Google Algorithmic Updates
Google typically makes one or more adjustments to enhance their search results. Most are unnoticeable, but they assist the Google algorithm in incrementally improving in various aspects. In addition to small tweaks, Google also makes significant, broad changes to their search algorithms and systems several times a year. These are known as “core updates.” They are intended to ensure that Google delivers what it promises, their mission of presenting relevant and authoritative content to searchers.
It is very hard to keep track of all of these updates, especially if they have an impact on websites that you may have. This chronological timeline of all of the Google updates and modifications performed for the last 20+ years is here to help ensure that all of the information you need about the Google updates are at your fingertips.
December 2022 – Google’s December Helpful Content Update
Started on December 5 and will be completely rolled out in two weeks. This update enhances the classifiers enabled in the previous helpful content update & expands the impact of the helpful content system rolled out in September to all global languages. While Google hasn’t provided exact details on the ranking systems, there is widespread belief that it could potentially include new signals or adjustments to previous signals of the helpful content system.
October 2022 – Google’s 2022 Spam Update
Began on 19th October 2022 and was completed by 21st October 2022. Routine updates such as this occur to improve Google’s SpamBrain – An AI-based spam prevention system. It targeted weak meta tags, keyword stuffing and AI-generated content. The Update also aimed at addressing any bad actors utilising phishing scams and a number of black-hat on-page approaches to gaining ranking favour.
What are some Red Flag Spam Signals That Google Looks For:
- Hacked Content
- Hidden Text and Links
- Keyword Stuffing
- Link Spam
- Machine Generated Traffic
- Malware and Malicious Behaviour
- Misleading Functionality
- Scraped Content
- Sneaky Redirects
- Auto Generated Content
- User Generated Spam
- Thin Affiliate Pages
September 2022 – Google’s Helpful Content Update
Started rolling out on August 25 and it was completely rolled out by September 9. The update targets On-Page Content and looks at whether it is helpful for the end users.
The following are some of the critical points of the update
- Content is checked if it is People-First & not SEO first. (Is your content written to provide useful information, services/products; or is it written to rank for Keywords?)
- Content is checked for redundancies (Checks done for both written & visual content.)
- Content needs to be direct & helpful to users. (Provide answers to customer queries through FAQs or other sections using expert insights.)
- Websites should focus on a few key services/niches and not add generic content for a wide range of services in a bid to attract customers. (This can also confuse Search Engines.) The same thing applies to geographical/location landing pages.
- Websites should have a good UX and concentrate on adding images/infographics and other visual content.
- The update has been rolled out for English-speaking countries & impacts only English websites.
September 2022 – Google’s latest Broad Core Update
Started rolling out on September 12, 2022. Here are a few points to note
- Impacts both Google Search and Google Discover
- Global Impact that affects all regions.
- Looks at all types of content and rewards user-oriented web pages.
- Companies should ensure that any on-page content is helpful for the customers.
It is also important to showcase their expertise in the niche and show first-hand experience.
We will know a bit more when the update completely rolls out in two weeks.
May 2022 – Core Update
Like other core updates, the first broad core update of 2022 was also focused on improving search quality. While Google didn’t provide any particular directive for site owners, it asked them to make sure that the content available is adhering to the search rankings best practices.Google updated its algorithms to showcase quality & unique content that provides substantial information about the topic at hand. Google also advised websites to have content that demonstrates expertise in the sector & enhances prevalent information to help customers.
March 4, 2022 – Unnamed Updated (Unconfirmed)
There was a possible algorithm update, noticeable by the spike in SEO chatter and high volatility shown on tracking tools, but was not confirmed by Google.
February 22, 2022 – Page Experience Update (Confirmed)
This update is an extension of the mobile version of the page experience update in May 2021. This update focused on enhancing the desktop page experience and made intrusive interstitials applicable for the desktop version. This update is intended to highlight pages that provide excellent user experiences, however, it is not expected to cause any significant changes to the search queries or rankings.
February 22, 2022 – Pirate Tweaks (Confirmed)
The DMCA Pirate update was strengthened by monitoring and cracking down on redirect schemes and demotion of sites by an 89% drop in ratings. The guidelines were provided by Google, with the addition of a ‘still-in-theatres/ prerelease’ flag to enhance the Search demotion signal.
February 6, 2022 – Unnamed Update (Unconfirmed)
Some Google search algorithm tracking tools were reporting large swings in volatility in search results and a dip in web traffic for some sites, indicating a possible Google search update, but there was no confirmation or specifics provided.
December 17, 2021 – Unnamed Update (Unconfirmed)
There was high volatility measured by tracking tools, which coincided with the Product Review Update rollout, but no confirmation of an update.
December 6, 2021 – Top Stories Redesign (Confirmed)
While not a traditional algorithm update, Google overhauled the Top Stories design, splitting it into two columns on the desktop and (in many cases) dramatically increasing the amount of SERP real estate occupied by news results.
December 1, 2021 – Product Reviews Update (Confirmed)
This was a refresh of the April update and slightly tweaked the blueprint to prioritise higher quality, useful product reviews in the SERPs.
November 17, 2021 – November 2021 Core Update
Another core update was launched, and most tracking data showed a strong single-day spike that normalised soon after. The instructions were similar to the rest of the updates, and there were no specific guidelines or details provided.
November 3, 2021 – November 2021 Spam Update (Confirmed)
This was another broad spam update, but unlike the previous update, did not have any details about the sites and tactics that it targeted, and suggested that webmasters should just follow the existing Webmaster Guidelines.
October 2, 2021 – Unnamed Update (Unconfirmed)
A high flux in ratings was measured, along with major changes in SERPs but there was no explanation or confirmation for these fluctuations.
August 16, 2021 – Page Title Rewrites (Confirmed)
Google confirmed an update that caused an increase in the rewriting of page titles in SERPs and was very noticeable. Complaints about quality issues resulted in the scaling back of some changes.
July 28, 2021 – July 2021 Link Spam Update (Confirmed)
This link spam update was a broad algorithm update across multiple languages and was aimed at detecting and eliminating link spam was starting to roll out. Any site that engaged in link spam tactics experienced ranking changes – including sponsored, guest, and affiliate content.
July 1, 2021 – July 2021 Core Update (Confirmed)
This update was a follow up for the June Core Update, and as with other core updates, did not include any specifics.
June 25, 2021 – Page Experience Update (Confirmed)
The update introduced Core Web Vitals, which are key performance metrics that now factor into rankings. It had been widely anticipated and, by design, did not result in significant ranking changes. Any sudden drops or spikes were mitigated by the end of the rollout process.
June 23, 2021 – Spam Updates (Confirmed)
Two spam updates were announced and released, to fight spam content, but the specifics were unclear. There were significant fluctuations in particular site rankings but no clear impact on overall rankings volatility.
June 2, 2021 – June 2021 Core Update (Confirmed)
Google announced both June & July core updates, resulting in ranking fluctuation, which returned to normal as time passed. The improvements to the algorithm ensured that sites employing exploitative removal practices and predatory practices were demoted.
April 8, 2021 – Product Reviews Update (Confirmed)
This new search ranking algorithm update was created to reward in-depth product reviews over thin content that simply summarises a bunch of products. It appears to focus on review quality, along with other complex factors.
March 12, 2021 – Featured Snippet Recovery (Unconfirmed)
The previous drop of Featured Snippets in SERPs was balanced out and they returned to prior levels, without an explanation from Google.
February 19, 2021 – Featured Snippet Drop (Unconfirmed)
This drop was indicated by a 40% day-over-day drop in SERPs with Featured Snippets, and it was claimed that these were concentrated mostly on short, one-worded queries and disproportionately hit YMYL queries.
February 10, 2021 – Passage Indexing (US/English) (Confirmed)
A passage ranking index update was rolled out for English-language queries. This meant that while the pages were still indexed based on the entirety of their content, the passages from pages were also considered an additional ranking factor. It was estimated to have an impact of 7% on queries.
December 17, 2020 – Unnamed Update (Unconfirmed)
There was an indication of high ranking flux towards the end of the core update rollout, but it was unclear if this was due to the aftershocks of the core update or a separate algorithm update.
December 3, 2020 – December 2020 Core Update
This update was the third core update for the calendar year and rolled out quickly without much hassle. The bulk of the impact was obvious but limited to certain sites, and there were reversals over the course of a few days.
October 12, 2020 – Indexing Bug, Pt. 2 (Confirmed)
While it was claimed that the canonicalisation and indexing bug was fixed, there was still a drop in indexed pages for a few days, due to a possible resurface of the bug or more indexing issues.
September 29, 2020 – Indexing Bug, Pt. 1 (Confirmed)
Pages dropped out of Google’s index as the rankings continued to fluctuate. This was the result of an indexing and canonicalization bug, which indicated dips in indexed pages.
August 10, 2020 – Google Glitch (Confirmed)
There was a massive change in page rankings for a few hours, as a result of a glitch, which was immediately rectified, and rankings returned to their semblance of normalcy.
January 13, 2020 – January 2020 Core Update (Confirmed)
This update, like all core updates, had a global impact on search results. No specifics were provided and any guidance was similar to instructions for all other recent broad core algorithm updates.
June 22, 2020 – Google Bug Fix (Unconfirmed)
The tracking tools showed heavy flux, but there was no algorithm update. It was assumed to be either a rollback of some aspects of the core update or the fixing of an indexing bug during the time period.
May 4, 2020 – May 2020 Core Update
Google announced another Core Update but it did not have a significant impact overall, but like all other updates, affected the sites that were already impacted by the previous updates.
March 11, 2020 – COVID-19 Pandemic (Unconfirmed)
This wasn’t an update but was a global event that significantly impacted consumer search behaviour. The volatility observed was unprecedented outside of the core updates, and sites related to YMYL and health and wellbeing showed a significant increase in ratings.
January 22, 2020 – Featured Snippet De-duping
In accordance with Google’s philosophy that a Featured Snippet is a promoted organic result, URLs in Featured Snippets will no longer appear as traditional organic results. This meant that webpages in featured snippets would no longer be repeated in regular Page 1 listing and affected all SERPs.
December 9, 2019 – International BERT Roll-out (Confirmed)
The BERT natural language processing algorithm was rolled out globally in over 65 languages. It inspected words in the search and proposed related words to understand the full context of the query in all the languages.
October 22, 2019 – BERT Update (Confirmed)
Google improved their algorithm and underlying hardware to support the BERT NLP model. BERT assists Google in better interpreting natural language searches and comprehending context. The BERT update impacted both search rankings and featured snippets, and was used on 10% of US English-language queries.
September 24, 2019 – September 2019 Core Update (Confirmed)
Google launched yet another core update, and as usual, did not provide any specific details, but showed impact on sites already impacted by previous core updates though there was no major overall flux.
July 12, 2019 – Maverick Update (Unconfirmed)
There was a heavy flux registered by ranking trackers and was dubbed Maverick because it was stealthy and precise, and targeted specific verticals, and there were observed spikes and dips in conversions, but no overall change in traffic on most sites.
June 3, 2019 – June 2019 Core Update (Confirmed)
Another core update was rolled out, and this update was significantly noticeable as it affected sites that had already been impacted by previous core updates, specifically in the UK.
March 1, 2019 – 19-result SERPs (Unconfirmed)
Google displayed unusually high page-1 counts, with up to 19 organic results. These appeared to be related to In-depth Articles, which were completely removed on March 6. This resulted in a temporary boost in organic counts and algorithm flux on tracking tools.
March 12, 2019 – March 2019 Core Update (Confirmed)
This update was the third of the core updates that Google had been rolling out, and while the details were vague, there was a marked algorithm flux.
April 5, 2019 – Deindexing Bug (Confirmed)
This update manifested in the form of a bug that dropped pages from the search index and 4% of the stable URLs dropped from their top rankings on page one of the SERPs. The bug was fixed and most sites recovered.
May 23, 2019 – Indexing Bugs (Confirmed)
A bug was identified which was apparently preventing new content from being indexed properly in the main index and was repaired at the earliest. This resulted in an unusually high SERP flux.
November 29, 2018 – Unnamed Update (Unconfirmed)
This update was one of three that occurred since September and was only indicated by spices in algorithm flux on the various tracking tools and chatter on webmaster forums. There were no significant changes and Google did not confirm anything.
August 1, 2018 – Medic Core Update (Confirmed)
This was a broad core algorithm with wide reports of massive impact, and targeted sites in the health and wellness sectors of the industry, although the large-scale impact was seen in all vertices.
July 24, 2018 – Chrome Security Warnings (Full Site) (Confirmed)
Chrome 68 marked all non-HTTPS sites as unsecured and Google provided warnings for users visiting any of these unsecured sites.
July 9, 2018 – Mobile Speed Update (Confirmed)
Google released the mobile page speed update, which made page speed a ranking factor for mobile results. Google claimed that this only affected the slowest mobile sites and that there was no evidence of significant changes in mobile rankings.
June 14, 2018 – Video Carousels (Confirmed)
Google has largely eliminated Video Thumbnails from desktop SERPs. The search engine favoured a video carousel that was previously only available on mobile devices, and this caused a fluctuation in results that were previously considered organic.
May 13, 2018 – Snippet Length Drop (Confirmed)
Google rolled back the previous snippet length update, and instead of allowing 300 characters in the long display snippets, it restricted the length to 150-160 characters instead.
April 17, 2018 – Unnamed Core Update (Confirmed)
A core update was released by Google without any specifics and resulted in heavy algorithm flux.
March 26, 2018 – Mobile-First Index Roll-out (Confirmed)
Google rolled out a large scale mobile-first index for sites that follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing. The site owners were notified of the migration to the mobile-first indexing via Google Search Console.
March 14, 2018 – Zero-Result SERP Test (Confirmed)
Google began displaying zero organic results and a “Show all results” button on a small set of Knowledge Cards, including some time/date queries and unit conversion calculators.
March 8, 2018 – Brackets Core Update (Confirmed)
A core update was launched, in order to reevaluate page rankings, and led to a drop in site rankings. This update was intended to ensure that the system benefitted pages that were previously under-rewarded.
December 14, 2017 – Maccabees Update (Unconfirmed)
There was an increase in ranking volatility and a significant drop in traffic and Search Analytic ratings, but no update was launched. It was assumed to be caused by a series of smaller updates and improvements to the indexes.
November 30, 2017 – Snippet Length Increase (Confirmed)
Google increased the length of search snippets across a large number of results, and the Meta Description limit increased from 155 characters to 300 characters. This was intended to improve the quality of search results by providing more useful, descriptive snippets so people could identify the relevance of the page.
October 27, 2017 – Featured Snippet Drop (Unconfirmed)
There was a spike in Knowledge Panels for broad terms and objects, and a coincidental drop in Featured snippets.
October 17, 2017 – Chrome Security Warnings (Forms) (Confirmed)
After Chrome 62 was launched, Google warned visitors to unsecured sites, further bolstering Google’s push towards HTTPS.
September 27, 2017 – Unnamed Update (Unconfirmed)
Algorithm trackers identified increasing flux that peaked after relative stability, but there was no official update.
June 20, 2017 – Google Jobs (Confirmed)
Google launched a jobs portal to track employment opportunities, and this update included a stand-alone 3-pack of job listings in the search results. Google Jobs aggregated data from all the major employment providers like LinkedIn, Monster and Glassdoor.
April 16, 2017 – Google Tops 50% HTTPS (Unconfirmed)
Over 50% of the top results on Google Search Page 1 were secure HTTPS pages, and increased to 75% by the end of the year.
March 8, 2017 – Fred (Unconfirmed)
The Fred update was intended to crack down on sites that prioritised monetisation over user experience. Sites with low-quality user engagement, thin content, conversion-focused content, UX barriers and aggressive on-page advertising tactics lost organic traffic.
February 6, 2017 – Unnamed Update (Confirmed)
Algorithm changes began on February 1 and peaked, resulting in heavy algorithm flux due to the rollout of multiple extended updates with impact on the organic search results, and visibility drops.
January 10, 2017 – Intrusive Interstitial Penalty (Confirmed)
Google prefaced this update with a warning almost five months in advance and then rolled out a penalty to punish aggressive interstitials and pop-ups which ruin the mobile UX. Pages, where the content was not easily accessible to users on the transition from mobile search results, dropped their ranks.
December 14, 2016 – Unnamed Update (Unconfirmed)
Google trackers showed massive flux and extreme SERP fluctuations, which was assumed to be attributed to the reversal of the Penguin updates.
October 6, 2016 – Penguin 4.0, Phase 2 (Unconfirmed)
The second phase of the update comprised an entire reversal of all previous Penguin penalties over the course of two weeks.
September 27, 2016 – Penguin 4.0, Phase 1 (Confirmed)
This first phase was the rollout of a more gentle Penguin algorithm that devalued bad links instead of penalising the entire website.
September 23, 2016 – Penguin 4.0 Announcement (Confirmed)
The new Penguin update made all the algorithm updates occur in real-time, within the core algorithm and main indexes. It comprised numerous phases.
September 13, 2016 – Image/Universal Drop (Unconfirmed)
A 50% drop was observed in SERPs with image results, and this universal result shake-up opened up the top spot for organic positions.
September 1, 2016 – Possum (Unconfirmed)
This update had an impact on the Google My Business listings and refined the location filter to filter out business based on certain criteria, to impact local search rankings. This update had a major impact on local organic search results.
May 12, 2016 – Mobile-friendly 2 (Confirmed)
Google rolled out an additional mobile-friendly update with ranking signal boosts to help mobile-friendly sites in mobile searches. This update had a relatively smaller impact than the other mobile-friendly update.
February 23, 2016 – AdWords Shake-up (Confirmed)
In this paid search update, Google made major changes to AdWords, and removed all right-column ads, with the additional roll-out of 4-ad top blocks on all commercial sites. It impacted the CTR for both paid and organic results when focusing on competitive keywords.
January 8, 2016 – Unnamed Update (Unconfirmed)
This was a core algorithm update, but not a Penguin update, and was seen through extreme ranking movements identified by tracking tools.
October 26, 2015 – RankBrain (Confirmed)
Google made machine learning technology a part of the algorithm, and RankBrain helped deliver the search results. This update was designed to interpret previously unexecuted search queries and thus provide better search results.
July 17, 2015 – Panda 4.2 (#28) (Confirmed)
This Panda update was a data update, and there were no changes to the algorithm, with a very small immediate impact.
May 3, 2015 – The Quality Update (Confirmed)
Similar to the Phantom, this update was a core algorithm change that targeted how the algorithm processed quality signals and showed a broad but vague impact on search queries.
April 22, 2015 – Mobile Update (Confirmed)
A mobile-friendly Mobilegeddon update was launched to ensure mobile-friendly search results. This update meant that the mobile-friendliness of websites became a ranking factor and mobile-optimised websites had a better chance to rank well in the Google mobile search.
February 4, 2015 – Unnamed Update (Unconfirmed)
There was a major flux in Google SERPs, which was assumed to stem from an e-commerce update focused on mobile usability, but was not confirmed.
December 22, 2014 – Pigeon Expands (UK, CA, AU) (Confirmed)
The Pigeon update was rolled out in the UK, Canada and Australia, and resulted in more relevant, useful and authoritative local search results tied more closely with traditional web search ranking signals.
December 10, 2014 – Penguin Everflux (Confirmed)
This update marked the shift of the updated nature of the Penguin algorithm from sporadic major updates, to a continuous update style to better match the ever-changing data after Penguin 3.0.
October 21, 2014 – Pirate 2.0 (Confirmed)
This update was an extension of the DMCA Pirate update, to combat software and digital medal piracy, and was highly targeted, hitting torrent sites hard.
October 17, 2014 – Penguin 3.0 (Confirmed)
This Penguin refresh was data-only and did not update the algorithm, and showed a small impact on less than one percent of English-language queries.
October 1, 2014 – In The News Box (Confirmed)
A noticeable display change was made to the News box results, and Google also expanded news links to a larger set of potential sites, increasing the presence of news results in SERPs.
September 23, 2014 – Panda 4.1 (#27) (Confirmed)
This Panda update comprised an algorithmic update with an impact of 3-5 percent on the search queries.
August 28, 2014 – Authorship Removed (Confirmed)
Google removed authorship mark-up and removed all bylines from SERPs.
August 6, 2014 – HTTPS/SSL Update (Confirmed)
Preferences in the rankings were established, and secure sites were preferred over non-secure ones. This highlighted the importance of encryption, and those encryptions would provide a lightweight boost to rankings.
July 24, 2014 – Pigeon (Confirmed)
This update influenced local search results in the US. This new local algorithm deeply integrated the search capabilities, including core algorithm ranking signals and other features like Knowledge Graph, spelling corrections and synonyms. This modified how local results interpreted location cues.
June 28, 2014 – Authorship Photo Drop (Confirmed)
This announcement was a surprise considering that Google promoted authorship heavily in connection with Google+, but announced that all authorship photos would be dropped from SERPs.
June 12, 2014 – Payday Loan 3.0 (Confirmed)
This is a major reiteration of the Payday Loan update, where 3.0 targeted spammy queries, while 2.0 targeted specific sites.
May 19, 2014 – Panda 4.0 (#26) (Confirmed)
This update was an algorithm update and data refresh and impacted approximately 7.5% of the English-language queries.
May 16, 2014 – Payday Loan 2.0 (Confirmed)
Google’s “payday loan” algorithm was updated, which targets particularly spammy queries.
March 24, 2014 – Unnamed Update (Unconfirmed)
This was identified through major fluctuations of the algorithm and numerous reports of ranking changes and was speculated to be a softer, less aggressive Panda update.
February 6, 2014 – Page Layout #3 (Confirmed)
This was yet another refresh to the page layout algorithm that penalised sites with too many ads above the fold, or ad content in a majority of the site real estate.
December 19, 2013 – Authorship Shake-up (Confirmed)
This update impacted authorship mark-up, and it disappeared from approximately 15 percent of the queries, resulting in extremely volatile rankings depending on the authorship of the sites.
December 17, 2013 – Unnamed Update (Unconfirmed)
There was a detection of global fluctuation in ratings, and there was also a rise in Partial Match Domains (PMDs). There was a report of widespread DNS errors in Google Webmaster Tools.
October 4, 2013 – Penguin 2.1 (#5) (Confirmed)
This was a data update and not an algorithmic change, with a moderate overall impact.
August 20, 2013 – Hummingbird (Confirmed)
This was a core update, similar to Caffeine, and resulted in changes in the semantic search and Knowledge Graph features. Google expanded its semantic search possibilities considerably and could display comparisons or correlations on the SERPs.
August 6, 2013 – In-depth Articles (Confirmed)
This update was introduced as a new type of news result called “in-depth articles,” which is dedicated to more evergreen, long-form content. It was an algorithmic update of signals that identified high-quality, in-depth content.
July 19, 2013 – Knowledge Graph Expansion (Unconfirmed)
This update improved queries with Knowledge Graph (KG) entries, which were seen to have expanded by more than half (+50.4%).
July 18, 2013 – Panda Recovery (Confirmed)
A Panda update was released and its impact was vague, but it was an algorithmic update and not a data update. It reduced the extremities of some previous Panda penalties.
June 27, 2013 – Multi-Week Update (Confirmed)
A multi-week update was launched, and it caused major fluctuation in the rankings of pages, and volatility that could only be attributed to update testing which was later rolled back.
June 11, 2013 – Payday Loan Update (Confirmed)
Google announced a targeted algorithm update to combat notoriously spammy results in niches such as payday loan companies and adult content.
May 22, 2013 – Penguin 2.0 (#4) (Confirmed)
This update had a moderate impact, and while the exact nature of the update was murky, it was speculated that the update was finely tuned to page-level changes and analysis. Webspam was pursued with even more restrictions and many websites had significant traffic loss due to lower visibility.
May 21, 2013 – Domain Crowding (Confirmed)
This update was released in an attempt to control domain crowding and promote diversity of the SERPs and impacted 2+ pages of the search results.
May 9, 2013 – Phantom (Unconfirmed)
There was a significantly noticeable, higher-than-usual fluctuation of rankings on SERPs, and this was assumed to be due to an update, though the specifics of the update were unclear. It resulted in a large-scale loss of organic traffic.
January 22, 2013 – Panda #24 (Confirmed)
This routine Panda update impacted 1.2% of the search queries.
March 14, 2013 – Panda #25 (Unconfirmed)
This was claimed to be the last Panda update before it was integrated into the core algorithm.
December 21, 2012 – Panda #23 (Confirmed)
This was a refresh of the Panda algorithmic update and impacted 1.3% of English-language search queries.
December 4, 2012 – Knowledge Graph Expansion (Confirmed)
Google added Knowledge Graph functionality to queries in languages other than English, including Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, and Italian.
November 21, 2012 – Panda #22 (Confirmed)
This update was data-only and also had a small impact.
November 5, 2012 – Panda #21 (Confirmed)
This was a small impact routine Panda update and impacted 1.1 percent of English-language queries.
October 9, 2012 – Page Layout #2 (Confirmed)
This update was a refresh of Google’s previous page layout update that targeted pages with above the fold ads, and noticeably affected 0.7 % of the English-language queries.
October 5, 2012 – Penguin #3 (Confirmed)
This was a minor Penguin update with an impact of 0.3% of the search queries.
October 4, 2012 – August/September 65-Pack (Confirmed)
This was the monthly list of search highlight updates for August and September, and it included 7-result SERPs, Knowledge Graph expansion, updates to how “page quality” is calculated, and changes to how local results are determined.
September 27, 2012 – Panda #20 (Confirmed)
This was a major data and algorithm update and it affected 2.4 percent of search queries.
September 27, 2012 – Exact-Match Domain (EMD) Update (Confirmed)
This update cracked down on low-quality Exact Match Domains (EMD) and changed how they were analysed. This resulted in large-scale penalisation and an approximate impact of 0.6% on the search queries.
September 18, 2012 – Panda 3.9.2 (#19) (Confirmed)
This Panda update was a data-only refresh, and its impact was moderately high, but not on par with a large scale algorithm update.
August 20, 2012 – Panda 3.9.1 (#18) (Confirmed)
Another Panda data update with a small impact was rolled out.
August 14, 2012 – 7-Result SERPs (Unconfirmed)
The Top 10 listings were changed, and Google limited the top rankings for many queries to just 7 results, and this impacted approximately 18 percent of keywords.
April 27, 2012 – Panda 3.6 (#14) (Confirmed)
Yet another Panda update was rolled out, with a small impact, similar to the previous Panda update.
August 10, 2012 – June/July 86-Pack (Confirmed)
The Search Quality Highlights for June and July were combined into a single mega-post. Panda data and algorithm refreshes, an improved rank-ordering function, a ranking boost for “trusted sources,” and changes to site clustering were among the major updates.
August 10, 2012 – DMCA Penalty (Pirate) (Confirmed)
The update was primarily aimed at websites that violated copyrights. Operators received relevant messages through Google Webmaster Tools, and sites with repeat copyright violations were penalised.
July 24, 2012 – Panda 3.9 (#17) (Confirmed)
Rankings fluctuated for 5-6 days, although no single day was high enough to stand out. Google claimed ~1% of queries were impacted.
July 19, 2012 – Link Warnings (Unconfirmed)
Google sent out a series of unnatural link warnings through the Google Webmaster Tools but subsequently announced that these warnings were ignorable.
June 25, 2012 – Panda 3.8 (#16) (Confirmed)
This update was a refresh of the Panda data and did not include any algorithm changes. It has a smaller impact than Panda 3.7.
June 8, 2012 – Panda 3.7 (#15) (Confirmed)
The impact of this update was claimed to be less than 1 percent of the queries, just like the previous Panda updates, but it was substantially higher than previous updates.
June 7, 2012 – May 39-Pack (Confirmed)
This monthly update pack included major updates such as the Penguin improvements, better link-scheme detection, changes to title/snippet rewriting, and updates to Google News.
May 25, 2012 – Penguin 1.1 (#2) (Confirmed)
This update was the first targeted data update after the Penguin update and confirmed that the processing of the Penguin data was similar to the Panda data, and occurred outside of the main index.
May 16, 2012 – Knowledge Graph (Confirmed)
Google introduced the “Knowledge Graph,” a SERP-integrated display that provides supplemental information about specific people, places, and things. The aim behind this update was to ensure the search results were more comprehensive and human, by tapping into the collective intelligence of the web.
May 4, 2012 – April 52-Pack (Confirmed)
Google revealed the details of 52 updates, including changes related to the “Penguin” update. Other highlights included a 15% larger “base” index, improved pagination handling, and a slew of site link updates.
April 24, 2012 – Penguin (Confirmed)
Google stepped up its efforts to combat webspam. Penguin’s primary goal is to lower rankings for sites that violate Google’s quality guidelines. Sites that use webspam techniques such as keyword stuffing and link schemes see a decrease in organic search traffic. The update imposes penalties on the entire site, rather than on individual pages.
April 19, 2012 – Panda 3.5 (#13) (Confirmed)
Another routine Panda data update was rolled out, with minimal impacts on ratings.
April 16, 2012 – Parked Domain Bug (Confirmed)
A number of reports of disrupted results in the rankings caused Google to recheck the algorithm and admit to a data error causing the penalisation of certain domains since they were mistakenly identified as parked domains.
April 3, 2012 – March 50-Pack (Confirmed)
A set of 50 various updates was introduced, including confirmation of Panda 3.4, changes to anchor-text “scoring”, updates to image search and a change in the manner of interpretation of local queries.
March 23, 2012 – Panda 3.4 (#12) (Confirmed)
Another Panda update was announced via Twitter, and it was estimated to impact about 1.6 percent of the search results.
March 12, 2012 – Search Quality Video (Unconfirmed)
A video was published by Google, providing all users interested in the algorithm with a sneak peek into the processes behind search quality. It provided context for the Google priority and process.
February 27, 2012 – Venice (Confirmed)
For the first time, Google Places entries were integrated into the SERPs. As a result, local search has been improved. This was aimed to aggressively localise organic search results and actively integrate local search data.
February 27, 2012 – February 40-Pack (2) (Confirmed)
Google released a second set of “search quality highlights,” claiming more than 40 changes in February. Multiple image-search updates, multiple freshness updates (including the phasing out of two old bits of the algorithm), and a Panda update were among the notable changes.
February 27, 2012 – Panda 3.3 (#11) (Confirmed)
This was another post Panda Flux update that shows minor additions to the Panda data.
February 3, 2012 – February 17-Pack (Confirmed)
Google released a set of 17 updates, all targeted at improving and highlighting search quality. In addition to many tweaks on speed, freshness, and spell-checking, there was one major announcement concerned Panda’s tighter integration into the main search index.
January 19, 2012 – Ads Above The Fold (Confirmed)
Google’s page layout algorithms were updated to penalise sites with excessive ad space above the “fold.” A similar factor was previously suspected to be at work in Panda.
January 18, 2012 – Panda 3.2 (#10) (Confirmed)
Yet another Panda update was rolled out, but the algorithm did not show noticeable changes, and it was assumed that this update was a part of the more frequent data updates within the Panda Flux.
January 10, 2012 – Search + Your World (Confirmed)
This update focused on personalised content and personalisation of search results and shifted to include Google+ social data and user profiles into SERPs for relevant queries, and an extremely noticeable toggle button was included to shut off personalisation if required.
January 5, 2012 – January 30 Pack (Confirmed)
Google announced 30 changes in the previous month, including improved image search landing-page quality detection, more relevant site links, more rich snippets, and related-query improvements. The distinction between an “algorithmic update” and a “feature” has become more ambiguous.
December 1, 2011 – December 10-Pack (Confirmed)
The second set of 10 updates was announced, along with a promise of similar monthly updates. These ten updates covered query refinements, blog and image search freshness, and parked domain detection.
November 18, 2011 – Panda 3.1 (#9) (Confirmed)
This update was similar to the Panda Flux that occurred earlier in the year, and the updates were more regular but also relatively minor.
November 14, 2011 – 10-Pack of Updates (Confirmed)
In an attempt to uphold transparency, it was proclaimed that 10 algorithm changes were made, but it was unclear what the updates impacted. They were assumed to be small updates.
November 3, 2011 – Freshness Update (Confirmed)
Google announced an algorithm change that rewards freshness and would affect up to 35% of queries (almost three times the publicly stated impact of Panda 1.0). This update predominantly impacted time-sensitive results, but it also signalled a much-increased significance on recent content.
October 18, 2011 – Query Encryption (Confirmed)
Search queries were encrypted to protect the privacy of users, but this caused major changes to the keyword referral data. Organic web traffic was disrupted by the SSL encryption protocol, and site owners did not receive information about individual queries, but just an aggregated list of the top 1000 queries that drove traffic to their site.
October 5, 2011 – Panda Flux (#8) (Confirmed)
Site owners were told to expect Panda-related flux, but not show concern as the impact was less than approximately 2 percent. Some sites with Google organic traffic showed declines, recovery and declines again, due to recalculation updates of the Panda algorithm.
September 28, 2011 – Panda 2.5 (#7) (Confirmed)
Another Panda update was rolled out, and some sites including the Today Show reported large-scale losses in rankings. Specifics were not given, and this update was a part of the continued improvement to improve high-quality search results.
September 21, 2011 – 516 Algo Updates (Confirmed)
Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Congressional testimony claimed that Google made 516 updates in 2010, but tested over 13000 updates before rolling out these 516 ones.
September 15, 2011 – Pagination Elements (Confirmed)
This update comprised the introduction of rel=”next” and rel=”prev” link attributes, to indicate the relationship between component URLs in a paginated series. This streamlined the crawling of content and helped fix any problems with the detection of duplicate content. This update also announced an improved automatic consolidation and canonicalization of ‘View All’ pages.
August 16, 2011 – Expanded Sitelinks (Confirmed)
Google rolled out expanded site-links, for major brand queries, in the form of 12-packs, which were then restricted to 6-packs. This update was meant to improve the algorithm by combining the site link ranking with regular result rankings to provide a higher-quality list of links. This reduced link duplication and resulted in a better organised SERP.
August 12, 2011 – Panda 2.4 (#6) (Confirmed)
The Panda update was rolled out internationally, for non-English queries instead of being restricted to only English queries. However, it was not applicable for Chinese, Japanese or Korean queries. Overall, it impacted approximately 9 percent of the queries in countries for which it was applicable.
July 23, 2011 – Panda 2.3 (#5) (Confirmed)
Google rolled out a new update under the Panda series, but the specifics were murky. It was assumed that this update was related to the addition of Panda data and the change in ranking factors, and no new factors were introduced.
June 28, 2011 – Google+ (Confirmed)
Google launched Google+ as a social platform to compete with Facebook. It provided a platform for individuals to connect online and share content across the web. This update was tightly integrated into Gmail and was quickly adopted by most Google users.
June 21, 2011 – Panda 2.2 (#4) (Confirmed)
This was the official acknowledgement of version 2.2 of Panda updates. These updates occurred independently from the main index and did not occur in real-time, similar to the previous Google Dance updates. It was a manual update intended to improve scraper detection of Panda-impacted sites.
June 2, 2011 – Schema.org (Confirmed)
Schema.org is a joint alliance by Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! which is intended to create a common foundational platform of support for a set of microdata types, to help provide semantic meaning to content on web pages. This helps enhance the search results display by understanding the relevant queries for a page to provide more detailed information.
May 9, 2011 – Panda 2.1 (#3) (Confirmed)
This update was initially dubbed Panda 3.0, indicated a series of new updates within the Panda 2, and was meant to be a minor update. However, it was noticed by the sharp-eyed SEOs, despite Google’s refusal to comment on the percentage of queries impacted.
April 11, 2011 – Panda 2.0 (#2) (Confirmed)
The update was rolled out to all English queries worldwide and was not limited to only English-speaking countries. It more specifically targeted long-tail queries that displayed low-quality search results, by instead providing higher quality results, and also considered data about sites that were blocked by search users, either directly via the SERPs or via their web browsers.
March 30, 2011 – The +1 Button (Confirmed)
This update was launched in response to the like feature on various social sites like Facebook and Twitter. This feature was a +1 button right next to the search results, and it allowed users to directly influence search results when clicked on. This button indicated the popularity of websites in social circles and enhanced the search results.
February 23, 2011 – Panda/ Farmer (Confirmed)
This algorithm adjustment was applied to English language search results in the US. It allowed Google to assess website quality, and limit thin, irrelevant content, content farms and sites with high ad-to-content ratios. Poor website quality led to significantly recognisable losses in the SERPs.
January 28, 2011 – Attribution Update (Confirmed)
This update is intended to reduce spam levels by targeting sites with copied content, duplicate content or low levels of original relevant content, to help clearly sort out content attribution. This launch was extremely targeted and affected about 2% of the search queries, but the effect was mostly just the display of the original websites rather than the ones with copied content.
January 1, 2011 – Overstock.com Penalty (Unconfirmed)
The rankings for Overstock.com were too good to be true and raised suspicions. The shady SEO tactics employed by Overstock.com were caught and tanked their rankings on the SERPs. This entire fiasco was publicised as a warning for other companies engaging in black hat SEO, and JC Penney was also slapped with a similar penalty.
December 1 2010 – Negative Reviews (Confirmed)
Negative SEO tactics were broached after an incident relayed by the New York Times, where the negative reviews posted by the customer made the business more prominent in search engine recognition. In an attempt to stop negative SEO, Google made assertive and reactive adjustments to their algorithm to crack down on any sites using similar tactics, to monopolise bad behaviour for popularity.
December 1, 2010 – Social Signals (Unconfirmed)
This meant that Google used social signals, and the results from social search features to rank regular search results. The search data from Twitter and Facebook impacted the ranking of a person or website, based on human authority.
November 1, 2010 – Instant Previews (Confirmed)
This update provided a visual aspect to search results, to assist in choosing the most relevant result for the user, with the addition of a magnifying glass icon to the search results page. Instant Previews provided a graphical overview of a search result and highlighted the most relevant sections, to make choosing results easier. This feature highlighted Google’s commitment to the quality and authority of its SERPs and the design and usability of its own page.
September 1, 2010 – Google Instant (Confirmed)
Google Instant is an extension of the functions of Google Suggest, to display the search results as a query was being typed. This enhanced functionality and showed relevant responses, but had a fairly low impact on page rankings, and did not worry SEO experts.
August 1, 2010 – Brand Update (Unconfirmed)
This brand update allowed a single domain from a well-known brand to rank higher on the SERPs for brand-related searches. This update resulted from a reassessment of the ranking choices to alter it so that a larger number of pages from the same site could appear for a given query if the search indicates a strong user interest. Previously, domains could only have 1-2 listings or one listing with indented results.
June 1, 2010 – Caffeine (Rollout) (Confirmed)
This new web indexing system, Caffeine, updated the infrastructure, and provided 50 percent fresher results for web searches, regardless of the type of content. This was done through analysis of small portions of the search index and continuous updates so that any new pages can be immediately added to the index. Caffeine not only increased Google’s raw speed but also made crawling and indexation much more tightly integrated.
May 1, 2010 – May Day (Confirmed)
The May Day update was a ranking change and not a crawling or indexing change, which implied that sites with less traffic still had their pages indexed, but did not rank as highly. The long tail traffic, generated from longer queries that few people search for, but in aggregate creates a larger percentage of traffic, was heavily impacted, and sites with large-scale thin content were greatly affected.
April 1, 2010 – Google Places (Confirmed)
Google merged the functions of Google Local Business Centre and Google Places, and it is aimed to connect Google Place Pages with local business information. The feature to add coupons and real-time updates to the Place Pages is highly emphasised. With the official launch of Google Places, the Local Business Centre was rebranded, Places pages were more closely integrated with local search results, and a number of new features, including new local advertising options, were added.
December 1, 2009 – Real-Time Search (Confirmed)
In this update, Twitter feeds, Google News, newly indexed content, and a variety of other sources were integrated into a real-time feed on some SERPs. If Google believes something has a real-time component, it will display the section. If Google notices a spike in information on a specific topic, as well as queries on that topic, it assumes a real-time situation is occurring.
August 1, 2009 – Caffeine (Preview) (Unconfirmed)
Google released a preview of a massive infrastructure change aimed at speeding up crawling, expanding the index, and integrating indexation and ranking in near real-time. Prior to Caffeine, Google’s index was made up of layers, some of which were refreshed more quickly than others. The timeline was months long, with the final rollout beginning in early 2010 in the United States.
February 1, 2009 – Vince (Unconfirmed)
This update was a brand update, and after this algorithm, brand changes were preferred in the SERPs. The update favoured big brands and its goal was to display the most relevant websites when searching for a specific brand.
February 1, 2009 – Rel-canonical Tag (Confirmed)
Another collaborative tag was launched by Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft to increase the accuracy of the location of the websites. The URLs became shortened to only include the website and page name, instead of the inclusion of numbers and other location indicatory symbols, through the use of this tag: canonical
August 1, 2008 – Google Suggest (Confirmed)
The Google Suggest update completely changed the Google logo-and-a-box homepage look. The feature displayed suggested searches in a dropdown below the search box simultaneously while the user was typing their search requests. Suggest looked at a collective set of searches related to a given query, then listed popular searches containing that query in a dropdown panel.
April 1, 2008 – Dewey (Confirmed)
There was a noticeable change in page rankings, and a shuffle of the indexing, but how the indexing changed was vague. It was suspected that Google was pushing internal properties like Google books, but this was unsubstantiated. An interesting side effect of this Google update was that the results differed depending on the Google server that produced them.
June 1, 2007 – Buffy (Unconfirmed)
This update was rolled out to honour Vanessa Fox’s contributions after she left Google. There were no extreme modifications to the algorithm, but just a series of minor changes, updates and additions to the data in the indexes.
May 1, 2007 – Universal Search (Confirmed)
Google’s vertical search functions were integrated into its homepage. Instead of searching the entire index, you could search for images or news with a single click. To provide a more accurate and diverse SERP, Universal Search integrated all the features and results from all Google verticals.
November 1, 2006 – Supplemental Update (Unconfirmed)
Some changes were made to the supplemental index update, which was first introduced in 2003. It included the creation of new guidelines for dealing with websites that were blocked by Google’s filters. The filtered pages were treated differently, and Google encouraged website owners to consider the supplemental index in a positive light, and not as a penalty.
December 1, 2005 – Big Daddy (Confirmed)
This update was more of an infrastructure modification than an update of the indexing method or algorithm. The Big Daddy update was rolled out over the course of a couple of months and had no direct impact on rankings or search results. Instead, this new software introduced significant changes to indexing and crawling.
October 1, 2005 – Google Local/ Maps (Confirmed)
Google launched Google Local, which merged the technologies behind Google Local and Google maps, to enable users to go to a particular location (the Google Maps function) and find all the local and mapping information they need. Google Local offered users access to relevant information based on their geographic location, by combining mapping data with relevant local information from the Google index and business listings.
October 1, 2005 – Jagger (Confirmed)
Google targeted unnatural links once more through a series of updates. Within three months (from September to November), the search algorithm was tweaked. As a result, sites lost good rankings if their backlink structure included low-quality links, such as link farms, reciprocal link exchange, or demonstrably paid links.
September 1, 2005 – Gilligan (Unconfirmed)
This was not claimed to be an update, but web users saw changes in the rankings, which were probably attributed to the ever-changing rankings due to Google updates of the indexes. Since Google constantly updates its index with new pages, backlinks and page rank data, it wasn’t considered an ‘update’, but it did show a significant change in the search engine’s underlying index.
June 1, 2005 – XML Sitemaps (Confirmed)
This feature allowed webmasters and site owners to directly feed its pages that they wished to include in the index. This was done through the submission of XML sitemaps in Webmaster Tools and allowed site owners and SEO experts to conveniently bypass traditional HTML sitemaps and directly influence how the algorithm crawled and indexed their website.
June 1, 2005 – Personalised Search (Confirmed)
This roll-out of a personalised search feature was more efficient than previous attempts at personalisation. In the past, in order to customise results, the settings and profile of the user had to be altered. This personalised search drew directly from users’ search histories and automatically adjusted the results.
May 1, 2005 – Bourbon (Confirmed)
Google rolled out “3.5 changes in search quality”, but the 0.5 of the change was hard to identify. The goal of this update was to eliminate duplicate content. This included duplicate content within the organisation such as eliminating the duplicate content and non-canonical URLs (websites that could be accessed via www. and without www).
February 1, 2005 – Allegra (Unconfirmed)
Google changed the way it analysed the Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) data, and it also modified its algorithm so, for the first time, began penalising websites with spam-like inbound links. It cracked down on any suspicious links and numerous websites reported ranking changes.
January 1, 2005 – Nofollow (Confirmed)
The major search engines including Google and Yahoo! provided a universally recognised indexing command, the ‘nofollow’ attribute, for web authors, to identify spam links. Nofollow aided in the removal of untrusted links, such as spammy blog comments. It indicated that the link had not been explicitly approved by site owners, and this improved the quality of backlinks, fought webspam and also prevented competitive black hat SEO.
August 1, 2004 – Google IPO (Unconfirmed)
This was more of a noteworthy event and not really an update. Google sold 19 million shares, raised $1.67 billion in the capital, and increased its market capitalization to more than $20 billion. Google share prices continued to rise and the company, without a doubt, established itself as a prominent search engine.
February 1, 2004 – Brandy (Confirmed)
Google launched an entirely new method of indexing called Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). It enhanced the quality of Google’s relevance searching by highlighting the importance of thematic relevance instead of just keyword density, through an enhanced ability to understand keyword synonyms. It also entailed the analysis of link neighbourhoods and the rating of the relevance of anchor texts, and Google’s periodic index expansion.
January 1, 2004 – Austin (Unconfirmed)
This update did a thorough sweep and dispelled any shady SEO tactics that Florida missed. Google continued their crackdown to restrict deceptive on-page tactics. FFA (Free for All) link farms, invisible text and stuffed meta tags with useless spam on websites resulted in penalisation or even complete banning of the page in the snap of a finger.
November 1, 2003 – Florida (Confirmed)
This update was infamous for disrupting all SEO techniques and pushing the entire SEO industry into disarray. Page rankings dropped so dramatically, and some pages that were ranked high just ceased to exist in the indexes. The update was intended to crack down on keyword stuffing and other black hat SEO techniques. Pages that were completely irrelevant were at the top of the rank page and all low-value SEO tactics just didn’t cut it anymore.
Supplemental Index – September 1, 2003 (Unconfirmed)
Google wanted to have its cake and eat it too and tried to index more documents without compromising on performance. It divided some of the indexing results into an additional index – the ‘supplemental’ index. Getting on this index meant that Google didn’t consider your pages important enough to be on the main index, and this was a major concern for website owners.
February 1, 2003 – Boston (Confirmed)
This was the first named Google update and was intended to be a major monthly update of all of its data and SERPs. The search engine’s index was updated or expanded every time another change was rolled out and this shuffle was coined the Google Dance. This resulted in sizeable ranking shifts and changes in rankings, which placed more emphasis on quality backlinks. The Boston update signalled the beginning of a rapid succession of changes.
June 1, 2003 – Esmerelda (Unconfirmed)
This update was targeted to adjust the entire Google search infrastructure, instead of just directly changing the search algorithm. It also marked the transition from monthly updates to a more continuous rolling update style. The Google Dance was replaced by Google Everflux which indicated the ever-fluctuating position of websites on SERPs.
June 1, 2003 – Fritz (Confirmed)
Google switched to an index that was incrementally updated every day instead of a monumental monthly update process. This generated much smaller day-to-day changes in rankings, hence the moniker Everflux. This was again intended to improve the overall infrastructure of indexing.
May 1, 2003 – Dominic (Unconfirmed)
With this update, Google changed the way it counted and evaluated backlinks. For the first time, massive link building via link farms was made difficult. Google bots “Freshbot” and “Deepcrawler” combed the internet, with the intent of improving the counting and reporting system of backlinks. However, many websites reported bounces in their ranks.
April 1, 2003 – Cassandra (Unconfirmed)
This update tried to protect the authority of the page ranks, and the anti-webspam team took assertive action against any hidden content and started cracking down on hidden text and backlinks, and linking from co-owned domains by penalising their ranking. Keyword stuffing in hidden elements was no longer a viable method of website optimization.
September 1, 2002 – 1st Documented Update (Unconfirmed)
Before rolling updates, Google updated parts of its search engine at a time, and a major update took days to complete. In order to rank the pages, Google would consolidate all of its data, caches and indexes to determine the SERPs. This nameless update temporarily threw search users into chaos, because the update shuffled the page ranks to the point where it was incoherent, and actually lowered the search quality.
December 1, 2000 – The Google Toolbar (Confirmed)
Google launched the Google Toolbar, a powerful informational search and retrieval feature that could be seamlessly integrated into any web browser. It intended to provide fast access to the best search tools that Google had to offer. A Toolbar PageRank (TBPR) was also launched to organise the order of search results.