Pandas, Penguins and Pigeons: Google Search Algorithm Updates 2014 in Reviewby Joshua Khoddami
in Web Conversions & SEO
Another year in the Google Zoo of algorithm updates has come and gone. For those of us in the world of online search, 2014 was marked by several algorithm updates that made it a year full of surprises, bewilderment, anticipation, redemption, and for the unfortunate few, penalties. It is definitely one worth remembering, so before we get our gears ready for 2015, let us take a brief look back at all the algorithm updates that have shaken sites up in the past year.
Here are 2014’s most significant changes, in chronological order:
- February - ‘Top Heavy #3’ – This was the third refresh of Google’s page layout algorithm, which penalises sites that have too many ads above the fold. The refresh allowed those that removed these ads to redeem themselves, and caught those that were too ‘top heavy’ with their ads.
- March – Unknown Update – Significant movements on SERPs prompted speculations that a ‘soft’ Panda update had been released, but Google neither denied nor confirmed this.
- May – Payday Loan 2.0 – This was the second update to the ‘payday loan’ algorithm, which targets sites that try to rank for particularly spammy queries (such as payday loans, from which it got its name).
- May – Panda 4.0 – Matt Cutts confirmed via Twitter that a major Panda update had been released, even though Google had previously stated they wouldn’t be doing so anymore. The update affected around 7.5% of English-language queries.
- June – Payday Loan 3.0 – Another update to the ‘payday loan’ algorithm which came less than a month after the previous one. Official statements suggest that the first update was directed towards specific sites, whilst the second was directed towards a more extensive number and scope of spammy queries.
- June – Authorship photo removal – Authors had to say goodbye to their lovely faces standing alongside their posts on SERPs as Google decided to have these removed, the reason being ‘a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across services.’
- July – Pigeon – This was Google’s first ever update to target local search factors. It drastically changed local results, which Google claimed were now better integrated with their core algorithm.
- August – HTTPS/ SSL – Emphasising their commitment to a more secure web, Google announced that it would boost the rankings of those sites which had the HTTPS encryption by default. The effect would start out small, but Google implied that it could increase if results proved positive.
- August – Authorship removed – Just two months after removing authorship photos on SERPs, Google sealed the end of authorship when it announced the removal of all authorship mark-ups and processing.
- September – Panda 4.1 – Another major Panda update which was estimated to affect 3-5% of search queries. Google stated that it now had more signals to better identify low quality content.
- October – ‘In the News’ Box – More news results from various sources started to appear on SERPs, which irked some major news publishers.
- October – Penguin 3.0 – The long awaited penguin update finally arrived, but had very minimal impact on search queries. Many suspect that this update is not yet done rolling out.
- October – Pirate 2.0 – More than two years after its inception, another Pirate/DMCA update was rolled out, causing many Torrent sites which propagate piracy to experience drastic drops in rankings.
What Can We Expect in 2015?
There’s no news yet on exactly what kind of update we can expect this year, but industry experts agree on several points when it comes to the search trends and facts that instigate these updates:
- Many aspects of SEO will remain the same. High quality, highly targeted, unique content and exceptional website user experiences will continue to be valued above all else.
- More changes will be implemented to make search more compatible with mobile users.
- Search results will become more and more personalised and localised.
We may be seeing a few more familiar algorithm updates as well, but as to exactly which ones and how many, we will all have to wait and see.