Google has a giant record of prominent search algorithm updates, search index changes, and refreshes. Since its launch in 1998, Google has been persistently refining its search algorithm to align search results with users’ intent. Every year, Google comes up with almost 500+ changes in its search algorithm. However, not all but only major updates like Panda and Penguin can have significant impact on search results.
Search marketers have to ensure which update significantly affect their SEO strategy. These updates can help a user in understanding changes in rankings and organic website traffic, and ultimately improve SEO.
Rumours are flying about Google's updates; hence, we, at QL tech , have researched a lot. From the research we conducted, bits of reliable information have come from several sources about the all the possible changes which took place in 2016. Accordingly, we have made a note for user experience.
For carving a perfect SEO strategy and boost rankings, each and every search marketer has to be sure about the dates when, and which updates took place.
Check out the list for all SEO pdates published by Google in 2016.
1. Core Ranking Algorithm Update (January):
When the update was announced by Google on 8th January 2016, most of the webmasters were expecting it to be a Penguin update. However, on 18th January 2016, Gary Illyes, from Google, officially confirmed on Twitter that this was not a Penguin update, but details remained cloudy.
Majorly, this update was about shift in rankings of keywords and websites. This update caused much volatile search results for both the automated tracking tools and the chatter in the community
2. AdWords Shake-up (February):
The major update that took place on 23rd February 2016 relates to Removal of AdWords ads sidebar. Google confirmed that right-column ads have been entirely removed and rolled out 4-ad top blocks on many commercial searches. Now, only 4 ads at the top of the search and 3 ads in the bottom of the search will be displayed, right sidebar ad would never show up again. The site will only display product listing ads (PLA) and knowledge graphs. Being it a paid search update, it had significant repercussions for CTR for both paid and organic results, particularly on competitive keywords.
3. Mobile-Friendly updates (May):
Google indicated in the month of March that they are arranging to boost the mobile-friendly algorithm in May, and clearly, they rolled out on 12th May 2016. This was the second version of an original Google Mobile friendly update which was announced a year back. The new Google mobile-friendly algorithm is hypothetical to give an additional ranking boost for mobile-friendly websites in the mobile search results.
Since the majority of sites tracked these days are already mobile-friendly, the impact of this update is likely to be very minor. To ensure that your website is mobile friendly, check the Google mobile-friendly tool and Google’s mobile guidelines. It is never too late to gain from mobile-friendly algorithm; it is real-time based on how quick Google crawls your web pages.
4. Possum (September):
On 1st September 2016, Google simply released a new update, which was nicknamed "Possum" by the SEO alliance. The main purpose behind this update is to diversify the local results and prevent spam from ranking. Through this update, Google applies filters on Local Searches based on address and affiliation. Post this update, businesses that fall outside of the physical city limits saw a huge spike in ranking. For businesses and SEO strategists who depend on traffic generated from local searches, Possum is significant. Experts have quoted, “Google Possum as being the biggest update to Local search since Pigeon in 2014.”
Possum has enhanced the importance of a searcher’s location on local search engine results pages (SERPs). However, businesses that share the same physical address as other organizations may face challenges. Google does filter out duplicate content in organic search, but ‘punishes’ a business who operates in shared offices. Such businesses may experience fall in SEO rankings since Google aims to become more precise.
Study shows Google’s Possum update changed 64% of local SERPs
5. Image/Universal Drop (September):
Google dropped image results from a large percentage of Google search results on 13th September 2016, which contributes to the instability in search results. Mozcast recorded a significant nearly 50% drop in search results that feature image results appearing within the organic search results.
These updates play a huge role for all businesses and SEO users who are merely dependent on images from search results for getting traffic from there.
The above chart depicts scenario of 30 days (from 28th August 2016 to 26th September 2016). This shows searchers are only seeing images in 15.8% of search results, down from about 33%.
6. Penguin 4.0 (September-October):
At the end of two year’s wait, Google announced its fourth major release, Penguin, on 23rd September 2016. Primary impact assessments were minor, but it was later revealed that the Penguin 4.0 rollout was unusually long and multi-phase. Its phase 1 and phase 2 was announced on 27th September 2016 and 6th October 2016 respectively. Penguin was first released in April 2012.
Based on this update, Penguin's data is refreshed in real-time, so changes will be noticeable much quicker, typically taking effect shortly after Google recrawls, and reindexs a page. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.
This update has its impact on all levels of domain, folders, pages and probably also keywords and keyword groups. So whatever that goes into the organic rankings will now be affected by the Penguin algorithm on a fine level. Here, it would be tougher to analyse “small penguin penalties” in many cases.
The Google Penguin positive or negative signal is now recalculated on the crawl.
The penguin updates have corresponded to an algorithm temperature spike (113°) on 27th September and had had one final peak on 6th October (116°)
1. Phantom 3 (November – unconfirmed by Google):
There was a major algorithm update on 19th November 2016. No one has exact clue about what it is. However, this update is related to Quality update in relation with the previous phantom update 2 of Google. Due to the lack of information (or confirmation) from Google, whatever has affected the search rankings is referred as phantom 3 update. The said update seemed to be connected with the appearance or removal of rich snippets in the SERPs.
8. New Roll out (November-December):
In order to filter out fake news sites, or rather, promote higher quality news sites; it seems that Google has worked on tweaking the top stories algorithm. This is around Google's efforts to hide fake news including banning some Ad Sense publishers.