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  • Writer's pictureMathew Collins

Understanding the Changes to Google’s Algorithm

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

Google makes hundreds upon thousands of modifications to its search results each year. While most of these improvements are minor adjustments to Google's algorithm, they may have significant effects on you, your website, and your prospective earnings. Even a minor change can push a page that previously appeared at the top of the results to page two or beyond, decreasing the likelihood that a person will even see it, let alone visit it.

How can you protect your website from a Google algorithm change? Let's investigate Google's algorithm changes:

What is the Google Algorithm?

Google uses a number of integrated algorithms to provide relevant search results because it is unable to manually filter through billions of web pages each time a user submits a query.


To rank content on its search results page, Google initially utilised an algorithm called PageRank that mainly relied on the quantity and quality of links a site or page received. When high-quality sites are frequently connected to a page, Google deduced that the page must have great content since the model saw links as an affirmation of the page's content quality.

However, links constitute a secondary signal, which is an issue. The quantity of links just indicates to the search engine that there is a chance that the content is of high quality because so many people have connected to it. The algorithm could be easily manipulated by websites using spammy links and content techniques.


Google's algorithm changed over time to comprehend search queries and content better. Google updated its fundamental algorithm in 2013, renaming it Hummingbird, and using a semantic approach. In order to determine how relevant a page was to a query, it used signals to gauge the content's quality. The modification lessened the importance of keyword placement.


Then, in 2015, the release of RankBrain marked the beginning of the machine learning era. With it, Google could examine a vast quantity of user data to determine whether pages met users' expectations when they searched for a particular term. With this knowledge, RankBrain could create models allowing it to arrange search results based on which page factors or content signals were more or less significant to a searcher.

Before RankBrain, for instance, if you searched for "buy car insurance," a list of auto insurance companies would appear on the search results page. Google, however, rapidly identified that for queries, consumers sought details on how to purchase the goods or services (in this case, car insurance). Google now displays suppliers that instruct customers on how to get the best insurance.

Beyond secondary signals, Google has developed technology to better comprehend user searches, such as neural matching, Bidirectional Encoder Representation from Transformers (BERT), and Multitask Unified Model (MUM).

Ranking factors

Don't be confused. Although specific ranking variables or "ranking signals" have been debated in the SEO business for a long time, there is a lot of misunderstanding about the subject, so we strongly support a holistic approach.

Google is said to use more than 200 official ranking signals to determine whether or not a piece of content should appear for a given query. These elements might range from page performance to link popularity to content relevance. Many SEO experts argue over which ranking component is more crucial than another, while others may attempt to "optimise" for as many factors as they can.

This is incorrect.

Firstly, there is no complete list of the factors that carry the most weight. The variables that Google takes into account change depending on the query and the industry. Google employs a sophisticated evaluation method to assess material, using machine learning to better interpret language, classify, and profile information.

For instance, "good" content for health-related medical information should appear, sound, and feel different from a gossip column. As a result, Google trains a machine learning model to create a content profile for health information based on its leaders, such as the Mayo Clinic.

What is referred to as the "pre-algorithmic" or "meta-algorithmic" stage is when the assessment of excellent versus bad content takes place, and it influences what kinds of pages rank beyond a particular ranking factor.

Simply put, publishing highly focused, substantial content instead of worrying about "ranking variables." Adapt your content to the demands and level of understanding of your target market, making sure that the information is actually helpful to them.

What is a Google Algorithm Update?

Contrary to popular belief, Google faces a more varied competitive environment. Google must deliver the finest results it can in order to keep users satisfied. They take into account a variety of things, such as user expectations and technology advancements.

Google frequently updates or "tweaks" its algorithm to vary what the SERP displays in order to maintain user satisfaction and enhance its results.

Google used to provide updates, in the beginning, to prevent users from abusing and manipulating the algorithm. For instance, Panda provided protection against weak content while Penguin targeted spammy link techniques. Google continues to introduce changes that target spam, but more recently, the company has focused more on presenting the highest-quality content on the SERP.

Although this is an oversimplification, we frequently conceive of algorithm updates as reevaluating the weight of particular criteria on a SERP. Google has recently made a lot of algorithm adjustments that take advantage of new technology, especially machine learning. Google can better grasp page quality and relevance when it integrates new and improved technology into its algorithm (or a domain overall as many of the quality assessments Google undertakes to look at the quality of the entire site, not just a single page). To that, experts assume that many of Google's improvements are actually machine learning recalibrating and testing rather than modifications to the algorithm in the purest sense. Many Google algorithm adjustments that have not been officially confirmed may be the result of these changes.

Google Updates, both confirmed and unconfirmed

Every year, Google modifies its algorithm hundreds of times, but only a small percentage of these modifications are formally announced. Instead, to keep track of key algorithm changes, search marketers employ an "SEO weather tool". They will indicate the rank volatility level when they observe greater rank movement than usual.

Google will occasionally formally disclose a new algorithm upgrade. Examples of this include the Page Experience update, which added performance measures to the algorithm (known as Core Web Vitals), as well as the aforementioned Panda and Penguin upgrades iterations.

The most frequently reported update has been Google's broad core changes, but there have also been reports of Product Review Updates, which make sure that only the best product reviews are displayed on the SERP.

Confirmed changes typically cause far greater rank volatility than unauthorised updates.

Updates to Google's primary algorithm

Google's implementation of extensive changes to the algorithm's operation results in broad core algorithm updates. These revisions herald a significant shift in how Google's algorithm ranks pages and websites rather than minor adjustments to ancillary elements.

Although Google has always provided wide improvements to its core algorithms, Danny Sullivan, the company's search liaison, started formally releasing core updates in March 2018. These had a significant impact on how search marketers view content.

The Medic Update, which had the most impact on Your Money Your Life (YMYL) sites including financial, health, and other ones where erroneous information could seriously injure a user, was the most notable of these changes.

The Medic Update served as a model for later core updates in many aspects. It demonstrated a definite qualitative improvement in Google's capacity to comprehend and categorise the content. Sites with a sparse content experience and those that prioritise marketing objectives above quality material were among those who were negatively affected by the upgrade. For instance, pages with a lot of marketing language or those prejudiced toward their product or service would probably rank lower following this update if a user searched "how to eat healthier." On the other hand, authoritative, knowledgeable, and objective publications on the same subject were rewarded by Google's algorithm.

Since then, Google's core improvements have demonstrated a greater capacity to recognise the visual and aural characteristics of high-quality content.

If you want an assured lead in SEOs and algorithms, DigitalxMarketing provides a variety of website development services to assist you in your digital marketing needs.

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