Google Algorithm Changes - An Evolution
Since its earliest days, Google has regularly updated its algorithms. With what you could relate to as a developing human. In Google's beginning, it was akin to that of an infant. Easy to manipulate. Unsure of the world around it. As time went on Google has steadily involved in what it is today. Becoming smarter and more efficient in the process. Making it more difficult to be "gamed" by questionable webmasters and Black-Hat SEO professionals. Bringing even more relevance to the searcher. Which in, Rochester MN SEO opinion is Google's all-encompassing goal - to be relevant.
Here are some algorithm updates that have developed Google into the late stage's of adolescents, if you will. The current development stage of Google’s local search algorithm:
Google Algorithm Update
May 1, 2007: Universal Search
In 2007, there was a massive update to Google’s overall algorithm – not just local.
The reason why this is being included here is that of its significant impact on local SEO. It wasn’t a typical algorithm update. Instead, Google took the standard search results and combined them all with things like video, local, images, news, as well as other verticals. More than likely this was an update based largely on the acquisition of YouTube in late 2006. This change completely and utterly changed the SEO landscape forever, and the old un-dynamic 10-listing SERP was officially dead.
April 1, 2010: Google Places
While places pages were released and pushed out in the month of September 2009, they had originally been a part of Google Maps. This launch re-branded the Google Local Business Center, consolidated the places pages with local SERPs, and added local advertising options, among many other features. Essentially, Local Search was born.
February 27, 2012: The Venice Update
This particular update was rolled out as part of their monthly update. You may have noticed if you search your phone for certain local things, or your computer, that Google has automatic, targeted local items. We can thank the Venice update for this.
The main purpose of this update was to tighten up and implement more aggressive localization in local search data that was ultimately displayed to the consumer.
This update improved two things:
Ranking for results like local search results, by focusing on the ranking of sites by using their main SERPs as a local signal.
Improved local results.
The new system was designed to target and find results from a searcher’s locale with greater reliability. This supposedly allowed Google to “better detect when both queries and documents were local to the user.” Mathematical equations such as the Traveling Salesman Problem and WalkSAT were effectively implemented.
August 20, 2013: The Hummingbird Update
While this particular update was announced September 26, it was actually released about a month earlier. Many have compared the Hummingbird Update to Google's Caffeine algorithm update from 2010 due to its speed and preciseness being improved.
Hummingbird was basically a core algorithm update that was meant to power changes to things like the knowledge graph, as well as semantic search for a long time to come.
Hummingbird was designed to augment conversational search with improvements, which Google mentioned as an example of what it was designed to improve. Google’s best explanation was that it was supposed to improve focus on the actual meaning and intent behind words used when searching. In other words, it was meant to improve results to the point that it would “help Google go beyond just finding pages with matching words.” Another way to look at this update is the evolution of Natural Language Processing technologies. NLP technologies were at a point where Google could implement the data and use it to make its underlying goal more efficient - Relevance to the searcher!
July 24, 2014: Pigeon Update
The Pigeon Update was a major shakeup in the local SEO world. This algorithm change was focused on providing more useful, relevant, and accurate local search results. These new local results changes were visible within the Google Maps results as well as Google web search. Google’s core changes were behind the scenes and it impacted local search results significantly. Google said it improved the algorithm to include better ranking parameters specifically targeting distance and location. Geolocating and utilizing smartphone technologies became prevalent.
September 1, 2016: Possum Update
Google never confirmed this particular update. But, at the time there was a major shake-up in local SERP results, suggesting a major update occurred. There is no direct confirmation of this either, but there is data that seems to suggest that this particular update had also applied to organic results. Joy Hawkins suggested, “that this update only impacted rankings in the 3-pack and local finder (Google Maps local results).”
What’s the Future of SEO?
Current statistics, data, and trends suggest that local SEO is headed toward a paradigm shift in significantly improved context and understanding. The proliferation of devices, like smartphones, Amazon Echo and Google Home, suggest a trend towards the creation of devices that have more conversation-like approaches that equal or exceed human understanding. It could even be suggested that these devices implement higher-quality, faster, and overall improved algorithms to serve enhanced voice search results to the user. In essence the Artificial Intelligence Revolution is upon us. 2019 and beyond local search and the overall search will begin to become dominated by Voice Search. And, written language is different from spoken language. Which in turn changes everything when it comes to search engine optimization. Google is always adjusting and updating its algorithms. It remains to be seen what will happen, but we believe it is always working to achieve one goal - bringing relevance to the searcher. It is an exciting time to see the next step of Google's development into early adulthood.