Penguin, Hummingbird and Pigeon are the updates which have been developed in Google’s constant effort to increase the relevancy of search queries to the results in SERPs. These changes to the ranking algorithm and core engine are also a way to penalize “black-hat” techniques. While Google regularly release updates, there have been a few changes that all Digital Marketing Professionals need to fully comprehend..

  1. Penguin

Date: April 24, 2012

Percentage of Queries Affected: 3.1% of English Queries; 4% Overall

It’s also known as the “Webspam Update“, this algorithm update targeted websites that relied on over-optimization tactics that violated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Particularly, this update targeted webmasters using black-hat SEO strategies such as the following

  • Cloaking: The process of showing different content to Google and then pushing users to a different page after they have clicked on the original search result. This is regarded as deceptive and hurts the overall user experience.
  • Link Schemes: The Penguin update penalized sites that used any spam/black-hat techniques to increase overall link popularity.

The update was necessary as many websites were able to misutilize article spinning and site manipulation to speed up their way to the top of SERPs. While there were not many significant amount of search queries affected by this update, it set a solid precedent and reinforced guidelines to ensure high quality in search results.

  1. Hummingbird

Date: August 20, 2013

Percentage of Queries Affected: 90% of searches worldwide

Hummingbird was launched towards the end of summer 2013. This update proved to be quite significant as it completely revamped Google’s search algorithm. It also changed the dynamics of managing strategic SEO. So, rather than serving results based on keywords, Google introduced this concept of semantic search, which focused on the user intent and context of a search.

 Though it was not a big tilt with regards to strategic approach of search engine optimization, yet maintaining an optimal keyword density is very essential. The new SEO Strategy requires adding semantic indexing to match keywords within website content to become optimized.

  1. Pigeon

Date: July 24, 2014

Percentage of Queries Affected: Varies according to industry

This update was initially rolled out in the US for English queries in July 2014; Pigeon was a search algorithm update that gave preference to local search results. Its goal was to provide a more relevant experience to users searching for local products and services. As a result of this, major directories such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Urbanspoon, saw greater visibility in search for localized queries.

All of these updates were intended to serve users the most relevant and useful content possible, while at the same time penalizing websites that don’t take the time to invest in building trust and authority with search engines.



Vishal Vivek began his entrepreneurial career at a very young age of 24 after leaving his job in IBM. Despite facing lots of hardships at an early age and loss of his dad in the first few months of launching his cash starved start-up SEO Corporation, he managed to emerge as a winner. He single handedly took a one man start-up to become a reputed brand in search engine marketing industry. Vishal has a lot of admirers in form of his clients, friends and colleagues. Though he still works more than 16 hours on week days and 10 hours, he still manages to maintain his passion of reading voraciously. He loves writing and motivating others to out do themselves. His life is indeed an example for many who wish embark on a journey of unknown after leaving the comfort of a secure future.
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How Google Algorithm Updates Affect Your SEO Strategy by