A brief history of how Google ranks your dealership website.

The reason your dealership’s search engine optimization is best handled by experts is because keeping up with Google updates is a full time job.

Historically, as search ranking became more important for websites and online businesses, people found more and more ways to manipulate those rankings and game the system.

Those tactics might have produced short-term gains, but were unacceptable to Google, whose goal is to provide the most relevant search results and best experience for users.

For marketers, knowing the reason for these updates, the date they were implemented, and how they affected other websites can help understand their impact on sites you manage and what you can about it.

online search

Major Google algorithm updates:

Panda

The Panda algorithm as undergone more than 30 updates since its introduction in February of 2011. Panda continues to crack down on thin content, content farms, sites with high ad-to-content ratios, and a number of other quality issues.

Penguin

While the Panda update focused on content, Penguin took on poor technical SEO strategy in 2012. Initially called the "Webspam Update", it adjusted a number of spam factors, including keyword stuffing, aggressive link building and over-optimization.

Hummingbird

Hummingbird rolled out in 2013 to power changes to semantic search (understanding user’s intent) and the Knowledge Graph. It took a step toward providing answers to questions instead of results that matched keywords. It focused on long-tail searches with intent signals and set the groundwork for the rise of voice search.

Pigeon

This update from 2014 increased the importance and relevance of local search, tying location signals more tightly to the core algorithm. The best response to this update is complete, updated business information on listing and review sites, as those sites were given a rankings boost.

Mobilegeddon 

This 2015 update was pre-announced to give webmasters time to prepare. When it launched, it brought “mobile-friendly” site rankings, which gave priority to websites that display well and load quickly on mobile devices.

RankBrain

In 2015, Google revealed that part of the overall search engine was powered by AI, or machine learning. This part was named RankBrain. It was developed to help the search engine interpret which results are relevant to a query by looking at factors like the location of the searcher, personalization, and the specific words used. As with machine learning, the results are continually adjusted as RankBrain learns more about which searches best fit which queries and ways that people search.

Possum

Possum shook up local search again in 2016. The impact was seen on results returned through Google Maps and in the location results. They physical location of the person doing the search became a more important factor, as Google returned results that showed related businesses between you and the one you searched for. (If your customer searched for a dealership close to home in your town, but they searched from their job in the next city, they will see all relevant dealerships in between.)

Fred

This update wasn’t officially named or announced by Google, but noticed and pointed out by the SEO community. While Google is still vague about its intent, there were two types of sites most affected: those plagued by heavy, obtrusive ad content, and those that offered thin content and existed mainly to generate revenue through affiliate links.

Google knows that a good search engine tries to answer the underlying question, not simply return the pages that best match the keywords.

The same is true of a good website. As long as your content is developed with the user in mind, you shouldn’t lose any sleep over algorithm updates.

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