This past year wasn't a huge one for Google algorithm updates, as there were only two major, verified changes that occurred. However, even though the changes weren't significant, they have some big implications for the future of search engine optimization (SEO), and are definitely worth acknowledging.
Google Bets Big on Mobile
The first big algorithm update of 2016 happened in May, when Google put even more emphasis on the ever-expanding mobile market. According to Search Engine Land, Google's aim was to build on 2015's mobilegeddon update and boost up pages that either had responsive or mobile-friendly designs. Though this update doesn't punish websites without mobile versions, it does lay the groundwork for a more substantial mobile update in the future, which could arrive later this year. This why you should optimize your website for mobile now. In fact, Google even has a mobile-friendly test you can use to see where your page stands and learn about any improvements that should be made.
The Return of Penguin
Google confirmed last fall that they updated the Penguin algorithm, which is primarily focused on reducing spam in search results. However, in an interesting twist, this new update actually relaxed some penalties imposed by the 2014 update. Though this recent algorithm update integrated Penguin into Google's core rating algorithm — meaning it constantly checks websites for spam — this development means websites that get flagged for spam issues and fix them should recover soon after Google recrawls and re-indexes the webpage.
In addition, the 2016 update of Penguin no longer penalizes an entire domain for poor SEO practices, instead evaluating individual pages as their own entity. According to Google's official announcement about this latest Penguin addition, the goal is to devalue spam rather than pushing down the rankings of full sites.
Though the last year hasn't seen many major updates to the Google search engine algorithm, it laid the groundwork for more changes in the future.