How often does Google update its algorithms?

When it comes to web development and SEO, keeping up with Google’s ever-shifting algorithms is essential for success.

To ensure that your site is ranked highly in relevant searches, it’s crucial to make sure you’re ticking off all the right boxes to stay out of the danger zone. And that means making sure you’re not doing anything to be penalised by Google, especially when it rolls out one of its algorithm updates. Essentially, when these do roll out, it can be hard to know exactly what has changed, or if you’ve been affected (and why). For the most part, penalised websites are often punished as a result of black hat SEO techniques or from a lack of quality content.

The thing is, we only hear about the major updates Google tends to hit the ‘go’ button on. For example, back in 2012 alone, there were 665 updates to the ranking algorithm in total. And those are words directly out of the Head of Google's Webspam Team, Matt Cutts.

In actual fact, each year there can be anywhere between 500-600 updates to the algorithm that we’re not told about. Most of these, though, are mere quality control tactics and are designed to keep Google running smoothly, or to enhance user experience.

What web developers and SEO techs often want to know is whether the major updates will completely rewrite the criteria known for making sites rank higher than others. Ultimately, that means reshaping the exact tactics required to optimise a site overall – a huge task of its own.

What can we expect in future Google algorithm changes?

While it is important to understand the changes that have come prior to now, peeking into the future is equally important to understand where Google might move next.The company constantly tightens up and penalises dodgy practices like keyword stuffing and spamming, and there are usually one or two fairly major updates every year. Luckily, the search engine giant doesn’t keep you in the dark on major updates. They almost always announce intentions months before they are rolled out, and outline what changes will be made. Twitter is the best place to be following Google as this is almost always the first place they make announcements. In the meantime, here are some bits and pieces to avoid, in order to keep your website out of any penalisation trouble:

Buying links:

It can be tempting to buy links that will make your site more appealing to Google. The company cottoned onto this practice a long time ago and will take manual action against your site if you pay for low-quality, non-earned links. Keep them organic.

Link swaps:

It may sound ethical to swap URL links with another site; it’s just a case of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’. The problem is, some sites make a habit out of this and can link off to hundreds, even thousands of other pages. This is where Google will raise a red flag, so ensure that if your site and another are going to link to each other, that their website is legit and not farming links. Don’t mislead or bombard your visitors with advertising, either. Moreover, avoid stuffing your content with a mass amount of keywords without any quality in the work at all. The formula remains simple: quality, regular content that is valuable to the user, will get you in the good books.