Improving Search Rank: History of Google Updates
Let’s face it — Google is the Internet, and businesses can no longer avoid playing by their rules because they own the playing field. According to Net Market Share, as of April 2016 Google accounts for 71% of all searches done online, followed by Bing at 12%, and finally Yahoo and Baidu at a measly 7%. The fact is, ranking well in Google searches is not a luxury, it’s a necessity — but doing so might be easier said than done. In order to understand what you need to do to rank on Google, it’s valuable to know where Google has come from and the path it’s traveled. It’s changed a bunch over the years, and understanding the evolution of the platform is important to creating the type of content that will get your business seen today. Following is a brief outline of the major stepping stones in Google’s journey:
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Google Places – 2010, April
Google Places literally put small businesses on the map. It allowed them to place their businesses on Google maps and made a local presence important to search. With the advent of Google Places, businesses could no longer ignore their map listing.
Caffeine – 2010, June
With this update, Google put emphasis on the speed of site indexing and on the addition of new content to the site. The speed of a site became important to its search results at this point, and Google started to reward the fastest sites with higher rankings. Also, the fresher the content, the more Google liked it.
Social Media – 2010, December
By the end of 2010, social media had grown so prevalent that Google could no longer ignore it. Google added to its algorithm the idea that links to social media pages would either help or hurt a page, based on the content of those social media pages and whether or not Google judged the author of that content to be “an authority” on that subject. Bottom line, if an author of social media content linked to your site was seen as being non-authoritative by Google, your site rankings would be penalized.
Panda – “The Farmer Update” – 2011, February
This continues to be the most dreaded of all Google updates, but for those creating quality content, it has the best possible outcome. Up until this time, many websites became known as “Content Farms,” churning out articles stuffed with keywords on a daily basis, not even concerned about the value offered by that content. With Panda, overnight, sites that provided no value to their readers, but merely keyword-rich articles, lost almost 98% of their traffic. Businesses that had built their model on this type of operation saw sales literally stop dead in their tracks.
Penguin – 2012, April
This was the “link-fighting” update. One of the key components that Google continues to use to rank a page is inbound and outbound links. Prior to this update, links from non-authority sites could help a page to rank very well. At this point, however, Google put an emphasis not only on quantity, but on the quality of the links to a site. In other words, site developers could no longer stuff a site with links which were considered non-authoritative by Google, while links to true “authority” sites (meaning Google judges that they have true, valuable content for users) will help in search rankings.
Hummingbird – 2013, August
Noticing an increasing use of voice technology (such as Apple’s Siri) to perform web searches, Google wanted to be the one to have the most immediate answers to users questions. With Hummingbird, Google put an emphasis on the order of words; more specifically, that they were stated as questions or the answer to questions. This allowed users to not only search more efficiently, but it kept Google firmly in their power position among search engines.
Mobile Armageddon – 2015, April
According to Statista.com, 52% of all users now use the Internet primarily on a mobile device. To keep up with this, Google created an update which Entrepreneur.com dubbed “Mobile Armageddon.” According to this update, it was now crucial for sites to be mobile friendly, and sites that were not so, by April 22nd, saw a significant drop in their Google search ranking. Interestingly, Google felt mobile responsiveness for websites to be such a key issue, they informed users at large before this update was released so that they had time to update their sites appropriately. Actually wanting to help at this juncture, Google released a software which would scan your site to see if it would meet the new standards of this release and also provided recommendations on what needed to change.
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Though businesses have oft raised a fever pitch on Google updates, ultimately, the idea of the updates is to offer the best possible search experience for users. It is important as a business—and as a content curator —to create the a the most valuable and user-friendly experience possible. Since Google owns so much real estate in the way of online search, business owners do not have the option to take their ball and go home, rather they must learn to play on Google’s playground.
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