This month we review what Google got up to last year and track some of the major changes it made. We also have an array of tidbits, sites of interest and cartoon of the month. May you have a stellar March!
Major Google Algorithm Updates In 2016
Sometimes in order to get a reading on what lies ahead, it is useful to look to the past. So, let’s take a look at the major Google algorithm updates of 2016. If you don’t want to get bogged down in the tech speak, you can just read the bold sub-headings to get a feel for the changes. Note that SERP refers to “search engine result pages”.
January 12 – Core Algorithm Update Confirmed
Significant ranking movements recorded in early January gave rise to speculation regarding a possible ‘Penguin’ update, however it was later confirmed as just a “core algo update” by Google (Penguin updates aim to catch out sites that use poor link building practices).
February 23 – AdWords Layout And Positioning Altered
While essentially a paid search update centred on the removal of the right hand ad column, this update had substantial implications for organic search results. The top ad block above the organic search results was increased to four places; this had the effect of pushing natural organic results further down the page.
May 10 – Major Update Suspected
Rare algorithm activity was recorded in several prominent SERP tracking tools, including a large spike. No update was officially confirmed, as is often the case from Google.
May 12 – Mobile Friendly Update Number 2
Building on its earlier mobile friendly update, Google placed a heavier emphasis on the importance of mobile-friendly sites by increasing its relevance as a ranking signal. Thus ensuring that people focus more on making their websites suitable for mobile devices. This is because more searches now take place on mobile devices than on desktop computers.
September 1 – The “Possum” Update Rolled Out
Said to be in an attempt to reduce spam and place a larger emphasis on local search results. The update dubbed the “Possum”, while not officially confirmed by Google, appeared to increase filters around addresses and affiliations, while taking into account the importance of the physical location of the searcher. This is because 80% of consumers now search using local intent.
September 13 – Image Ranking Drop On Page 1
SERP’s with images on page one experienced a massive drop overnight resulting in a significant reshuffling of organic rankings. This change took many by surprise and appears to have become permanent.
September 23 – The Penguin 4.0 Update Finally Landed
The long awaited Penguin update finally arrived which essentially led to the devaluing of bad links instead of penalising them, along with the announcement it has now gone real time and been amalgamated into the core algorithm. The rollout of this update appeared to take some time with dates and details unconfirmed by Google.
November 10 – Major Update Suspected
A large amount of SERP’s ranking activity was detected which then appeared to be reversed on November 18. This led to some speculation that Google could be performing Mobile-First index testing. Google is planning a mobile first index. This means it will create and rank its search listings based on the mobile versions of content. This is because Google wants its index and results to represent the majority of their users – who are now mobile searchers.
Moving on to January and February this year, Google has kicked off by rolling out the “Mobile Intrusive Interstitials Penalty”, which aims to improve the users search experience regardless of the device used. For further background, ‘interstitials’ are web pages that display before or after an expected content page (such as pop-ups).
While it is difficult for even the experts to predict where Google search will take us in the future, taking a look back over the major algorithm updates for 2016 we can see a definite focus on mobile search and local search.
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