History Time–3 Big Changes That Rocked the SEO Industry

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Search engine optimization has a rich history.

Really, for an industry that many people (from the outside) view as boring, those of us who work in it know it is anything but. Recently, I made a documentary about SEO and it really emphasized the impact the field has had on businesses.

Today, I want to talk about a few key moments in SEO.

Three in fact…

All of which rocked the SEO industry and everyone with a website listed in Google.

The Google Florida Update

The Google Florida update was a change to the search engine’s algorithm that occurred in November 2003.

While there had been some relatively minor Google updates before this, the Florida update was the biggest to hit those trying to manipulate rankings. The update went after clear SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing.

Sites lost rankings, businesses lost traffic and suffered greatly.

This update was really the first time that Google made it clear that if you were going to violate their guidelines, your website was at risk.

The Panda/Farmer Update

There were many Google updates between Florida and Panda/Farmer (most commonly referred to as Panda).

But Panda, wow!

This update rocked 12% of the search results. Sites with millions of visitors a month went down to thousands and some of the biggest sites online lost 50% or more of their traffic.

This update had a major impact.

The first Panda update (there have been many of them since) hit February 23, 2011. It took a few months to fully roll out. During the process, website owners were holding their breath.

Still, to this day, many websites have not recovered.

Panda focused on sites with thin content mainly. For example, if a website wrote many short posts on a variety of topics, and there was no overall theme to the site, they were a potential target.

The Penguin Update

This update left black hat SEO professionals (those who do not follow Google’s guidelines) in a really rough spot.

But it wasn’t just black hat SEOs–it was also companies who had knowingly, and of course unknowingly, hired black hat SEOs.

The update really targeted link spam. For those of you who do not know, links are an important part of the Google ranking system. The more high-quality links you have pointing at your website, that meet their criteria, the higher you rank.

Well, people tried to of course game this system. Those who created too many of the wrong links pointing at their website were hit by the Penguin on April 24, 2012.

Now, this update went mostly after those abusing links, and it only affected 3.1% of the English queries.

But here is the kicker…

Those who were hit by this update had to wait until the Penguin algorithm ran again to get their website back into Google at the same level it was before.

The Penguin algorithm ran more than 10 times, but there was a massive lull at one point.

Between December 10, 2014 and September 2016, there was no update. That meant some websites had to sit in the penalty box for nearly 2 years.

This, of course, really hurt their business.

SEO Has a Rich History

Search engine optimization has so many interesting stories, and these 3 Google updates are substantial part of it.

One thing to take away is to always focus on quality and longevity when doing SEO.

If you are trying to game Google, they will catch you eventually.