Back in 1990’s, searching online was a hefty task not just because you had poor bulky giant personal computers and dial up connection painfully slow, but because of the absence of an effective search tool. Ever since its inception in 1998, Google has made significant changes in the way people browse the internet and search for information. Starting with a database of 24 million pages, Google today has 60 trillion web pages in its database and is constantly growing. Though this number is rising steeply, Google has never disappointed its billions of users but became smarter and faster day by day. So how did Google manage t become the best search engine ever made, or arguably the most influential web site ever?
The search method by Larry Page and Sergey Brin was instrumental in Google’s success. Rather than ranking results according to how many times the search term appeared on a page, their system measured the frequency with which a website was referred by other sites. Another key factor was the site’s stripped-down design, which made it quicker and more accessible than its rivals. Also, they fought spams consistently.
The search algorithms used by Google played a significant role in the evolution of online search and how websites position themselves to be easily visible to their audience. Search algorithms are nothing but programs and formulas written to deliver the best results possible. Google has updated its search algorithms about 500 to 600 times till date since 2000. Since 2003, Google started updating its algorithms more frequently popularly called the Google Dance, followed by Florida update, which marked an end to the early 90’s SEO strategies like keyword stuffing.
In 2004, Google rolled out two major updates known as Austin and Brandy respectively. With Brandy update, Google introduced LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing), which gives it enhanced ability to understand synonyms, which took keyword analysis to next level. 2005 was another big year for Google as they came up with a bunch of major updates to algorithm such as Allegra, Bourbon, Local Maps, and Jagger. Besides, Google joined hands with Yahoo and Microsoft to introduce NoFollow, which helps clean up unvouched links and fight spams.
With the Universal Search update in 2007, Google integrated traditional search results with Images, News, Video, Local and other verticals. In 2008, Google introduced revolutionary Suggest feature, by displaying a list of suggested searches in a drop down format below the search box instantly as a user enters query. Suggest was later integrated with Google Instant.
During the period 2009-2010, Google introduced more ranking centric algorithms such as Vince, Rel Canonic Tag (again in association with Yahoo and Microsoft) allowing webmasters to send canonicalization signals to search bots without impacting human visitors. Caffeine was a massive algorithm update in the history of Google which was designed to speed up crawling, expand index, and integrate indexation and ranking in almost real-time. In 2010 after May Day and Brand update, Google offered the much awaited Google Instant feature. During the Christmas 2010, Google confirmed that they use Social Signals in determining ranking including data from Twitter and Facebook. This was a wake-up call for businesses around the globe as they began to focus more on social media marketing campaigns.
During the last couple of years Google rolled out several updates from Attribution to Knowledge Graph. Attribution was a precursor to Panda updates. Panda followed by Schema.org and the much anticipated Google+. Pagination and Elements was an update that fixed crawling and duplication issues. During early 2012, Google introduced Search+ Your world, Ads above the fold, Venice, Exact Match domain etc. Penguin, the web-spam update unveiled in 2012, which affected rankings of many sites across the world.
The most recent algorithm update, Hummingbird was rolled out last month by Google. Hummingbird is a new breed search algorithm, the most advanced of all time, which perhaps better understands the human language and gives you the most relevant and accurate answer for each search query. Since Knowledge graph, we have seen significant changes in Google search,\ and hummingbird actually enhances the knowledge graph with more intelligent search capabilities. Beyond keywords, Google now identifies phrases and long tail keywords better. Hummingbird algorithm is also designed to focus more on mobile search. Voice searches will give more precise answers ever with Hummingbird algorithm and will evolve as conversational search in the time to come.