What is Google Algorithm Updates & Penalty?

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As I mentioned in our previous lesson that we will focus mostly on Google for this course since it’s the market leader.

This chapter is dedicated to Google search engine.

This chapter discusses what Google algorithm updates, why they occur, types of updates, and their effects.

What is Google Algorithm Update?

We know that Google works to deliver relevant search results for a user’s search query.

To provide more accurate results, Google uses algorithms, ranking factors, and guidelines.

Google will be adding, updating and removing its rules & guidelines over the time.

We call this “Algorithm updates.”

How to Track Latest Google Algorithm Updates?

The latest Google algorithm update will consistently be changing because they release it frequently.

Google doesn’t typically announce all the updates, but if they are significant and cause many changes in SERP then they will.

When they announce, it will be published in their webmaster blog or official Twitter channel.

The algorithm updates are also monitored daily through search results fluctuations by third-party tools such as MozCast, Semrush & more where you find about search updates even without an official announcement from Google.

There also various SEO authority blogs and news channel which you could follow to keep updated on SEO updates and these include:

What Are the Main Google Algorithm Updates & Changes in the Past?

Major Google Algorithm Updates
Major Google Algorithm Updates

As I said, in the beginning, there are a lot of search algorithm updates and some are not even officially announced so now let’s see some of the biggest updates in the past.

TIP: When Google does not announce an update but if we find it as a major update then we call these core updates.

If you do not understand some of the terms which I am going to mention then don’t worry, as I will explain them in-detail on our free SEO technical and on-page optimization course.

Panda Update

The purpose was to check the content quality of web-pages.

It checks for duplicate content, plagiarism (copied), thin content (empty pages) & spam.

Penguin Update

The focus was to find low quality or spammy backlinks.

It checks for spammy linked websites, buying backlinks, public blog network, irrelevant links, over-optimized anchor texts & more.

Hummingbird Update

The focus was on logical content analysis & optimization.

It checks user intent, analyzes search queries, and identifies keyword stuffing and low-quality content.

Mobile Update

The focus was to make sure websites are mobile-optimized due to the growth of mobile search users.

It checks for the responsiveness of websites for mobile and also checks mobile user experience.

Mobile responsive website is no longer an optional choice but a mandatory requirement for Google search engine.

RankBrian Update

The focus was on user experience and understanding the user intent.

Using the advancements of machine learning, they try to determine the meaning or intent behind search queries and delivers the best-matching search results.

Medic Update

The focus was on medical, law, and educational websites which provides life altering information.

The reason for this because there are so many spams or shady websites which started offering various solutions without a proper background check, authenticity & expert knowledge.

So in order to make the information is fully ethical and trust-able, Google introduced this search update.

It validates the quality of medical, law, and educational websites by implementing E-A-T metrics, which stands for expertise, authority, and trust signals.

Bert Update

The focus was on optimizing content and establishing authority.

The content is checked using natural language processing to understand search queries better, identify entities and relationships between entities in order to improve the accuracy of related search results.

What is a Google Search Penalty?

This is an important action you need to understand in SEO.

When a website does not meet Google quality standards according to its algorithm & guidelines, Google will take one of 2 steps for this:

Automatic Penalty

The search engine finds your site is not following their rules without any human involvement using automated search algorithms and negatively affect the website’s ranking in SERP pages.

It will lower your site’s SERP ranking, and to get your ranking back, you have to identify the errors you made, fix them, and continue to do SEO.

Eventually, search engine will reverse the penalty.

Manual Penalty

A person from the search engine web-spam team visits your website and checks whether you have abused SEO in any way and places a manual penalty if they find any proof.

It is hard to recover from this since this is the worst-case scenario where you have to fix everything mentioned and send a request to a search engine so they can manually re-evaluate your site.

It is possible but will take a lot of time and effort to get back on track compared to the automatic penalty.

It would be best if you kept in mind that any SEO work you do can positively or negatively affect your website.

However, even if your website is correctly optimized for all the current SEO algorithms, that does not mean it’s protected from future algorithms.


In this, we learned how Google uses Search algorithm updates to monitor and provide a safer user experience for their users.

Now we web marketers can use these algorithms to follow Google search engine rules and keep our SEO practices and processes adhere to those.

That is why it is essential to stay updated with SEO industry since the rules & algorithm updates will keep on changing.

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