When originally introduced in the late 90’s, the main focus for Google’s founders – Larry Page and Sergey Brin – was to create a spam free search engine results page (SERP). Since then, the original objective has been achieved and the search engine has continuously developed over the years with numerous updates to its algorithm, design and presented results.
As such, more opportunities have been created by Google with its multi-functional platform, which can be taken advantage of by businesses to reap many benefits.Thus, over the years Google has played a key role in leveraging business’ online presence by acting as a key contributor, influencer and determinator of potential success. Nowadays, your ranking on SERPs can act as indicator of efficient and effective PR and inbound marketing practises.
With the algorithm continuously being updated, here is a run through of the main updates that have taken place over recent years, to gain a better understanding of where Google once were, and where it could potentially end up;
- Boston (2003) – As the first Google update to be tagged with a name, the changes saw a combination of algorithm and major index refresh changes.
- Florida (2003) – The Florida update introduced a new era of SEO (search engine optimisation), whereby keyword stuffing and 90’s tactics were flawed.
- Austin (2004) – Supposedly cleaning up what the Florida update missed, the changes involved an increased crack down on spam-like on-page tactics such as invisible text and Meta data stuffing.
- Big Daddy (2005) – This update took place in December, through till March ‘06, which impacted website redirection, URL canonicalisation and other related components.
- Vince (2009) – Somewhat controversial, this update led webmasters to believe that big brands were favoured on SERPs, which would make life more difficult for mid-market SMB’s – they were not too happy.
- Caffeine (2010) – The rate at which the internet was indexed and how was improved, which allowed the platform to support the vast amount of content that is created today. Also, indexation became more dynamic resulting in a 50% fresher index.
- Panda/Farmer (2011) – Officially named Panda by Google and prior to its launch tagged Farmer by SEOs, the update focused on spam, thin content, content farms, scrapers and sites with high ad-to-content ratios.
- Freshness (2011) – An extension of the index infrastructure introduced by Caffeine, the latest and most relevant content was rewarded on the SERPs, impacting 35% of all searches.
- Venice (2012) – Aggressively localised SERPs by incorporating local search data.
- Penguin (2012) – identifying and diminishing websites that were considered over-optimized and sites purposely built for search engines and not people.
- EMD (2012) – The exact-match-domain update devalued URLs that included desirable keyword phrases. Like the Vince update, it was thought by some that big brands were again favoured to do better, this time organically.
- Hummingbird (2013) – One of the most significant updates by Google, which evolved its core algorithm and indexing infrastructure. This was in order to gain an understanding of the relationship between words and subsequent queries, whilst laying down foundations for the Knowledge Graph and mobile search.
As time has moved on, SEO has played an incremental part in defining relevance to Google’s algorithm. However, it could be argued that the value of SEO is slowly deteriorating as the signals it conveys to Google become weaker, in comparison to those generated by a true brand audience. For that reason, it should be considered that although search engine optimisation efforts need to be maintained, building a genuine audience through heightened inbound marketing and PR efforts is imperative. As a result, the required traffic needed can be generated, whilst sending the desired signals to Google for SERP success.