While Google does not often confirm the algorithmic changes or updates it implements, some credible sources claim that it changes its search algorithm around 500 to 600 times each year.

Admittedly, most of these changes are relatively minor and may have very little effect on website rankings and traffic but the search engine giant also rolls out some major updates from time to time – and this can have a significant impact on the search engine results.

Algorithm Updates: Getting Down to the Basics

Basically, search engine algorithm refers to the unique formula used by search engines to identify the most relevant results to a particular query. This formula is constantly being tweaked and re-tweaked in order to return the most closely matched set of results to a particular query.

Most of the algorithm changes Google implements have a specific focus. Some focus on website content while others put more emphasis on links. It is also important to note that there are many iterations of each major algorithm change so you can expect that Google will continuously make several tweaks to these changes as time goes by.

Some of the Most Popular Google Algorithm Updates

In an effort to come up with the most relevant results to users' queries, Google has implemented several major updates to its search algorithm over the past few years. This includes the Pirate, Penguin, Panda, Pigeon, Hummingbird and Payday Loan Updates. So, how can these updates affect your website? Here are some things you absolutely need to know.

The Pirate Update

The Pirate update aims to prevent sites with multiple copyright infringement reports from ranking well in Google's listings. Google recently launched another update (Pirate 2.0) on October 21, 2014 to combat software and digital media piracy. Since this update was extremely targeted, it resulted in significant drop in rankings to a small group of sites.

The Penguin Update

The Penguin update aims to catch and penalize sites that are spamming their search results through black hat SEO techniques such as link buying schemes. Unfortunately, a good number of web owners, especially those who are using external SEO firms, are not even aware that their websites have paid links. The latest Penguin refresh was released on October 17, 2014 but this time, it only affected less than 1% of all US/English queries.

The Panda Update

The Panda update was first released in February 2011 in an attempt to prevent poor-quality sites (especially those that use keyword stuffing and duplicated content) from reaching the top search results. The latest Panda update (the 27th update, to be exact) which affected about 3% to 4% of all queries was released on September 2014 to reward small and medium-sized sites with good quality content with higher rankings. An earlier refresh which was rolled out in May 2014 affected more than 7.5% of all English-language queries.

The Pigeon Update

This refers to a major search algorithm update which significantly affected the local SEO world. Launched in July 2014, the Pigeon update aims to provide more relevant and accurate local search results by forging closer ties between the core and local algorithms.

The Hummingbird Update

Released in September 2013, the Hummingbird update refers to the change in algorithm that allows Google to understand the intent and contextual meaning of the terms used in a search query.

The Payday Loan Update

This update (Payday loan 3.0) specifically targets queries associated with payday loans, casinos, accident claims and other insurance-related sites that appear to be highly spammy in nature while the earlier update (Payday loan 2.0) targeted specific sites.

Whether you like it or not, you need to be aware of Google's algorithm updates if you want to be rewarded with higher search engine rankings and website traffic. However, as long as you provide your visitors with great content and excellent user-experience, and keep your SEO strategy in line with Google's objectives, these updates should never cause you any troubles.

Author's Bio: 

The Mauldin Group, Ltd. is an online marketing management agency that specializes in SEO, social media marketing, content marketing and pay-per-click advertising. We'd appreciate the opportunity to help you grow your business. Visit us online at www.TheMauldinGroup.com. And be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.