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Google Algorithm History

Google Algorithm History

It’s critical to keep up with Google’s new updates to understand traffic systems in your website. This is the list of Google’s algorithm updates.

Complete google algorithm history and updates

2020 updates

  • 4 May 2020- Core Update

This is the second broad core algorithm update for 2020.

  • 22 January 2020- Featured Snippet Deduplication.

This latest update from Google means that URLs in the Featured Snippets will not appear as traditional organic results anymore.

  • 13 January 2020- Core Update

This core update is a broad core algorithm update. That means it’ll have a widely notable effect across all search results on a worldwide scale.

2019 Updates

  • 24 October 2019- BERT Algorithm Update

The Google BERT update was announced on October 24, 2019, but reported that it has already been rolling out for a few days. According to the release, Google says that this will affect 10% of queries, which means this is one of the biggest Google updates of the last 5 years!

  • 24 September 2020- Broad Core Algorithm Update

Google’s March and June Core Updates were about them wanting to better evaluate E.A.T. criteria. The September update, however, tells a different story. If affected by the update, Google has suggested you pay attention to 4 main factors: content & quality, expertise, presentation & production, and competitive comparison.

  • 2 June 2019- Core Algorithm Update

Google actually pre-announced this update on Twitter, letting the SEO community know that a broad core algorithm update would be rolling out over the next few days. The SEO community has pondered the idea of this update being a reversal of the March 2019 core update. Analysis of website traffic data shows that a variety of niches have seen volatility in rankings and Google is focusing heavily on search intent.

  • 13 March 2019- Core Update (Florida2)

The marketing community previously referred to the update as the “Florida 2” update because it happened close to the time of the popular Pubcon conference in Florida. Analysis of website traffic data appears to suggest that this update is independent of the previous “Medic” update and is intended to reward sites that focus on providing a good user experience.

2018 Updates

  • 1 August 2018- Core Algorithm ‘Medic’ Update

Periodic broad core updates are part of Google’s continual refinement of their algorithm to produce the best quality search results. Websites saw changes in their rankings from the August 2018 Broad Core Algorithm update, but no specific factors were targeted. The update affected many prominent sites in the health and medical niche, and was named the Medic update by Barry Schwartz as a result.

  • Mid-May 2018- Quality Algorithm Update

Google continued to make tweaks to their algorithm in May to reward quality content as they did the previous two months. Websites that wasted Google’s crawl rates primarily through thin and duplicate pages as well as bad loading times, high bounce rates and ad-heavy content saw the biggest rankings drop.

  • 16 April 2018- Broad Core Algorithm Quality Update

This update to the rankings algorithm was done to benefit pages with quality content that were previously “under-rewarded.” Websites with content markedly better than their competitors saw improvement, while sites with thin content were bumped down.

  • Mid-March 2018- A Change to Core Algorithm

This change to the rankings algorithm was implemented to not punish anyone, but to simply reward websites that are doing things right.

2017 Update

  • 14 December 2017- Maccabees Update

Named “Maccabees” by SEO expert Barry Schwartz, there was no formal announcement of this update by Google other than confirmation of several small updates occurring around this time. This update caused a stir when some prominent digital marketer’s websites along with e-commerce website rankings took a hit during the busy season of the holidays.

  • Mid-March 2017- Google Fred Update

The Google Fred Update’s main target was low-value content. This was done in an attempt to rank higher without putting in a quality effort.

  • Early February 2017- Google Doing Some Housekeeping Update

Google released 2 unnamed but major updates in early February, in just a week. With no official release announcements, there have been many experts conducting research to quantify what these updates are doing.

  • 10 January 2017- Intrusive Interstitial Penalty

Google’s penalty to publish sites with intrusive popups went into effect.

2016 Updates

  • 23 September 2016- Google Penguin 4.0 Update

Google Penguin 4.0 was announced and includes a few pieces. First, it is now a part of the core algorithm and will update in real time. Second, it will be more “granular” or page specific as opposed to affecting the entire domain.

  • Mid September 2016- Google Went Crazy

Around Sept 1-2 many tools reported high SERP fluctuations, especially in local search. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of data to support what exactly changed. Google’s results started changing again around the 15th, so we are waiting for things to calm down.

  • 12 May 2016- Mobile Friendly Boost Update

This was another update that gave a slight boost to sites that are mobile friendly within mobile search results. As with the AMP Project, Google seems to be really focused on mobile, but with good reason.

  • 23 February 2016- AdWords Change

Google removes sidebar ads in the search results and adds a 4th ad to the top block.

  • 8 January 2016- Ghost Update

Lots of tools reported changes / SERP fluctuations around these dates in early January. Most SEOs expected this to be the new Penguin update, but Google denies this. Google said later on that this was a core algorithm update. There were no reports of huge losses.

2015 Updates

  • 26 October 2015- Rank Brain Algorithm Change

Google announced a change to its algorithm called Rank Brain – Basically Artificial Intelligence learning. There are no new glaring differences in ranking factors however.

  • 14 October 2015- Google Zombie Update

This wasn’t an official update however many webmasters reported big fluctuations around this time. There was a huge thread at webmaster world about it.

  • August 2015- Google Snack Pack

Not an algorithm change but an important update – Google rolled out a new design for local, getting rid of the normal 7 pack (map) and changing it to a 3 pack. This raised a few different points of discussion as we noted in our article on the 3 pack change here.

  • 17 July 2015- Panda 4.2

Google announced a Panda update, but not much happened.

  • 3 May 2015- Google Quality Update

This was called a “Phantom 2” update and obviously something happened, but it wasn’t confirmed until after the fact. Google didn’t specify anything except “quality signals” change.

  • 22 April 2015- Google Mobilegeddon Mobile Update

Google updated its algorithm to change the way results are ranked on mobile devices. It gave preference to sites who were mobile friendly and demoted sites who are not mobile friendly/responsive.

2014 Updates

  • 18 October 2014- Penguin 3 Update

After a year since the last major Penguin update, Penguin 3 started rolling out this past weekend. What was expected to be a brutal release seems to be relatively light in comparison to other updates. According to Google, it affected 1% of US English Queries and this is a multi-week rollout. To give some comparison, the original Penguin update affected >3% (3x) the queries.
What really happened:
Seems like this update was lighter than expected. Across the sites we track, we haven’t seen much out of the ordinary. Keep in mind that Penguin is traditionally keyword specific and not a site-wide penalty, so take a look at any specific keywords that dropped or pages that dropped and adjust accordingly. We’ve seen a lot of reports of recovery. Usually, if you were hit by a Penguin penalty in the past, you would need to fix/remove/disavow over optimized links and wait for an update. Many webmasters have been waiting all year for this update.

  • 26 October 2014- Panda 4.1 update

Panda 4.1 started earlier this week and will continue into next week, affecting 3-5% of queries (which is substantial). According to Google “Based on user (and webmaster!) feedback, we’ve been able to discover a few more signals to help Panda identify low-quality content more precisely. This results in a greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher, which is nice.”

  • 18 September 2014- Google Starts De- Inexing Private Blog Networks in Mass

Although Google has been de-indexing public blog networks publicly for years, we started hearing first reports of de-indexing of private / semi-private networks. Notable articles from NoHat, ViperChill, NichePursuits, and others came out with varying opinions on the matter.

  • 28 August 2014- Google Drops Authorship From Search Results Completely

After dropping authorship photos from search results, Google completely removed authorship from it’s search results.

  • 7 August 2014- SSL Becomes Ranking Factor

Google says it will give sites using SSL a minor boost in rankings. No one cares because this is going to be such a minor minor minor factor we even feel bad including this as an update here.

  • 24 July 2014- Google Pigeon

Google updated its local search algorithm to include more signals from traditional search like knowledge graph, spelling correction, synonyms and more. The language used is vague, but early evidence just shows a significant drop in the amount of “local packs” being used. Search Engine Land just made up the name for this update, not to be confused with one of Google’s previous April fools day jokes. The other feature of this update is that Google is now blending 7 pack rankings with organic factors, meaning that domain authority of the organic site linked to the Google Local page will help 7 pack rankings.

  • 28 June 2014- No Photos on Authorship

Photos from the author no longer appear in the SERPs for results with authorship markup. Now they just display the author’s name in text format.

  • 19 May 2014- Panda 4.0 update

The latest addition to the panda update family. Sources say this was a softer update and some sites got a boost that were previously hit by this update. We noticed some sites are getting dinged for having on-site over-optimization. There has been some discussion that now rankings are taking longer than normal – Up to 6 weeks for links to be recognized and re-calculated.
16 May 2014- High Spam Searches Update 2.0
Right before Panda 4.0, Google rolled out an update that targets queries that are traditionally spammed (seo-wise). Google claims the update happened around 5/20 and it makes it hard to tell as Panda 4 came out around almost the same time.

  • 6 February 2014- Page Layout

A refresh to the page layout algorithm, originally from Jan 2012 which targets sites that have tons of ads, especially above the fold (in the top section of the website).

2013 Updates

  • 19 December 2013- Authorship Change

Matt Cutts leaked that authorship markup was going to play less of a part going forward and around Dec 19, we saw a drop off of about 15% over a period of a month.

  • 4 October 2013- Penguin 2.1

This does not appear to be a major change to the Penguin algorithm, just an update.

  • 20 August 2013- Hummingbird update

Google announced the new update on Sep 26 and suggested that “Hummingbird” actually rolled out about a month before around August 20th. Hummingbird is an update that better interprets the way text and queries are typed into Google. There were no widespread reports of penalties like Penguin or Panda.

  • 6 August 2013- In-depth Article Update

Google is now featuring a new type of content in their search results called “In-depth articles” that is meant for long articles that cover a topic from a-z.

  • 18 July 2013- Panda Update

A new Panda update that sources reported as being “softer” than others – possibly loosening up the rungs of previous updates. This one rolled out over a 10 day period.

  • 11 June 2013- Panda Dance

Matt Cutts clarified that Google rolls out Panda updates constantly over a period of about 10 days, almost every month. They also said they are unlikely to announce future panda updates since they are on-going.

  • 11 June 2013- Payday Loan

Google Announced an update to the algorithm that specifically targets queries that are regularly spammed for SEO including payday loans, porn, and others.

  • 22 May 2013- Penguin 2.0

Google rolled out Penguin 2.0, the 4th iteration of Penguin affecting 2.3% of English queries. This was an update to the algorithm, not just a data refresh. This was long awaited since it was ~6 months from the last one.

  • 13-14 March 2013- Panda Update 25

No exact confirmation, but data suggests that an update to panda hit around Mar 13-14.

  • 22 January 2013- Panda Update 24

Google announced 24th update to panda affecting 1.2 of search queries.

2012 Updates

  • 21 December 2012- Panda 23

Google announced a Panda data refresh impacting ~1.3% of English queries.

  • 21 November 2012- Panda 22

Google confirms Panda refresh 22, affecting 0.8% of queries.

  • 5 November 2012- Panda 21

Another Google Panda update about a month and a half after the last update. Reported to have affected 1.1% of English queries.

  • 9 October 2012- Page Layout Update

An update to the page layout update which affected sites that had too many ads above the fold.

  • 5 October 2012- Penguin 3

Penguin 3 wasn’t as bad as expected.

  • 27 September 2012- Exact Match Domain Update

Google’s Exact Match Domain (or EMD) algorithm update focused on ridding the SERPs of spammy or low-quality exact match domains.

  • 27 September 2012- Panda 20

This update came out right along side the EMD update and was pretty big – Affecting 2.4% of queries.

  • 18 September 2012- Panda 3.9.2

An refresh to Panda, nothing major, 0.7% of queries.

  • 20 August 2012- Panda 3.9.1

Another small Panda update.

  • 24 July 2012- Panda 3.9

Google pushed out another panda refresh affecting 1% of queries.

  • 25 June 2012- Panda 3.8

Another panda data refresh.

  • 8 June 2012- Panda 3.7

Another Panda refresh.

  • 7 June 2012- 39 Google updates May 2012

Google posted an official blog post highlighting 39 changes in May including “Better application of inorganic backlinks signals” “Improvements to Penguin” and more.

  • 25 May 2012- Penguin 1.1

Google posted it’s first update to the Penguin algo – just a data refresh.

  • 27 April 2012- Panda 3.6

Another Panda data refresh.

  • 24 April 2012- Google Penguin

The update that shook the SEO world. Known for aggressively punishing sites using too many exact match anchors, Penguin impacted 3.1% of English queries (big update). Google claimed this affects keyword stuffing, but is mostly associated with off-site factors.

  • 19 April 2012- Panda 3.5

Another Panda refresh.

  • 23 March 2012- Panda 3.4

Another panda refresh.

  • 27 February 2012- Panda 3.3

Another Panda refresh, however multiple updates happened around this time as well.

  • 27 February 2012- Venice update

After the Venice Update, Google began including search results based either on the searcher’s physical location or IP address. Also, Google could better detect whether a query or webpage had local intent or relevance.

  • 19 January 2012- Page layout update

Updates to the way pages are judged – If you have too many ads above the fold, you could lose rankings.

  • 18 January 2012- Panda update

Google confirmed a data refresh of Panda took place on this date.

2011 Updates

  • 18 November 2011- Panda 3.1

Google Panda refresh.

  • 3 November 2011- Freshness update

With this update, Google altered its ranking algorithm to better determine when to deliver search results that are fresher (e.g., current events, hot topics, recurring events) to be more relevant to searchers. This update impacted 35 percent of searches.

  • 5 October 2011- Panda ‘Flux’

Matt Cutts tweeted: “expect some Panda-related flux in the next few weeks” and gave a figure of “~2%”. 

  • 28 September 2011- Panda 2.5

Panda update.

  • 16 August 2011- Expanded Sitelinks

Google expands the display of site links, making navigating to specific content right from search easier.

  • 12 August 2011- Panda 2.4

Panda rolls out internationally.

  • 23 July 2011- Panda 2.3

Another manual push out of panda.

  • 21 June 2011- Panda 2.2

Panda update.

  • 9 May 2011- Panda 2.1

Small Panda update.

  • 11 April 2011- Panda 2.0

The first panda update and goes global.

  • 23 February 2011- Panda Update (Farmer)

Big update, the first of it’s kind. This affected up to 12% of search results. Panda targeted “content farms” – huge sites with low-quality content, thin affiliate sites without much content, sites with large ad-to-content ratios and on-site over-optimization.

  • 28 January 2011- Attribution Update

This update was to help stop scrapers from stealing content. It affected ~2% of search queries.

2010 Updates

  • December 2010- Start using social signals

Google & Bing confirm they use social signals to influence rankings including Twitter & Facebook.

  • September 2010- Google instant update

This is an addition to Google suggest where Google will display actual results before the query is finished.

  • August 2010- Brand update

Google changed to allow some brands/domains to appear multiple times (up to 8+ times) on page one on certain searches.

  • June 2010- Caffeine- Rollout

Caffeine is a new web indexing system that Google rolled out around June 2010. It was intended to speed up the rate of indexing and provide fresher results to users.

  • May 2010- May day

The May day update was an algorithmic change to how Google assessed which sites were the best match for long-tail queries. This update rolled out between April 28 and May 3.

2009 Updates

  • December 2009- Real time search update

Real-time became the real deal. Google News: newly indexed content, Twitter feeds, and other sources were pushed together on some SERPs in a real-time feed format. Social media, as well as other sources, kept on growing.

  • August 2009- Caffeine update

Google’s Caffeine update was a new web indexing system that allowed Google to crawl and store data more efficiently, resulting in 50 percent fresher results. Developers were given early access starting in August 2009 before the update officially rolled out June 8, 2010.

  • February 2009- Vince update

Google’s Vince update was a quick, noticeable change in broad-level, competitive keyword terms to favor first page rankings for big brand domains vs. previously ranking sites (typically less authoritative sites, affiliate sites, and sites that had won this coveted visibility purely through SEO efforts).

2008 Updates

  • August 2008- Google Suggest

Google introduces “Suggest” and makes large changes to the logo/box style homepage. “Suggest” displays suggested searches in a new menu below where the visitor is typing. Later, this would continue to power Google Instant.

  • April 2008- Dewey

In what seemed like a bigger move in late March/early April, it was suspected that the internal properties of Google were being pressed down. This included Google Books, but actual evidence of this happening is not easily accessible.

2007 Updates

  • June 2007- Buffy update

This update was titled “Buffy” because Vanessa Fox was leaving Google. It is pretty unclear what actually happened with this change, but Matt Cutts provided that Buffy was just a large amount of smaller changes.

  • May 2007- Universal search

This algorithm update integrated old school search results with Video, Local, Images, News: as well as other vertical results. After this, the 10-listing SERP was done for.

2006 Updates

November 2006- Supplemental update
2006 was the year of supplemental index changes. This completely changed how the filtering of pages was handled. Even if it seemed like penalization, Google said that supplemental was not intended to be a penalty.

2005 Updates

  • December 2005- Big Daddy update

Big Daddy was a gradual update to Google’s infrastructure that began rolling out in December 2005 and was completed in March 2006. This update changed how Google handled technical issues such as URL canonicalization and redirects. Some websites didn’t make it into the new Big Daddy data centers, typically due to unnatural linking.

  • 1 September 2005- Jagger Update

Jagger was an update in three phases (Jagger 1, Jagger 2, and Jagger 3) that began with a number of backlink-focused updates in early September meant to crack down on unnatural link building, paid links, and other types of spam. The second phase of Jagger had the most noticable impact in October. The final phase was completed near the end of November.

  • XML sitemaps update- June 2005

This update gave webmasters the ability to submit XML sitemaps with Webmaster Tools.

2004 Updates

  • February 2004- Brandy update

In February, there were quite a few changes that came out. Increased attention to anchor text relevance, Latent Semantic Indexing, and link “neighborhoods” all came into existence. LSI gave Google the increased ability to find synonyms for search terms and boosted keyword analysis.

2003 Updates

  • 16 November 2003- Florida update

Google’s Florida Update signaled a new era of SEO. Websites (including retailers who relied on affiliates to drive traffic) using spammy tactics of the previous decade (e.g., keyword stuffing, using multiple sites under the same brand, invisible text, and hidden links) to rank for high-commercial keywords saw their rankings wiped out right before the lucrative holiday season.

  • Febrauary 2003- Boston Update

The first “named” Google update, Boston became the first major monthly update. The first few of these updates combined algorithm changes with index refreshes (Google Dance). The monthly idea expired when frequent updates became a requirement.

2002 Updates

  • September 2002- 1st documented update

Before the first named update (Boston), there was another in fall 2002. While there aren’t very many details about this update, it seemed to include more than the usual Google Dance and PageRank updates.

2000 Updates

  • December 2000- Google toolbar update

This is the one that started all the SEO arguments. Google launches the toolbar for browsers as well as the Toolbar Page Rank (TBPR).

360 SEO Team
360 SEO Team

We are a team of thinkers, copywriters. The whole team contributed in this blog. Do share and comment if above blog is helpful.

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