Technical SEO

Google Algorithm

Shahid Maqbool

By Shahid Maqbool
On Apr 5, 2023

Google Algorithm

What is Google Algorithm?

Google algorithm is a complex process by which Google retrieves the data from its index by looking at several factors and displays the best possible answers to the searcher’s queries. 

Search engines like Google look at their algorithm and multiple ranking factors to display the best possible results and rank the websites.

This process scans and analyses the websites for whether they are relevant enough to serve a searcher’s query or not. 

Google keeps on changing, improving, and updating its algorithm. In 2020 only, Google made 4500 updates to its algorithm. Most of the updates were related to its ranking system, followed by the user interface and several other factors.

On average, Google makes changes 4-6 times per day to several thousand per year.

Google keeps its exact algorithm mechanism and functioning secret; however, SEOs use different hints to deduct information for improving their websites’ performance. 

How does Google's search algorithm work?

As stated earlier, Google keeps most of its information related to the search algorithm private; however, it is believed that Google uses more than 200 ranking factors in its search algorithm to rank the websites.

In its official documentation, Google has stated that it uses meaning, relevance, quality, usability and context of content to determine which results should display to answer searchers’ queries.

To give you the most useful information, Search algorithms look at many factors and signals, including the words of your query, relevance and usability of pages, expertise of sources, and your location and settings. The weight applied to each factor varies depending on the nature of your query. For example, the freshness of the content plays a bigger role in answering queries about current news topics than it does about dictionary definitions.


Major Google algorithm updates

Google updates its algorithm several times a year. These updates can be categorised in two ways:

Minor updates: These are slight changes that are typically made on regular basis. They usually have no major impact on search engine rankings.

Core updates: These are major changes to Google's algorithm and often get unique names. These updates usually have a huge impact on websites and their rankings.

Here is the list of Google's most popular core algorithms that emerged in the last decade and have changed the landscape of the SEO world.


Google Panda was first introduced in 2011 and then fully added to the core algorithm in 2016 to filter the low-quality and thin content. It targets duplicate, plagiarised, and keyword-stuffed content.

The purpose of this algorithm update is to combat black hat SEO tactics. The web pages are assigned a quality score based on multiple factors. These websites are then ranked accordingly.

Google Panda is quite efficient in detecting thin or low-quality content. New update rollouts occur most frequently and continue to penalise and recover the websites faster. 


Google Penguin was introduced in 2012 to fight off spammy links. The purpose was to remove manipulative and irrelevant links that were over-optimized with anchor text.

The main objective of Google Penguin is to discourage the bad and unnatural backlinks practices that are earned through links farms or other unauthorised practices.


Google Hummingbird update, rolled out in 2013, focuses on interpreting the searcher’s queries and inferring the meaning behind them.

It shifted the search results from exact-match search queries to inferring and understanding the searcher’s intent. It filtered out the low-quality and keyword-stuffed content from the search results and focused on search intent.

This algorithm has made it possible for the content to rank better even if it has not covered the exact keywords


Google Pigeon was launched in 2014 that has improved local search results and helped local businesses grow better than ever.

Searchers will now have more precise results based on their location.

Earlier, small businesses had to focus more on SEO practices, but with Google Pigeon, every minor to large business will have equal chances of growth and appearance in search results.

Location and distance are key elements of a search plan that determine the search results. This algorithm has also affected the results in Google Maps and those shown in regular search results.

Mobile Update 

Google's mobile update came in 2015, encouraging mobile-friendly pages and dropping off the ranking of websites with poor mobile usability.

As more search traffic comes from mobile, it was necessary to focus on mobile-friendly versions of web pages.

Subsequent updates rolled out in 2018 and 2020 - focused on ranking websites based on how fast their mobile version loads and user-friendliness.


Another Google core algorithm update was also made in 2015. RankBrain is a machine learning system launched as a part of the Hummingbird algorithm to focus on providing more relevant search results by understanding the meaning behind the search terms.

The purpose was to provide more accurate results to the searchers that go beyond their exact match query and understand the intent behind their query.


Medic was launched in 2018 for websites having weak E-A-T (expertise, authority, trustworthiness) signals. The purpose of this update was to improve the E-A-T of the websites that deal with public health and well-being.

The word “Medic” does not mean it only deals with medical websites. It may include others that involve life-changing decisions like education and law.

There are a few hints that show Medic update works the way anticipated by the SEOs – even the name has been suggested by some experts in the industry.

Google has not said anything clearly about it and says it is only a general update that is not specifically designed for medical websites.

Google on Medic update

This is all Google said on the Medic update without calling it a “Medic update”. 


Bert (2019) is another Google algorithm update that focuses on the context of a search term and drops off the rankings of websites with poor or thin content.

It was based on a machine learning technique called BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) that is used for natural language processing.

It better understands the queries, identifies their relationship and interprets the meaning.

BERT models can therefore consider the full context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it—particularly useful for understanding the intent behind search queries.


A year-wise brief history of Google algorithm updates

Here is a brief overview of all major updates and refreshes Google has made since 2003.



Florida Update



Big Daddy Update

Jagger Update


Caffeine Update

Vince Update


MayDay Update


Brand Update

Merchant Reviews


Panda Update Panda Update 2.0 – 3.1

Freshness Update

Scraper filter


Panda Update 3.2- 3.9.2

Page Layout Update

Venice Update

Penguin Update

Penguin Update 1.1 – 1.2

Exact Match Domain Update

Page Layout Update


Penguin Update 2.0 -2.1

Payday Loan Update

Hummingbird Update


Page Layout Refresh

Payday Loan Update 2.0, 3.0

Panda Update 4.0, 4.1

Pigeon Update

Penguin Update 3.0


Mobile-Friendly Update

Quality Update

Panda Update 4.2



Panda Core Algorithm Incorporation

Mobile-Friendly Update

Quality Update

Possum Update

Penguin Update 4.0 & Core Algorithm Integration


Intrusive Interstitials Update


Fall Flux

Maccabees Update


Broad Core Algorithm Update

Unconfirmed Halloween Update

August 2018 Medic Update


Valentine’s Day Update

March 2019 Core Update

June 2019 Core Update

Featured Snippets Update

BERT Update


January 2020 Core Update

January 2020 Core Update

May 2020 Core Update

December 2020 Core Update


Passage Ranking

Product Reviews Update

Broad Core Algorithm Update

Known Victims Protection

Page Experience Update

June 2021 Spam Update

Spam Update Part 2

July 2021 Core Update

Google Link Spam Algorithm Update

Google Spam Update

Broad Core Update

November 2021 Local Search Update

December 2021 Product Review Update


Page Experience Update

March 2022 Product Algorithm Update

May 2022 Core Update

July 2022 Product Reviews Update

Helpful Content Update

September Core Algorithm Update

Product Review Algorithm Update

Where to find Google’s algorithm official updates?

Google makes several changes and updates its algorithm several times a day.

Core updates have a major impact on rankings, so staying up to date with all the latest algorithm updates, documentation, and other statements released by Google is essential. 

Whenever an algorithm update is made, it is officially announced on different platforms of Google. You can stay in touch with official channels of Google like:

Google’s official Twitter page

Google Search Central’s YouTube channel

If you have any questions regarding Google's algorithm or want to know how it works, you may ask Google’s John Mueller during official hangouts hours on YouTube.

The bottom line

Google's algorithm is a complex process that keeps on changing. Despite several changes, the main essence of ranking and presenting the best relevant content to searchers will remain the same.

It is ideal to stay in touch with Google's official platforms to know about the latest updates and refreshes.

Meanwhile, create quality content for your audience, build authority, keep your website updated and user-friendly, and focus on building relevant links.

These are some of the things Google really cares about the websites and gives weightage to them.  

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