Nope, we are not taking you on a virtual zoo ride, despite what this extreme click bait title might have led you to think (sorry but not sorry, we need traffic on our website).
It might seem like a boring topic, but it’s both important and super interesting when you realize that Google’s algorithm is one of the most famous and powerful formula ever conceived.
Every year, this algorithm deals with more than 2 trillion searches. That is like 2 000 000 000 000 searches! Which means like 63 000 searches per second.
Quite a lot? Indeed, but it’s understandable when Google gathers 90% of the searches worldwide.
In short, this algorithm has the power to give or hide any piece of information to the whole world. It has such a huge power that Google is banned in China - one of the reasons being that the company refused to filter Search results. This shows how powerful the number 1 search engine is and by extension, how powerful algorithm is.
Now that you know why this algorithm is so important and how incredibly powerful it is, might want to know more about it.
Well, my friend, you’ve come to the right place. Grab a drink, sit back and read on.
The web is big, very big and Google only knows a part of it
Like we said in a previous article, the web is immense. And Google only knows a part of it.
According to some estimations, the deep web (the part of the web that is not indexed on classic search engines) is 400 to 500 times bigger than what is indexed in Google.
Firstly, Google runs a software called web crawler to discover publicly available pages on the Internet. It scrawls through the web, and analyze web-pages.
When this software finds a page, Google records a key signal (keywords, website freshness, etc.) and keeps track of it in the Search index. When the web page is being indexed, it is then
So, when you type keywords in your Search bar, it will not only scan through all the indexed pages that matches your keywords, but it will also rank them depending on various criteria. In fact, more than 200 of them.
How many times does this page contains your keyword?
Do the words appear in the title? In the URL?
Is this page from a quality website?
What is this page PageRank?
Depending on how well a web-page answers these questions, Google will display results in a different order on the search engine results page (also known as SERP).
All this happens in less than half a second. Impressive, right? What’s the magic behind it?
Well, this is not magic. This is algorithms.
Need for updates
Let’s start with a bit of history.
Google’s first algorithm, PageRank was developed by Sergey BRIN and Lawrence PAGE - hence the name, as a research project in Stanford University.
Fun fact is that it was patented by the university itself and Google only had the exclusive license rights. The company had to give the university 1.8 million shares to be allowed to use the patent.
For the record, these shares were sold in 2005 for $336 million.
But Google kept improving its algorithm to increase the accuracy of the searches and gives its user the best results possible. The algorithm also had to evolve for more practical reasons: cheaters.
Indeed, every algorithm has its weaknesses and can be cheated. For a long time, one of the cheat was to have the exact matching URL.
When typing in the search bar « best coffee in town » Google wouldn’t bring you to the coffees with the best reviews around the location, but to the website with the URL « bestcoffeeintown.com" which wasn’t necessarily a business located in the city of the users and which might just be an online coffee platform. So many websites, especially spams, were trying to get their URL matching keywords.
Another cheat was to buy links coming from other websites, redirecting to one website to increase its ranking on Google (it is called black hat SEO, but don’t worry, we’ll get back to it in another article).
Indeed, Google algorithms takes in consideration the amount of links directed towards your website (called backlinks) to assess its importance. So, the company had to include a tool to check the quality of these links and penalize the cheaters
« Don’t be evil » is Google’s oldest motto. It applies to them but also to its users and therefore Google decided to go hard on all the cheaters trying to fool the algorithms. Hence the need for updates.
Another reason why Google keeps updating its algorithm is that technology evolves and brings new possibilities. Now everyone has a smartphone, geo-tracking allows more accurate results and enhance user’s experience since Google knows where you are and can adapt the results accordingly.
Hence another algorithm modification.
But what is the connection with our click bait pandas title?
Well, chill my friend, chill, we are getting there.
=A hummingbird to rule them all
Since the company is obsessed with optimizing user’s experience and improving accuracy, Google keeps adding filters, tools and pieces of algorithms to the main one. This is when pandas come into the game.
Google has made four major updates recently, and we will explain to you how each one of them affects Search results.
Added to the main algorithm in 2011, Panda was developed to value quality content and to make sure this content was showcased first on the SERP. Basically, Panda set new rules on how to optimise a website on Google and 12% of the researches were affected by this new algorithm. Now, Panda is used to filter spams and everything that is added on a website without bringing any actual value like duplicated contents, plagiarism and contents with spelling mistakes.
Other criteria were added since this date. For the record, this update was not named after the animal, but after the name of the engineer who developed the technology necessary for this update: Navneet Panda.
Penguins might be cute creatures, but the one developed by Google is more like a super cop filtering the traffic: 2.3% of the searches were affected.
This update was designed to prevent poor backlinks.
Indeed, like we said earlier, it is possible to buy links pointing at your website to boost your ranking.
Problem is, now Penguin is watching and if he catches you, you’ll be drastically penalized.
Hummingbird is more than an update.
Just picture the algorithm as an engine: the previous updates were just like new devices added to the main engine to make it better. Hummingbird is a new engine.
Google engineers called this new algorithm hummingbird because it is supposed to be fast and precise… just like a hummingbird (now you get it).
The goal of this update is to understand users’ intentions behind their searches.
Here is a quick example:
When you type « What’s the closest place to buy the iPhone 7 to my home? ».
Traditional search engine would focus on finding web-pages for « buy » and « iPhone 7 ».
Hummingbird will try to understand you and will where know your location is, if you had shared this information with Google.
With the booming of mobile devices, and the apparition of geo-tracking, new opportunities arose.
In 2014, Google launched the Pigeon update which takes into consideration the localisation of users when they do their search.
If I type: « best pigeon pies » it will show me all the places baking pies around me, without even having to mention my localisation.