Google Algorithm Update & History

Posted - April 19, 2024

Search engine optimization (SEO) can feel like a never-ending chess match against an invisible opponent. That opponent is largely due to Google’s algorithm, the complex system they use to sort and rank the billions of web pages in their search index. 

Understanding how the Google algorithm works with SEO, as well as its history of changes, is key to keeping your website visible in search engine results. Let’s explore the nature and history of this strange beast.

What Is The Google Algorithm?

In basic terms, the Google algorithm is a set of rules and calculations that determine which web pages appear on search engine results pages (SERPs) and in what order. 

Think of Google Search as a vast library, and the algorithm is the librarian determining which books to put on the shelves in response to a search query. However, this librarian is incredibly complex and takes into account a multitude of factors when making its decisions.

Here’s a breakdown of some key elements that are part of the Google algorithm:

Crawling and Indexing

Before Google can even rank pages, it needs to find them. Google uses web crawlers, like little bots, that scour the internet and follow links to discover new pages and updates to existing ones. The information gathered is stored in Google’s massive index.


The algorithm analyzes how closely the content of a page matches the intent behind a person’s search query. This involves looking at keywords, but also understanding synonyms, related concepts, and the overall context of the search.


The algorithm tries to gauge how trustworthy and reputable a website is. This involves things like the number and quality of backlinks (links from other websites that point to yours), as well as the overall domain history and reputation.

User Experience (UX)

Google wants to provide a positive experience for its users. This means it will prioritize websites that load quickly, are easy to navigate, are mobile-friendly, and don’t have intrusive elements like excessive pop-ups.


For certain types of queries, Google favors content that is recently published or updated. This is especially true for news, trending topics, or queries where information changes rapidly.

It’s important to note the Google algorithm is not a single, static formula. It’s a complex system comprising many interconnected systems, which are constantly evolving and being updated.

How Does Google Search Algorithm Work?

Google’s algorithm is remarkably sophisticated, taking into account hundreds of ranking factors to determine which websites best answer a given search query.  While the exact combination of these factors is a closely guarded secret, here are some of the most important concepts to understand:


At a basic level, Google looks for whether the words someone types into the search bar are present on your webpage (keyword matching). However, relevance goes much deeper than simple keyword counts.

The algorithm tries to understand the reason (intent) behind the search — is someone looking for information, trying to buy something, or trying to get to a specific website? Your content needs to align with that search intent to rank well.

Google uses natural language processing (NLP) to grasp the meaning of a search query (semantic search), rather than focusing solely on literally matching up words, so your page will still rank if it’s determined to address the searcher’s overall question in a meaningful way without using the main keywords.


Think of backlinks as votes of confidence from other websites. When reputable websites link to yours, it signals to Google that your content is considered valuable and credible. Both the number and quality of these backlinks matter.


Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness are key. Does your content demonstrate a deep level of knowledge and expertise? Is it created by subject-matter experts with established credentials? Is your website itself well-maintained, secure, and free of technical errors? These factors all contribute to your site’s overall authority.

User Experience

  • Mobile-Friendliness: With so many searches performed on smartphones, Google prioritizes websites that display and function flawlessly on mobile devices.
  • Site Speed: Pages that load slowly frustrate users. Fast load times are a critical component of a positive user experience, thus heavily influencing rankings.
  • Navigation and Design: A website that is confusing to navigate or visually cluttered will send visitors away quickly. Google takes note of metrics like bounce rate (how quickly people leave your site) and time on site, which are indirect signals of UX quality.

The Ever-Evolving Algorithm

The specific weights and combinations applied by the algorithm are constantly evolving to best serve Google’s mission of connecting users with the most relevant, helpful information. That’s why SEO professionals need to stay on their toes through constant research, adaptation, and a focus on providing the best possible experience for their website’s visitors.

The Algorithm’s Recent History

To combat spam and prioritize user-focused content, Google regularly updates its algorithms. Here’s a look at major Google algorithm updates over the past few years:

Google Algorithm 2024

While 2024 updates are still unfolding at the time of writing, here are some major trends:

Focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI-powered systems like MUM (Multitask Unified Model) are improving Google’s understanding of content and the nuances of human language. This means Google can better interpret what a webpage is truly about, even if it doesn’t use precisely the same keywords a person types in their search.

Emphasis on E-E-A-T: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness remain key, meaning Google prioritizes websites that display these qualities. Websites that demonstrate deep knowledge in their niche, are written by subject matter experts, and have strong reputations (evidenced by things like backlinks and positive reviews) have a significant advantage.

Google Algorithm 2023

The major Helpful Content” update in 2023 further emphasized Google’s aim to reward genuinely useful content written for people rather than just to please search engines. Sites that provide clear, informative, and original content that addresses users’ questions and needs directly were the big winners after this update.

Product Reviews enhancements improved how product reviews were displayed in search results, prioritizing in-depth, original reviews. Informative reviews showcasing first-hand experience with a product, including images or other media showcasing its features, became more likely to rank highly.

Google Algorithm 2022

The May & September Core Updates in 2022 brought broad changes focusing on the overall relevance and quality assessment of content. These updates, while not as specifically targeted as some others, are a reminder that Google constantly fine-tunes its understanding of what makes a website truly valuable to searchers.

Page Experience Update: Ensuring positive user experience as a ranking factor became fully established in 2022. Technical elements of website design like load speed, mobile responsiveness, and the absence of intrusive interstitials (like pop-ups that block content) became even stronger indicators of whether a site deserved to rank well.

Google Algorithm 2021

MUM Rollout Began: The powerful Multitask Unified Model started influencing search results. MUM allows Google to understand information in a much more complex way, linking concepts between text, images, and potentially other forms of media in the future.

Passage Ranking: Focused on indexing and ranking specific passages within a page, rather than the entire page. This means even if your whole website doesn’t perfectly align with a search, a specific section may now be highlighted if it provides a highly relevant answer.

Spam and Link Updates: Targeting link spam and prioritizing quality backlinks. Google continued its never-ending battle against spammers trying to manipulate rankings. It focused on devaluing links from low-quality websites and artificial link-building tactics.

Google Algorithm 2020

Core Updates: Several broad algorithm adjustments throughout the year. These frequent tweaks reflect how Google is always refining its approach to providing the most relevant results for searchers.

BERT Expansion: BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) helped Google better understand natural language queries. This update marked a shift away from simple keyword matching, allowing Google to grasp the intent behind peoples’ searches, even if they used conversational language.

Stay Ahead Of The Curve With Dallas SEO Dogs

Google algorithm updates can send websites tumbling down or vaulting up in search results. The key is understanding the reasoning behind Google’s updates, your own offerings, and how you can present them to find greater online success.

The SEO expertise at Dallas SEO Dogs tracks the ever-shifting digital landscape to ensure that your website adapts and maintains its position on the SERPs. If you want to stop chasing the algorithm and start leveraging it to your advantage, contact us for a free consultation.