Google Algorithm Updates & Their Impact on SEO

1. The ABC of Google Algorithm Updates

Did you ever wonder why your website’s ranking can fluctuate like Ireland’s weather? That’s Google’s algorithm updates for you, the silent puppeteer behind the scenes of search. In essence, these updates are tweaks to Google’s search engine, designed to improve user experience by providing more relevant and high-quality results. Stick around, and we’ll delve deeper into the labyrinth of these updates.

The updates are Google’s way of keeping everyone on their toes. They regularly tweak and refine their search algorithms, making sure that the most deserving content bubbles to the top. It’s a bit like a stew – Google is constantly adjusting the recipe to get the tastiest result.

2. Journey Through Time: A History of Algorithm Updates

Now, let’s step into our digital DeLorean and take a look back at the history of Google’s algorithm updates. The story begins around the turn of the millennium, with the first known update occurring in 2000. This was the era of Google’s “Docsum” interface and the introduction of the toolbar PageRank.

Fast forward to 2011 and the Panda update arrived. This cheeky critter’s mission was to lower the rank of “low-quality sites” or “thin sites” and return higher-quality sites near the top of the search results. The Panda update, and others that followed, have been instrumental in shaping the SEO landscape we know today.

3. Penguin: The Chilled Out Algorithm Update

In 2012, Google introduced Penguin, an update designed to penalise websites that used manipulative tactics to achieve high rankings. Penguin was a game-changer, setting the scene for Google’s ongoing battle against black-hat SEO tactics.

4. Hummingbird: Speed & Precision

Hummingbird flew onto the scene in 2013, focusing on interpreting search queries better and providing results that matched the searcher’s intent, rather than individual keywords within the query. The update was named Hummingbird for its speed and precision, reflecting Google’s aim of making search quick, precise and ‘on-the-fly’.

Hummingbird was a significant overhaul to the core algorithm, affecting 90% of search queries. It was like replacing the engine of a car while it was still running!

5. Pigeon: Local SEO Takes Flight

In 2014, Google launched Pigeon, an update designed to improve the ranking of local listing in search. This was a boon for local businesses, increasing the importance of optimising for local search.

6. Mobilegeddon: The Rise of Mobile Search

2015 marked the arrival of ‘Mobilegeddon’, an update that gave mobile-friendly pages a boost in Google’s mobile search results. It was Google’s nod to the growing importance of mobile search, and a wake-up call to webmasters to optimise their sites for mobile devices.

The update was a game-changer, marking the transition from desktop to mobile. It was as if Google had taken the old desktop world, shrunk it down, and put it in the palm of your hand. Suddenly, mobile wasn’t just an option, it was a necessity.

7. RankBrain: A Touch of AI

Enter RankBrain in 2015, Google’s machine-learning algorithm. This AI system was used to help process search results, particularly for never-before-seen queries (which make up to 15% of all searches). RankBrain was like the Sherlock Holmes of Google, deducing the meaning of queries and deciding which results to serve.

8. Fred: The Guardian of Quality Content

In 2017, Google confirmed an update that the SEO world had started calling ‘Fred’. This update targeted websites with low-quality content that appeared to be primarily focused on generating ad revenue. Fred was like the gatekeeper, ensuring that only the deserving got through.

With Fred, Google reiterated its dedication to quality content. It was a stern reminder that content is king, and if you try to game the system, you’ll be shown the door.

9. BERT: Understanding the Nuances of Language

The most recent significant update, BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), rolled out in 2019. This update allows Google to understand the context and intent behind a user’s search, rather than just the individual words. BERT was Google’s equivalent of an English Literature professor, dissecting and understanding the nuances of language to provide better results.

10. The SEO Revolution: How Algorithm Updates Impact SEO

So, we’ve had a whistle-stop tour of Google’s algorithm updates. But what does it all mean for SEO? Well, in short, it’s been a revolution. Each algorithm update has changed the SEO landscape, forcing marketers to adapt and evolve their strategies.

From the focus on quality content and link building, to the importance of mobile optimisation and understanding user intent, SEO is no longer about keyword stuffing and manipulative tactics. It’s about providing valuable, user-focused content that meets the needs of searchers.

11. Navigating the SEO Sea Change

Keeping up with Google’s algorithm updates can feel like trying to hit a moving target while blindfolded. But understanding these updates, and their impact on SEO, is critical for success in the digital world.

That’s where we, at Kinsale SEO, come in. We’re like the lighthouse guiding you through the stormy seas of SEO. With our expertise, we’ll help you navigate the sea change, ensuring your website stays afloat and reaches the top of the search results.


Google’s algorithm updates have undeniably reshaped the digital landscape, creating a world where quality content and user experience reign supreme. In this ever-changing landscape, it’s crucial to stay ahead of the curve, and that’s where Kinsale SEO can help.

We provide top-notch SEO services, backed by a team of experts who live and breathe SEO. From in-depth SEO audits to content optimisation and link building, we’ve got you covered. Don’t let Google’s algorithm updates throw you off course. Let us steer you towards success. Because in this digital game, it’s not just about keeping up, it’s about standing out.


What are Google algorithm updates?

Google algorithm updates are changes to the complex formulas and systems that Google uses to rank websites in its search results. They can range from small tweaks to major overhauls that significantly change the search landscape.

How often does Google update its algorithm?

Google makes minor changes to its algorithm hundreds of times each year. Major updates, which can have a significant impact on search results, occur a few times a year.

How do Google algorithm updates impact SEO?

Google’s algorithm updates can dramatically impact a website’s ranking in search results. They can make certain SEO techniques obsolete, and introduce the need for new ones. That’s why it’s crucial to stay abreast of these changes and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly.

What was the purpose of the Penguin update?

The Penguin update, introduced in 2012, was designed to penalise websites that used manipulative link schemes to artificially boost their search rankings.

What was the impact of the Hummingbird update?

The Hummingbird update, launched in 2013, focused on understanding the intent behind search queries rather than just the individual keywords. It made Google’s search results more relevant and precise.

What was the Mobilegeddon update?

The ‘Mobilegeddon’ update, released in 2015, prioritised mobile-friendly websites in Google’s search results. This reflected the growing importance of mobile search.

What is the BERT update?

BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), rolled out in 2019, helps Google understand the context and intent behind a user’s search, making the search results even more relevant.

How can I stay updated with Google’s algorithm changes?

Staying updated with Google’s algorithm changes can be challenging, but there are resources available. Google often announces major updates on their blog. SEO news websites and forums also provide valuable information. Working with an SEO expert, like Kinsale SEO, can also help.

Lesser-Known Tips

1. Look beyond the keywords: Google’s algorithm updates, like Hummingbird and BERT, have emphasised the importance of understanding user intent. So, focus on answering the questions your audience is asking, rather than just targeting specific keywords.

2. Mobile matters: If your site isn’t mobile-friendly yet, you’re behind the curve. With the Mobilegeddon update, Google made it clear that mobile is a priority.

3. Quality over quantity: With the Panda and Fred updates, Google has shown that it values high-quality content. So, focus on creating valuable content that meets your audience’s needs.

4. Local SEO is key: The Pigeon update highlighted the importance of local SEO. If you’re a local business, make sure you’re optimising for local search.

6. User experience is crucial: Google’s algorithm updates have increasingly prioritised user experience. So, make

About the author

Casey Meraz is the Founder of Kinsale SEO, Juris Digital, Solicitor Digital and Ethical SEO Consulting. He has been helping companies thrive online through effective organic SEO and Local SEO programs.

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