2015 was a busy year for Google Algorithm Updates with the roll out of Panda 4.2, quality signal updates as well as the ominous "Mobilegeddon" change that effected the results of websites not deemed to be mobile friendly. In this article we look ahead to see what Google has in store for us in 2016 for the key parts of its search algorithm.
Google's Penguin Update was a change made to their search algorithm back in April 2012 to help combat websites trying to manipulate their position by buying or otherwise obtaining links largely from relatively untrustworthy sources. Since then it has undergone several iterations and caused more than a few headaches along the way forcing websites to clean up their link profile to avoid losing ranking or worse suffer a dreaded manual penalty!
Google had been expected to release its next Penguin Update towards the end of 2015 however it is now not expected to happen until early 2016. This version of the Penguin algorithm will be real-time which means that as soon as Google discovers that a link is removed or disavowed the Penguin algorithm will process it in real time giving you much quicker results than having to wait for Google to refresh their data. This should also mean that recovering from a Penguin penalty should become much easier given the speed Google intend to now factor in link based changes. However, conversely this could mean you find yourself suffering from a change in your link profile a lot quicker than you would have before this update was in place.
We always advise customers to review their website's link profile at regular intervals given the effects bad links can have on the ranking performance. This can be done for free to a certain extent by analysing the data in the Search Traffic section of your Google Webmaster Tools account. However, to get a fuller picture of your link profile you may need to use professional tools such as Ahrefs, SEMRush or Moz's Open Site Explorer.
Overall the real-time update will be a welcome change for many webmasters as it should enable you to see the effects of adding and removing links much more quickly to help determine which links are helping and which are hindering your ranking performance.
The Google Panda Update was first released in 2011 to prevent websites that had thin, poor quality content from ranking highly in Google's search results. Similar to the Penguin Update, Panda has also gone through several iterations of change since it was first introduced sometimes known as "refreshes", the latest of which was introduced back in July 2015.
As Google introduced a panda refresh last year that took several months to roll out it is unlikely we will see any significant changes this year. Further more according to Search Engine Land Panda is now part of Google's core ranking algorithm which suggests there will no longer be standalone Panda Updates or refreshes and will only be changed in future when Google make core algorithmic changes.
In April last year Google introduced its first algorithm update that solely targeted mobile search results in an effort to promote those websites that had made their website "mobile friendly" to improve usability to users on mobile devices. Dubbed "Mobilegeddon" by some it threatened to effect thousands of companies and individuals that had not incorporated responsive design techniques in to their website or developed a specific mobile version of their website.
There are currently no confirmed updates to Google's Mobile Friendly Update for 2016 which means any websites that have suffered ranking loss as a result of this update will continue to do so until they make their website pages mobile friendly. If you are unsure how your website currently fares you can check if your website is mobile friendly and based on the result look at the steps involved to making your website mobile friendly.
Hummingbird wasn't just an update to the algorithm per se but the name given to the completely new search platform Google introduced in September 2013. Its aim was to improve search results by focusing on the meaning behind sentences entered by users as opposed to relying solely on matches for individual words in a query. As Hummingbird is essentially the overall search algorithm itself it won't have specific partial updates like Penguin and Panda so will only be changed as part of core algorithm updates.
The latest core ranking algorithm change Google made was only a few days ago which has already resulted in several websites seeing a change in their ranking position. Because of this and due to the fact Google rarely confirms core algorithm updates it is difficult to know if any more are planned for 2016.
The best way to ensure you do not suffer ranking losses from core algorithm updates is to ensure you abide by the Google Webmaster Guidelines and aim to produce relevant, high quality content that users can easily access.