Since its inception, Google has implemented a number of algorithm changes to enhance the user experience and deliver the most relevant search engine results available on the web.  Google engineers have long championed the mantra, “build a better tool and they will come.”  Depending on how a site is optimized, shifting winds emanating from The Googleplex can foreshadow an impending beat-down in rankings or signal vindication for online marketers playing by the rules.

From time to time we field questions from clients regarding Google’s algorithm changes.  A few of the more popular ones include:

Are you up-to-date on the changes going on over at Google?

Is there a book or official word from Google explaining the exact nature of the new changes?
No but if you dig deep, they do offer clues….

Are the changes designed to punish folks looking to game the system with unethical SEO tactics?
Yes and no.  A punitive, dramatic drop in rankings can be the end-result of an algorithmic shift but changes made by Google are inspired more by the quest to deliver the best search results in the industry.  Ridding the landscape of sites with scraped content and spammy back links, or discouraging the use of black-hat SEO tactics is a by-product of this change.  In the end, Google is the king of search thanks to an ability to deliver better content….relevant results keep users coming back for more.

What we seldom hear in the wake of a Google shake-up is “How did this change earn its catchy moniker and is there significance in the name?”  In a recent article appearing in Search Engine Watch, Guillaume Bouchard chronicles how some of Google’s major algorithm changes earned their names and why the subsequent shifts changed the SEO landscape.  He even offers insight on how Google named products such as Chrome and Android Dessert Suite.

If this topic landed on the desk of the late, great Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes fame, he might have begun his segment by asking “Have you ever wondered where names like Florida, Big Daddy, Caffeine, and Panda came from?”  Andy is gone now, but if you are curious, check out Bouchard’s fascinating read.  Pressed for time and are looking for a quick take?  Just remember, Google’s algorithm changes may seem strictly punitive, but they are conceived and implemented with the user experience in mind.  For a more detailed discussion of this topic, take a look at SeoMoz’s Google Algorithm Change History.