A recap of 2014's major Google Algorithm Changes


As tech-savvy inbound marketers, we are constantly on the look-out for software and technology updates. We hang out on industry blogs and partake in the occasional web chat, all in a bid to stay ‘in the know’. We  understand that sometimes, the combination of constant updates and a hectic workload means that acute changes to software gets missed.

To make sure you’re up-to-date with the latest and greatest changes in SEO, we’ve compiled a list of the significant Google algorithm updates from the last 12 months. Major Google algorithm updates usually happen a few times a year, but this past year has seen some of the most significant revisions to date. So, for all you savvy business owners looking to try new strategies, and to all you SEO and search professionals that may need a quick refresher, here you go! 


A quick refresher of what-is-what


  • Pigeon: The pigeon update is a new algorithm to provide more useful, relevant and accurate local search results, and is tied more closely to traditional web search rankings. This update is said to improve Google’s distance and location parameters.

  • Payday Loan: A set of algorithm updates and data refreshes initiated to help identify and penalise web sites that use spam techniques to improve their ranking for specific search queries that are considered “spammy” in nature.

  • Pirate: A filter introduced in 2012 designed to prevent sites with many copyright infringement reports, from ranking well in Google’s listings.
  • Penguin: Also introduced in 2012, the update is aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using declared ‘black-hat SEO’ techniques.
  • Panda: An update introduced in 2011 meant to stop poor quality content from working its way into Google’s top search results.


The Specifics: what the updates actually mean


May 2014: Panda Update, Payday Loan Update

Panda 4.0: An update to help small businesses and websites that create outstanding content rank better in Google search results. It was called “softer and gentler” by Search Engine Land specifically designed to help out those businesses with smaller financial pockets.

Payday Load 2.0: Although details are a little unclear, the update was released to specifically target “very spammy queries”, affecting different international languages to different degrees.


June 2014: Payday Load Update, Authorship photo removed

Authorship Pic Removed: As Google continues to embrace mobile-first design, they decided to drop Photo Authorship and replace it with the authors’ name linked to their Google+ profile. Why? One announcement attributed the change to tidying up search results, while another cited eye-tracking research to back the change. We’ll let you make up your mind.

Payday Loan 3.0: A month after the previous update Payday Loan 2.0 was released. Google released the next generation update coupled with official statements explaining that 2.0 targets spammy websites and 3.0 targets more spammy queries. 


July 2014: Pigeon update

Pigeon: The changes enable users to find more useful, relevant and accurate search results. Although it seems to have given prominent directory sites like TripAdvisor, Travelocity and Yelp better visibility, and in turn had a negative impact on local websites. Prior to the update it was relatively easy for many businesses to rank for local long tail search terms.


August 2014: Authorship removed

Authorship Removed: Authorship - which many believe provided Google+ with the only real value the platform had – was removed by Google. This meant the rel=author tag data would no longer be tracked. John Mueller of Google told Search Engine Land  that authorship was scrapped because users found no value, and had low publisher adoption.


September 2014: Panda Update

Panda 4.1: September saw the newest version of Google’s Panda Update, which Pierre Far said came of the back of user feedback. He wrote “we’ve been able to discover a few more signals to help Panda identify low-quality content more precisely”, providing better search results for small and medium sized sites that create great content.


October 2014: Pirate & Panda Updates

Pirate 2.0: Copyright was at the heart of the latest Pirate update with Google targeting a relatively small group of “suspect websites”. If misconduct was identified the sites were penalised with a massive drop in their ranking.  This article from Search Metrics shows how multiple sites with suspicious keywords were affected. The results speak for themselves.

Penguin 3.0: A refresh that rolled out mid October affecting less than 1% of queries in US English search results, but helped boost search rankings for websites that cleaned up their act in terms of web-spam.


Were you aware of all these major updates? If you need any help to Amp up your SEO strategy check out our tips here.

SEO Goes From Search to Social

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