Google algorithms are a comprehensive system used to rank websites on the search results in order to deliver the most relevant results to searchers.
Keeping up with Google Algorithm Updates is challenging, but inevitable. Believe it or not, Google updates its algorithm several thousand times yearly!
However, most of these changes are slight, while significant changes are released 3-4 times per year. These impactful changes are referred to as ‘Core updates’.
How do Google Core Updates Affect SEO?
Google Core Updates are designed to improve the relevancy of search results.
As they make notable effects, they can drastically affect the SEO of a large number of web pages. Consequently, the search rankings of some pages drop after a core update, while others get their ranking position improved.
Moreover, some core updates may also affect the structure of SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) by adding and modifying properties in the SERPs, such as featured snippets, Knowledge Graph panels, People Also Ask, etc.
Therefore, it’s vitally important to identify and learn more about core updates in order to improve the website’s ranking position. Typically, Google announces core updates on Google Webmaster Central Blog before rolling them out.
Aleph Website discloses the 6 most important Google algorithm updates that every small business needs to keep up.
Google uses RankBrain to understand the search intent and process search queries. It is a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that tweaks the algorithm on its own.
RankBraing has two main responsibilities:
- Understand Keywords (Search Queries)
- Measure User Satisfaction
1.1. How Does RankBrain Understand Keywords?
Google is not all-knowing, and there are always new search queries (keywords) that Google has not seen before.
So, how does Google understand these never-before-seen search queries?
Before RankBrain, Google used to scan web pages to find if they include an exact keyword phrase. Put differently, it is used to match words in the search queries with words contained on the web pages. As a result, when encountering never-before-seen keywords, Google guessed what users meant.
However, RankBrain helps Google think as a human, and accurately figure out what users need and search for. To do so, this algorithm matches these keywords to those that Google has seen before. In other words, by finding the correlation between familiar and unfamiliar keywords, RankBrain learns more about what users mean by particular search queries.
This way, RankBrain goes beyond keywords, considering the conceptual meaning of search queries and focusing on entities.
1.2. How Does RankBrain Measure Users’ Experience?
Once RankBrain figures out the conceptual meaning of search query (keyword), it delivers search results considered as the most relevant for that concept.
However, this is not the last station.
In order to evaluate the user experience, RankBrain observes how visitors interact with the page.
To do so, it measures user experience signals:
- Click through rate
- Spent time
- Bounce rate
- Pogo Sticking (when a user visits several different search results, which indicates that he’s not satisfied with the firstly visited)
Although the majority of searchers click through the first result on SERP, if this result is not satisfactory, visitors will leave quickly and try to find what they need somewhere else. RankBrain recognizes these UX signals and uses them to determine the ranking position.
2. BERT Update
BERT update is announced in 2019 as an algorithm that helps Google better understand the context and nuance of search queries to provide the most relevant results.
BERT processes a natural language and recognizes entities. It helps identify entities and the relationship between them more precisely than ever.
This is why we tell that Bert supplements RankBrain, as both of these algorithms are responsible for understanding concepts and entities.
According to Google:
“Particularly for longer, more conversational queries, or searches where prepositions like “for” and “to” matter a lot to the meaning, Search will be able to understand the context of the words in your query.”
Put differently, BERT reads queries in the same way as we do – as a whole text considering the context of words, not as individual words.
Therefore, BERT has made Google more humanlike allowing users to get relevant results when using natural language.
Aside from this, BETA has made it possible to deliver featured snippets that increase visibility to searchers and improve brand recognition.
3. MUM Update
In May 2021, Google announce the MUM (Multitask Unified Model) update and introduces it as ‘A new AI milestone for understanding information that helps Google with complex tasks.
The most powerful responsibilities of MUM Updates are:
- Reducing Language Barriers
- Providing relevant results for complicated queries
- Understanding information from different formats
- Improve localized search results using local languages
3.1. How Does MUM Reduce Language Barriers?
MUM transfers information from sources across languages in order to deliver the most relevant results in the language of the search query. This way, you can learn from the results that are written in other languages than the language of the query you search in.
By doing so, MUM helps Google deliver more accurate and relevant information across the world.
According to the Google MUM announcement:
‘’MUM is 1,000 times more powerful than BERT. MUM not only understands language but also generates it. It’s trained across 75 different languages and many different tasks at once, allowing it to develop a more comprehensive understanding of information…’’.
3.2. How Does MUM Help Google with Complex Tasks?
When searching for complex answers, people take 8 searches on average to get things done. MUM updates help users get all information they’re searching for with fewer searches.
Take a look at Google’s example of a complicated search query:
“I’ve hiked Mt. Adams and now want to hike Mt. Fuji next fall, what should I do differently to prepare?”
This is a complex task that requires comparative information. Also, MUM understands the context of the word ‘preparation’, so it can include fitness training.
In essence, MUM helps with Niche targeting into specific topics. In doing so, we are able to hone in a Niche industry, market, business, and any topic for that matter.
3.3. MUM Understands information from different formats
Mum is multimodal, so it can understand information across different formats including images, video, and audio.
4. Penguin algorithm
Since backlinks have been one of the most impactful ranking signals in Google’s search algorithm, many websites tend to manipulate them in order to increase their ranking position.
In order to penalize websites that use Grey Hat SEM tactics such as link manipulation and keyword stuffing, Google officially launched the Penguin update in 2012 as a “webspam algorithm update”, and updated it several times. Most importantly, this algorithm has been incorporated into Google’s core algorithm since 2016.
According to Google’s Search Central Blog:
‘Here are the key changes you’ll see, which were also among webmasters’ top requests to us:
1. Penguin is now real-time. Penguin’s data is refreshed in real time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after we recrawl and reindex a page. It also means we’re not going to comment on future refreshes.
2. Penguin is now more granular. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.’
This is why penguin is important – the update touches multiple ranking factors, improving search results significantly; especially backlinks (pagerank algo).
5. Hummingbird Update
Hummingbird update was announced in 2013 and described as the greatest change since 2001. It was called Hummingbird because it was created to deliver more precise and faster results.
Matt Cutts, a former Google Webspam Team, makes it clear that the Hummingbird is not a core algorithm, but a rewrite of the entire core algorithm. This rewrite aims to help Google better understand longer conversational search queries on mobile devices.
Before Hummingbird, Google would rank pages that contained exact match keywords. This algorithm enables Google to stop relying on exact matching, so it could ignore some words in search queries in order to understand the meaning better.
To achieve so, Hummingbird uses different techniques including query expansion. Query expansion reformulates a search query to a new query with the same meaning. Thus, this algorithm uses synonyms to find more relevant search results.
Therefore, the key impacts of the Hummingbird algorithm are the following:
- It understands search queries more precisely
- It enables Google to identify which words are important
- It enables Google to stop relying on exact matching keywords.
6. Helpful Content Update
The rollout of Helpful Content Update was completed at the beginning of September 2022. It aims to help Google provide users with more satisfying and helpful content that meets their needs. Therefore, the people-first approach is more important than ever, so make sure that the website content is not written for search engines first, but for people.
Basically, this update identifies websites that have a high amount of unsatisfying and unhelpful content. As a result, this content will harm their ranking position and overall SEO performance.
Most importantly, this algorithm is sitewide which means it affects the whole site, not only individual pages. If you have helpful pages but a high amount of website content is unhelpful, even the helpful pages will be affected by this update. Therefore, removing unhelpful content could help the overall website performance.
summary: 6 Most Important Google Algorithm Updates
- Helpful Content
- PageRank algorithm – Why is it still crucial and how to improve
- 8 Great Tips on How to Improve Website User Experience
- What is topical authority SEO?
- Effective User Experience Measuring: How Does Google Evaluate UX?
- How to Create a Content Strategy that targets search intent
- How to get backlinks for any small business website?