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- the Google algo (SEO)
- the 19 main algorithms
- 8 key points for SEO on Google
- functioning of the algo
- infographics: how the Google search engine works
The Google algo (SEO)
There is not 1 but multiple Google algorithms
To simplify, we can say that there is not a ranking algorithm of Google, but a constellation of algorithms that are cumulative. Incidentally, it has become so complex that even at Google it must be very hard to navigate it! I even think that because of this entanglement of algos, filters and other criteria, there must be a lot of uncontrolled edge effects …
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SEO: there is not 1 but full of Google algorithms, WebRankInfo summarizes here the 19 to knowCLICK TO TWEETMost (if not all) algorithms are intended to improve the relevance of the search results. But some are planned for:
- penalize sites or pages that do not respect the instructions (for example artificial backlinks or keyword stuffing)
- favor sites or pages that have a specific characteristic (eg speed, secure HTTPS protocol, mobile compatibility …)
Google adds, modifies and deletes algorithms permanently ( several hundred changes per year ). It’s important for you to stay abreast of all these developments! But do not worry, this article is constantly updated to stick to the Google 2018 algorithm.
Did you know ? In 2017, Google conducted more than 200,000 tests, had 31584 algo changes tested by its evaluators and then posted 2453 changes to its search algorithm.
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The Google algo in summary
If you are in a hurry, here are the essentials to remember:
- Your site must be mobile compatible (according to Google), otherwise your mobile ranking is worse. This is even more important now that Google is moving to a mobile first index. You do not have to display an intrusive pop-up or interstitial banner to the user coming from Google.
- Your site must also be very fast , both desktop and mobile
- The main updates of Google’s algo now concern the overall quality of the site . There is no more unique name, we speak as well of ” Fred ” as of Phantom or Panda.
- The Panda algorithm is integrated into the general algorithm, so there is no official date (the last dates back to 2015). It is a major algo Google that seeks to promote quality sites.
- Penguin is now also integrated with Google’s algo, with updates “in real time”. This is another major algo of Google.
- Google urges to migrate to HTTPS but the SEO impact is low
- Google has changed its algorithm against satellite pages (be careful, their definition seems wide, the impact may affect many people), in place since about early May 2015
List of the main algorithms of Google (SEO)
Here is a list, sorted in order of current importance, with for each:
- his name (official or not)
- the date of the last update (or the expected date of uploading)
- a brief description
- links for free help and advice, or an audit quote, or tailored training
I’m counting on you to report me forgotten or missing updates!
- Dates: released in 2011, the last official update date of 18/07/2015 but since January 2016, Panda is officially “the heart of the algo” but “not in real time”
- Panda seeks to evaluate the quality of the sites; his algo, exploiting the techniques of machine learning , evaluates the content of the pages themselves but also the behavior of the Internet users.
- The impact is on the entire site, but lower quality topics are the ones that suffer the most in Google visibility.
- Learn more: Panda 4.2 , central page on Panda , Panda audit sample with RMTech (and its video ), Panda audit quote by Olivier Duffez , Ranking Metrics training including Panda
2 Penguin (or rather Penguin)
- Released in April 2012, the last official version dates from 23/09/2016; however, since that date Penguin is integrated into Google’s global algo and updated continuously
- It aims to penalize sites that have abused techniques that violate the instructions of Google (we also speak of over-optimization of SEO). In practice, it is essentially an excessive presence of artificial links pointing to the site.
- Learn more: how to avoid the Penguin penalty , exit Real-time Penguin , Penguin audit quote by Olivier Duffez , Ranking Metrics training including Penguin
3 Mobile Compatibility and Mobile-First Index
- This algo was released on April 21, 2015 worldwide. It was then strengthened in May 2016.
- The sites must be mobile compatible, according to Google’s criteria. It only concerns searches on mobile devices (smartphones).
- The impact is page by page: if a page is mobile compatible, it will be favored in mobile searches while incompatible pages will have a handicap in terms of positioning.
- The algo runs continuously: every time Googlebot crawls a page, it tests if it is mobile compatible
- Learn more: make your site mobile compatible for Google .
This is not an algo, but it is important enough to be indicated here: Google passes its index in mobile-first . Until now, Google rated pages from their desktop version , even for mobile rankings (aside from the mobile friendly bonus ). With this change, Google evaluates pages from their mobile version, even for desktop ranking .
4 « Medic », « Fred », « Phantom » ou « Quality Update »
- There are several major changes in algo that do not always have an official name. Sometimes a name is needed in the SEO community, even if it does not always describe the reality very well.
- Medic was released on August 1, 2018, a few days after Google updated its official guide to its Quality Raters. With this change, it seems that the EAT criteria (Expertise, Authority, Trust) are even more important than before, especially for YMYL content .
- Fred was released March 8, 2017, timidly officialized 2 weeks later. A new version could have taken place in March 2018 or in April 2018 . It’s not clear exactly how Fred works or his goals. John Mueller (Google) talked about the overall assessment on a quality site and recommended (like his colleague Gary Illyes) to re-read the instructions to webmasters as well as the guide for Quality Raters. It seems that the penalized sites are those that are built before anything for their monetization, so SEO optimization focused on that rather than the satisfaction of users. What penalizes: an abuse of artificial backlinks, too many advertisements, a deceptive content … In short, elements already included in other Algos.
- The last one is Phantom 5 , released in February 2017. Note that other quality updates take place regularly. Like Panda, this algorithm seeks to evaluate the quality of pages and / or sites. Maybe the focus is on locating sites that bring the user what he was looking for . Google did not specify how it differs from Panda, what kinds of criteria it is based on and how often it will be updated. Google did not specify whether this algorithm works by page or by site. According to my analysis on several sites concerned, I know that it is not on the whole site, but I also have the impression that Google performs analyzes by sections of the site.
- This algo was formalized in October 2015 but has been in place since early 2015
- It is an algorithm using artificial intelligence techniques, including machine learning to try to better respond to the complex requests of Internet users. In particular, it is adapted to answer queries that had never been made before (there are about 15% every day anyway).
- It is not an algorithm that penalizes or favors certain types of content or SEO practices. It is closer to Hummingbird than Panda or Penguin. According to Google, it is not possible to optimize for RankBrain …
- Learn more: Google’s RankBrain algo
6 Hummingbird (Colibri)
- This algo was formalized in September 2013
- It does not seek to penalize or favor certain situations; This is the most important redesign of Google’s ranking algorithm. The goal is to better understand both the indexed content and the request of the user (especially formulated by oral practice on the rise with the mobile). This is the advent of semantic research.
- Learn more: algo Google Hummingbird
7 pigeon and be able to
- This algo was released in July 2014 (for google.com in English) and in late May early June 2015 internationally
- This is an update of the ranking algorithm for local results
- It concerns all countries and languages (from the end of May to the beginning of June 2015)
- An evolution of this algo seems to have taken place around September 2016: in the SEO world, it has been called Opossum (or Possum in English)
- More: Google Pigeon, the local algo , Opossum (article in English)
8 Intrusive interstitial advertising
- Google tries to penalize cases where too many pop-ups or interstitial banners are intrusive, that is to say that it hinders the reading of the content
- Released on January 10, 2017
- The impact is page by page, knowing that this only affects the first page viewed, only by a visitor arriving on the site from a Google search
- Note: this is not necessarily an “algo” or a “penalty” since it is all the same algorithmic
- Learn more: intrusive interstitial advertising
9 Pages satellite
- This algo was announced in March 2015 and put online between March and early May 2015
- It seeks to penalize satellite pages, that is to say, created only for SEO, usually very low content or almost duplicated content. It also targets satellite site techniques.
- It is not known if the impact will be at the site or page level, or if the algo will be updated in real time or only on certain dates
- Learn more: Google update against satellite pages
- This algo is in place officially since April 9, 2010 on computer and since July 9, 2018 on mobile
- Officially: on a computer it aims to favor fast sites, and on mobile to penalize sites too slow
- It is applied all over the world (all countries and languages)
- Learn more: how to make your site fast , algo speed on mobile , official announcement of Google
- This algo was formalized in August 2014
- It favors pages that use the HTTPS protocol
- It is applied all over the world (all countries and languages)
- The impact is page by page but it is very weak
- Learn more: impact of HTTPS in SEO
12 Indexation d’applications mobiles (App Indexing)
- This algo was formalized in February 2015 ( source )
- It favors web pages associated with a deep link to a “screen” of a mobile app (mechanism of App Indexing)
- If you also use the App Indexing API , you have an additional advantage in positioning
- In addition to ” ranking “, the advantage lies in the prominent display in the SERP(there are several possibilities, but your ” snippet ” is much more visible)
- It is a priori applied all over the world (all countries and languages), for the moment only on Android mobiles
- Learn more: impact of the Indexing App
13 Excess advertising
- This algo was formalized in January 2012. The latest version is version 3 which dates from February 6, 2014.
- It seeks to penalize the overdose of advertising, especially above the waterline (we speak of ” ads above the fold ” or ” top heavy “)
- I think Google is based on analyzes of the entire site: so avoid having too many pages on the site with too much ad
- Learn more: Google algo against the excess of advertising
14 Articles de fond (in-depth articles)
- This algo is from August 2013
- It sometimes shows in the results a sort of box with highlighted feature articles
- Learn more: algo Google In-Depth Articles
15 Exact Match Domain (EMD)
- This algo is from September 2012
- It seeks to penalize sites whose domain name consists exclusively of keywords and whose added value is very low
- Learn more: Google algo against EMD
- This algo is from November 2011
- It aims to display cooler and newer results on queries that require it
- Learn more: algo Google Freshness
17 Pirate / DMCA Update
- This algo was first released in August 2012, version 2 in November 2014
- It aims to remove the results sites that offer illegal downloading
- Learn more: algo Google DMCA 2
18 Payday loan
- This algo was first released in 2012. The latest version (v3) is from June 2014
- It seeks to improve the quality of results especially on certain queries where spam is important (credits, casino, sex, counterfeiting, etc.).
- For those who are interested, I found the translation of “payday loan” which means “a short-term cash advance granted by a credit company”.
Again, I’m counting on you to report me forgotten or missing updates!
The 8 key points of a good SEO on Google
Rand Fishkin (founder of Moz) published a very good synthesis of SEO on Google in 2018, here is an excerpt …
Optimize your site for ” SERP Features”
First, he recalls that SEO is no longer (only) to fight to be in the top 10 traditional results. Indeed, the SERP have totally changed in a few years, we are now far from the classic 10 “blue links”: there are multiple blocks displayed in the results pages .
Here according to him the 16 main for the referencers:
- Other questions asked (People Also Ask)
- Featured Snippet
- local map
- Knowledge Panel
- block “In the news” (news)
- applications mobiles
- associated researches
- Suggestions of research (autocompletion)
- Sitelinks for a page
- Articles de fond (In-Depth Articles)
- Carousels and result lists
Then, concerning these traditional results (web pages), here according to him the 8 key points of a good SEO in 2018:
Your content must match what is expected by Google’s systems (based on machine learning).
It must be relevant, of high quality and respond precisely to the intention of the user.
You must obtain editorial links (placed in the heart of the content), with text links containing keywords (anchor text). Be careful not to overdo it at this level.
These links must be “follow” (that is, they must not be nofollow … otherwise they will not help you, other than generating traffic).
They must come from high quality sites.
3 User Satisfaction
If Google observes a high rate of return in the SERP (after a quick visit to your site), or other signals that reflect the fact that your page / site does not provide the answer sought by the user , then you risk see your positioning go down.
Even if Google searches for pages that respond globally to the request of the user, sometimes with other words, it is useful to use the right keywords. It’s good for positioning as well as to promote a good click rate in the SERPs .
5 Quality of the domain name
All the quality criteria on your site are amplified by the global evaluation of the domain name.
A “powerful” domain gives a boost to its pages that can be better positioned.
As you understand, the boost depends on the (good) reputation of the domain name, and is present only if the pages themselves fill the criteria for a good positioning.
6 User Experience
Google wants to promote sites with an easy-to-use and intuitive user experience (UX) without any obstacles.
Obviously, this must be true regardless of the device (fixed and mobile) and the connection speed.
7 Technique and crawl
Your pages must be crawlable (accessible to Google) and fast! Check your search stats in Search Console.
They must contain text and be accessible by HTML links.
Google results are personalized! There can be big differences depending on the user’s location, device, search history and time.
How does Google’s algo work?
Udi Manber, a member of the Search Quality team at Google, explained on the official Google blog how teams are organized at Google to manage the heart of the engine, namely research: positioning algorithm, evaluation of the quality of the results , user interface, international management, fight against spam …
Believing that the work of the Quality team at Google is not well known to users of the famous search engine, Udi Manber decided to give some explanation on how they work . Here is a small summary of the different teams described by Udi, with some comments …
Teams in charge of Google’s ranking algorithm
Creating an algorithm for analyzing the relevance of pages according to users’ requests is much more difficult than it seems. On the one hand there is a lot of way to present things on a page (this differs notably according to languages); on the other hand it is often difficult to guess what the user really looks for through his request (sometimes formulated imprecisely or ambiguously). The development of this algorithm is therefore a complex task that must take into account a strong constraint: the user must obtain an answer in a few milliseconds, even if there are hundreds of millions of requests made per day on Google!
The most popular part of the algorithm is the PageRank (because it was a key part of the launch of Google, also because it was originally described by a specific formula in a public article and finally because the webmasters believed can measure it by the estimate provided in Google’s toolbar). The PageRank is still used by Google, but on the one hand its formula has changed (the last change dates back to January 2008) and on the other hand the PageRank is
drowned in the middle of a lot of other criteria used by Google. Udi also cites the modeling of each language and the temporal aspects (it confirms what we thought: for some queries dealing for example with the news, Google puts forward pages posted online for a very short time).
Teams in charge of evaluating the quality of Google results
There are several types of evaluation:
- automatic evaluation done every minute, to be sure everything is working normally
- manual evaluations made regularly by the quality team
- evaluations of each new algorithm introduced on Google: in 2007, about 450 modifications or additions were made to the Google algorithm (note: this may be all Google services, not just the classic search)
- evaluations made by volunteers at Google for the many languages managed by the search engine
Teams in charge of the user interface
Google is trying to improve the user experience by introducing new features into the interface. Many people analyze all the details to make sure these changes are appreciated by users. We imagine that there have been so many tests since the launch of universal search , which has radically changed the appearance of the results pages.
Teams in charge of the fight against spamdexing
No doubt more known webmasters and all those interested in SEO, the team led by Matt Cutts is responsible for combating spam at Google. Engineers try to detect new trends in order to find parries (algorithmic in most cases). They are in dialogue with the team of Webmaster Central which aims to communicate with webmasters from around the world.
Matt Cutts recalls that he is not at the head of the Search Quality at Google but the entity that fights against spamdexing:
We do not learn so much that but we should not dream, the algorithm of Google is their
family jewels , a magic formula whose market value is probably in billions of dollars… Hope that the next articles promised by Udi Manber will tell us more about the innards of Google!
Infographic: how does Google (the search engine) work?
I end with an infographic that I find well done, published by seobook.com :