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Everything about algorithm changes and SEO

The evolution of the Google search algorithm

Sergey Brin and Larry Page couldn’t have been more explicit in 1998 when they showcased their prototype (and the PageRank system!) in The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine: “The most important measure of a search engine is the quality of its results.”

Naturally, Google introduced the concept of Search Quality 10 years later to ensure good search quality, and thus improve the experience of its users.

During the 12 years that followed, we have seen several updates of the different search algorithms with the main objective mentioned above.

Impacts of Google algorithm updates on SEO

On May 28th we saw that the speed ratio in the Google search console had been replaced by the Core Web Vitals in order to “provide a harmonized framework for the quality signs that are essential to provide an excellent experience for web users”.

The web giant also specified that starting 2021, these “vital” signs will be intrinsic to Google’s algorithm, and therefore a factor in their own right in ranking web pages.

Thus, although the relevance of the results in relation to the user’s request remains one of the main elements of positioning on the Internet, the user’s experience on a page (and therefore the experience of the page itself) will determine the positioning of sets of pages with similar informational relevance.

The essential web signals taken into account in the User Experience Report are :

Largest Contentful Paint or LCP

Measures how long it takes for the largest block of text or visual element on your page to load when a user attempts to access that page. This data is a main indicator when you know that one out of two visits is abandoned if a page takes more than 3 seconds to load!


First input delay or FID

Quantifies the user’s interaction with your page by measuring the delay between the time an action is taken on your site for the first time, and the time the browser responds to the request. This delay is often accentuated by the execution of scripts because it results in a greater demand on the server to respond to requests. As Google explains, “this value is important on pages where the user must perform a specific action. It helps to determine how long it took to start interacting.

Cumulative Layout Shift or CLS

This allows you to measure the visual stability of your page while it is loading depending on the number of times the elements jump or shift, causing layout bugs. Calculated between 0 and 1, the lower the score, the more stable the visual elements are when the page loads.

Each web signal represents a facet of the user experience and is likely to change over time to allow Google to sharpen its measures of the quality of experience on a page.

Other signals may also be introduced in the future to cover even more aspects of the user experience.

BERT (Bidirectional Transformer-Based Representations of Bidirectional Encoders) reinforces the semantic understanding provided by RankBrain 3 years earlier through Natural Language Processing (NLP). This artificial intelligence allows even better understanding of queries by interpreting the terms of a sentence in relation to each other, rather than one after the other.

Running a query in context positions Google’s algorithm as a brain capable of understanding human beings and allows it to better respond to user requests in search results, which also include featured snippets, those web page extracts that can be found at the top of SERPs.

At the beginning of August 2018, Google introduces E-A-T to target and penalize content of the Your Money Your Life (YMYL) type, i.e. websites or web pages that are created without any attempt to bring anything beneficial to users. These pages could impact their mental state, physical health, or financial stability. As a result, most of the sites that were affected were in the Financial and Medical industries. The effects of Google E-A-T for these niches were both positive and negative depending on the practices in place on the sites concerned.

Previously, search results were filtered by a simple algorithm coded according to what Google engineers thought might best match a user’s query.

With the integration of a new system called RankBrain into its algorithm, Google is opening the door to artificial intelligence to semantically and analytically process a large portion of daily Internet searches.

Therefore, if the algorithm comes across an unfamiliar word or even phrase, the machine can guess words or phrases with similar meanings and filter the search results accordingly!

It is also interesting to note that from its introduction, RankBrain has been one of the three most important factors according to Google for positioning pages on SERPs.

To further optimize the user experience on web pages, and due to the increasing use of cellular devices for web browsing, Google is introducing mobile compatibility as a new positioning factor in search results. Websites must therefore ensure the responsiveness of their pages for all screen sizes.

In the same vein as Google Hummingbird, Google Pigeon (named by Search Engine Land) aims to provide fast and accurate results, but on a local level. By improving its distance and geographic location parameters, the search engine is better able to provide proximity results. This algorithm also reinforces the importance of a good local SEO strategy on websites.

Google Hummingbird completely reorganizes the algorithm that was already in place!

Google’s new algorithm is aptly named and, like a hummingbird, generates very fast and accurate results. For example, it places more emphasis on natural language queries, considering context and meaning rather than individual keywords.

Hummingbird also takes a closer look at the content of individual pages of a website, with a better ability to lead users directly to the most appropriate page rather than just the home page of a website.

To fight against  keywords stuffing, which Google considers as spam because this practice leads to a negative experience for a user who comes across this type of site.

To deal with content farms, these websites were built to be well referenced on specific keywords with as little content as possible, and then generate revenue in the form of advertising placements, without bringing any added value to users.

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