A History of User Experience-Based Google Algorithm Updates

A History of User Experience-Based Google Algorithm Updates

Google has long had a user experience, whether its key algorithm updates, new features, products, or changes to the SERP format.

While some of these Google changes include updates to target low-quality content, links, and spam, other updates are intended to understand consumer behavior and intent.

Considering the massive competition from brands to SERP real estate, even the slightest drop in the situation will have a significant impact on traffic, revenue and conversions.

In this article, I examine a combination of some (not all) Google updates and technological advances that focus online on human users of search engines and their experiences – from pandas to page experiences.

Google Panda (2011)

First launched in February 2011, subsequent updates were continuous and added to Google’s core algorithms.

Panda was announced to target sites with low-quality content; It was one of the first signs that Google was focusing on content for user experience.

Focusing: Production and optimization of unique and compelling content.

  • Avoid thin materials and focus on producing high quality information.
  • Measure quality over quantity.
  • Content length is not an important factor, but it should contain information on the answers that the user needs.
  • Avoid duplicate content – initially a major concern for ecommerce sites.


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* Recently, Google’s John Muller explained that duplicate Content is not a negative ranking factor.

Google Hummingbird (2013)

After the introduction of the knowledge graph Hummingbird came into focus with semantic search.

Hummingbird was designed to help Google understand the intent and context behind the searches.

As users looked to enter queries in a more interactive way, it has long been necessary to optimize the user experience by focusing on content anew, with a renewed focus on the tail.

This was Google’s first clue using natural language processing (NLP) to identify Black Hat techniques and create individual SERP results.

central point: Creating and optimizing content that viewers want and find useful.

  • The model strategy of long-tail keywords and intention became important.
  • Content creation needs to know what users are interested in and want to learn.
  • Expand keyword research to include conceptual and contextual factors.
  • Avoid producing keyword-stuffing and low-quality content to personalize experiences.

EAT (2014)

The Google EAT concept first appeared in Google’s Quality Guidelines in 2014, after gaining a lot of attention since 2018.


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Now, this is part of Google’s guidelines to focus on YMYL – your money or your life.

Marketers were advised to focus on content that could potentially affect their readers’ future happiness, health, financial stability, or security.

EAT: Expertise, Authority and Confidence in Content

Google EAT Guidelines were established to help marketers and on-page SEO and content strategies to provide users with the most relevant content-rich experiences from sources they could trust.

In other words, expertise, authority and trust.

central point: Ensuring websites provide expert and authoritative content that can be trusted.

  • Create content that reflects the expertise and knowledge of the content.
  • Note the credibility and authority of websites that publish content.
  • Improvement in overall quality of websites – structure and security.
  • Earn off-page press coverage on reputable sites, reviews, testimonials and expert authors.

Mobile update (2015)

This was the first time Google had given marketers a heads-up (or a warning, for many) that an update was coming.

Focusing on the user experience on mobile was an important signal that reflected the increasing use of mobile as part of the customer search journey.

It was clear in Google Communications that this update would prioritize mobile-friendly websites over mobile SERPs. There were many more mobile updates.

Focusing: MMobile content and users’ mobile site experience.

  • Pay attention to design factors such as responsive design and mobile page structures.
  • Increase site navigation so that mobile users can quickly find what they need.
  • Avoid format issues on mobile that were different from the desktop experience.
  • Confirm that the websites are mobile-optimized.


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* After the mobile update went live, Google quietly released a quality update. Websites that focused on user experience by focusing on quality content and avoiding too much irrelevant user-generated content and too many ads performed well. This was another sign that Google was putting user experience first.

Rankbrain ()2015)

Like previously written hummingbird theories and NLP, Google was more than a change in the rankbrain algorithm.

This gave us an indication of how important machine learning was in all forms of marketing and technology.

Using it to know and predict user behavior, RankBrain modeled search results based on a better understanding of users’ intentions.

How Google's RankBrain Algorithm Improved the Searcher's Experience.

central point: Ensuring that the content reflects user intent and is optimized for conversational search.

  • Put more focus and emphasis on creating content that matches user intent.
  • Ensure that all aspects of technical SEO are updated, (eg schema mark-up).
  • Google indicated that RankBrain was the third most important ranking signal.


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Google Mobile-First Indexing (2018)

The mobile-first indexing update meant that Google would use the mobile version of a webpage for indexation and ranking.

Once again, it was intended to help enhance the user experience and help users know what they are looking for.

Creating content for mobile and focusing on speed and performance became paramount to success.

Focusing: Mobile optimization, reaffirming the importance of content, speed, and mobile site performance.

  • Improvement in AMP and mobile page speed and performance.
  • Ensure that URL structures for mobile and desktop sites meet Google’s requirements.
  • Add structured data for both desktop and mobile versions.
  • Ensure that the mobile site has the same content as the desktop site.

Google has stated that March 2021 is the rollout date for its mobile-first index.

Shortly afterwards, Google made mobile page speed a ranking factor so that website owners focus on load-time and page speed to enhance the user experience.

Broad Core Algorithm Update (2018)

2018 was a year in which Google released a lot of core algorithm updates covering areas such as social cues and so-called drug updates.


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Following the August update, in particular, Google’s John Mueller suggested making the content more relevant.

While there was some confusion in ranking the factors and fixing specific issues, it brought the concept of EAT and content to the minds of the user for many SEO professionals and content marketers.

Important for a comprehensive update regarding the rater guidelines, Google’s Danny Sullivan suggested:

“Want to do better with a broader change? Great content. Yes, same boring answer. But if you want a better idea of ​​what we consider great content, then read our Raters Guidelines. It is like about 200 pages to consider. “

BERT ()2019)

Coming from RankBrain, this neural network-based method for natural language processing allowed Google to better understand conversational queries.

BERT allows users to more easily find useful and accurate information.

According to Google, it represents the biggest jump in the last five years and one of the greatest in the history of search.


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central point: Improving understanding of consumer intentions through conversational type search topics.

  • Increase the depth and nuance of the material.
  • Work more with questions and phrases using more than three words.
  • Ensure that the content addresses users’ questions or queries and is properly optimized.
  • Focus on writing clearly and concisely for humans so that it is easy to understand.

Read more here on BERT and SMITH.

COVID-19 Epidemic: March 2020

As Google continued to focus on EAT signals, the global epidemic meant that consumer behavior and search patterns changed forever.

Google started emphasizing your money or your life [YMYL] Signs as the Internet struggled to cope with misinformation and SEO professionals and rapid changes and declines in consumer behavior.

From setting up 24-hour incident response teams with the World Health Organization and policing materials to helping people find useful information and avoid misinformation, user requirements have never been so important.

The demand for SEO reached an all-time high, and Google released a COVID-19 playbook.

Google Page Experience Update and Core Web Vital (CWV)

Measuring the user experience of page metrics involves focusing on a site’s technical health and metrics for how quickly a page’s content load looks, how quickly a webpage-loading browser can respond to user input, and content How unstable. Browser.


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central point: Integrating new core web Vital metrics to measure and improve page experiences.

  • Mobile-Friendliness, Safe Browsing, HTTPS, and Intrusive Intermittent – Google Page Experience Signal.
  • LCP – The biggest controversial paint – Improve page load time for large images and video backgrounds.
  • FID – First input delay – Ensure that your browser responds quickly to the user’s first interaction with a page.
  • CLS – Cumulative Layout Shift – Include size attributes on your images and video elements or reserve space with CSS aspect ratio boxes and ensure that content is never piled on top of existing content, except for user interaction.

You can read more on Core Web Vitals from Google’s Martin Split in this post on SEZ.

The conclusion

Looking at some 2011 updates and algorithmic changes, Google has given people more and more time to prepare for the main changes.

For example, when announcing the page experience update in May 2020, Google stated:

“We recognize that many site owners are focusing their attention on reacting to the effects of COVID-19. The ranking change described in this post will not take place before next year, and we will give at least six months notice before the roll out. “

Warnings are already being given too much (not always, though!).

Whether it is a core algorithm update, a change in SERP layout, a new feature, or a set of guidelines, Google’s continued focus on consumer and behavior is relentless.


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SERP layout changes enhance visual and video experiences; The end-user is punished for not paying attention.

There have been many more updates of local and vertical-specific enhancements from the schema, carousel and 3-pack that portray a similar picture. I have only given you a snapshot.

See the full list of Google algorithm updates here.

more resources:

Image credit

In-Post Image 1: BrightEdge