Google: the algorithms you need to know to rank well

Google regularly announces new algorithms and updates. To help you find your way through this jungle, check out this list with explanations and links for help.

What is the Google algo?

Not 1 but multiple Google algorithms

To put it simply, there isn’t just one Google ranking algorithm, but a constellation of algorithms that add up. By the way, it’s become so complex that even at Google it must be hard to get your head around it! I even think that because of this tangle of algos, filters and other criteria, there must be a lot of uncontrolled side effects…

Note: I use the term “algorithm”, but it’s sometimes a misnomer. I’d also use “filter” or other words, but I’m simplifying here.

Most (if not all) algorithms are designed to improve the relevance of search results. But some are designed to:

penalize sites or pages that don’t respect the guidelines (e.g. artificial backlinks or keyword stuffing)

favor sites or pages with specific characteristics (e.g. speed, secure HTTPS protocol, mobile compatibility, etc.).

Google is constantly adding, modifying and deleting algorithms (several thousand modifications per year). It’s important for you to keep abreast of all these changes!

The Google search algorithm in a nutshell

How Google’s algorithm works at the moment:

In addition to the thousands of undetectable modifications, some are very big and officially announced. Their deployment usually takes several days, sometimes 2 weeks.

This is the case for Core Updates (2 to 4 per year) and Helpful Content Update (HCU).

Google’s main aim is to identify a site’s overall quality. To succeed or climb back up the rankings after a fall, you need to improve your site as a whole and be patient…

Your site must be mobile-compatible (according to Google), otherwise your ranking on mobile will be lower. This is even more important now that Google has switched to a “mobile first” index. You mustn’t display any intrusive pop-ups or interstitial banners to visitors arriving from Google.

Your site must also be very fast, both on desktop and mobile (low impact). Other aspects of UX (user experience) are taken into account by Google (essential web signals, Core Web Vitals).

The Panda algorithm is integrated into the general algo, so that there is no longer an official date (the last one dates back to 2015). This is a major Google algo that seeks to favor quality sites. Its successor appears to be HCU.

Penguin is now also integrated into the Google algo, with “real-time” updates. This is another major Google algo.

Google encourages migration to HTTPS, but SEO impact is low
Google has a special algorithm against satellite pages (beware, their definition seems broad, the impact can affect many people), in place since 2015

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