Google Search Updates up until 2022

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Ivan Manasiev shares a timeline of events and their impact on businesses and search space.

Let’s see how Google Algorithm Updates changed search patterns throughout the years.

Throughout the years we’ve seen massive alteration to the search space, as Google constantly adds, removes and makes changes to current interfaces in response to the changing customer behavior. Since the launch of the Local search results in 2005, they went through a lot of iterations, which changed their look, positioning and volume of the space they occupy in the result page. In this article we will share a short timeline of key local search events and their impact on businesses and search space.

2005: Google Maps and Local Business Center, currently known as Google Business Profile become one

In March 2005, Google released the Local Business Center and of course the next logical step was to merge it with Google Maps, creating a place not only for driving directions from A to B, but to provide users with information about local businesses, as they appear in the real world. This was an important milestone for SEO evolution, increasing the importance of up-to-date information across websites, business listings and online directories.

2007: Universal Search & blended results launch

Universal Search launch was another significant moment in the local search history, as Google began blending with listings from other search engines, as well as combining results from Google’s vertical-focused search queries. In addition to web pages, for example, after 2007 the search results started to include images, video, news, maps, books and many more.

2010: Local Business Center becomes Google Places

In 2010, Google rebranded the Local Business Center and launched Google Places – a repurposed feature, with local advertising options and availability for geo-specific tags for certain markets. Google was determined to bring local search to the forefront, as they aligned Places pages with localised search results, where previously information with localised results was coming only from Google Maps. It was already clear that businesses need to prioritise local search optimisation in their marketing strategies and having a just website was no longer enough.

2012: Google went local with Venice Update

Before, Google’s organic search result pages were defaulted to more nationwide sites and only Google Maps would display local options. After the Venice update Google was able to return organic results reflecting the user’s stated location.

A game changer for the companies operating in this industry, as by setting up local page businesses could successfully rank on queries just because of being in the same geographic area as the user.

2013: Hummingbird takes flight

Hummingbird was a significant update to improve Google’s semantic search capabilities. The search engine was now able to better understand long-tail queries and to provide answers to more specific user questions. Businesses had to learn how to target long-tail keywords and phrases in order to maintain a healthy SEO strategy, as one- or two-word queries were no longer the focal point.

2014: Pigeon spreads its wings

Pigeon’s update idea was to refine local search results by equalising them more directly with Google’s traditional SEO ranking factors and to result in more accurate returns on user queries.  The Pigeon update further determined how businesses ranked on Google localised SERPs, tiedding them more closely with deep-rooted ranking signals like content quality and site architecture.  Businesses had to account for these new criterias in order to continue ranking within the top local searches results.

2015: A Robotic touch by RankBrain

Artificial intelligence was now part of the search engine and Google’s semantic capabilities would never never be the same with the new machine learning software making it able to teach itself how to more effectively process queries and results and to provide a more accurately ranked web page results.

There was no way to fool the algorithm anymore, businesses willing to appear on the first page of Google had to maintain a relevant content with complex sentences and phrases on all assets, including the website.

2015: Google cut Local results to 3-pack

In mid 2015 the local results on Google’s search went from 7 to 3 listings, leaving the so-called 7-pack in the past.  This further increased the importance of local search optimisation, limiting the top local search places to 3 and making the maps panel smaller in favor of paid and organic results.

2016: Possum coming up

The increasing usage of mobile devices required the next logical step in the algorithm, and the Possum update brought that in 2016. Local search results used to be limited to businesses in a specific geographical area, which  didn’t make much sense when the user’s mobile device provided their exact location.

Instead of relying solely on search terms, Possum leveraged the user’s location to more accurately determine what businesses were both relevant to their query and nearby.

2018 the Core Algorithm Update

In March, Google announced that a “broad core algorithm update” had rolled out the week before and advised everyone to “continue building great content.” There wasn’t a lot of information shared officially, in short Google explained that these changes are meant to support the pages which were “under-rewarded”. In the same year we had a couple more core algorithm updates again related to content quality, a Halloween update to better understand concepts via neural matching.

2019 in short …

In 2019 we witnessed a lot of core updates as well, the BERT update however was the biggest change to Google search in the past 5 years. The BERT update impacted about 10% of search queries and aimed to better understand complicated search queries, particularly the nuance and context of words in Searches.

2020 and 2021 Updates

During these two years Google continued improving the algorithm with a few major updates mainly to fight Search spam, however there was a huge Local Search Update around Nov 2021. Google advised business owners to review their guidance on how to improve local rankings, as the update included a “rebalancing” of ranking factors Google considers when generating local search results.

2022 and beyond …

In 2022, Google made a series of updates to mark the overall ranking process throughout the year with the Product Review, Experience Update, Product Algorithm, Helpful Content Update and more.

Staying on top of the changes in the search space can be pretty difficult, as Google rarely explains its updates anymore. However, as a business owner if you always follow the Guidelines and manage your profile by the book, you will have a successful campaign.

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