The beginner’s guide to Google Algorithms: what they are and what they do

Why are there Google Algorithms?

In the historic days of SEO, Search Marketers could easily manipulate websites to increase rankings, which in most cases did not involve improving user experiences or a creating a better quality website.

Google’s main focus is to ensure that when a person types a particular query into the search engine, they are met with the most relevant websites suitable to what they were looking for. If this doesn’t happen, it is expected that users will seek competitor search engine websites such as Bing or Yahoo instead, something that Google clearly doesn’t want.  

A brief history of Google Algorithms:

  • Pre-2010, the ways in which Google would rank websites would be changed and updated very infrequently. It could be a few months before a website would see any ranking change. These changes are known as Algorithm updates
  • In 2010, a new ranking evaluation strategy was launched known as “Caffeine”. As the name suggests, the launch of Caffeine resulted in more frequent changes to how websites are ranked
  • Nowadays there are over 600 changes made to how rankings are determined every year

In the majority of changes, your website will not be strongly affected by one of these updates. However sometimes these changes are much greater, so much so that Google gives them names and makes public announcements for them.

In this guide we will be looking at the main Algorithm types, and what a website can do to keep them happy.


Date of Birth: 23rd February 2011 (age, 7)

Origin of Name: Navneet Panda (the creator of the algorithm)

Likes: High quality on-page content

Dislikes: Keyword stuffing, thin content, duplication, bad grammar

Power Level: Fast and Extreme

In the real world, pandas are considered clumsy, yet gentle creatures, enjoying nothing more than long lie-ins and eating bamboo. However, in the online world, it’s important for websites to do all that they can to avoid upsetting a giant panda, as a hit from one of these algorithm updates can negatively affect your entire website!

So, how can websites avoid an angry Panda algorithm update? It’s simple really – by create engaging, plentiful and informative content for your users to read. Too many times we come across new and existing websites with thin, duplicate or low quality content, and these sites have already been penalised or are at high risk of being penalised, with low rankings as a result.

…create engaging, plentiful and informative content for your users to read.

As long as the time and effort is put in to creating unique, engaging content that your users will find useful, your website rankings should recover within the next Panda algorithm update, which occur roughly once a month. If your website is in dire need of high quality on-page content, our content team can help.


Date of Birth: 24th April 2012 (age, 6)

Origin of Name: Unknown

Likes: High Quality, Trustworthy Links

Dislikes: Cheaters, Spammy links, Black Hat SEOs

Power Level: Slow but Strong

At Clicky Media we love this algorithm, as we strongly believe that websites should rank highly for being the best option for the user, as opposed to manipulating the system.

The Penguin algorithm update is focused on links. Commonly in the past, and often seen today, Black Hat SEOs and agencies would try to get as many links as possible from other websites to point to their client’s website, regardless of where they came from or what the website contained. The purpose of Penguin is to both identify this and stop websites from ranking highly via this method.

A link built in the correct way can result in a strong vote of popularity for your website.

The Penguin algorithm is updated about once or twice a year. There are ways in which to prevent the Penguin from slapping your website with a penalty:

  1. Evaluate all of the backlinks pointing to your website, and remove any negative-impact, dodgy or spammy links via the website’s disavow file.
  2. Avoid trying to gain links from other websites that are irrelevant to your purpose or have low domain authorities.
  3. Create meaningful contacts with high domain authority websites and encourage them to link back to your website if they appreciate what you have to offer.

A link built in the correct way can result in a strong vote of popularity for your website. If you’re interested in tidying up your website’s backlinks or implementing a White Hat Link Building strategy – our SEO team can help.


Date of Birth: Late August 2013 (age, 4 – Birth not announced until 26th September 2013)

Origin of Name: Named due to its Speed and Accuracy

Likes: Reliable Answers to Questions, Voice Search, Informative Content

Dislikes: Content Written Purely for Keyword Rankings

Power Level: Small but Mighty

To interchange the animal analogies with a car, the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates can be described as the equivalent of changing the steering wheel or headlights, whereas the Hummingbird is hypothetically seen as a complete swap of engine. The Hummingbird algorithm update is the new way of doing things, but elements of the Panda and Penguin algorithms still remain.

…make sure your content answers all potential questions your users would have

The Hummingbird appears to be less focused on penalising websites, as there is little evidence to suggest a Hummingbird update has ever caused a large detrimental effect on rankings. Instead, it will reward websites for having content that effectively answers user searches in the best way possible.

It is suggested that this update was put into place with the evolution of Voice Search in mind, so that users can have quicker access to information without needing to physically enter the website.

In order to impress the Hummingbird, make sure your content answers all potential questions your users would have about the offerings of your website. If you achieve this along with high quality well-written content, you’re on the right track.

The Clicky SEO and Content team are always up-to-date with the latest algorithm update rumours, and can ensure that a client’s website is fully prepared with well written content and White Hat SEO practices. For ongoing SEO and Content support – contact our team here.

Written by Bethany Weatherhead