Timeline: Google SEO Algorithm Updates for Plumbing SEO

Knowing when major Google updates happen can help you improve your plumbing SEO strategy. Staying up to date on Google's SEO updates is a priority.

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 min read
Knowing when major Google updates happen can help you improve your plumbing SEO strategy. Staying up to date on Google's SEO updates is a priority.

Plumbing SEO Google Algorithm Updates 2011 - 2021

First, we must note that Google determines your plumbing website's ranking based on their algorithm. So it's important to note when that algorithm gets an update. We will take you back in time to explain some of the critical SEO Google algorithm updates.

For some reason, every algorithm update has a code name (usually an animal name). We have no idea why, but it's just the way it is.

Knowing when major Google updates happen can you an advantage over your competitors' SEO. And that's the name of the game. Your plumbing company is constantly competing for that top spot. So staying ahead of the curb is an absolute must. At Rooter Marketing, specializing in SEO and staying up to date on Google's SEO algorithm updates is a priority.

Google Panda SEO Update

Released Date: February 23, 2011

Google SEO Panda Update Rooter Marketing Plumbing SEO
Google SEO Panda Update Rooter Marketing Plumbing SEO

Google had one goal: "to give people the most relevant answers to their queries as quickly as possible." So it created Panda in 2011, an algorithm that prevents websites with poor quality content from showing up in top search results. Panda started penalizing plumbing websites that provided little to no value for your prospective customers.

There are types of content that will trigger Panda to lower your plumbing website's position in search results, including:

  • Thin content: Pages with very little relevant text and resources
  • Duplicate content: The exact same content from another page on the internet or on multiple pages of your plumbing website.
  • Low-quality content: Pages with a lack of in-depth information that provide little to no value to readers.
  • Lack of authority/trustworthiness: Content produced by sources that are not considered definitive or verified.
  • Low-quality user-generated content: Plumbing content that's full of spelling and grammatical errors and lacking in authoritative information.
  • Content mismatch: Pages that promise to deliver relevant results but fail to do so.
  • High ad-to-content ratio: Plumbing pages made up mostly of paid advertising rather than original content.

Google Panda is specifically about content. Its purpose is to reward great-quality content by demoting content that's either spammy or simply not very good. Once upon a time, as a spam filter, Panda is now one of the core ranking signals that Google uses to measure a plumbing website's quality.

Before the Panda update, people complained that Google was ranking low-quality plumbing websites higher than high-quality plumbing sites. This came at a time when Google's Caffeine was launched back in late 2009, resulting in the rise of the "content farm." Google's Amit Singhal speaks at best about this in his interview with Wired at TED:

"[We] did Caffeine [a major update that improved Google's indexing process] in late 2009. Our index grew so quickly, and we were just crawling at a much faster speed. When that happened, we basically got a lot of good fresh content, and some not so good. The problem had shifted from random gibberish, which the spam team had nicely taken care of, into somewhat more like written prose. But the content was shallow."

Google's Caffeine opened up the door for content farm, a company that pumps out lots of crap content to make sure it ranks high on Google's results page. Search users began to see many low-quality, irrelevant content to their search queries as websites with content like this appeared in top search results. Meanwhile, websites with high-quality and compelling content appeared on low search result pages. In response to the falling quality of Google's search results, Google created Panda. This was a big step for Google to help users find ever higher quality on the results page.

Google Panda targets plumbing websites that barely had any words on them. It also penalized sites with AI-generated content (AI just wasn't as advanced then as it is now).

Content farms - those who create poor-quality content around keywords in order to rank high on Google - are particularly hit by Google Panda. As a matter of fact, Google created Panda to target content farms.

These sites would churn out low-quality content that tended to rank simply because of the sheer quantity of copy. For Google, always striving to deliver high-quality results for an optimal user experience, this was a huge concern. Through the Panda algorithm, Google dealt two black eyes to content spammers and effectively removed content farms.

Google Panda had a significant impact on the plumbing SEO industry, particularly content creation. Panda changed the way content was written on websites in the long run. It forced plumbing businesses and digital marketing companies to rethink their SEO strategy to create content instead of passively stuffing keywords everywhere.

It doesn't make sense or buy machine-generated plumbing content that is irrelevant to users. With Panda, plumbing businesses and SEOs cannot run away from content creation unless it wants Google to lower their rankings, then, by all means, do so. But, do know that only plumbing websites with creative, unique, and compelling content make their way to the top search results.

Google Penguin SEO Update

Released Date: April 24, 2012

Google SEO Penguin Update Rooter Marketing Plumbing SEO
Google SEO Penguin Update Rooter Marketing Plumbing SEO

In 2012, Google launched Penguin, a webspam algorithm update that targets spammy backlinks and manipulative link-building practices. In a 2012 blog post by Google, they said Penguin will decrease the rankings on websites that Google believes violate their existing quality guidelines. Penguin represents a new effort to reduce webspam and promote high-quality content."  

The two specific practices that will trigger Google Penguin to lower your plumbing website's position in Google are:

  • Link schemes - Acquiring backlinks from low-quality or irrelevant websites to create an impression of popularity and relevance in an attempt to manipulate your plumbing SEO.
  • Keyword stuffing - Filling a plumbing webpage with keywords or repetitions of keywords to get higher rankings by appearing relevant to specific search phrases.

Penguin is Google's response to the increasing practice of manipulating search results (and rankings) through black hat link-building techniques, such as link schemes and keyword stuffing. The objective is to gain greater control over and reduce the effectiveness of many black hat spamming techniques. While plumbing websites with spammy backlinks were penalized, Google's Panda algorithm update was to start rewarding high-quality plumbing websites with authoritative and relevant links.

Before Google Penguin, it was common knowledge that inbound links were a significant ranking factor in Google's algorithm. Google looks at links as a strong indicator of site quality. If other sites are linked to it, it must be suitable for Google's search engine users.

So, SEOs built links with questionable tactics, often manipulating the algorithm by packing their anchor texts with keywords similar to those in the link. As a result, low-quality websites with many links pointing to them made it to the top search results; meanwhile, high-quality websites were downgraded.

Google started out with Panda and then noticed that there was still a lot of webspam, particularly the enormous spike in links and keyword stuffing. In response to the increasing practice of manipulating search results and rankings through black hat link-building techniques, Google created Penguin.

The objective was to gain greater control over and reduce the effectiveness of many black hat spamming techniques. Penguin works toward ensuring natural, authoritative, and relevant links are rewarded by examining the type of backlinks your plumbing site was getting. In contrast, manipulative and spammed links get punished.

Google's Penguin update started targeting plumbing websites that violated Google's Webmaster Guidelines. For example, websites that use manipulative link-building techniques or backlink profiles stuffed with low-quality links. Notably, big websites building bad links in a big way that are primarily affected by Google Penguin. Google is not out to destroy plumbing sites that offer helpful plumbing content. If your plumbing website used a lot of keyword-rich anchor text (text that holds downlinks on your site) in its off-site content, you would see a drop in your search engine rankings.

Google's dependency on links for how to rank plumbing websites did not change with Penguin. Penguin only detects and punishes manipulative and low-quality links, which means that links are still important for search ranking.

Jon Ball says, "This begs the question: How do I get the links that matter? What is and isn't safe?" Google's continuation of modifying their Webmaster Guidelines and changing what is and what isn't okay when it comes to links certainly did not help answer those questions. In fact, it compounded confusion and fear among many SEOs, especially Danny Sullivan.

Sullivan's response to Matt Cutts' personal blog post, The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO, really shows how frustrating and confused many plumber SEOs felt:


Danny Sullivan fires back!


Despite the confusion and frustration, many plumber SEOs felt after Penguin was released, creativity is taken as the key to building links. Jon says this very well:

"I've long said that the most powerful link-building tool in the world is the human brain. The human mind is capable of creativity, ingenuity, and foresight that no technology can match. That no prepackaged plan, strategy, or tactic can meet."

With Penguin, every link-building campaign needs to be customized and well thought out. According to Jon, the real secret to building links is sweat, hard work, creativity, experience, and human caring.

The launch of Google Penguin really changed the SEO industry and link building in particular. Before Penguin, spammy tactics worked quite well, and at times these tactics were the only way to remain competitive on the web. When Penguin was launched, Google became very effective at detecting and punishing spammy and manipulative links. This changed the SEO world because spamming thousands of irrelevant links wasn't as good as it used to be.

Google Penguin forces link builders to evolve and focus on building links that are valuable and useful to humans, rather than links that are intended to manipulate Google's search rankings. Link building has become a much more manual process, which centers on human engagement, outreach, and persuasion.

Penguin eliminates the shortcuts within link building and leaves only a real SEO strategy that requires hard work and ingenuity. Before Penguin, plumbing SEO experts were actively link-building and receiving backlinks via guest entries or link exchange; link building has since become harder.

No further attempts are being made to use high-quality content to increase voluntary linking to your plumbing website. Simultaneously, other digital marketing channels such as social media are being used to increase the plumbing website range and thereby receive backlinks and traffic.


Google Hummingbird SEO Update

Released Date: August 22, 2013

Google SEO Hummingbird Update Rooter Marketing Plumbing SEO
Google SEO Hummingbird Update Rooter Marketing Plumbing SEO

Google Hummingbird is designed to help Google understand the intent of searchers' queries to match them to more relevant results. In the words of Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan:

"Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query – the whole sentence or conversation or meaning – is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words."

Google Hummingbird is focused on three key components:

  • Conversational Search - Natural language processing will give search results that focus on results that fall at the head and tail of keywords.
  • Human search - Hummingbird was designed to solve the problem of finding information when you don't know the topic well.
  • The Foundations of Voice Search - As Hummingbird used context and intent to deliver results that matched the user's needs, local results became more precise.

With Hummingbird, Google has made its search more "human friendly" by improving how it understands language and how people talk.

Google Hummingbird is all about mobile searches. When people use their smartphones to type their queries in Google, queries tend to be shorter. However, voice search reverses that trend. Voice searches tend to be longer, more complex, and more conversational. As we move into the wearable tech era, Google makes sure they are prepared to deliver the best voice search experience. Ultimately, this is why Google created Hummingbird - to make sure it is prepared for a future in which people interact with Google constantly, quickly, and verbally.

Google Hummingbird doesn't seem to have negative impacts on the general web. It was primarily understood as a new search platform that helped Google better understand human language. Instead, with Hummingbird, it's about opportunity! Google's focus was on understanding a searcher's true intent by looking at the entire keyword instead of just parts of the keyword. Plumbing business owners were forced to rewrite some of their plumbing website's content to please the powers that be at Google.

Hummingbird may bridge the gap between old, spammy SEO and modern SEO, which seeks to speak to readers naturally.

Websites that answer questions that are searched for often could be selected by Google as relevant resources for particular topics. When the content on your plumbing website matches the searcher's intent, you will see some immediate results in your rankings.

David Amberland, SEO expert and author of Google Semantic Search, explains how Google Hummingbird will benefit SEO practices:

"From a [SEO] strategy point of view, this opens the horizon for companies and webmasters considerably. From a practical perspective, the need to identify the USP [unique selling proposition] of each business and become authoritative within it is now a key criteria for continued SEO success."

Christy Belden, vice president of digital marketing and media at LEAP, agrees that Hummingbird will continue to drive SEO in the right direction:

"Google has been talking about semantic language and understanding the meaning behind search for quite some time...With more users searching via mobile and voice, the Hummingbird update makes a lot of sense."

Google Hummingbird was the most significant game-changing move that the Google Algorithm had made upon its release.

Google E-A-T SEO Update

Released Date: 2014

Google SEO E-A-T Update Rooter Marketing Plumbing SEO
Google SEO E-A-T Update Rooter Marketing Plumbing SEO

E-A-T stands for Expertise – Authoritativeness – Trustworthiness. These are Google's three core pillars used to evaluate the quality of a website. E-A-T is particularly relevant for assessing content covering sensitive YMYL topics (Your Money, Your Life), including information about finances or personal health.

Google uses various signals to match what users are looking for, and in that regard, E-A-T is a ranking factor. However, Google won't assign your pages an "E-A-T score." It is just a term Google created to help raters figure out how to rate pages for quality.

When assessing E-A-T, Google quality raters primarily focuses on three areas:

  • Needs met - refers to how well your page satisfies the user's query.
  • Your Money or Your Life - Content that potentially affects a person's future happiness (as weird as this may sound), health, finances, or safety are designated as "Your Money or Your Life" (YMYL).
  • Page quality - Low-quality signals can hurt your pages in the eyes of quality raters. Stuff-like ad-blocked content, misleading titles, and intrusive advertisements are all low-quality signals.

Not respecting Google's E-A-T guidelines can bring your plumbing web page down in search results and discourage users from viewing your content.

For things like health, finances, and safety, Google is shifting into high gear to remove spammy content. Google updated its algorithm with E-A-T because it wanted to be as specific as possible. They are recommending websites that feature authority and trustworthiness.

The purpose of E-A-T is to protect searchers from low-quality content that has the potential to be detrimental to them. Think of Ponzi schemes or fraudulent sites. Google is making its best effort to protect its users from these types of sites.

E-A-T will primarily affect YMYL websites since they are held up to the highest standard in the Google search results. Google wants to make sure that only the highest quality pages in the YMYL space rank in top search results.

E-A-T has become an essential topic of discussion within the SEO industry, particularly related to organic traffic performance changes due to Google's core algorithm updates beginning on August 1, 2018.

Plumber SEOs couldn't help but wonder if E-A-T had impacted the updates, which mainly affected YMYL websites with lots of E-A-T issues.

When ideas are shared within the SEO community, E-A-T's discussion quickly turned into confusion, misunderstandings, and misinterpretations.

Much of this stems from the disconnect between what we know and what Google actually does.

  • E-A-T is not an algorithm - Google's algorithm will look for signals both and on off-site that correlate with good or bad E-A-T.
  • There Is no E-A-T score - there is no such thing as an E-A-T score.
  • E-A-T is not something that every website owner needs to heavily focus on - The E-A-T level of a given website is determined by its topics and content.

E-A-T changed the way Google ranks YMYL webpages. Since YMYL pages can significantly impact a person's life, Google holds these pages to the highest standards. In its Search Quality Rater's Guidelines, Google clarifies that in order to show up in the top search results, YMYL pages need to have the highest E-A-T. This makes it harder for any fraudulent website to cheat their way in the search results.

So if you create a website page about a medical condition or offering financial advice, Google wants to make sure these pages are as high-quality as possible.

In other words, if these types of websites have low-quality pages, there will undoubtedly be a negative impact on people's happiness, health, or wealth.

Suppose you have any plumbing web pages or websites that deal in these market areas. In that case, Google will hold your website to a higher standard than it would a site on a hockey team fan page or a page on rice cooker recipes.

Google Mobile-First Indexing SEO Update

Released Date: July 1, 2019

Google SEO Mobile-First Indexing  Rooter Marketing Plumbing SEO
Google SEO Mobile-First Indexing  Rooter Marketing Plumbing SEO

Mobile-first indexing means that Google prioritizes the mobile version of your plumbing website to determine ranking factors.

Until this update, Google was using the desktop version of a page's content for indexing and evaluating the relevance of the page to a user's query. Since most users now access Google with a mobile device, Google uses the mobile version of a plumbing page's indexing and ranking content.

Mobile-first indexing makes it easier for its algorithms to read mobile versions of a site, so they don't have to look at desktop versions.

Before mobile-first indexing, most people were searching on Google using a mobile device. Google's ranking systems still looked at the desktop version of a page's content to evaluate its relevance to the user. The result was that the actual page as seen by a mobile searcher was not accounted for by Google's algorithms.

As more and more searches came from a mobile device, Google switched from desktop-first indexing to mobile-first indexing to give those users a better experience.

Mobile-friendly indexing affects plumbing websites that are not mobile-friendly. These businesses can expect to see a negative impact on their search rankings across both mobile and desktop searches. This has to do with content.

Google will rank your plumbing website based on the content from the mobile version of your site. Plumbing websites with content that's not deemed mobile-friendly will not rank well.

In an article written by Search Engine Journal's Roger Montti, Roger identified seven insights about mobile-first indexing and how that may influence rankings and SEO. We've picked out the most notable ones as follow:

  1. Mobile-first informational needs are changing - personal search and conversational search are the evolution in how people search. It is driven by mobile searches. This changes how we must think about SEO strategy when creating content.
  2. Satisfy the most users - Google is going all-in on mobile.
  3. Time influences observed user intent - Day of the week, time of day, and geographical location are finally a part of the algorithm.
  4. Mobile-first is not about user-friendliness - An essential quality of the mobile-first index is convenience when satisfying user intent.

Mobile-first indexing was a game-changer to the SEO industry, mainly page speed, structured data, and page title tags.

Mobile-first indexing has increased the importance of page speed. Users will leave a plumbing site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. This is a huge problem for mobile because users expect near-instant results. With the mobile-first index, fast page speed has set to become the deciding factor in getting prospective customers to choose your plumbing site over your competition's.

Mobile-first indexing has made it critical to use structured data to make a plumbing webpage on mobile searches stand out above the competition. Structured data helps Google's crawlers understand mobile-version sites better, bringing them to a higher search results position.

With mobile-first indexing, optimizing for more extended title tags became critical to get mobile search users to click on sites. Longer plumbing titles give users, on mobile devices, more information about your plumbing pages in search engine results.

Google BERT SEO Update

Released Date: October 21, 2019

Google SEO BERT Update Rooter Marketing Plumbing SEO
Google SEO BERT Update Rooter Marketing Plumbing SEO

BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) is Google's search algorithm that helps machines better understand natural language. BERT aims to improve language understanding, particularly when it comes to natural language/conversational queries. It can help Search better understand the nuance and context of words in searches and better match those queries with beneficial results.

In Google's guidelines, it states, "Particularly for longer, more conversational queries, or searches where prepositions like "for" and "to" matter a lot to the meaning, the search will be able to understand the context of the words in [a user's] query. [A user] can search in a way that feels natural."

Google open-sourced BERT, which means anyone can use it to help computers understand the language a bit more as humans do. BERT teaches word context based on surrounding words rather than just the word immediately preceding or following it.

Traditionally, bots have had an impossible time understanding language. Users can enter text, but understanding language has always been complex for the crawl bots. Natural language processing (NLP) comes along the field in which researchers develop unique models to solve specific language understanding types.

They're all traditionally solved by individual models tailored to one specific language task. To break through this, Google created BERT to solve the majority of NLP tasks. There would be no need for individual models for individual language tasks.

The whole purpose of BERT is to improve human language understanding for machines. BERT is not an algorithmic update like Penguin or Panda. BERT does not judge web pages either negatively or positively. Still, it focuses on improving the human language's understanding of Google search. So, BERT does not affect anyone.

Upon releasing BERT, the SEO community saw many plumbers asking how to improve their plumbing sites. In an article title Why you may not have noticed the Google BERT update, Search Engine Land's Barry Schwartz said that this is not how to think about BERT. Even Google has already stated that there is no way to optimize BERT. The sole purpose of BERT is to help Google, and other machines better understand human language.

You can also find this in Danny Sullivan's tweet:

"There's nothing to optimize for with BERT, nor anything for anyone to be rethinking. The fundamentals of us seeking to reward great content remain unchanged."

The upside for plumber SEOs and content creators is they can be less concerned about "writing for the machines."

BERT wasn't a game-changer in the SEO industry. Instead, it was a game-changer in natural language processing. It paved the way for machines to better understand human speech and respond intelligently in real-time. BERT is now being used in most AI applications.

Google's Pandemic Response SEO Update

Released Date: 2020

Google SEO Pandemic Response Update Rooter Marketing Plumbing SEO
Google SEO Pandemic Response Update Rooter Marketing Plumbing SEO

Pandemic Response is Google's initiative to provide high-quality data as quickly as possible to support their efforts in understanding the emergent pandemic.

In the Pandemic Response SEO Update, Google announced that it would block any ad that appears to be taking advantage of the pandemic.

Google saw a mix of companies looking to profit by exploiting fear and misinformation online during the pandemic. Google's COVID algorithm update was to provide accurate information users need during a crisis. Additionally, reliable data has become critical for leaders in healthcare, government, and private industry who are challenged to make decisions in response to COVID-19.

Google is trying to stop these bad actors from putting up questionable ads, but some are still making it through. Google serves approximately 30 billion impressions per day, and COVID-19 searches are so vast that they're being called "the biggest search trend in Google search history."

The new policy has made it harder to monitor questionable ads and take the necessary measures to protect consumers. That's why we still see digital marketing SEO experts dodging detection.

Google Core Web Vitals SEO Update

Released Date: Expected to be launched in May 2021

Google SEO Core Web Vitals Rooter Marketing Plumbing SEO
Google SEO Core Web Vitals Rooter Marketing Plumbing SEO

Core Web Vitals are a set of metrics related to speed, responsiveness, and visual stability. With Core Web Vitals, Google aims to provide guidance for quality signals that Google says are "essential to delivering a great experience on the web." Core Web Vitals is expected to be launched in May 2021.

Google has defined these as the Core Web Vitals:

  • Largest Contentful Paint: The time it takes to load the main content of a page. An optimal LCP measurement is 2.5 seconds or less.
  • First Input Delay: The time it takes to begin its first interaction is at around 100 ms.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift: The stability of a page is as it loads and becomes interactive (an ideal measurement is less than 0.1).

This set of metrics was designed to help plumbing businesses measure their plumbing website's user experience regarding loading, interactivity, and visual stability.

Additionally, Google introduces a new ranking signal, the new page experience signal, that combines Core Web Vitals and existing user experience signals: mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial guidelines. This is to improve the way Google evaluates the overall experience provided by a page.

Suppose Google determines that a plumbing webpage is providing a high-quality experience based on its page experience signal. In that case, it will likely rank the page higher in search results.

However, content relevance is still considered significant when it comes to rankings. A plumbing webpage with content that's highly relevant to a query could conceivably rank well even if it has a poor page experience signal.

Before Core Web Vitals and the new page experience signal, Google has seen users express their preference for excellent page experience through internal studies and industry research. The snippet or image preview will help provide topical context for users to know what information a page can provide on Google results.

It's important to note that with Core Web Vitals, website pages with low-quality content, despite on-page experience signals, will not rank well in Google.

Clearly, content relevance is still considered significant when it comes to rankings. A plumbing webpage with content that's highly relevant to a query could rank high even if it has a poor page experience signal.

In an article by Search Engine Journal, Roger Montti says, "Improving Core Web Vitals scores can feel like trying to upgrade the performance of a Honda Civic to the standards of a Chevy Corvette. The developers did not build a Corvette. They build a Honda Civic."

At this point, the burden of fixing code falls on the website software users and not on the developers of that software. "This isn't fair," says Roger.

"You should remember that there are over 200 ranking factors, so I wouldn't expect too much improvement from improving Core Web Vitals. They don't seem to have that much of an impact on rankings at the moment."

Website publishers and the SEO community are stuck with trying to make plumbing websites conform to the Core Web Vitals that those websites were never designed to comply with. That's why we are seeing a struggle in understanding the elements of Core Web Vitals.

Publishers and SEOs are burdened with fixing something that ideally should be fixed at the code level. It's probably not a big deal, primarily as many of the page experience factors were already used by Google to determine rankings.

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