As 2015 comes to a close, now is the time to relive the memories, changes, and moments that it leaves behind. With updates like Mobilegeddon, Panda 4.2, Phantom, Rankbrain, and more, Google made sure that 2015 is recalled as an eventful year in the SEO world. Being the #1 search engine on the web, Google released these updates with the aim to deliver the best results for each search.
Here’s the sequential order of what all happened in the field of search in 2015
1. Google Mobilegeddon Update
Released on 21st April ’15, Mobilegeddon ranking algorithm was specifically designed to uplift the mobile-friendly pages in Google’s mobile search results. The impact of this update could clearly be seen on mobile SEO visibility, however, desktop SEO visibility remained unchanged.
An enterprise SEO tool BrightEdge tracked around 20,000 non-mobile friendly URLs with the help of Mobilegeddon and two weeks later found about 18% of those pages were no longer seen on the first page of search results on Google. Considering this, we can clearly see what impact it had on the rankings, and how badly desktop rankings suffered because of this update.
Key takeaways from Mobilegeddon update
- Businesses lost search traffic as a result of not being mobile friendly
- Both mobile and desktop rankings were enormously affected
- Mobile friendliness was determined at page level, not site level
2. Doorway Page Update
Google didn’t want to rank doorway pages in its search results. This was the key reason behind the release of Doorway Page Algorithm update on 16th May’ 15. Through this update, Google made it clear that websites using black hat techniques like doorway pages to gain an unfair advantage in organic rankings would be taken down. The key motive behind this update was to penalize the sites that try to maximize their ‘search footprint’ without adding clear, unique value.
Key takeaways from Doorway Page update
- Increase your social media presence and enhance your on-page optimization techniques to stay safe and ahead
- Generate quality backlinks and try to invite people to post about you on their blog and forums
- Increase your genuine audience on social media with new and fresh content
- Remove all the empty pages existing on your website and don’t push new pages to live unless you have fresh content available for them
- Avoid content duplication across all your sites
3. Google Panda 4.2 update
After a long wait of almost 10 months, Google finally announced the release of Panda 4.2 update on 17th July ’15, adding that it would take a few more months to fully roll out. It was a slow and steady rollout which impacted the search results gradually. However, there were no clear signs of a major algorithm update.
Key takeaways from Google Panda 4.2 update
- Google confirmed that Panda 4.2 was technically a refresh, not an update
- This refresh affected only 2-3% of search queries, which was comparatively lower than the previous refresh, which was 3-4% in September ’14
- Those who were penalized by Panda in the last update got a chance to emerge if they could make the right changes
- Its major impact couldn’t be seen instantly, though the organic changes could be seen gradually with the passage of time
4. Phantom update
Released on 3rd May ’15, this Search Quality Update was one of the undisclosed Google updates that happened and stunned the SEO webmasters completely. This update was first identified and unofficially named ‘Phantom 2’, but was later officially confirmed by Google and renamed as ‘Quality Update’. Some webmasters said that it was the second phase of Phantom update that last happened in 2013.
Key takeaways from Phantom update
- The update mainly focused on correcting the content quality problems, which included thin or duplicate content, and poor quality landing pages
- It was more a quality filter that integrated into the core ranking algorithm, resulting in rankings shake-up
- It mainly affected the low-quality pages that had low rankings, not the entire domain
- The update had a great impact on “How to” pages and sites that included eHow, Quora, and HubPages
5. Rankbrain Update
Google Introduced a machine-learning artificial intelligence entity within its ranking algorithm, i.e. Hummingbird, called RankBrain. Google has been using Rankbrain to process the queries that hit SERPs. Although the exact date when RankBrain went live is still unknown but is believed that it happened gradually, starting early in 2015.
Key Takeaways from Rankbrain Update
- Rankbrain is considered the third most important signal in the Google Ranking Algorithm and can be applied regardless of the languages used
- No doubt Rankbrain currently handles most of the Google queries but is not considered as a replacement for overall search algorithm
- With this update, Google found a new way to rank search results
- Introduction of Rankbrain helped the digital marketers believe that SEO magic still works
6. Real-time Penguin update: Coming soon!
Google reveals that the next Penguin Update will be launched as the Real-Time version, which will surely be a ”Massive Change”. This update is supposed to happen by the end of this year, which will help SEO practitioners and digital marketers to do the things “right way”.
With this update
- You will straight away get a Penguin penalty if Google discovers that a link is removed or disavowed, but if you act fast, you can also recover from it as quickly
- Spammers using unlawful tactics will be put under pressure
- Negative SEO will become more widespread
As we can clearly see, lots of changes have affected search in 2015, and now, as 2016 is fast approaching, all eyes are set on the upcoming trends and updates that Google has planned for us.