Skip to main content

A Moving Target: The Evolution of Google Page-Ranking Search Algorithms:

The Vice President of Google’s Engineering Department, Ben Gomes, vowed that “our goal is to get you the exact answer you’re searching for faster.”


Over the past decade, Google has implemented five significant algorithm updates to its web-page ranking algorithm in order to maintain and fulfill this vow: 

  1. The Panda Update 
  2. The Penguin Update
  3. The Hummingbird Update
  4. The Pigeon Update
  5. The Fred Update


As we learned in class, search engines are deliberately and rightfully secretive of their ranking algorithms as “the ‘perfect’ ranking function will always be a moving target,”  so that Web-authors cannot exploit the algorithm to achieve a favorable search ranking. As hundreds of changes are implemented in each update, I will highlight some of the most crucial changes that have impacted search-rankings for each major update, according to digital marketer Neil Patel.


  1. The Panda update essentially effectuated a filter that targeted content-quality. Prior to the Panda update, web-pages such as content farms that were thin and of poor quality were able to rank well on Google search results. However, the update ensured that such sites no longer ranked well, prioritizing high-quality, in-depth content that was valuable and engaging to readers. 


  1. On the other hand, the Penguin update targeted web-pages’ incoming links, which penalized pages that employed several link-building schemes –– activities that generated links that manipulated Google results in order to rank well.


  1. The Hummingbird update was perhaps the most significant algorithm in terms of enhancing user experience. This algorithm allowed Google to improve its search results by recognizing certain keywords that users type in their searches. This allowed the algorithm to improve its understanding of what the users mean or the “keyword’s intent.”


  1. The Pigeon update targeted users’ local searches and enhanced the experience of users who needed answers pertaining to local products and businesses on the go. Google further integrated Google Maps into their results. Users conveniently no longer need to specify geo-specific terms when searching for such products and businesses. After the update, pages with geo-specific keywords in their content benefited greatly from this update.


  1. The key features of the Fred update are still unclear to users, but it appears that the algorithm update targets filtering out sites that emphasize their revenue over the quality of their content.


It is important to note, however, that these updates are not just one-shot-updates to the algorithm. Google’s ranking algorithm is continuously being researched and refined in order to provide the best results and the best user experience.





Leave a Reply

Blogging Calendar

October 2019