Decoding Google: Your Cheat Sheet to Search Engine Algorithms

Explore the cheat sheet to search engine algorithms
Decoding Google: Your Cheat Sheet to Search Engine Algorithms

Google brings in thousands of changes to the search engine algorithm every year. However, occasionally, Google takes a complete turn and things are never the same for the SEO industry.

The eight key changes as a cheat sheet to search engine algorithms will be discussed in this article. We will look into the reasons why those upgrades were done, how they work, and how we need to change our SEO strategies accordingly.

Let us discuss the cheat sheet for search engine algorithms now.

1. Panda

The Panda algorithm update assigns the websites with "quality score". Then, a ranking factor is derived from this score. Panda had little impact at first, but in January 2016, it was permanently added to Google's primary algorithm. Panda penalties and recoveries have since occurred more quickly due to the increased frequency of update rollouts.

How to adjust and create periodic checks of the site for keyword stuffing, thin content, and duplicate content? You will need a website crawler - for example, SEO Power Suite’s Website Auditor - to carry out the check. You can also avoid keyword stuffing by accident and get penalized for this by building all your pages with the new Content Editor module of Website Auditor. Content Editor examines the websites of your main rivals and offers SEO suggestions based on content that has previously achieved success in Google search.

2. Penguin

The goal of Google Penguin is to devalue websites with shady backlink profiles. This upgrade terminates low-effort link-building practices, such as purchasing links from PBNs How to adapt: Provide regular backlink profile audits using a backlink checker like SEO Spyglass and monitor link profile growth to insulate yourself from the impacts of the update. On the Summary dashboard of this tool, one can find a backlink growth progress graph for their link profile. Keep your eyes open for any strange spikes though, because this is what competitors usually do as a reason for kicking off a bad SEO campaign.

SEO Spyglass’s Penalty Risk model uses the stats that we know Penguin looks at. Open the Penalty Risk tab and sort your list from the highest to the lowest risk. Look at links with a risk of over 50%. If these turn out to be bad, add them to the disavow file, download it, and upload it to the Google Disavow Links Tool.

3. Hummingbird

Google Hummingbird helps Google better understand search questions. It interprets the user intent behind the search and shows meaningful search results based on the intent of the query by the user rather than one or more keywords. The Hummingbird algorithm allows a page to rank for a query even if it doesn't contain the precise keywords the searcher enters, though, of course, keywords are still important. This is possible due to the Natural Language Processing that employs synonyms and collocations of words and latent semantic indexing.

How to implement: ongoing research of keywords but turning to topics, deeper in researching synonyms and collocations but mostly using Google-related search, Google-related questions, and Google In Rank Tracker, you'll get that using the Keyword research module.

Further, leverage these insights to learn more about the language of your audience and diversify the content you produce. Not only will you be fully covered for engagement, but you'll also be covered for search engine optimization through in-depth content that fulfills searcher intent and link farms.

4. Mobile

The emphasis has changed from a desktop to a mobile version of your website as a result of this and other mobile search improvements (2018, 2020). These days, Google gives each website a ranking determined by how quickly and easily to adjust: Ensure that your pages are mobile-friendly, aiming at usability and speed in the first place. Using Google's mobile-friendly and page speed tests, you will be able to single out the areas of your page that need improvement. As a part of your overall website audit, you will be able to look through the mobile-friendliness optimization of your landing pages thanks to the integration of the tests with Website Auditor.

How to adjust: Make sure your pages are mobile-friendly, focusing on usability and speed above all. Google Mobile-Friendly and Page Speed tests will allow you to pinpoint the areas of your page that need improvement. Running as a part of your overall website audit, the tests with Website Auditor included, will enable you to look through the mobile-friendliness/optimization of your landing pages.

5. RankBrain

A part of Google's Hummingbird algorithm is RankBrain. It's machine-learning technology that helps Google understand user queries and, as a result, pick up the most relevant search results. RankBrain is graded by Google as the third and the most important ranking factor.

Although the exact process leading to this major enhancement is not known, most people believe that RankBrain is a system responsible for tailoring a user's Google search results. In other words, Google takes into consideration more than what is just keyed in by the user for a search, such as synonymous words. The TF-IDF tool that you find in the toolkit of WebSite Auditor will show you comprehensive lists of terms and concepts that all of your top-ranking competitors' page’s use. If you're able to use these terms in your content, you're going to increase your relevancy. 

6. Medic

The Google Medic change appeared to have a disproportionate impact on websites related to medicine as well as those dealing with potentially life-changing choices Google representatives have implied that some of the E-A-T signals from the Quality Rater Guidelines paper were implemented in the upgrade, however, this has not been confirmed directly.

How to adjust: At present, the Medic update does not have a verified recovery plan. Some SEOs think generating entities for your brand is the solution, while others recommend hiring expert writers who can make your website more authoritative. But if we base it on facts, growing your backlink profile is the only proven way to upgrade your website authority. Leveraging a backlink research tool like SEO Spyglass and copying backlink ideas from your competitors might be a good technique.

You can use Spyglass to identify the backlink gap between your website and the websites of your competitors. Your top prospects are the high-authority websites that link to two or more of your competitors. This indicates that while the websites are not solely in the hands of any company, they are interested in your niche.

7. Bert

This is the Google Algorithms update that is powered by Natural Language Processing technology that allows it a better understanding of search queries, tests, and identifying entities as well as relationships that exist between entities. The BERT update is the answer to years of effort put forth by Google to steer away from the keyword. It, which started with the Panda, Hummingbird, and RankBrain updates allows Google to understand so more nuance in search results and queries.

How to adapt: The days when Google really awards awesome content are here. Now is the time to really target for relevant copy. This means you should write eminently expository in form and cut back on filler words. It's a good idea to conduct entity research when writing copy.

8. Fundamental Updates

Google began referring to larger updates as "Google core updates" back in 2017. Since then, information regarding the updates' contents and the areas of search that they are meant to enhance has become even less transparent. After an upgrade, SEOs would frequently monitor changes in ranking and attempt to determine the specific cause, but seldom would they come to a definitive conclusion. Google's core updates are probably only enhancements over earlier releases, or possibly collections of related but lesser upgrades.

How to adapt: One way to cope with the sometimes-unknown consequences of Google core updates is to monitor the past SERP performance of the keywords you are aiming for. As soon as the update is released, you may see which of your rivals has improved or decreased in the rankings and estimate the reasons why. 


The Google algorithm update presents a challenge, as a surefire recovery plan remains elusive. While both backlinks and high-quality content can elevate your website's authority, the best approach depends on your specific situation. Carefully consider your resources and goals. If budget allows, explore a combination of strategic backlink building and professional content creation with entity optimization. Remember, even the most well-crafted SEO strategy might require adjustments in this evolving landscape. Focus on providing exceptional value to your audience, and stay informed about the cheat sheet for search engine algorithms updates. This will position your website for long-term success.


1. What is a backlink?

A backlink is a link from another website to yours. Having high-quality backlinks from relevant websites signals to search engines that your content is trustworthy and valuable.

2. How can I create high-quality content?

Focus on creating informative, engaging, and well-researched content that addresses your target audience's needs.

3. What is entity optimization?

Entity optimization involves using relevant keywords and linking to authoritative sources to establish your website as an expert on a particular topic.

4.  Is it ethical to "steal" backlink concepts from competitors?

While it's okay to analyze competitor backlinks for inspiration, directly copying their strategy isn't recommended. Focus on building backlinks from high-quality, relevant websites in your niche.

5.  Are there any risks associated with building backlinks?

Unethical backlink practices, like buying links from spammy websites, can hurt your website's ranking. Stick to building backlinks naturally through creating valuable content and outreach

Related Stories

No stories found.
Analytics Insight