Google Algorithm: how it works and what are the main updates

Google Algorithm: how it works and what are the main updates post thumbnail image

A simple Google search can yield millions of results, but not all of them satisfy the user. In order to be able to display useful, up-to-date and relevant content, the largest search engine has established some criteria that optimize searches – and all this is possible thanks to Google’s algorithm. Check out!

What is an algorithm?

The algorithm is like a logical sequence of instructions, carried out whenever a particular command is activated. In the case of Google’s algorithm, the sequence starts to work when the user starts a search for information. It corresponds to a set of operations responsible for defining the arrangement of the results obtained, ranking them and presenting them to the user.

The criteria established by the algorithm make Google able to present a list of sites in order of relevance. Understanding the logic of these criteria is essential to doing a good SEO job.

How does Google’s algorithm work?

The Google algorithm kicks in during a search in the search engine, but a long line is drawn before reaching this stage. See below:

1. Tracking

The first step is the tracking of available pages, through a system of “crawlers”, in order to organize them in a database. This service happens all the time and, to carry it out, robots called Googlebot are used , which scan the content of each web URL and store this information on the server. It is also possible for a company to create a list of all the pages on its website. This list, called a system, makes both crawling and indexing the content easier, as long as the site codes are clean and simple.

2. Indexing

After tracking, each URL found is stored in a database, where there are various web contents. They will be organized so that they can be found later. Pages are registered in the database from the words they contain. However, depending on the context, the search engine selects only the keywords, which will be essential for the page to appear when the user searches for the content.

3. Ranking

When performing a search, Google identifies and presents the best results, whose order of relevance was ranked by the algorithms responsible for analyzing more than 200 ranking factors present in the database.

First, Google’s algorithm tries to “decipher” the meaning of words and understand what the user is looking for. Then, the search terms are matched with the content of the pages that were indexed after being crawled. If the terms match, then the page is relevant to that topic.

Finally, pages are sorted by relevance level, taking into account terms of quality, reliability and information. Also, the ranking is variable since, for the same theme, Google can present results in a different order for different users.

Google’s Algorithm Is Constantly Enhanced to Improve User Experience | Photo: Stephen Phillips/Unlash

Major Google Algorithm Updates

The Google updates happen to improve the algorithms and thus improve the user experience. Some of them may go unnoticed by those who do not follow the news closely, while others are more important and significantly affect search results. In other words, they can interfere with the result of the Digital Marketing work.

See the main updates below:

PANDA (2011)

Considered the first of Google’s big updates to change the market, this operation has demoted thousands of sites in the relevance ranking due to the presence of low-quality content, content copy, excessive keywords on landing pages , excessive advertising in place value content, among other practices that did not present relevant and original material.

After this operation, it was necessary to change the whole concept of content strategies, keyword research and link building (or backlinks). Over the years, several updates to the Panda algorithm were made, as it needed to present effective solutions to users.

PENGUIN (2012)

While the Panda algorithm update punished sites with low-quality content, the Penguin update improved search results by identifying non-legitimate link building strategies that tried to fool the algorithm. Since the release of this update, most link building strategies have lost effect and many sites have been punished with lower rankings. In addition, it is possible to find out if a site has been penalized for the Penguin update through the Penalty Checker tool.


The focus of this update was to streamline and improve search results. After Hummingbird, the site was no longer required to match exactly the search keywords. The semantic field of the search term started to be taken into account, causing the repetition of keywords, called keyword stuffing, to lose value.

PIGEON (2014)

This algorithm update helped small and medium businesses, as it provided greater prominence for local searches. This means that the results are displayed according to the user’s location, favouring companies and services that are closer to the user. In addition to being an ally of small businesses, it is a response to the increasing demand for searches made from smartphones, mainly through voice searches.


In order to improve the search experience on mobile devices, this update favored the ranking of “mobile-friendly” sites, sites that featured fast loading and a responsive design. More than technology, this update reflects a change in user behaviour. In addition, mobile-friendly websites are driven by Google, even in desktop searches.


Considered the evolution of Hummingbird, this algorithm learns from user searches and performs connections between searches. In this way, it is able to relate apparently disjointed information and becomes very useful in searches with specific and long keywords. Furthermore, with this feature it is possible to find results using colloquial and ambiguous terms.

BERT (2019)

Google’s latest update is an artificial intelligence system that specializes in the natural language process. It is, therefore, an attempt to better understand the search intentions of users, since 15% of searches performed on Google are unpublished and need to be recognized, even if they have never been done. This algorithm is able to relate the meaning of words and understand the context of the search, without being necessarily tied to the keywords.

This is a list of Google’s top algorithm updates. As we mentioned before, it is essential to know them to do a good job of Digital Marketing – even more if you work with infoproducts, such as e-books and online courses.

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