingbird was the only update that Google rolled out to refine its search results. It now used Natural Language Processing and Latent Semantic Indexing to better understand the user intent behind a search query. And it is still an essential part of Google’s core algorithm. Notably, this update also changed anchor selection for link building.
Though it wasn’t purely an update, many refer to is an extension for the Hummingbird update. As a matter of fact, the Hummingbird algorithm uses RankBrain to refine its understanding of the search intent. Since RankBrain is a machine learning system that allowed google to understand the intent or context of the content, it helped match search queries better. It used links, anchors, keywords, and the content around it to measure relevance and intent.
BERT Update 2019
Last but not least is the BERT update rolled out by Google in October 2019. Though the update did not affect link-building practices directly, it still had affected how links were created. The update actually focused on language. According to SEO experts, the content created for link-building practices needs to be relevant and should bring in trust naturally. Ultimately, affecting the link quality for a website.
2020 Core Updates
This was the first time ever when Google rolled out three core updates back to back within a year. The first update was rolled out on 13 January 2020 and was referred to as a broad core update by many SEO enthusiasts. Later, in May, Google rolled out another update closely related to the one rolled out in January. The latest update that Google rolled out was in December 2020. All three of these updates were more or less generic. They did not target any particular topic or industry as such. However, healthcare and finance websites were the worst hit, according to several reports. It is noteworthy that all these three updates considered trust signals for improving SERP results. And from our experience, we already know what trust signals refer to – Backlinks!
There are several other updates and guidelines from Google that govern link-building practices. For example, YMYL update and E-A-T policies concern the content and natural link building. Pigeon update focused on trust signals for local searches or regional businesses.
It is pretty obvious that there are many more updates to come in the future. Google is constantly trying to improve its customers’ experience, and we all know who it is – the searcher.
So far, it can be assumed that as long as the link building and supporting practices are focused on the end-user and are in compliance with Google’s guidelines, there is no way a webpage shouldn’t improve in organic search rankings.