Updated a few hundred times a year, Google’s search algorithms are constantly learning and changing the way we see the web. Major updates can reshape the way we optimize pages to be rank better on search results. Many, if not most, of Google’s algorithm updates are unannounced and must be discovered using tools that track day to day changes in visibility and volatility.
A solid understanding of the history of when these updates occurred can better enable you to correlate changes in the algorithms with changes in rankings and organic website traffic and help to answer some of the important questions on many webmaster’s minds: how will future Google algorithm updates affect my website? How can we be prepared for these changes? & Was this last major fluctuation in traffic due to an algorithm update or something else?
Googles major updates, including Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird use a machine learning algorithm called RankBrain which is continuously growing and has become a critically important part of the Google ranking algorithm. Each one of these algorithms individually are capable of bringing about massive gains or catastrophic losses in traffic for your website, so keep an eye out for unusual fluctuations in the day to day search rankings.
The true aim of this Google algorithm update history is to give webmasters an understanding of the patterns of change seen in Google’s ranking algorithm and to better prepare you for updates we may see from Google in the near future. Many site owners may be reluctant to hear that their loss in traffic was due to a simple, uncontrollable change in one of Google’s many algorithms, but if the two events can indeed be correlated, then at least you (the marketer) may have a better chance at understanding how to correct the loss in traffic.
2018 Google Updates
April 13-22, 2018 Confirmed Broad Core Algorithm Update. Google confirmed on April 20th that a broad core algorithm update had been rolled out. Again, this update seemed to focus on rewarding websites that had quality content and E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trust) rather than penalizing sites that lack quality content. The increasing importance of quality content and mobile friendliness have been consistent themes throughout the first half of 2018, so I would expect more changes in the near future that are along this line.
March 26, 2018 Mobile-First Index Roll Out. Google officially announced the rollout of the Mobile-First Index to be starting. This is a major change in practice as the index will use the mobile version of a page for indexing and ranking rather than the desktop version. As it rolls out, it will cause major changes in the rankings for mobile results as more websites are switched over to the Mobile-First Index. You will receive a notification via search console when your site has been migrated over to the index.
March 3-28, 2018 Confirmed “Brackets” Google Core Update. This update was either a series of smaller updates or a single, large roll out that happened over a 3 week time frame. Google made seemingly significant core updates to the ranking algorithm that focused more on rewarding good sites rather than pushing bad or “spammy” sites. Google SearchLiason stated on Twitter on March 12: “As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded….” As usual, very little insight was provided by Google as to how to properly maneuver the rough seas of algorithm updates other than the usual: “there is no ‘fix’ for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content.” To add to the confusion of this elongated fluctuation period, SEMRush was also updating their database during these weeks.
February 3, 2018 Featured Snippet Reduction. The overall number of featured snippets that appear on Google was reduced.
January 21-28, 2018 Unconfirmed Quality Update(s). High fluctuations seen in rankings for both mobile and desktop as Google may have implemented a small quality update.
January 17, 2018 Mobile “Speed Update.” Google announced that page speed will officially be a ranking factor for mobile search queries starting in July of 2018. This comes as no surprise with Google’s rollout of the Mobile-First Index just around the corner. With mobile market share still on the rise, it is crucial to optimize every site for the mobile experience.
2017 Google Updates
- December 20, 2017 Maccabee (Formerly Fred) Update. This update to Google’s Fred algorithm included minor improvements that were aimed at improving the relevancy of a website to search results. The largest impact of this update was felt by affiliate type sites.
- November 30, 2017 Snippet Length Increased to 300 characters. For close to two years now, Google has been testing doubling the length the of the snippet character count from 155 to 300 in many search results. This update was confirmed by Google and has led to industry changing practices in the way Meta Descriptions are handled.
- November 14, 2017 Unknown Algorithm Update. This major update was most likely not related to Penguin or Panda, but caused significant amounts of fluctuation among rankings. Google has yet to comment on the update.
- October 17, 2017 Chrome HTTPS Warnings. Google has taken a major step in encouraging websites to be HTTPS secure with the release of Google Chrome version 62. Versions 62 and later will warn users that are entering websites with unsecured forms resulting in a higher bounce back rate for unsecured websites. With Chrome currently reigning as the most utilized web browser by far, it is now more important than ever to make the switch to HTTPS secure.
- September 27, 2017 Unknown Algorithm Update. Possible Google algorithm update or fluctuations related to September 16th update, or tremors from Apple’s switch from using Bing to Google as the default search engine for Siri on the 25th of September.
- September 16, 2017 Google Quality Update. Google launched a major quality algorithm update. Possibly part of a much larger update, this change only saw fluctuations in search results for two days, but may have been the reason for larger shifts in traffic in the following weeks.
- September 6 & 8, 2017 Small Google Quality Update. Although it was difficult to confirm what exact changes were made in this update, Google made some minor changes to the quality algorithm with some websites dropping 30% of traffic and others gaining 20-25% traffic.
- Early September, 2017 Google AMP Update. Google changed featured snippets on mobile to prefer AMP results.
- August 19, 2017 Large Quality Update. This quality update hit technically low-quality content websites that were not “fresh” or not up to date with modern SEO.
- August 7, 2017 Unknown Link Update. This was a major Google update related to a link algorithm.
- July 26, 2017 Unknown Update. Possible Update to the Penguin or core quality algorithms.
- July 9, 2017 Core Quality Update. Potential reversal of some of the updates applied to quality algorithm on June 26, 2017. Quality algorithm related update.
- June 26, 2017 Unknown Algorithm Update. Significant changes seen in assessment of overall site quality.
- June 19, 2017 Unknown Algorithm Update. Spam heavy and low-quality content site took a hit from this update.
- June 13, 2017 Local Algorithm Update. Proximity of search results to searcher location gained relevance, previously unranked business websites started appearing in the 3-pack of Google SERP, and weight given to reviews was diminished.
- May 17, 2017 Core Quality & Ranking Algorithm Update. Websites with thin content, badly designed user interfaces, deceptive or disruptive ads saw traffic drops from this update. Many legitimate sites that may have been incorrectly affected on the May 4th update bounced back after this update.
- May 4, 2017 Quality Algorithm Update. Ad heavy and low-quality content sites were affected.
- April 26, 2017 Panda Update. Sites with previous Panda issues saw gains/losses on this update.
- April 17 & 18, 2017 Core Algorithm Update. With many sites experiencing a significant shift in traffic, it was hard to determine whether these changes were a Fred rollback, a new algorithm, or a combination of many things.
- March 14, 2017 Owl Update. Google updated Owl algorithm to better remove offensive results from features snippets and autosuggest.
- March 8, 2017 Fred Update. Major update hurting low-value content, or cash grab websites that focused on revenue rather than high quality user content. Many of these sites had content that was wrapped around ads, where the ads could be difficult to distinguish from content. Some sites lost up to 50%-90% of organic search traffic after this update.
- February 6, 2017 Core Algorithm Update. This major update most likely included another update to the Penguin algorithm and more specifically websites that lacked EAT (Experience, Authority, Trust).
- February 1, 2017 Penguin Algorithm Update. All signs point to a change in the way google detects and discounts spammy links. Private Blog Networks and other “black hat” SEO ranking tools/techniques were the heaviest hit by this update.
- January 10, 2017 Intrusive Popup Penalty Update. Major update that rolled out penalties for anyone who was using popup ads that covered main content on a page. These changes were made to protect mobile users because intrusive ads are harder to deal with on the smaller screens of phones.
2016 Google Updates
- December 14, 2016 Major Core Algorithm Update. This update was never confirmed by Google, but, weather tracking tools showed a massive influx around the 14th & 15th.
- November 10, 2016 Possible Mobile Update/Bugged Snippets. Observed fluctuations may have been caused by changes in mobile friendly ratings or by a bug where the Google Snippet date was not correct. This bug was eventually corrected on November 17, 2016.
- October 6, 2016 Part 2 of Major Penguin 4.0 Algorithm Update. Full reversal of Penguin Penalties implemented in the previous update. This update took a few weeks to fully rollout, but started having a significant impact on October 6, 2017.
- September 27, 2016 Part 1 of Major Penguin 4.0 Algorithm Update. Penguin 4.0 was a newer more “gentle” version of the algorithm designed to devalue bad links instead of just penalizing sites. Although it was most likely rolled out on the 23rd of September, many of the effects were not fully seen until the 27th.
- September 23, 2016 Penguin 4.0 Announcement. Google announced that Penguin 4 was to be a new part of the core algorithm and that it would update in real time. They also stated that the new Penguin 4.0 would devalue individual pages with bad links more rather than the entire domain.
- September 13, 2016 Image/Universal Drop Update. This update caused a massive drop in SERP’s (Search Engine Results Page) with image results on the first page with some dropping up to 50% overnight.
- September 1, 2017 Possum Update. In the largest update to affect Local algorithm since 2014, the Possum update influenced the 3-pack and Local Finder, or local Google Maps, results. Google updated the filter which decides who appears on local results to better include locations that were just outside of physical city limits.
- May 12, 2016 Mobile-Friendly 2 Update. A year after the first mobile-friendly update, Google implemented their second mobile-friendly update which provided ranking visibility boosts to benefit websites that were mobile-friendly.
- February 23, 2016 AdWords Update. Google removed the entire right ad column and replaced it with a 4-ad top block that appeared on many commercial searches.
- January 8, 2016 Core Algorithm Update. Gary Illyes, from Google, confirmed that the Core Algorithm was update around January 8, 2016, but it’s not clear as to what was specifically changed.
2015 Google Updates
- December 17, 2015 Protocol Update. Google proclaimed they would be indexing https by default from then on.
- December 4-14, 2015 Possible Quality Update. Many webmasters observed fluctuations that were most likely related to an update to the quality algorithm.
- October 26, 2015 Rankbrain Announcement. Although Rankbrain likely launched in spring of 2015, this official announcement from Google revealed that machine learning was the 3rd most influential ranking factor contributing to the algorithm.
- October 14 & 15, 2015 Zombie Update. Although never officially confirmed, webmasters observed large fluctuations in the zombie traffic statistics.
- October 6, 2015 New Algorithm Release. Google released a new algorithm to change the way in which hacked sites appear in the search results. Affecting up to 5% of all queries, a drop around this time could indicate that tampering or hacking had occurred on a site.
- September 16, 2015 iOS9 Release. Along with the release of the new iOS 9 was a feature that allowed used to block scripts that track analytics. Mobile traffic data starting from this time may be skewed because iPhones and iPads were no longer being tracked.
- August 6, 2015 Local Listing Changes. Where Google previously displayed 7 search results, there were now only 3. This change affected Google on a global scale. Sites that were in the bottom 7 of the results probably saw a hit, while the first 3 results probably saw an increase in click through.
- Late July, 2015 Mismatch Manual Actions. Many images on sites are not appearing on Google queries because Google sent out a massive number of Image Mismatch Manual Actions. These manual actions targeted sites that were displaying different images on the site as compared to the image shown on Google images and sites that used hotlink protection methods.
- July 12, 2015 Panda 4.2. Google announced the start of the rollout of a Panda refresh that could take months to complete. The 4.2 update affected only 2-3% of search queries where previous Panda updates affected 3-7.5% of queries each.
- June 17, 2015 Google Quality Update. Googles confirmed that this updated occurred and noted that this change to their algorithms was just one of many changes they make on a regular basis.
- May 3, 2015 “Phantom 2” Quality Update. Overall ranking update that changed the way in which the Google core algorithm processes quality signals. Google stated: “improve your quality” to improve rankings.
- April 22, 2015 “Mobilegeddon” Launch of the Mobile Friendly Algorithm. This algorithm was launched to give a boost to site that Google deemed as mobile friendly. The algorithm affects only the ranking of sites on mobile queries, not desktop ones.
- March 10, 2015 Snippet Update. Google began showing entire recipes for drinks in snippets.
- February 19, 2015 “Site Hacked” Bug. A bug caused many websites to improperly display the “This site may be hacked” message resulting in temporary, but massive traffic drops.
- February 4, 2015 Unknown Algorithm Update. An unconfirmed, not well known update that affected both the e-commerce industry heavily and made quite a few webmasters suspect there was an update to mobile usability as well.
- January 16, 2015 Google Knowledge Graph displaying ticket links. Google added links directly from the results page to purchase tickets from affecting all sites that sell event tickets.
2014 Google Updates
- December 22, 2014 Pigeon Updates. Announced on the 22nd, the update may have rolled out as early as the 19th. Google expanded the Pigeon local algorithm to include United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. This update originally hit the United States on July 24, 2014.
- November 27 – December 10, 2014 Penguin Fluctuations. As part of the continuing Penguin 3.0 rollout, Google provided more updates to Penguin which rolled back many of the changes seen in the previous weeks. Penalties were reversed, and many of the gains seen also disappeared.
- November 24, 2014 Massive Polish link network taken down by google. Google targeted Polish SEOs by taking down a massive network of low-quality links that could have affected the backlinks to your website.
- October 24, 2014 Panda Refresh. Dramatic changes in Panda hit sites were seen. John Mueller later confirmed that this was a Panda Update that occurred in late October.
- October 21, 2014 Pirate 2.0 Update. Google targeted sites with large amount of pirated content or illegal torrent sites to fight piracy. This update came about 2 years after the original Pirate Algorithm.
- October 17, 2014 Penguin 3.0 Refresh. After an entire year of waiting for a Penguin update, Google gave us Penguin 3.0 which was designed to help sites recover from the previous Penguin updates and demote sites that had a bad link profile.
- October 9, 2014 Possible Testing of Penguin 3.0. It’s possible that spikes in traffic on this day were due to Google’s testing of the Penguin 3.0 system before its launch on the 17th.
- September 23, 2014 Panda 4.1 Rollout Begins. Google may even have been implementing Panda 4.1 a few days prior to this date, but this update added a few more signals to help the Panda algorithm determine low VS. high quality links.
- August 28, 2014 Google removes Authorship in search results. After testing the usefulness of displaying authorship information on results pages, Google decided it would be best to leave this information out of all future search results.
- August 6, 2014 HTTPS/SSL Update. Google announces that HTTPS is very possible a ranking signal and migration to its protocol could cause a drop in rankings if not done properly.
- July 24, 2014 Pigeon Algorithm Release. Google changed the face of Local results and SEO forever when they rolled out Pigeon. This algorithm helped bridge the large gap between the Local and Core Algorithms by changing the way they handled and interpreted location cues.
- July 16, 2014 Google disables discussion search. This update was not likely to affect many websites other than forums or discussion pages.
- June 28, 2014 Google Drops Authorship Photos. Google dropped the showing of author’s photos from appearing in search results pages. Authors could gain up to 35% increased traffic for their sites purely from optimizing the authorship photos to appear on search results.
- June 12, 2014 Payday Loan 3.0. Compared to Payday 2.0 released just a few weeks before this one, Payday 3.0 focuses more on spammy queries instead of spammy sites.
- March 24, 2014 Unknown Algorithm Update. It’s possible that this was a small Panda update seeing as how many Panda affected sites made a recovery during this time.
- February 6, 2014 Page Layout Update #3. Google released an update to the Page Layout Algorithm that penalizes sites with Top Heavy ads more.
2013 Google Updates
- December 19, 2013 Google Removes Authorship. Over a period of a month, authorship mark-up disappeared from ~15% of queries which bottomed out on the 19th and have yet to recover.
- December 17, 2013 Unknown Algorithm Update. Global fluctuation trackers showed there was likely an update implemented on this day, but Google denied it claiming that they avoid updates near the holidays.
- November 14, 2013 Unknown Algorithm Update. No algorithm changes were announced, but a wide variety of sites experienced fluctuations in traffic.
- October 4, 2013 Penguin 2.1. With only a 5-month gap between the last penguin update, Google pushed out Penguin 2.1 which was likely related to a data update and not a major change to the Penguin algorithm. Despite this, some sites were hit hard by the update.
- August 20, 2013 Hummingbird Rollout. Acknowledge officially by Google on Sept. 26, Hummingbird is a core algorithm update that powered changes to semantic search and the Knowledge Graph.
- August 6, 2013 Google adds In-Depth Articles. Google added a new type of news result called in-depth articles which were focused more on longer content. It launched featuring links to 3 articles and was seen in ~3% of all search queries at the time.
- August 1, 2013 Google Analytics Reporting Bug. Many Google Analytics users encountered a bug where it simply stopped reporting traffic changes for this day only.
- July 26, 2013 Unknown Algorithm Update. This unconfirmed Google update saw large fluctuations on Friday and further activity over the weekend.
- July 19, 2013 Knowledge Graph Update. Searches with Knowledge Graph saw an increase close to 50% in a single day as the overall queries that showed the Knowledge Graph increased from 17% to 26%.
- July 18, 2013 Panda Recovery. This Google confirmed Panda update was thought to have “softened” some of the previously implied Panda penalties.
- June 27, 2013 “Multi-Week” Algorithm Update. Starting on June 12th and ending on the week after July 4th, this multi-week algorithm update caused the most turbulence ever recorded by the Mozcast tool up until this date. It is believed that the update was focused more around the spam algorithm.
- June 14, 2013 Google adds Image Carousel. This update to the Google Images page could have affected image search queries from this point on.
- June 11, 2013 Payday Loan Algorithm Update. This update was announced by Google to be targeting niches where with infamously spammy results, specifically referring to Payday loans and Porn.
- May 22, 2013 Penguin 2.0. The 4th large Penguin update that aimed to affect more Webmasters than the original algorithm, but it only impacted 2.3% of search results.
- May 21, 2013 Domain Crowding Update. Aimed at creating more diversity in results pages, the Domain Crowding update made it far less likely to see the same domain twice on a search result.
- May 9, 2013 “Phantom” Update. This was the first of the two major “Phantom” updates that rolled out on May 4th and had major implications but went unannounced by Google. This may have been a precursor test to the Panda 2.0 Rollout a couple of weeks later.
- March 27, 2013 Google Updates Quality Guidelines for News. In March of 2013, Google strongly recommended that news websites separate their actual news content from advertising or promotional content.
- March 15, 2013 Google Announces that will no longer update Panda regularly. From this point on, Google gradually rolled out Panda updates instead of announcing them ahead of time.
- March 14, 2013 Panda Refresh. Panda Update #25 was the last manual update Google offered for Panda before it started rolling its updates out unannounced and over time.
- March 7, 2013 Google Penalizes SAPE Links. Google penalized a low-quality Russian link network so that these links are treated as harmful.
- February 22, 2013 UK News Websites Penalized. Caught by Google for selling links, many UK news website rankings were penalized in February 2013.
- January 31, 2013 Google Starts Removing “Fake” Google Maps reviews. Google mentioned that they were going to start removing Google+ Maps reviews that they thought were fake.
- January 22, 2013 Panda Refresh. Panda Update #24 affected roughly 1.2% of all English based queries.
2012 Google Updates
- December 21, 2012 Panda Refresh. Panda Update #23 impacted roughly 1.3% of English based search queries.
- December 13, 2012 Safe Search Update. Safe search was updated to be stricter on the rating and display of explicit content.
- December 4, 2012 Google Expands Knowledge Graph. Knowledge Graph function added to many non-English searches such as: Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Italian. This update was designed to offer more than a simple translation and to improve the overall functionality of the knowledge graph in non-English queries.
- November 21, 2012 Panda Refresh. Officially known as Panda Update #22, this update focused on the data algorithm.
- November 5, 2012 Panda Refresh. Panda Update #21. A smaller Panda update affecting only 1.1% of English queries.
- October 23, 2012 Scraper Update. Google updated its Scraper Algorithm to better identify and devalue scraped websites with mostly copied or scraped content.
- October 9, 2012 Page Layout Update #2. Google updated the algorithm that filters through page layout to penalize websites with ads that were heavy towards the top of the page.
- October 5, 2012 Penguin Update 3. Google released the 3rd update for the Penguin algorithm and it only ended up impacting .3% of English sites.
- October 1, 2012 Google Image Search Update. Many webmasters reported seeing changes in the ranking of images posted to Google images webpage after a potential October update to the Google Images Search Ranking Algorithm.
- September 27, 2012 EMD Algorithm Update. Exact Match Domains would no longer rank well after this update was implemented.
- September 27, 2012 Panda Update #20. This update included changes to both algorithm and data and was rolled out simultaneously with the EMD Update of the 28th.
- September 18, 2012 Panda 3.9.2 Refresh. Data only panda refresh which affected fewer than 1% of all queries.
- August 20, 2012 Panda 3.9.1 Refresh. Another small Panda update was rolled out.
- August 14, 2012 7-Result SERPs. Google occasionally started showing users a 7-result block on the top of search queries instead of the top 10 that were previously shown up until this point.
- August 10, 2012 DMCA Takedown or “Pirate” Update. After this update, site ratings could be penalized if a site received too many copyright removal notices.
- July 24, 2012 Panda 3.9 Refresh. This panda Refresh impacted roughly 1% of searches.
- July 19, 2012 Google sends vast number of Unnatural Link Manual Actions out. Google’s latest round of warning was told be ignored by Google themselves.
- June 25, 2012 Panda 3.8 Refresh. A refresh with no algorithmic changes, this update appeared to be data only and have a smaller impact than Panda 3.7.
- June 8, 2012 Panda 3.7 Refresh. Panda 3.7 Refresh affected close to 1% of queries globally.
- June 1, 2012 Google Shopping. Google added advertisements at the top of the shopping results list that reduced organic click through rate for eCommerce sites.
- May 25, 2012 Penguin 1.1 Update. The first official Penguin update which affected around .1% of all search queries.
- May 16 Knowledge Graph Launched. “Fact Surfing” became a popular hobby as google launched the Knowledge Graph which was essentially a large snippet with quick facts on its release.
- April 27, 2012 Panda 3.6 Refresh. Update #14 for Panda was one of 500 changes Google was making to the Panda algorithm in 2012 and was pushed out just over a week after the last refresh.
- April 24, 2012 First Penguin Update. This update gave Penguin its name and included changes to Google’s antispam algorithm that impacted close to 3% of all queries.
- April 19, 2012 Panda 3.5 Refresh. Panda update #13 was a slight change in the Panda algorithm with very little impact.
- April 16, 2012 Parked Domain Bug. Google’s classifier for determining if a website is considered a “parked domain” was reading from mistakenly empty files and “parking” or deranking domains that were not supposed to be.
- March 23, 2012 Panda 3.4 Refresh. Impacting roughly 1.6% of all searches.
- March 19, 2012 Google Deindexes BMR Blog Network. Google shutting down yet another quick and easy backlink service that provided an immediate boost to rankings.
- March 12, 2012 Google Search Quality Video. Google released an example of their meeting on upcoming algorithm changes which gave insight into their alteration process.
- February 27, 2012 Venice Update. Update to local algorithm that displayed more local organic results and better integrate local search data.
- February 27, 2012 Panda 3.3 Refresh. Panda Update #11 included some substantial changes in the signals the algorithm used to evaluate link quality.
- January 19, 2012 Page Layout Update. This update hurt sites lacking content “above the fold.”
- January 18, 2012 Panda 3.2 Refresh. Google confirmed that Panda had received an update, but also surprisingly suggested that algorithm itself had not changed.
- January 10, 2012 Google+ Personalization Update. Pushing a radical shift in personalization, this update aggressively integrated Google+ data & user profiles into search results.
2011 Google Updates
- November 18, 2011 Panda 3.1 Refresh. Google started making many unannounced, minor changes to the Panda Algorithm after this point. This update specifically affected <1% of queries.
- November 3, 2011 Freshness Update. This update focused on changing the freshness algorithm to be more rewarding to recent content and drastically affecting time-sensitive results. It was estimated that this impacted up to 35% of all searches.
- October 18, 2011 Google Starts Encrypting Queries. They announced this change was happening for privacy reasons but what this update ultimately did was block some organic traffic keyword referral data for some searches.
- October 5, 2011 Panda 2.5 Flux. Considered Panda update #8, this was not specifically an algorithm update, but more of a fluctuation related to the ongoing rollout of Panda 2.5 that first began on the 27th of September.
- September 27, 2011 Panda 2.5 Update. This update affected many of Google’s own websites or partners like youtube.com, android.com, and Google partners like aol.com
- September 21, 2011 – 516 Google Algorithm Updates. Google Executive Chairman Erich Schmidt testifies that the 516 algorithm updates that were implemented were all focused on bringing users the best experience and Google would continue to improve its user experience.
- August 16, 2011 Expanded Sitelinks. Google changed the number of links that could appear in a sitelinks block to 10 pages, but Google revised this number to 6 shortly after its implementation.
- August 12, 2011 Panda 2.4 Update. Panda was rolled out internationally for both English & most non-English searches excluding Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. This update reportedly affected between 6-9% of searches in impacted countries.
- July 23, 2011 Panda 2.3 Update. This minor Panda update included additional signals for determining low VS. high quality links for sites ranking on Google.
- June 28, 2011 Google+ Release. Google+ is Google’s social media website. Reached over 10 million registered users within its first 2 weeks of operation, but may not have had the impact on Facebook’s market share that was intended.
- June 21, 2011 Panda 2.2 Update. Confirmed on the 22nd, this minor Panda update was Update #4 and may have been pushed out closer to the 16th of June.
- June 2, 2011 Schema.org Releases. Google, Yahoo, and Bing created a joint approach to consolidating structured data and the solution was Schema.org. The Schema.org community was created to consolidate the varying types of microdata seen around the web into a unified list of types that all the major search engines would refer to.
- May 9, 2011 Panda 2.1. The smallest Panda update when it released, this was the 3rd ever update to Google’s Panda algorithm which affected a “small” number of queries.
- April 11, 2011 Panda 2.0. This second update to Panda impacted roughly 2% of U.S. queries and altered how deep the algorithm went into the “long tail” of low quality websites.
- March 30, 2011 Google Releases +1 Button. Similar in function to Facebook’s Like Button, Google’s +1 button was inserted onto web pages so that users of the Google search engine could provide immediate feedback on websites & ads that they liked.
- February 23, 2011 Farmer or Panda Release Update. Panda was originally released as an unnamed algorithm update referred to as the “Farmer Update.” It had massive impact on U.S. queries affecting over 12% of them and some websites losing over 95% of website traffic and keyword visibility. Panda created the fear of being penalized for using low quality content, scraping, and buying links.
- January 28, 2011 Attribution Update. The true emphasis of this update was to fight “spammy” websites and website content that was unoriginal or just copied content from other sites.
- January, 2011 Overstock.com Penalty. Overstock was publicly penalized by Google after many webmasters publicly revealed the shady practices that were being implemented on the site via link buying. This was foreshadowing the release of Panda and Google’s shift towards a less friendly approach to linking schemes.
2010 Google Updates
- December 2010 Negative Reviews Penalized. The New York Times released an article about a site called DecorMyEyes.com which was ranking very well based purely on negative reviews that were appearing for the website. The owner of this business was selling overpriced, counterfeit eyewear and when the customer wanted to refund the fakes, he was threatening them with physical or legal action. Google promptly changed their algorithm to penalize a site’s negative reviews for their overall rating.
- December 2010 Social Signals Implemented. December 2010 was the month that both Google and Bing confirmed that data from Facebook and Twitter were used in the algorithms’ determination of site ranking. Factors affecting a websites social signals would include the number of followers it had on social media sites, and the reputation of these followers.
- November 2010 Instant Previews Launched. Google added the Instant Preview feature, which shows a small graphic overview of the result, to their snippet to better help users pick a useful page.
- September 2010 Google Instant Release. Google added a feature to their engine that showed the user search results as soon as they were typed rather than having to push search or enter.
- August 2010 Brand Update. Google removed the limit on how many times a domain name could appear in the results page which was 1-2 total listing previously.
- June 2010 Caffeine Rollout. Caffeine was a search index infrastructure update which changed the way Google indexed pages forever. Instead of updating the indexed pages a layer at a time, Caffeine could continuously update the global index of pages and was developed on the idea of having a search engine that could scale well with the vast growth of online information.
- May 2010 May Day. This algorithm updated dubbed “May Day” was a precursor Panda update which impacted long tail traffic. Sites with copious amounts of thin content were slammed by this update.
- April 2010 Google Places Launched. Google replaced the Google Local Business Center on their site with Google Places. Essentially, this change took the place pages from only being accessible from Google maps and instead created a page where local businesses could be found and advertise from.
2009 Google Updates
- December 2009 Real-Time Search Rollout. Google added a section to the results page that is specific to finding and displaying high quality real time results. This section would only appear on the results page if Google determined that the information on the page was high quality or if Google saw a significant spike in information on a topic.
- February 2009 Vince “Trust” Update. Google adjusted the ranking algorithm to give a website’s trust more weight in the factor of its ranking. Since many bigger brands had built up more trust over the years before this point, this update propelled big brands towards the higher ranks on Google SERPs.
- February 2009 Canonical Tag Support. Google, Bing, and Yahoo added support for canonical tags for links which helped clean up duplicate URLs on sites. This canonical tag is used to tell search engines that only the first part of the URL is relevant.
2008 Google Updates
- August 2008 Google Suggest Launched. This was the release of the extensively tested feature of Google Suggest which would offer suggestions to complete a search query upon typing into the search box in Google.
- March & April 2008 Dewey Update. This was the largest update to the Google algorithm since Florida and caused instability and shuffling of the rankings that lasted weeks. The specifics on what was changed are not so clear.
2007 Google Updates
- June 2007 Buffy Update. This update was nicknamed “Buffy” because Vanessa Fox was leaving google during this time. Many things were changed in this update.
- May 2007 Universal Search & Blended Results Launched. Universal Search was a change added to combine all of the SERPs on google – IE the images, video, news results pages – into a single, cohesive page with blended results.
2006 Google Updates
- December 2006 False Alarms of Update. There was a ton of chatter about the fluctuations seen in results during November & December, but Google denied that an update had occurred.
- November 2006 Supplemental Update. With 2006, came a slew of confusion regarding the Supplemental Index with some professionals calling it the “mark of death” while Google employees were saying that being included in the index was “not a bad thing.” Ultimately, pages that were being moved into the Supplemental Index did not have high enough PageRank to get into the main index, indicating that pages in the supplemental were not as high quality.
2005 Google Updates
- December 2005 Big Daddy Infrastructure Update. This infrastructure update was rolled out over a few months fundamentally changing the way Google organizes 301 & 302 redirects, canonical URLs, and DNS issues.
- October 2005 Google Maps & Local Merge Update. Google combined its services of Google Local and Google Maps creating a new Google Local (later to become Google Maps again) that displayed both local business information and their geographic location on Google Maps.
- September – November 2005 Jagger. This large update was rolled out in 3 separate updates – Jagger1, Jagger2, & Jagger3. The Jagger updates mainly targeted websites with: duplicate pages and low quality links usually attained through link trading or buying.
- September 2005 Gilligan. At this time, Google revealed that their index data was updated on a daily basis while many of the other metrics were only updated every 3 months. A lot fluctuation occurred across many keywords during September 2005, but Google attributed this to the raw amount of new data it was having to process as the total information of the internet expanded.
- June 2005 XML Sitemaps Launched. Google launched a program that allowed webmasters to offer pages to be included in the Google site index. Webmasters would submit a list of XML files containing URLs that they wanted to be crawled to Google. The significance of this change was that now Webmasters could tell Google directly which pages to crawl rather than just letting the crawlers try to index every page on the internet.
- June 2005 Personalized Search Implemented. Personalized Search was a feature added to Google queries that would use your local search history to build a better, more personal results page.
- May 2005 Bourbon Update. This update involved “3.5” improvements to search quality and was thought to be related to how sites with non-canonical URLs and duplicate content were treated.
- February 2005 Allegra Search Algorithm Update. Seemingly, the main purpose of this large update was to further combat duplicate pages and content on sites & identify suspicious links.
- January 2005 “Nofollow” Attribute Introduced. The addition of the “nofollow” helped clean up many untrusted or spammy links by letting a crawler know not to use a “nofollow” tagged link.
2004 Google Updates
- August 2004 Google IPO. Google became a publicly traded company in 2004 when it sold almost $2 billion worth of shares on their opening day pushing the price from $85 to $100 by the end of the day. Of course, now Google is worth over 440 billion in market shares.
- February 2004 Brandy Algorithm Update. Brandy was an update with a lot to offer including: a massive expansion of the index, more weight given to anchor text relevance, the concept of linking “neighborhoods,” and the introduction of Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) which is a mathematical technique used to determine the relationship between the terms and concepts of page content.
- January 2004 Austin Algorithm Update. A similar update to Florida, Austin continued to target sites using “easy” ranking techniques like: posting links on a free for all link farm, using invisible text to load keywords onto a page, or stuffing meta tags with keywords so that they were pages long.
2003 Google Updates
- November 2003 Florida Algorithm Update. Florida was the “update of all updates” that made SEOs first aware that google could destroy your site rankings in an instant, and would continue to do so if they believed it would help their search results bring more relevant pages to users. This update was unprecedented in the amount of volatility in rankings and visibility it brought to the web. The changes included in this update were diverse in nature and remain unidentified.
- September 2003 Supplemental Index Launch. New to Google but not the industry, the Supplemental Index was essentially the place where sites would appear if they did not have enough high-quality content to land in the main page index. Until its later reintegration into the main index, this index was considered a graveyard for websites as the results in it did not appear until after main index pages had been sorted through.
- July 2003 Fritz Algorithm Update. This update chronicled the substantial change by Google from monthly index updating to a daily update schedule that saw less of the crazy “Google Dance” of ranking shifts every month and more of a gradual, daily shift.
- June 2003 Esmeralda Algorithm Update. Also known as the last of the Google monthly updates, this update started to replace the cyclical algorithm changes seen every month known as the “Google Dance” with the constantly in motion changes of the algorithm known as the “Everflux.”
- May 2003 Dominic Algorithm Update. This update saw a dramatic difference in the way Google was registering backlinks. Dominic targeted sites that were using hidden text & spam links to superficially increase rankings and it changed the ranking algorithm to give more weight to non-keyword related quality ratings.
- April 2003 Cassandra Algorithm Update. The Cassandra Update was focused on targeting websites that used unethical SEO practices like link buying, linking from co-owned domains, and stuffing hidden text with keywords.
- February 2003 Boston Algorithm Update. Boston was the first named Google update and was the first in line of Google’s plan to release major updates monthly. This was the update that started the infamous monthly ranking shifts known as the “Google Dance.”
2002 Google Updates
- September 2002 1st Documented Algorithm Update. This first major shift in the ranking index began Google’s grand journey on presenting users with the best search results. This was the update that first implied that the only way to properly get a page to rank higher on Google was to actually create high quality content on a site instead of using cheap & easy tactics of Black Hat SEO.
2000 Google Updates
- December 2000 Google Toolbar Launched. The Google Toolbar was a browser plugin that allowed users to access Google’s search engine tools from any page on the web. From the toolbar, users could: search for terms directly on the page and highlight them, directly access Google’s cached version of a website, use PageRank technology to determine a pages’ value, search any page on the web.
“Lycos, Go Get It!”
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