One of the best ways to gain insights into Google’s priorities is to look at its history. The major changes over the last decade show us what Google’s aiming at and what we should expect in the future. However, it’s been hard to find a good list of major algorithm changes – until now.
The SEOMoz List
SEOMoz has released a fully up-to-date version of their algorithm change compilation. This isn’t a list of all updates, of course. As their introduction to the list specifies, “Google changes its search algorithm 500 – 600 times” each year, and Googler Matt Cutts has given us the figure of “more than once per day” on average. But the major changes to the way search works have all been organized in an easy to scan way.
The list includes everything from Google Panda to social signals to Caffeine to Instant and beyond. The list takes us all the way back to 2000 (when Google Toolbar was released). Each item also includes links discussing what the changes entailed.
Insights from the Change History
There are a few broad insights that the study provides at a glance. For one, the algorithm changes are becoming more and more frequent. 2000 saw only one update, many of the years between 2001 and 2007 had just two, but we’ve since scaled up to six in 2010 and nine so far this year. Clearly, Google is more willing to make major changes than before. Additionally, their recent focus has been on search item quality, while most of the previous items were more oriented to UI changes that improved user experience from the Google front end.
One of the most useful ways to use the list is to compare your site’s traffic with the specific dates outlined for major algorithm updates. If you notice a drop, it’s wise to dig into the algorithm change and see what you can do to see why, specifically, your site suffered.
[Sources include: SEOMoz]