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Google’s algorithm updates: What’s in store for 2016

With Google’s algorithm updates known to cause a dramatic shift in search rankings, resulting in both negative and positive impacts for different websites, it is important to stay ahead.

Occasionally, Google will provide fair warning prior to one of its updates; for example, webmasters were given plenty of notice for Google’s Mobile-Friendly update, which happened last April. John Mueller who works for Google as a Webmaster Trends Analyst stated in this Google+ hangout (skip to 2:47):

We make thousands of updates in our Algorithms every year

So, let’s take a look at what’s in store for 2016.

2016 so far…

The new year began with an unnamed update to Google’s core algorithm on January 8th. The update affected search results on a global scale; brands appeared to have a boost in rankings for brand related queries, along with websites that match user intent. This update has been confirmed to be core changes and not the Penguin update many SEOs are waiting for.

Panda

Panda has now become part of Google’s core algorithm, meaning it is no longer a separate algorithm. Until now, Google would roll out Panda in addition to its core algorithm, but that will no longer be the case. It is now unlikely that Google will ever announce a future Panda update again, the most recent one being Panda 4.2 in July 2015.

Quality content has always been a critical part of SEO, and with Panda now integrated into Google’s core algorithm, it is more important than ever. It is essential to produce informative and unique content that offers users a solution to their search query.

A Google spokesperson has confirmed this to The SEM Post, who first broke this story, stating:

Panda is an algorithm that’s applied to sites overall and has become one of our core ranking signals.

Future updates

Penguin

We are still waiting for the latest Penguin update, promised to roll out at the start of this year, Gary Illyes at Google tweeted that the Penguin update will be launching this quarter. Everyone expected this update to roll out before the end of last year, but Google confirmed that they delayed the update due to the Christmas holidays.

The upcoming Penguin update is expected to happen in real-time, meaning the algorithm will analyse new links as and when they’re acquired, whether good or bad, and ranking changes should occur real-time.

Make sure you are prepared for the Penguin update, identify backlinks pointing towards your website and begin removing any that are spam-like and were acquired unethically. Spam links include comment and forum spam, link farms, paying for links, and too many links with over-optimised anchor texts.

Mobile-Friendly

Google have announced an update to their Mobile-Friendly update will happen in May this year. The update will increase the effectiveness of the mobile-friendly ranking signal, and will roll out gradually, meaning there shouldn’t be any major drops in rankings if your website is not yet mobile-friendly. If you’re already mobile-friendly, you will not be affected, be sure to check your website using this tool.

We will be writing a series of blog posts following Google’s algorithm updates, including previous updates such as Top Heavy, Exact Match Domain, Pay Day and Pirate.

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