Google Algorithm Updates 2017/2018: The Latest Changes Explained

by Figaro Digital

Most marketers will have heard of ‘panda’ and ‘penguin’, but there is so much more to Google algorithm updates than these cute black and white animal mascots.

In this post we take a look at some of the latest Google search algorithm updates from the last 12 months, and how they have altered the search landscape.

Google Algorithm Updates in 2017

12 months ago, on May 17th 2017, many marketers reported a large, multi-day spike which was followed by a period of unsettlement which lasted for months. This calmed down, and then spiked again at the end of September. Google hasn’t confirmed any changes at either of these times, but many in the industry suspect updates or testing were carried out.

However, there were plenty of confirmed changes in the second half of 2017. On June 20th 2017, Google launched its job portal which included stand-alone job listings in search results populated from major providers such as LinkedIn and Monster.

In October 2017, a number of people reported a drop in featured snippets over a five-day period. At the same time, there was a jump in knowledge panels for broad terms and objects. However, many of these panels disappeared by the new year.

To round off the year, Google rolled out its increase in snippet length. After years of testing, Google increased the text limit on many SERP pages which led to SEOs to increasing the traditional meta description length from 155 (including spaces) to up to 300 characters.

Following this, there was some volatility, and it was rumoured that more small updates had been made, but nothing was confirmed by the search engine.


The Latest Google SEO Updates in 2018

The year began with an unconfirmed update which experts pinned down to the 20th February. At this time rankings spiked and then quickly settled again, which suggested some work was being done.

However, it wasn’t long before the confirmed updates began. On March 8th 2018, Google revealed it had just run a ‘core’ update (nicknamed ‘Brackets’) which had caused two volatility spikes within a space of a week. It is still unknown whether this was one big update or multiple smaller changes made at once – Google has provided no further information.

A week later, on March 14th, there appeared to be a zero-result SERP test where a small set of knowledge cards displayed zero organic results and a ‘show all results’ button. This only lasted a week.

Lastly, at the end of March, Google announced its mobile-first index roll-out. This mobile-first indexing means Google will now use the mobile version, instead of the desktop version, in many instances to help ‘primarily mobile users find what they’re looking for’.

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