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Complete Google Algorithm Update History


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Google is updating or refreshing its algorithm on a daily basis and while the majority of the changes are small, some have a significant impact on search results which can make or break a brand’s visibility. Having an understanding of Google algorithm update history can help to explain shifts in ranking or organic traffic and help to inform future search engine optimization strategy. Here is a Google algorithm update timeline including the most significant updates which impacted search results over the years.

2019

October 22, 2019: BERT Update

The most recent Google algorithm update supported BERT natural language processing enabling Google to understand natural language and context in search.

October 2, 2019: Unnamed

Several days of ranking fluctuation reported but no official confirmation from Google.

September 24, 2019: September 2019 Core Update 

Core update appeared to impact websites that had been affected by previous core updates in terms of content quality, expertise, presentation, production, and competitive comparison.

July 12, 2019: Maverick Update 

Rank trackers detected a lot of flux in rankings but Google has not confirmed an update.

June 6, 2019: Site Diversity Update 

This update was intended to improve scenarios where sites had multiple organic listings.

June 3, 2019: June 2019 Core Update 

Google announced this broad core algorithm update. Some believe this was a reversal of the March 2019 update, focusing on search intent, and some niches saw a lot of volatility.

May 23, 2019: Indexing Bugs 

Google confirmed the update was to fix two indexing bugs that were preventing new content from being properly indexed.

April 5, 2019: Deindexing Bug 

A bug was dropping pages from the search index but sites recovered soon after the update.

March 12, 2019: March 2019 Core Update

Also called the “Florida 2” update because it happened around the time of the popular Pubcon conference in Florida. The analysis suggested it rewarded sites with good user experience.

March 1, 2019: 19-result SERPs 

Google displayed anomalous page-1 counts including up to 19 organic results, related to in-depth articles which then disappeared on March 6.

 

2018

August 1, 2018: Medic Core Update 

Broad core algorithm update with significant impact happened over a week. Appeared to impact health and wellness sector in particular.

July 24, 2018: Chrome Security Warnings (Full Site) 

Chrome 68 started marking all non-HTTPS sites as “not secure.”

July 9, 2018: Mobile Speed Update 

This update made page speed a ranking factor for mobile results.

June 14, 2018: Video Carousels 

Videos in organic results were moved into a dedicated video carousel.

May 13, 2018: Snippet Length Drop 

In the Google update May 2018, Google rolled back most snippets to the shorter limit (about 150-160 characters) after a few months of testing longer display snippets with up to 300 characters.

March 26, 2018: Mobile-First Index Roll-out 

After months of testing, Google announced the roll-out of the mobile-first index.

March 14, 2018: Zero-result SERP Test 

Google tested displaying zero organic results and a ‘show all’ button. The test was stopped after a week.

March 8, 2018: Brackets Core Update 

Google confirmed a core update that continued for almost two weeks.

 

2017

December 14, 2017: Maccabees Update 

Google search engine update 2017 confirmed several small updates had taken place.

November 30, 2017: Snippet Length Increase

Google increased the character limit for snippets after 2 years of testing from 155 to 300.

October 27, 2017: Featured Snippet Drop

There was a significant drop in featured snippets alongside a jump in Knowledge Panels.

October 17, 2017: Chrome Security Warnings (Forms)

Google began warning visitors to sites with unsecured forms.

June 20, 2017: Google Jobs

Google launched a job listings portal drawing from major providers.

March 8, 2017: “Fred” (Unconfirmed)

There were a lot of reports of significant flux across SEO, but Google did not confirm a core update.

January 10, 2017: Intrusive Interstitial Penalty 

Google penalized aggressive and intrusive pop-ups that affect the user experience.

 

2016

October 6, 2016: Penguin 4.0, Phase 2 

Google updates 2016 ended with the second phase of Penguin 4.0 reversed all previous Penguin penalties.

September 27, 2016: Penguin 4.0, Phase 1 

The first phase of Penguin 4.0 was a less aggressive version of the Penguin algorithm. It devalues bad links rather than penalizing a website.

September 23, 2016: Penguin 4.0 Announcement 

Major Penguin update which made it part of the core algorithm.

May 12, 2016: Mobile-friendly 2 

This update again boosted ranking for mobile-friendly sites.

February 23, 2016: AdWords Shake-up 

Changes were made to AdWords rolling out 4-ad top blocks and remove right-column ads.

 

2015

October 26, 2015: RankBrain

Google announced machine learning had been part of the algorithm for several months.

July 17, 2015: Panda 4.2

A Panda data refresh but no major update.

May 3, 2015: The Quality Update 

Google confirmed that quality signals had been impacted by a core update but did not release specifics.

April 22, 2015: Mobile Update AKA “Mobilegeddon”

In the first of Google updates 2015, Google announced that rankings would be different for mobile-friendly sites on mobile devices.

 

2014

December 22, 2014: Pigeon Expands (UK, CA, AU) 

A major local update that hit the US in 2014 was widened to the UK, Australia, and Canada.

December 10, 2014: Penguin Everflux 

Google stated that they would be releasing smaller updated more frequently rather than infrequent but major updates.

October 21, 2014: Pirate 2.0 

This update was intended to combat digital media and software piracy and targeted a small group of websites.

October 17, 2014: Penguin 3.0

One year after the Penguin 2.1 update, Google released a data refresh.

October 1, 2014: “In The News” Box  

News links were expanded to a larger group of potential sites.

September 23, 2014: Panda 4.1

A significant Panda update was rolled out gradually which affected 3-5% of queries.

August 28, 2014: Authorship Removed 

Authorship bylines were removed from SERPs.

August 6, 2014: HTTPS/SSL Update 

Google confirmed they would be favoring secure sites that used encryption.

July 24, 2014: Pigeon 

The Pigeon update affected the US changing how local results are handled.

June 28, 2014: Authorship Photo Drop

Google dropped authorship photos from SERPs.

June 12, 2014: Payday Loan 3.0  

Google launched another update less than a month after the initial Payday Loan update, targeting spammy queries.

May 19, 2014: Panda 4.0

This major Panda update included both an algorithm update and a data refresh.

May 16, 2014: Payday Loan 2.0

Google updated the payday loan algorithm to target spammy websites.

February 6, 2014: Page Layout

In the first of the Google algorithm updates 2014 page layout was refreshed to penalize websites with too many adverts above the fold.

 

2013

December 19, 2013: Authorship Shake-up  

The authorship mark-up was removed from 15% of queries.

October 4, 2013: Penguin 2.1

An update to the Penguin algorithm was reported as being a likely refresh, but some reported significant losses.

August 20, 2013: Hummingbird 

Google confirmed that the Hummingbird update had been rolled out in the previous month and made changes to semantic search and the Knowledge Graph.

August 6, 2013: In-depth Articles 

‘In-depth articles’ added as a new type of news result which showed long, evergreen content.

July 19, 2013: Knowledge Graph Expansion 

Knowledge Graph queries increased by more than 50% with over 25% of searches returning a Knowledge Graph entry.

July 18, 2013: Panda Recovery 

A Panda update was confirmed but details were unclear; it seemed to soften previous Panda penalties.

June 11, 2013: “Payday Loan” Update  

This algorithmic update targeted spammy results including porn and payday loans.

May 22, 2013: Penguin 2.0

A Penguin update was released which appeared to be targeted towards sites on a page by page level.

May 21, 2013: Domain Crowding 

This update was intended to control domain crowding and diversity deep the SERPs from page 2 and beyond.

May 9, 2013: “Phantom”  

While there was no official confirmation, a lot of sites reported substantial traffic loss and volatility.

March 14, 2013: Panda 

This Panda update was the last before it was integrated into the core algorithm.

January 22, 2013: Panda

Around 1.2% of queries were affected by this update.

 

2012

December 21, 2012: Panda 

A Panda refresh affecting 1.3% of English queries.

December 4, 2012: Knowledge Graph Expansion

Knowledge Graph functionality was added to non-English queries KG capabilities were enhanced. Languages included French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Japanese.

November 21, 2012: Panda

This update seemed to be data only rather than algorithmic.

November 5, 2012: Panda  

This update impacted around 1.1% of English queries.

October 9, 2012: Page Layout

Google updated the page layout change which had happened in January which penalized pages with too many adverts above the fold.

October 5, 2012: Penguin 

This was a small update which only impacted around 0.3% of queries”.

September 27, 2012: Panda

A significant Panda algorithmic and data update rolled out affecting 2.4% of queries.

September 27, 2012: Exact-Match Domain (EMD) Update  

Changes to the way Google handled exact-match domains were announced leading to large-scale devaluation and impacting 0.6% of queries.

September 18, 2012: Panda 3.9.2

A data-only Panda refresh which caused moderate fluctuation in rankings.

August 20, 2012: Panda 3.9.1

A relatively small Panda update.

August 14, 2012: 7-Result SERPs 

Google changed the Top 10 by limiting it to 7 results for around 18% of queries.

August 10, 2012: DMCA Penalty (Pirate)

Now in Google update history, they confirmed they would be penalizing websites that repeatedly violated copyright.

July 24, 2012: Panda 3.9

About 1% of queries were affected by a Panda update with fluctuation in the rankings for around a week.

July 19, 2012: Link Warnings 

Google sent out a lot of unnatural link warnings using Google Webmaster Tools but then announced that these new warnings may not actually cause a significant problem.

June 8, 2012: Panda 3.7

This Panda update caused significant ranking fluctuation but for less than 1% of queries.

May 25, 2012: Penguin 1.1

The first data update after the Penguin algorithm update confirmed that Penguin data was like Panda in that it was being processed separately to the main search index.

May 16, 2012: Knowledge Graph 

Google started to roll out Knowledge Graph which is a SERP-integrated display providing additional information which represented a step closer to semantic search.

April 27, 2012: Panda 3.6 

A relatively small update to Panda was made which seemed to have little impact.

April 24, 2012: Penguin 

The webspam update which later became known as Penguin was rolled out to tackle over-optimization, spammy links, and keyword stuffing. It impacted around 3.1% of English queries.

April 19, 2012: Panda 3.5

A Panda data update with minimal changes.

April 16, 2012: Parked Domain Bug

Google confirmed that some domains had been mistakenly scored as parked domains because of a data error which had devalued them.

March 23, 2012: Panda 3.4

A Panda update which affected 1.6% of searches was rolled out.

March 12, 2012: Search Quality Video 

While there was not an algorithm update, Google released a video from a search quality meeting to give SEO experts and insight into the algorithm.

February 27, 2012: Venice 

This update seemed to localize organic results much more strictly.

February 27, 2012: Panda 3.3

A minor update to the Panda algorithm three days after the anniversary of the launch of Panda.

January 19, 2012: Ads Above The Fold 

Sites with too much ad-space above the fold were devalued as part of this page layout update.

January 18, 2012: Panda 3.2

A Panda data update occured.

January 10, 2012: Search + Your World 

Google announced a significant change to personalization through pushing Google+ social data and user profiles into SERPs as well as a new button to shut off personalization.

 

2011

December 1, 2011: December 10-Pack 

Google confirmed 10 updates but that detail would be released every month. These included related query refinements, blog search freshness, image search freshness, and parked domain detection.

November 18, 2011: Panda 3.1  

Google began its course of small updates to Panda which became known as the ‘Panda Flux’ period.

November 3, 2011: Freshness Update  

Google announced that freshness would be rewarded which affected over 35% of queries and suggested a strong focus on recent and relevant content.

October 18, 2011: Query Encryption 

Google encrypted search queries for privacy reasons disrupting keyword referral data.

September 28, 2011: Panda 2.5

Another Panda update with some websites reporting significant losses but no details confirmed.

September 15, 2011: Pagination Elements

Google introduced the rel=”next” and rel=”prev” link elements to help fix crawl and duplication problems which were created by pagination.

August 16, 2011: Expanded Sitelinks  

Google officially rolled out expanded site-links, typically for brand queries.

August 12, 2011: Panda 2.4

Panda was rolled out internationally for English-language queries globally and non-English queries with the exceptions of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

July 23, 2011: Panda 2.3

This update was suspected to have brought in new ranking factors but this was not confirmed by Google.

June 28, 2011: Google+   

Google launched Google+ for sharing content.

June 21, 2011: Panda 2.2 

Google Panda updates continued, but occurred separately from the main index and not in real-time.

June 2, 2011: Schema.org  

Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft announced a consolidated approach to structured data as well as creating new schemas to make search results richer.

May 9, 2011: Panda 2.1

Minor changes to the Panda algorithm.

April 11, 2011: Panda 2.0

The Panda update was rolled out to all English queries worldwide.

March 30, 2011: The +1 Button

Google launched the share +1 button next to results links in response to competition from Facebook and Twitter.

February 23, 2011: Panda/Farmer 

Panda is probably the most famous Google update names, as this was a significant update that affected up to 12% of search results targeting thin content and high ad-to-content ratios.

January 28, 2011: Attribution Update 

This update affected 2% of queries and was intended to support content attribution and prevent scrapers.

January 1, 2011: Overstock.com Penalty 

Google penalized sites like Overstock.com and JCPenney for manipulative SEO tactics foreshadowing the Panda update.

 

2010

December 1, 2010: Negative Reviews 

Google responded to news that a site called DecorMyEyes was ranking due to negative reviews and adjusted the algorithm to penalize sites using similar tactics.

December 1, 2010: Social Signals  

Google confirmed that social signals from Facebook and Twitter were being used as ranking factors.

November 1, 2010: Instant Previews  

A magnifying glass icon appeared on Google search results, allowing users to preview a landing page directly from SERPs.

September 1, 2010: Google Instant 

Google Instant launched displaying search results while a query was still being typed.

August 1, 2010: Brand Update  

Google was now allowing the same domain to appear multiple times on a SERP, whereas they were previously limited to 2.

June 1, 2010: Caffeine (Rollout) 

Google rolled out the Caffeine infrastructure to boost Google’s raw speed and to achieve a tighter integration between crawling and indexation.

May 1, 2010: May Day 

This update impacted the long-tail and websites with lots of thin content seemed to be hit particularly hard.

April 1, 2010: Google Places   

The launch of Google Places streamlined the Local Business Center and integrated with local search including advertising options.

 

2009

December 1, 2009: Real-time Search   

Multiple sources were integrated into a SERPS feed in real-time.

August 1, 2009: Caffeine (Preview) 

This was a preview to a significant change to speed crawling, index expansion, and integration and real-time ranking.

February 1, 2009: Vince

While SEOs felt this was a major update that favored big brands, Google maintained that this was a minor update.

February 1, 2009: Rel-canonical Tag

Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo all announced support for the Canonical Tag, enabling webmasters to give canonicalization signals to search bots without affecting human users.

 

2008

August 1, 2008: Google Suggest

Google introduced Suggest which displayed suggested searches in a dropdown below the search box.

April 1, 2008: Dewey  

This change suggested Google was boosting its own internal properties but there was no real evidence of that.

 

2007

June 1, 2007: Buffy 

Buffy was suggested to be an accumulation of several smaller changes when Vanessa Fox left Google.

May 1, 2007: Universal Search 

Google combined news, images, video and local results into traditional search results and changed their format.

 

2006

December 1, 2006: False Alarm

There were reports of major ranking changes in November, but Google did not confirm any major changes.

November 1, 2006: Supplemental Update 

Google made several changes to the supplemental index and how filtered pages were managed.

 

2005

December 1, 2005: Big Daddy 

This update changed the way Google treated URL canonicalization, redirects (301/302) and other technical issues.

October 1, 2005: Google Local/Maps  

Google merged Maps data into the LBC, gradually driving several changes in local SEO.

October 1, 2005: Jagger  

This series of updates targeted at low-quality links such as reciprocal links, link farms, and paid links.

September 1, 2005: Gilligan 

This was also referred to as the ‘False’ update as although there were widespread reports of change. Google claimed no ‘major’ algorithm update occurred.

June 1, 2005: XML Sitemaps  

Google enabled webmasters to submit XML sitemaps via Webmaster Tools so they could bypass traditional HTML sitemaps.

June 1, 2005: Personalized Search 

This roll-out of changes to personalized search tapped utilized users’ search histories to automatically target search results.

May 1, 2005: Bourbon  

This quality update was unclear but it’s suspected that it addressed duplicate content and non-canonical (www vs. non-www) URLs.

February 1, 2005: Allegra  

The update was suspected to be the start of Google penalizing suspicious links.

January 1, 2005: Nofollow 

Google introduced ‘no-follow’ as a way to manage link quality.

 

2004

January 1, 2004: Austin  

The Austin update targeted deceptive SEO tactics that Florida had missed, such as invisible text.

 

2003

November 1, 2003: Florida 

A significant update which led to many websites losing ranking and aimed to reduce keyword stuffing and other manipulative SEO tactics.

September 1, 2003: Supplemental Index 

Google introduced a supplemental index to increase the number of search results.

July 1, 2003: Fritz 

The index was now being adapted incrementally on a daily basis rather than big monthly changes.

June 1, 2003: Esmeralda  

A more continuous update process was initiated.

May 1, 2003: Dominic 

There was fluctuation in May but it is unclear what was changed.

April 1, 2003: Cassandra

Google targeted poor link quality, including linking excessively from co-owned websites as well as hidden links and hidden text.

February 1, 2003: Boston 

The first named Google update was announced at SES Boston. The Google updates list was intended to be monthly at first but algorithm updates became much more frequent.

 

2002

September 1, 2002: 1st Documented Update 

In the fall before the first significant ‘named’ update caused a flux in the SERPs.

 

2000

December 1, 2000: Google Toolbar 

Sparking debate and disagreement for many years to come, Google launched the browser toolbar and Toolbar PageRank (TBPR).






Author: James Owen

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