Google has changed a whole lot over the years. This is why it’s so important to constantly stay up-to-date on the latest happenings in the Google algorithm and search engine optimization news: it’s a very fluid marketing industry. The past ten years in particular have been an exercise in constant change for the Google algorithm to the point where what we have today is virtually unrecognizable from what we had in 2003.
Here are some examples of changes made to the Google algorithm over the past decade:
2003 saw the first real efforts to put an end to keyword stuffing tactics. This was a practice used to a huge extent in the 90s, but Google began making efforts to combat those tactics.
2004 marked the introduction of a variety of changes to the Google algorithm, including a huge expansion to its index. The new algorithm changes also paid much more attention to the relevance of anchor text and link “neighborhoods.” The new Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) system introduced in that year gave Google a greater ability to recognize synonyms, which gave a whole new level to keyword analysis.
2005 was a groundbreaking year for Google. Local SEO was changed forever as Google merged its Maps data into the Local Business Center (LBC). Google also made new efforts to combat spam and reward quality content by introducing “nofollow,” a tool that cleans up links that are not vouched for, particularly spammy blog comments. There were also updates that targeted low-quality links, link farms and paid links to punish bad content in SEO.
2007 saw Google integrate traditional search results with news, video, local listings, images and more. This was the most dramatic change to Google’s format in years.
2008 featured the introduction of “suggested searches” in a dropdown field below the search box. This was the precursor to Google Instant.
2009 began the trend of changes that favored branding for businesses. Major SEO updates seemed to strongly favor big brands. Infrastructure changes helped to increase the speed of crawling and expand the index. Real-time search saw its introduction, particularly with Twitter feeds and Google News.
2010 continued 2009’s improvements for branding. Google began drawing data from Twitter and Facebook to use in rankings. Google Instant began displaying search results as they were typed. Google also began allowing domain names to appear multiple times on a SERP.
2011 saw quite a few more changes come in. Google launched its own social media network, Google+, which has yet to make the impact of Facebook or Twitter on a social leel but continues to be a major factor in SEO. The #1 button became a new way for users to influence search results within their circles. Google also introduced additional ways to punish spammers, poor content and sites that had high ad-to-content ratios. Finally, changes were made to the algorithm to reward “fresh” content.
2012 saw Google continue to push Google+ integration into its tools. It also rolled out Penguin, a web spam update to the Google algorithm, that further punished over-optimized content.
2013 featured further updates to Penguin, as well as updates intended to control domain crowding.
So what can we expect for 2014? It’s anyone’s guess, but if the last ten years are any indication we can expect to see the Google algorithm continue to evolve!