Google’s algorithm is what determines the fate of every search query, ultimately determining which website the user will be directed to. Google states that its prime existence is to provide the world’s best internet search experience to the end user. Because Google places a strong emphasis on relativity and user experience, it is not surprising that Google implements more than 500 improvements to its search algorithm a year. In this article I will briefly break down Google’s journey and contributions to improving the search experience through the continuous alteration of the renowned Google Algorithm. Google continuously alters its algorithm to improve search results, so here are the monumental changes that have affected Search Engine Optimization in the last decade.
If you are just getting started with SEO and are not too familiar with all of the aspects involved in SEO, I would highly recommend taking a glance at the Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. The tutorial will help in familiarizing yourself with SEO by highlighting the basics and top preferences for best practices, both on-site and off-site.
Google’s Method of Evaluation Search
Through rigorous scientific experiments, Google’s engineers improve and tweak the algorithm that analyzes several hundred factors in a matter of seconds to produce search results. Scott Huffman, an engineer at Google, recently explained, “In 2010, we ran over 20,000 different experiments.” It is all about the search evaluation, or as Scott explained in a 2008 blog post titled Search Evaluation at Google, “the process of measuring the quality of our search results and our users’ experience with search.”
The Algorithmic Timeline of Change
It all began in 1997 when Larry and Sergey, two graduate students from Stanford, collaborated and created “BackRub”, a search engine hosted on Stanford servers, which would later be re-named “Google.” The name Google derived from the word “googol”, a mathematical term representing a very large number.
- Google was born. Larry Page and Sergey Brin created Google at Stanford University in 2006 and registered the domain name, Google.com, in 1997.
- Search index reaches 1,000,000,000 and becomes the world’s largest web search index.
- Google Language Options. Google expanded its global reach by launching 10 new languages; French, German, Italian, Swedish, Finnish, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Norwegian and Danish. This same year over 100 different languages were added.
- Google Toolbar. New browser plugin that introduced “Page Rank” while quickly highlighting search terms.
- Google launches image search
- Web search index grows to 3,000,000,000
- Trends Evaluation. Google began analyzing the top 10 trends of the billions of searches.
- Algorithm Change. This change was related to “Keyword stuffing” (What happened to my site on Google?)
- Google News. Google provides users the ability to browse through “news related” content hosted on thousands of worldwide news searches
- Froogle. Google launched its search related to products, allowing user to browse through online shopping sites to match search queries related to specific items.
- Supplemental Index added to have more sites indexed without sacrificing performance.
- Anchor Text. If you had more than one anchor text on a page, Google only links the first anchor text it saw.
- Google’s Web Search Index reaches 6,000,000,000 items
- Gmail. Google tested a preview of Gmail to improve existing email service.
- SMS Search on Mobile. Queries were now able to be sent through text messages on mobile devices.
- Search index grows to 8,000,000,000.
- Google Book Search. A big milestone and exciting news for libraries and publishers.
- Google Video search is launched.
- IGoogle is launched and allows users to personalize their Google homepage.
- Algorithm Change: Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). Increased attention to anchor text relevance.
- Algorithm Change: Deceptive On-page tactics, including invisible text and Meta-tag stuffing. This helped attribute “Page Relevance” in correlation to the “Page” content and Meta content.
- Algorithm Change: URL Canonicalization and Re-Directs . This changed the way Google handled URL Canonicalization, redirects, and other technical issues.
- Google Translate is launched.
- Google Blog Search is launched.
- Algorithm Change: Jagger 2 Update. This targeted low quality links, including reciprocal links, link farms, and paid links.
- Google Maps. Google merged Google Maps data into the LBC (Local Business Center) which would eventually drive a number of changes in local SEO.
- Personalized Search. Google would use “search histories” to tap into users’ results via account set-ups.
- XML Site Maps. Google allowed webmasters to submit XML sitemaps via Google Webmaster Tools to allow the bypassing of traditional HTML sitemaps, and giving SEOs direct influence over crawling and indexing.
- Duplicate Content. Non-canonical URLs were treated (www. vs. non www.).
- Sandbox Effect and LSI tweaked to penalize suspicious links.
- Stop spam via no-follows. This was implemented by Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft in order to clean up blog comment spam.
- Google Trends officially launched to the public, allowing users to search by keyword, location, topics, etc.
- Google Custom Search. Users can add a custom search on their website and blog.
- Google Algorithm Change: Supplemental index and how filtered pages were treated.
- Universal Search announced at Searchology event.
- Google Site Search. Enables Google powered searches on websites.
- Google Introduces News, Video, Images, Local, etc.
- Google Knol launched for social sharing for writers/authors to post content.
- Search Index announces one trillion unique URL’s.
- Google “Suggest” Feature. Suggested other words from a drop down menu in case there were spelling errors and/or similar searches. This helped save users’ time and keystrokes.
- Google Chrome Browser launched.
- Google Profiles. The beginning of the personal or “social” era integration into search results.
- Google Search Options launched a quest for more personalized searches.
- Social Search. At the bottom of each search, Google highlighted what your friends were searching or visiting.
- Google Dashboard. Google features, services, products and other Google related data, are accessible on one dashboard.
- Google Goggles. Phone application that translated an image and returned information based on GPS and compass.
- Real-time Search included Twitter Feeds, Google News, and newly indexed content. Sources continued to expand over time and social media played a role in SERPs.
- Index Speed increased. Infrastructure was changed to increase speed of crawling, expand the index, and integrate indexation and ranking in nearly real-time.
- Algorithm Change: Rel- Canonical tag.
- Algorithm Change: “Big Brand Rankings”. This affected the rankings of big brands.
- Algorithm Change: “Confession of Social Signals”. Matt Cutts admits Google’s use of data from Twitter and Facebook to determine rankings.
- Caffeine. A new indexing system launched to provide more relevant results at a faster pace.
- Algorithm Announcement: Negative Reviews. Bad customer service and fraud online will now result in poor ranking in Google’s eyes (New York Time’s Article).
- Google Instant launched. Expansion of Google “Suggest”.
- Algorithm Change: Multiple Listings. Google now allowed a domain to appear multiple times on an SERP, where before domains were limited to 1-2 listings, or 1 listing with indented results.
- Algorithm Change: May Day. Losses of traffic for long-tail more then head match searches, which was essentially a quality change (not temporary and not manipulated by human opinions).
- Google Places. Rebranded Local Business Center with “Google Places”. This included new local advertising opportunities for local business owners.
- Google Search Instant Previews. Allows you to view a website landing page before clicking on the URL.
- Algorithm Change: Google Panda 2.5 update resulted in large scale losses for some site owners.
- Algorithm Change: Google Introduces Pagination Elements to help fix crawl and duplication problems. Google introduces rel=”next” rel=”prev” link attributes. Announced automatic consolidation and canonicalization for “view all” pages.
- Expanded Site links: The evolution of sitelinks: expanded and improved.
- Google Places Search on Mobile. Application for Google Places on mobile.
- Chrome Web Store launched. Marketplace for Chrome applications and extensions.
- Google Instant for Mobile. “Lightning-fast web search results” made possible on mobile devices.
- Google’s Social Search Update. By signing into your Google account, you can see shared links and results from social networking connections.
- Google Launches Recipe View to search for specific recipes.
- Google enhances Google Profiles, leading up to and foreshadowing the upcoming Google + Project.
- Instant Previews available on Mobile
- +1 Button. By clicking the +1 Button you can help your friends see what you like by “recommending” the website or page.
- Google Launches Google + Project. Reached 10 million users in two weeks.
- Google Image with Sorting. Google optimizes Google Image search.
- Google Instant Pages provides Instant page results.
- Algorithm Change: Schema.org. Google, Yahoo and Bing jointly announced support for consolidated approach to structured data. New “schemas” – Structured Data (SEL) what is Schema.org?
- The +1 Button affected organic and paid search results based on circles of friends.
- Google Launches Voice Search.
- Google Launches Search by Image.
- Algorithm Change: Panda. Penalties for content farms affected 12% of search results (Panda/Farmer update).
- Algorithm Change: Attribution Update. Help stop scrapers (affected 2% of search results).
- Algorithm Announcement: Overstock.com Penalty. Manipulation of search engine results by attempting to link to .edu sites the wrong way.
- Google Launches Flight Search, a new way to explore travel options.
How do the algorithmic changes affect SEO?
The above timeline only provides a few monumental glances of updates and changes, implemented by Google, that have affected search results and user experience. As an SEO marketing consultant, it’s important to look at how these changes for improvement must be mirrored in daily SEO tasks. Google is a prime example of change. They start with a product idea and product launch, but don’t stop with a there. In fact, this is when the experiment begins. If something is good, that’s great, but how could it be better?
Changes to the algorithm were created to prevent manipulation of search engines. Black hat SEO practices fill the web with unnecessary, duplicate content that leaves the end user unhappy. Remember that if you are working hard to keep the web clean, relevant, and filled with quality content, you are not going to drop in your rankings. Best practices and web standards are there to protect quality websites and user experience.
Magic Logix is a digital marketing solutions company that focuses on SEO Web Design and Development, SEO Marketing, Social Media Marketing, and Ecommerce marketing. Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have regarding your website.