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. Please note, there will definitely be more algorithms Google will be making use of, these are only the confirmed ones.


The Google engine update

Released: September 2013

Top Facts

  • 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 addons 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.

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The link based spam penalty

Released: April 2012

Top Facts

  • This algorithm was Google's response to site owners trying to game the PageRank algorithm by building large quantities of unnatural and spammy links.
  • Along with unnatural links, Penguin aims to penalise sites with a large amount of links from low quality directories, article directories as well as links with repeated use of the same exact-match anchor text.

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The low quality content penalty

Released: February 2011

Top Facts

  • The Panda algorithm was created to penalise sites that Google deemed low-quality and not beneficial to users.
  • Google released a list of characterstics 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.

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The machine learning query processor

Released: October 2015

Top Facts

  • 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.

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The link analysis algorithm

Released: 1998

Top Facts

  • 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.


The local ranking algorithm

Released: July 2014

Top Facts

  • 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 algorithn change only impacted the US, it was later rolled out in December 2014 to also include the UK, Canada and Australia..

Payday Loan

The spammy queries algorithm

Released: June 2013

Top Facts

  • 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.

Page Layout

The top-heavy algorithm

Released: January 2012

Top Facts

  • 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.

Page Speed

The page speed algorithm

Released: April 2010

Top Facts

  • 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.

Mobile Friendly Update

The 'mobilegeddon' algorithm

Released: April 2015

Top Facts

  • This algorithm simply boosted the amount of pages in mobile serch 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.

Freshness Update

The trending content algorithm

Released: November 2011

Top Facts

  • 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.
  • This update wasn't a new algorithim, but an improvement on existing algorithms.