2014 Google Updates – The Short List

Laura Ginn

This year’s round of 2014 Google updates keeps the game changing for most website owners. However, the list of Google guidelines remains unwavering. Basically, every change made to this years Google algorithm updates servew to enforce what Google has been trying to get its users to realise, they want good content and a product that serves their readers. Only then will they serve up traffic to the websites making up the results. Here is a short list, as last updated on November 7th of 2014.

Photo by frankisme
Photo by frankisme

February 6th Revealed a New Page

The third of its kind, this Page Layout refreshed the core algorithm which deals with defining quality websites by how their coding looks to crawl bots. This update further penalises websites with too many ads above the “fold line” and too little content on their landing page.

March 24th is a Mystery

Back in March of this year an unnamed mystery update showed up like a bad blind date for some webmasters. While speculation abounds, many SEO webmasters theorise that it was some sort of hush-hush Panda update. Much like the Mystery update in September of 2014, Google confirms and denies nothing.

May 19th Brought in a New Panda

Panda 4.0 includes a major data refresh and algorithm edits that affected less than 8% of English language queries. This Panda update is designed to prevent poor or spammy content sites from working their way up the search results. While Google refreshes their panda algorithm monthly, by allowing it to re-scan the servers, this update included a new set of user-defined parameters to especially hone in on black-hat sites, spun content, spammy content, and spam websites.

June 12th Removed Payday Loans

Okay, maybe not a complete removal of Payday Loan sites, but certainly a stricter effort to cut out spammers using keywords like “payday loan” to manipulate search results. This update followed up the second Payday Loan update in May of this year and the Payday Loan update of 2013. Google swears that Payday Loan 2.0 targeted specific sites while Payday Loan 3.0 targeted queries.

June 28th Dropped Author Photos into the Trash

In the past two years Google has been preaching to website owners the importance of using photos in search results to help users identify authorship. Google dropped authorship photos from search results, making a complete fool out of everyone who used Google Plus to provide a visual connection between their blog and their social network.

July 24th A Pigeon Flew In

A dramatic alteration flew into the Google SERP cages this year, but Pigeon was expected after the other bird updates. Google claims that this change, nicknamed Pigeon, will draw closer ties between local search results and the core algorithm of their search engine. In short, they seek to show mostly, if not all, local search results to users based on device location signals. This Pigeon update should prove helpful to mobile search users and tie in nicely with Hummingbird, but it’s not so great for those seeking a broad range of information from their home computers when their results turn up mostly local businesses and not online information venues and services.

August 6th Beefed Up Security

Google originally pioneered HTTPS back in 2009, so it comes as no surprise that they announced preferential treatment for websites using HTTPS and SSL encryption. In other news of this sort, Google promises that this will only affect less than 1% of search results, for now at least. Based on long-term results, they may change their mind.

August 28th Removed Authors

As big of a hit as authorship was for Google users, the Google team once again crashes a system many SEO users garnered for a corner in the web traffic SERPs. Google originally removed authorship photos back in June of this year. Shortly following this removal all authorship bylines disappeared off search results. Sadly, the empire of website credibility within search results has declined along with most identifiable marketers of original authors. This update closely resembles the Authorship Shakeup rolled out last December.

September 23th Panda 4.1 May Have Graded Your Homework

Google announced a slow roll out of Panda 4.1 update in late September of 2014. This update is estimated to impact less than 5% of total search queries. Panda 4.1 specifically targets websites with thin, poor, and spammy content and de-ranks them in search results with more precision than previous Pandas. Google hopes that it will bring about a boost for small and medium-sized websites in search results and de-rank larger spam sites with spun or thin content. It is set to impact different servers and countries in the coming weeks of autumn 2014. The best part of this news is that any website owners who have sought to make deep changes to their website, in compliance with all Google updates previous to Panda 4.1, will find their search rank vastly improved when the roll-out hits their Google sever.

October 1st Google Put News in a Box

Google made a display change that expands news links to include a broader range of sites. Google’s new ‘In The News’ box includes more than just traditional news-site content and may now include posts by bloggers, Reddit, discussions, and any content Google deems newsworthy enough. This replaces the old ‘News For’ box traditionally shown in Google search results.

October 17th Google Released More Penguins

After over a year since the last Penguin algorithm changes, Google announced a slow-rolling Penguin 3.0, but webmasters are saying it looks more like a 2.4, than a full upgrade. It appears to be a data-only algorithm change and is set to affect less than 1% of search queries over the weeks to come. While the Panda algorithm affects on-site content, Penguin scrutinises the links and connections between websites. Penguin targets link traffic between sites and Penguin 3.0 more accurately affects in-bound link traffic and how it translates into search rank signals. This Penguin is nothing more than a refresh of old data and contains little, if any, new algorithm signals.

October 21st Pirates Became Wanted Targets

This DMCA update comes a startling two years after the original DMCA algorithm program Pirate 1.0 release. Pirate 2.0 update seeks to combat digital media piracy even more rigorously. It has, thus far, resulted in a dramatic drop in ranking for a few websites. Pirate 2.0 works closely in hand with both Panda and Penguin algorithms to catch copyright infringements and connections to sites where DMCA’s have been filed in the past. Put plainly, Pirate 2.0 targets sites which have copied or stolen content and de-ranks them. It also de-ranks websites who have DMCA’s filed against them and removes sites with multiple DMCA reports from search results.

Google Redefines Their Expectations

Google likes to keep their algorithm dynamic and one step ahead of those spammy black hatters. This is growing more evident by each update they put out. It is helpful to know, though, that their core business plan is defined in their terms and conditions, and their resource guidelines. Keep in mind that they roll out a major algorithm refresh or update every month between the third and fifth of each month. So, any corrected mistakes may be indexed, and then rank restored, every month by the end of the month. Therefore, keeping your SEO plan dynamic, and in tune with Google’s terms for using their product, can and will result in good rank in the long run, even if spammy sites show up in the search results occasionally.