Google Algorithm Glossary

With the number of Google algorithms and ranking factors out there it is easy to get mixed up between your Pandas and Penguins. Below you will find all known Google algorithms with the main need-to-know facts on each one. The information below will give you a good start at understanding the basics, make sure to do some extra research if you would like to know more!
Google Algorithm Glossary 1
  • Content ·
  • Released: 2015 ·

Rankbrain

Rankbrain is a more recent Google algorithm that is currently the third most important ranking factor.
It is a machine learning algorithm that helps process complex long tail queries.
With Rankbrain Google also improved their ability to process negatives within queries.
Google Algorithm Glossary 2
  • Local ·
  • Released: 2014 ·

Pigeon

Google has informed us that the Pigeon update was created to make local search results mimic more traditional search ranking signals
After the update, hyper-localisation of SERPs occurred where the radius of local searches was reduced to provide more local results.
This update affected both Google Maps and normal Google web search.
When first released this algorithm change only impacted the US, it was later rolled out in December 2014 to also include the UK, Canada and Australia.
Google Algorithm Glossary 3
  • Links ·
  • Released: 2012 ·

Penguin

This algorithm was Google’s response to site owners trying to game the PageRank algorithm by building large quantities of unnatural and spammy links.
Penguin aims to devalue links in real time. If Google believes the link was built in a way that goes against their guidelines the site owner will not receive any benefit from the link, without them even knowing about it,
Google Algorithm Glossary 4
  • Links ·
  • Released: 2013 ·

Payday Loan

Similar to Penguin, this is a link based spam penalty for some unique link schemes (some of which are illegal).
In particular, it targets schemes found for spammy queries such as payday loans and other heavily spammed queries.
This algorithm was created as at the time, these spammy queries were less of a focus area for the Google's search spam team.
Google Algorithm Glossary 5
  • Content ·
  • Released: 2011 ·

Panda

The Panda algorithm was created to penalise sites that Google deemed low-quality and not beneficial to users.
Google released a list of characteristics to take into account to ensure you have a high quality site here.
To avoid being hit by this penalty ensure that you are doing all you can to make your site valuable to users. Aim to create content that is 10x better than anything else on the web.
Google Algorithm Glossary 6
  • Links ·
  • Released: 1998 ·

PageRank

The PageRank algorithm is arguably the most well-known Google algorithm there is. Back when Google first started up it was the algorithm that propelled it ahead of its competition.
While PageRank has evolved since it was first created, the basis of the algorithm is that the importance of a page is calculated depending on the number and quality of pages linking to it.
This algorithm is named after one of the founders of Google, Larry Page.
Google Algorithm Glossary 7
  • UX ·
  • Released: 2010 ·

Page Speed

Similar to the Page Layout update, the Page Speed update was another user experience based algorithm update.
After this update, Google began taking into account how quickly a page loads when deciding where it should rank.
This is seen to be quite a small ranking factor that you only really seem to see an adverse effect from when your site is considerably slow.
Google Algorithm Glossary 8
  • UX ·
  • Released: 2012 ·

Page Layout

The Page Layout update was created in an effort to return more high-quality pages in search results based upon user experience testing by Google. This algorithmic change meant Google started to take into consideration the layout of a page when determining where it should rank.
It targeted sites that either had very little content above-the-fold, or content that is being pushed down the page due to lots of ads high up on the page.
Google Algorithm Glossary 9
  • UX ·
  • Released: 2015 ·

Mobile Friendly Update

This algorithm simply boosted the number of pages in mobile search results that were mobile-friendly.
It rolled out globally and applies to sites on a page-by-page basis.
You can test to see if a page on your site with this tool from Google.
Google Algorithm Glossary 10
  • Unofficial ·
  • Released: 2018 ·

Medic

Despite the unofficial name, this update that occurred on the 1st week of August did not only impact medical sites. Similar to other core updates, Google was trying to improve SERP relevancy to a query by better matching intent.
How Google did this is widely speculated, but it is likely they did this by improving their understanding of content, tweaks to the link graph, or some new UX signal. If you were impacted, read through the quality-rater guidelines and take a holistic view to improving your site.
Google Algorithm Glossary 11
  • Content ·
  • Released: 2013 ·

Hummingbird

This update was a large rewrite of the Google search engine. The best way to explain Hummingbird is by thinking of it as the main algorithm, whilst all others are add-ons that improve search results further.
With this update, came support for “Conversational search”. It has been reported after this update Google can now semantically understand relationships between words and entities much better.
Google Algorithm Glossary 12
  • Content ·
  • Released: 2011 ·

Freshness

The purpose of this algorithmic change was to (as the name sugests) surface fresher results in Google. It impacted search results for hot/trending news, regularly recurring events (such as presidential elections) and also results that would need updating frequently such as 'best smartphones'.
It had a larger impact than Panda, changing 35% of searches. It was also a brand new algorithm, but an improvement on existing algorithms.
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