If you’re like 65% of the internet, you use Google for online search.

You may search for a business name, a product category or write a question. Regardless of your search, Google’s search results tend to be accurate, specific and helpful. This is not taking place by chance.

Since its creation in 1996, Google has updated its search algorithms (computer processes and formulas) an average of 600 times each year. These algorithm updates have dramatically changed how Google searches, and what it’s looking for during a search.

While the algorithm changes have been vast and complex, having a basic understanding of their themes can help your website and search strategies appeal to Google—and improve your likelihood of being found in search.

A brief history of Google’s algorithum updates

Here are some of the Google updates you should be familiar with:

1996: PageRank—Developed by Sergey Brin and Larry Page (updated frequently) 

The original and best known Google algorithm, PageRank measures a website’s importance by counting the number and quality of links to a page. PageRank assumes more important websites receive more links from other websites.

2010: Caffeine

Caffeine was a massive infrastructure change that accelerated Google’s crawling (discovering publicly available web pages) and expanded its indexing (gathering web pages in an organized fashion). Caffeine boosted Google’s speed and created a 50% fresher index.

February 2011: Panda

Panda boosted the rankings of high-quality websites that provide valuable content. It penalized websites with low-quality content that manipulated SEO (search engine optimization) techniques to drive traffic.

June, 2011: Schema.org / Rich Snippets

Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft announced a joint approach towards structured data that produces richer search results. Structured data in web content helps Google better index and understand the content. Using this structured data, Google can broaden search by including things like product information, review data, recipes and events.

November 2011: Content Freshness

This algorithm change rewarded fresh content with higher search rankings. It would impact up to 35% of search queries.

January 2012: Top Heavy (a.k.a. Page Layout Update)

Google updated its page layout algorithms to devalue websites with too much ad space above the “fold.” The update had no official name, although some users nicknamed it “Top Heavy.” This algorithm has been updated twice since January 2012.

April 2012: Penguin

Google launched the Penguin update to penalize websites deemed as spamming its search results. In particular, it targeted websites that bought links or obtained them through networks designed to boost Google rankings.

August 2013: Hummingbird

Hummingbird updated Google’s infrastructure to help the algorithm better understand context in a user’s search. This lets Google incorporate language nuances such as synonyms, past search history, physical location and other data to improve search results.

What do Google’s updates mean for you? Invest where they do!

Whether you’re a small or large business, you can’t be expected to understand every Google algorithm update, nor quickly update your website to every update.

But by understanding the key themes and trends of major algorithm updates, you can adapt your website to win in search.

Here are some the key trends of major Google algorithm updates, and how you can adapt your website:

1. Content (Panda) 

Include 800+ fresh words on each page

2. Freshness (Schema.org, Freshness, Caffeine) 

Attempt to refresh your website content daily.

3. Markup (Schema.org / Rich Snippets)

Code your web pages using proper Schema.org markup.

4. Reputation (Penguin, PageRank)

Use date and author data to communicate social.

5. User Experience (Top Heavy, Hummingbird):

Load social content without a click.

If you regularly use the internet, Google has more than likely made your life easier (and better). And this applies to both business and customers!

If you’re a business, adapting your website to Google’s major algorithm update themes and trends can help your business reach new customers. To learn more about Bazaarvoice solutions to drive traffic through SEO, visit the Spotlights pages of our website here.