Guide to Search Engine Algorithm updates

Search engine algorithms 101 The standard definition of an algorithm is a set of rules for solving a problem in …

by Gus Van der Walt


Reading Time | 2 min

Search engine algorithms 101

The standard definition of an algorithm is a set of rules for solving a problem in a restricted number of steps. In the computer science sense, an algorithm is a set of clearly defined, step-by-step instructions given to a computer to complete a task.

When we refer to ‘algorithm’ in the SEO sense, we’re not talking about mathematics, but you can look at it from an arithmetic perspective. Almost every task you carry out has an algorithm to it — you perform a series of steps to arrive at an end goal. Whether you’re baking a cake or doing a complicated math equation, It’s important to carry out the steps in a specific order, or you’ll get an incorrect outcome.

How do algorithms impact SEO?

Understanding the structure and methods used by the algorithm is a key aspect of being effective at SEO. Knowing all the ingredients and quantities needed to bake a cake gives us the ability to improve and make the best version of that cake. The same goes for SEO. If we know all the search engine requirements, we can customize our content, URLs, and links to cater to a broader audience; thereby driving more traffic to your website.

Google search algorithm updates over the years

Over the years, search engines like Google have been continuously improving their algorithms to give users the best possible search results. In the last decade, Google introduced several life-changing updates, and each of them has had a huge impact on how we do SEO. Let’s take a look at three algorithms that changed SEO forever.

Panda update (2011)

Remember when we spoke about the importance of quality content? Panda is a Google algorithm update created to reduce the amount of low-quality, sparse content in the search results and reward unique and captivating content. Like Panda, algorithms assist Google in judging, filtering, penalizing, and rewarding content based on specific characteristics.

Penguin update (2012)

Another algorithm named after an adorable animal, the Penguin algorithm, was created to combat the increasing practice of manipulating search results (and rankings) through spammy link-building techniques. Penguin’s goal was to ensure that the websites with natural, relevant links were rewarded, while black-hat spammy links were downgraded.

Mobile update (2015)

It is said that Google’s mobile-friendly update basically ushered in the mobile-first era. The mobile update (also known as Mobilegeddon) was created to improve mobile-friendly pages’ rankings in Google’s mobile search results. This means that non-mobile-friendly pages were negatively impacted in mobile search and had a lower ranking in the SERPs.

Gus Van der Walt | Senior SEO Strategist

Gus van der Walt is a Senior SEO strategist here at SiteCare, LLC. Gus has been growing traffic and visibility for 10+ years. In his spare time, Gus can be found researching new SEO tactics or snapping photos of Cape Town.

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