Google has a long recent history of famous algorithm updates, search index changes and refreshes. As SEO consultants it is our job to be on constant alert for changes in Google’s ever-evolving algorithm … but that doesn’t mean we don’t miss one of their frequent algorithm updates every now and then.

For a typical search query in Google, there are thousands, if not millions, of webpages that are supplying helpful information related to that specific query. The Google algorithm is a computer process and set of formulas that take your questions and turn them into answers. Today Google’s algorithms rely on more than 200 unique signals that make it possible for Google to provide you with relevant information related to what you might really be looking for.

There are many components to Google’s search process and the results page, and they are frequently updating their system and technologies to deliver the searcher better search results.

Over the last few years Google has constantly tune and refined its algorithm. Below is a list of some of the recent major Google algorithm updates that have occurred over the last few years.

Google Panda

Google Panda was first released in February 2011 which then proceeded to be followed by a series of version updates to panda over the years. The latest updated version of Panda was Panda 4.1 which was rolled out in September 2104.

Panda is aimed at preventing low quality sites and/or pages from ranking well in the search engine results page. The Panda algorithm updates help Google target low quality content with greater precision. Panda identifies low-quality content and result in greater diversity of higher rankings for small and medium-sized sites containing good quality content.

Google said in a post on Google+ that depending on location, about 3%-to-5% of search queries would be affected by Panda. However the change reportedly affected the rankings of almost 12% of all search results. CNET reported a surge in the rankings of news websites and social networking sites, and a drop in rankings for sites containing large amounts of advertising.

Google Penguin

Google Penguin was first announced on April 24, 2012. On December 1, 2014 Google confirmed that the Penguin update was still rolling out with the latest version of this algorithm update being introduced – Panda 3.0

A Google spokesperson has confirmed that they will now be updating the Penguin algorithm continuously, by optimising it as they go.

The Penguin update is aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using now declared black-hat SEO techniques involved in increasing artificially the ranking of a webpage by manipulating the number of links pointing to the page. In particular Penguin targets those people trying to spam its search results by buying links or obtaining them through link networks designed primarily to boost Google rankings.

Google Hummingbird

Google Hummingbird was officially announced in September of 2013 by Matt Cutts, Head of the webspam team at Google. Although it’s technically accurate to call Google Hummingbird an algorithm update, this is kind of a misnomer. This is because Hummingbird was essentially an entirely revamped version of Google’s search algorithm, not just a patch or minor update.

At the heart of the Hummingbird lies the all-important concept of semantics, or meaning. Semantic search is the concept of improving search results by focusing on user intent and how the subject of a search relates to other information in a wider sense, or its contextual relevance. So Google Hummingbird was essentially designed to determine what a user really means, rather than a string of keywords, and then serving relevant results.

Matt Cutt stated that Google hummingbird would affect 90% of all searches, albeit in a subtle way. Considering that Google handles more than 3.5 billion searches every day, this means Google Hummingbird affects more than 3.15 billion of them.

Google Pigeon

Google Pigeon was first released in July 2014 initially in the US. On December 22nd 2104 Google announced they had started to roll out Pigeon to the UK, Canada and Australia. Google Pigeon is aimed at providing a more useful, relevant and accurate local search results that are tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals.

This Google algorithm update shocked the local SEO world because it dramatically altered Google’s  local results and modified how they handle and interpret location cues. Google stated that this new algorithm improves their distance and location ranking parameters.


Google Pirate was introduced initially in August 2012 with Panda 2.0 update being announced in October 21st 2014. Google Pirate was designed to prevent websites with many copyright infringement reports, as filed through Google’s DMCA system, from ranking well in Google’s listings.

Howevre Google still come under fire for not doing enough to fight online piracy so, after More than two years after its original launch, Google decided to update Pirate with further emphasis on to combating software and digital media piracy. This update was highly targeted, causing dramatic drops in ranking to a relatively small group of sites.

Now is any website where Google finds a violation or was filed through Google’s DMCA system will receive a huge drop in rankings or will be even removed from search engine result pages.

What does this teach us

These recent major Google algorithm updates all indicate that Google wants you to create an interesting website that is both relevant to your target audience’s search terms and has a natural-looking link profile.

From this we learn that SEO is needed more than ever by online companies because it is now even harder to gain ranking as slowly unethical ranking tactics are being eradicated as Google continues to evolve is search engine algorithm