Take on Google’s Algorithm


If you are responsible for any type of digital marketing or are just trying to improve your online presence, learning about Googles algorithm can go a long way. Not only will you be able to gain a deeper understanding on SEO but it will also allow you to create better content for your online identities.

For example did you know that in August 2018 Google’s algorithm update called E.A.T or ‘Medic’ update largely affected websites related to health, fitness and wellness? This all comes under a category which Google calls “Your Money Your Life” (YMYL) (1). The update focused on improving the Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthy or as Google calls it (E-A-T) guidelines. These guidelines are what scan websites for page quality and then rank the top picks. After the update many websites saw a fall in in page views and dropped in the rankings. The reason for this was because many are not aware of the requirements set by Google.

(1) https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.com/en//insidesearch/howsearchworks/assets/searchqualityevaluatorguidelines.pdf


So how does Google’s search algorithm work and what are the main factors?

Well in general Google has 5 main factors it takes into consideration:

• Meaning of your query
• Relevance of webpages
• Ranking useful pages
• Usability of webpages
• Context and settings

Each of these has its own sub indicators which are used to improve your website rank on search. However, the most interesting fact is that Google updates its overall algorithm daily. Its major algorithm updates however, are all given unique names. This is because they have a cluster of functions and processes that they cover. These updates just like the ‘Medic’ Update mentioned above can have huge impacts on SEO and websites searches. The most important element of this is to learn the history of the Google algorithm updates and learn how they fall into their positive criteria.

Here are the 5 main and most famous algorithm updates:

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

These algorithms updates are still regularly tweaked and updated which can cause changes to Googles overall search algorithm.



So this update was released in February 2011, Google’s Panda algorithm was created to “score” web pages based on a range of quality criteria which is mainly focused around content. It was actually built like a “ranking filter” to remove and filter sites with plagiarised or minimal content. Panda was then integrated into the main ranking algorithm in early 2016. The algorithm’s content focused metrics are one of the main supports within Google’s ranking factors that help to provide search results. More information can be found on Googles update on its Webmaster page.


How does it work?


Panda searches for content which is of sufficient quality, unique and in mass. The algorithm understands content duplication on a page by page level and ensures the content has not been plagiarised on the domain as well as external websites. It also penalises excessive keyword repetition which some SEO marketers believe will help with traffic. Websites who duplicate pages or write poor quality content may receive ranking decreases which will reduce traffic as Google will devalue their domain. Pages with high-quality content however, that answer user search queries are rewarded with higher ranking positions. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially in online markets where there is lots of competition and other ranking factors are given more priority such as domain equity and backlinks.


How to work with Panda?


If you are a Webmaster, SEO manager or a website owner there are some simple rules you can follow to ensure you don’t receive a penalty from Panda. As the algorithm is continually updated, it’s important to always carry out best practice content strategies to protect your website from any future updates.

• Aim to publish content which is unique and original
• Don’t create pages with duplicated content!
• Always attempt to write a minimum of 300 words per page.
• If you have pages with no content and can’t update them with more text, you should consider delisting them from Google’s index to reduce negative exposure. – You can do this by editing a website’s robots.txt file or editing settings within SEO plugins such as Yoast SEO.




Penguin was released in April 2012 and then later incorporated into the main ranking algorithm in 2016 just like Panda. Google’s Penguin algorithm is a real-time, location and language independent data processing filter that aims to uncover and devalue websites with backlinks that may be deemed manipulative or unnatural. Penguin updates is one of the main reasons why a good SEO company is important. Penguin ensures that using poor outdated tactics can leave websites penalised and even delisted from Google’s index. The algorithms sole focus on backlinks helps to ensure that SEO managers and webmasters build and attract as many high-quality backlinks. More information can be found here on Google’s blogs.


How does it work?


Penguin likes to see trusted backlinks around websites. Despite what others may say, high-quality link building is still one of the best tactics to drive your ranking. Penguins job is to keep a close eye in ensuring websites do not manipulate the system. Whilst running in real-time, Penguin is triggered when sites build high volumes of links in a short space of time, pay for sponsored links or carry out black-hat SEO techniques (violating SEO regulation). The algorithm also monitors something called ‘anchor text’ profiles which can also be used to influence rankings. If Penguin believes you are using unethical tactics could result in a huge loss of website traffic.


How to work with Penguin?


The best way to work with Penguin is to use and create backlinks which you don’t mind being on the internet for life. Avoid poor and relatively unknown links on your site. You can also use online tools to help check your backlink profile. Ahrefs and Open Site Explorer are two of the best backlink checkers on the market. It is always good to check and evaluate your backlinks.




Hummingbird was released in September 2013, Google’s Hummingbird algorithm is known to have changed the way the Google search engine interpreted user queries and rewarded websites who answered a user’s search phrase. Very simply, Hummingbird helps users find what they want and at the same time allows Google to find, filter and display results that are more focused on the meaning behind a query. It was then added to the algorithms core in 2014 and announced on webmaster.


How does it work?


The best thing about Hummingbird is that it is not a penalty based algorithm. You have most definitely seen Hummingbird in action as it is also responsible for displaying related suggestions in the search box prior to displaying results. It is also what shows you other ‘theme-related’ results that do not contain the keywords from the search query. The way this works is that Hummingbird breaks down long, conversational queries to find the purpose, then takes into consideration a wider website relevancy of each search, and rewards sites that use natural synonyms and long-tail keywords. It was


How to Befriend Hummingbird?


Realistically, if a website implements a range of Hummingbirds criteria the ranking will increase overtime. If your site is currently ranking poorly within your sector, there is a high chance that Hummingbird has some influence over your positioning. Try to assist the algorithm by adding a few ‘Hummingbird friendly’ suggestions.

• Conversational answers to questions within content
• Include synonyms and targeting long-tail keywords or phrases.
• Check out the competition that’s ranking above you for key words

The best thing to always do is before creating any online page state: what is the purpose of this page? What is it trying to target? Scoping the purpose early gives time to research possible synonyms, long tail keywords and to explore the competition. If you have this, Hummingbird will be your best friend.




Pigeon was released in August 2013, Google’s Pigeon algorithm was launched to provide better results for local searches. Pigeon is something everyone has seen or used before. The algorithm effectively combines Google search results with Google Map searches and has created a more organised way for websites to rank organically for local searches.


How does it work?


Pigeon relies heavily upon gathering data on a user’s location and distance before displaying search results. (This means it is up to the customer to give permission to access data. Otherwise results are based on keywords only). This algorithm also does not penalise websites, instead it focuses on giving prominence to those sites that deserve to be listed locally. Thus, making Pigeon the best on mobile as it delivers relevant search results during every possible on the go interaction. Pigeon’s latest update now allows it takes more notice of local directory listings, reviews and local reputation when ranking results.


How to get noticed by Pigeon?


Pigeon loves to see consistent data and local listings across the internet. It is important to focus on foundational SEO that incorporates location based keywords. A very easy example of this is Google My Business listings. If you want to really impress Pigeon, build backlinks with high-quality directory listings websites (e.g. if you’re a restaurant listed with Uber eats) with consistent data, and work hard to establish positive user-generated reviews. As many local businesses now rely on Google to drive foot traffic and sales, a deep understanding of this algorithm will help carve some much-needed space between local competition.




Google Fred is an algorithm that targets black-hat tactics tied to aggressive monetization. This works in hand with Penguin and filters sites which overload on ads, low-value content, and little added user benefits. This does not mean all sites hit by the Google Fred are dummy sites created for ad revenue, but the majority of websites which get affected are content sites that have a large amount of ads and seem to have been created for the purpose of generating revenue over solving a user’s problem.


How does it work?


When Fred was launched back in March 2017 it had a devastating effect on all those companies which were earning through gorilla ad campaigns. Fred filters and drops rankings of all sites which abuse the respected amount of ads and fail to deliver good quality content.


How to stay in good terms with Fred?


Fred is partially responsible for the current Brand market we have now. The idea and need for:

• Content that demands at least one of the following: time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill
• Excellent website reputation (quality of backlinks, industry awards, positive user reviews, and expert testimonials all contribute to excellent reputation)
• A well-maintained and updated pages, which means it’s error-free, loads quickly, and has few technical errors

Very simply, if you cover these bases, just like with Penguin, you’ll be ahead of the game and earn the benefits of Googles search rankings.




Google has come a long way and they are still improving their algorithm at a daily rate. In March 2019 they released a newer update called ‘Florida 2’ which reverted a lot of changes that ‘Medic’ made in 2018. Although, it may be impossible to always be on top of Googles algorithm, ensuring that you stay within best practice and implement the positive changes each updates searches for you can always rank higher.


Stay informed


Remember that you can always stay informed and see any new algorithm updates from Googles twitter account – Google SearchLiaison @searchliaison