Google Algorithm Update History

google algorithm updates


  • Two decades of UPDATES….
  • Constantly challenging the SEO community
  • Multiple Algorithm changes this year alone
  • Keeping on top of them is a job in itself
  • That’s our job, so you don’t have to


ach year, Google makes a myriad of changes to the search algorithms

In 2018 alone, they reported 3,234 updates, this being an average of almost 9 per day, more than 8 times the number of updates in 2009.

While most of these changes are minor, Google occasionally rolls out a major algorithmic update that affects search results in significant ways – hence the need to closely monitor the movement in the SERPs daily and be able to react as knowing when each Google updates happen can help explain changes in rankings and the subsequent traffic fluctuations. Thats why at intelligiants we focus on the granular management of all SERPs for each of our clients – automatically detecting volatility in the SERPs for the clients revenue driving search terms against that of the competition and assess why these have occurred.

Below, are the major algorithmic changes that have had an impact on the search landscape:-

Google Updates in 2019

June 6th , 2019 – Site Diversity Update – Confirmed

Google pre-announced a “site diversity” update, claiming it would improve situations where sites had more than two organic listings. While the update did marginally improve SERPs with 3-5 duplicate sites on page one, the impact was relatively small and still to this very day multiple page 1 listings still occur – so not a massive win for Google! This was another crack at a previously released update called Hoard.

June 3rd 2019 – Core Update – Confirmed

Google pre-announced a “core” update, with limited details. Sites impacted in previous core updates seem to have been affected, in some cases, some major UK publishers reported heavy losses. On average, the impact was smaller than the August “Medic” update.

May 23rd 2019 – Indexing Bugs – Confirmed

Two days in a row, Google confirmed indexing bugs. The first bug reportedly prevented new content from being properly indexed. So new links placed to support ranks took longer to be located and have any impact.

April 5th, 2019 – De-indexing Bug – Confirmed

Google confirmed a bug that dropped pages from the search index around the weekend of April 5th.

March 12th 2019 – Core Update – Confirmed

Google confirmed a “core” update, stating it was the third major core update since they began using that terminology.

March 1, 2019 – 19-result SERPs – Unconfirmed

For one day, Google showed anomalous page-1 counts, with up to 19 organic results. These appeared to be related to In-depth Articles, which disappeared entirely on March 6, this was followed by what looked like an Algorithm Ranking Update.

February 6th – 2019 – Unnamed Update – Unconfirmed

After a relatively quiet December and January, tracking tools detected heavy ranking flux, just another Algorithm Ranking Update.

Google Updates in 2018

November 29th – 2018 – Unnamed Update – Unconfirmed

Many ranking tools indicated high algorithm fluctuation. Google did not confirm – Another simple Algorithm Ranking Update.

October 15th – 2018 – Unnamed Update – Unconfirmed

Again many rank tracking tools & webmasters indicated heavy algorithm fluctuations.  Google did not confirm  – Another simple Algorithm Ranking Update.

September 10th – 2018 – Unnamed Update – Unconfirmed

Again many rank tracking tools & webmasters indicated heavy algorithm fluctuations.  Google did not confirm  – Another simple Algorithm Ranking Update.

August 1st – 2018 – Medic Core Update – Confirmed

Google confirmed a “broad core algorithm update,” with wide reports of massive impact. It rolled out over the period of about a week, but peaked on August 1-2. This update seemed to disproportionately affect sites in the health and wellness vertical, although large-scale impact was seen in all verticals.

July 24th –  2018 – Chrome Security Warnings (Full Site) – Confirmed

Chrome 68 began marking all non-HTTPS sites as “not secure.” The changes rolled out on July 24, but rely on users installing the latest Chrome version, which can take weeks or months.

July 21st  –  2018 – Unnamed Update – Unconfirmed

Again many rank tracking tools & webmasters indicated heavy algorithm fluctuations.  Google did not confirm  – Another simple Algorithm Ranking Update.

July 9th  –  2018 – Mobile Speed Update – Confirmed

Six months after announcing it, Google rolled out the mobile page speed update, making page speed a ranking factor for mobile results. Google claimed that this only affected the slowest mobile sites, and there was no evidence of major mobile rankings shifts.

June 14th –  2018 – Video Carousels – Confirmed

Google moved videos from organic-like results with thumbnails into a dedicated video carousel, causing a shake-up in results that were previously tracked as organic. At the same time, the number of SERPs with videos increased significantly.

May 23rd –  2018 – Unnamed Update – Unconfirmed

Again many rank tracking tools & webmasters indicated heavy algorithm fluctuations.  Google did not confirm  – Another simple Algorithm Ranking Update – but this time it lasted for 3 days.

May 13th – 2018 – Snippet Length Drop – Confirmed

After testing longer display snippets of up to 300+ characters for a few months, Google rolled back most snippets to the former limit (about 150-160 characters) Google confirmed it shortened search results snippets after expanding them last December.

April 17th – 2018 – Unnamed Core Update – Confirmed

Again many rank tracking tools & webmasters indicated heavy algorithm fluctuations. Another simple Algorithm Ranking Update – but this time it lasted for 7 days.. Google later confirmed a “core” update, but didn’t provide any specifics and the update wasn’t named by Google or the SEO community.

March 26th –  2018 – Mobile First Index Roll-out – Confirmed

Google announced that the mobile-first index was finally “rolling out.” Since the index has been in testing for many months, Google suggested they are migrating sites gradually, it’s unclear how much impact this specific roll-out had on the overall index. Webmaster should begin to see notifications within Google Search Console.

March 14th –  2018 – Zero result SERP Test – Confirmed

On a small set of Knowledge Cards, including some time/date queries and unit conversion calculators, Google started displaying zero organic results and a “Show all results” button. A week later, Google stopped this test, but we believe it is an important sign of things to come.

March 8th –  2018 – Brackets Core Update – Confirmed

Google confirmed a “core” update on March 7th, but volatility spiked as early as March 4th, with a second spike on March 8th, and continued for almost two weeks. This may have been multiple updates or one prolonged, rolling update. The “Brackets” name was coined by Glenn Gabe; no details were provided by Google.

February 20th –  2018 – Unnamed Update – Unconfirmed

Again many rank tracking tools & webmasters indicated heavy algorithm fluctuations. Another simple Algorithm Ranking Update on February 20th, which quickly settled down.

Google Updates in 2017

December 14th –  2017 – Maccabees Update – Unconfirmed

Barry Schwartz named this the “Maccabees” update, but Google would only confirm that several small updates had happened in the general timeline. Pre-holiday updates tend to get more attention (and are generally rarer) due to their disruptive effect on e-commerce.

 November 30th –  2017 – Snippet Length Increase – Confirmed

After testing longer search snippets for over two years, Google increased them across a large number of results. Google confirmed an update to how snippets are handled, but didn’t provide details.

November 14th  –  2017 – Unnamed Update – Unconfirmed

Again many rank tracking tools & webmasters indicated heavy algorithm fluctuations. Another simple Algorithm Ranking Update. Google did not confirm an official update.

October 27th 2017 – Featured Snippet Drop – Unconfirmed

Over a period of a few days from October 27-31, there was a substantial drop in Featured Snippets. This co-occurred with a jump in Knowledge Panels, as Google seemed to add many panels for broad terms and objects. Some of these panels disappeared around December 15.

October 17th – 2017 – Chrome Security Warnings (Forms) – Confirmed

With the launch of Chrome 62, Google started warning visitors to sites with unsecured forms. While not an algorithm update, this was an important step in Google’s push toward HTTPS and may have a material impact on site traffic.

September 27th –  2017 – Unnamed Update – Unconfirmed

Again many rank tracking tools & webmasters indicated heavy algorithm fluctuations. Another simple Algorithm Ranking Update around September 25th, which seemed to spike on the 27th, after a period of relative calm. No update was officially confirmed.

June 20th –  2017 – Google Jobs – Confirmed

Google officially launched their jobs portal, including a stand-alone 3-pack of job listings in search results. These results drew data from almost all of the major providers, including LinkedIn, Monster, Glassdoor, and CareerBuilder.

May 17th –  2017 – Unnamed Update – Unconfirmed

Again many rank tracking tools & webmasters indicated heavy algorithm fluctuations. Another simple Algorithm Ranking Update around May 17th. This preceded a sustained period of high algorithmic fluctuations that may not have settled down for months.

April 16th –  2017 – Google Tops 50% HTTPS – Unconfirmed

Half of page-1 Google organic results were secure/HTTPs as of mid-April. This increased to close to 75% by the end of 2017.

March 8th –  2017 – “Fred” – Unconfirmed

Google rolled out what appeared to be a major update, with reports of widespread impacts across the SEO community. Gary Illyes jokingly referred to is as “Fred”, and the name stuck, but he later made it clear that this was not an official confirmation.

February 6th –  2017 – Unnamed Update – Confirmed

Algorithm changes beginning on February 1st continued for a full week, peaking around February 6th (some reported the 7th). Webmaster chatter and industry case studies suggest these were separate events.

February 1st  – 2017 – Unnamed Update  – Unconfirmed

There was a period of heavy algorithm flux starting around February 1st and peaking around February 6th. It is unclear whether this was multiple algorithm updates or a single update with an extended roll-out, but anecdotal evidence suggests at least two updates.

January 10th – 2017 – Intrusive Interstitial Penalty – Confirmed

Google started rolling out a penalty to punish aggressive interstitials and pop-ups that might damage the mobile user experience. Google also provided a rare warning of this update five months in advance, many SEOs reported minimal impact on sites that should have been affected.

Google Updates in 2016

December 14th – 2016 – Unnamed Update – Unconfirmed

Multiple Google trackers showed massive flux around December 14-15, including a rare MozCast temperature of 109°F. Webmaster chatter was heavy as well, but Google did not confirm an update.

December 15th Google Search Algorithm Update Signals (SER)

November 10, 2016 – Unnamed Update – Unconfirmed

MozCast detected a major (106°) spike on November 10th and another on the 18th. Industry chatter was high during both periods, with some suggesting that the second spike was a reversal of the first update. Google has not confirmed either event. Many people reported bad dates in SERPs during the same time period, but it’s unclear whether this was causal or just a coincidence.

November 10, 2016 Google Algorithm Update – Was It A Core Ranking Update, The Mobile-first Index Being Tested, or Both? (GSQi)

Was There A Google Search Update On November 10th? (SER)

October 6th  –  2016 – Penguin 4.0, Phase 2 – Unconfirmed

The second phase of Penguin 4.0 was the reversal of all previous Penguin penalties. This seemed to happen after the new code rolled out, and may have taken as long as two weeks. Post-Penguin activity had one final peak on October 6th (116°), but it is unclear whether this was Penguin or a new update. Algorithm temperatures finally started to drop after October 6th.

September 27th –  2016 – Penguin 4.0, Phase 1 – Confirmed

The first phase of Penguin 4.0, which probably launched around September 22-23, was the rollout of the new, “gentler” Penguin algorithm, which devalues bad links instead of penalizing sites. The exact timeline is unconfirmed, but we believe this rollout took at least a few days to fully update, and may have corresponded to an algorithm temperature spike (113°) on September 27th.

Why Didn’t You Recover from Penguin? (Moz)

September 23th – 2016 – Penguin 4.0 Announcement – Confirmed

After almost two years of waiting, Google finally announced a major Penguin update. They suggested the new Penguin is now real-time and baked into the “core” algorithm. Initial impact assessments were small, but it was later revealed that the Penguin 4.0 rollout was unusually long and multi-phase (see September 27th and October 6th).

Penguin is now part of our core algorithm (Google)

Google updates Penguin, says it now runs in real time within the core search algorithm (SEL)

September 13th – 2016 – Image/Universal Drop – Unconfirmed

MozCast recorded a nearly-record 111° temperature and a 50% drop in SERPs with image (universal/vertical) results. The universal result shake-up opened up an organic position on page 1, causing substantial ranking shifts, but it’s likely that this was part of a much larger update.

Penguin 4.0: Was It Worth the Wait? (Moz)

September 1th –  2016 – “Possum” – Unconfirmed

While unconfirmed by Google, MozCast recorded extreme temperatures of 108° and a drop in local pack prevalence, and the local SEO community noted a major shake-up in pack results. Data suggests this update (or a simultaneous update) also heavily impacted organic results.

Everything you need to know about Google’s ‘Possum’ algorithm update (SEL)

Is a big Google search update happening? Chatter thinks so. (SEL)

May 12th – 2016 – Mobile-friendly 2 – Confirmed

Just more than a year after the original “mobile friendly” update, Google rolled out another ranking signal boost to benefit mobile-friendly sites on mobile search. Since the majority of sites we track are already mobile-friendly, it’s likely the impact of the latest update was small.

Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm boost has rolled out (SEL)

Continuing to make the web more mobile friendly (Google)

May 10th –  2016 – Unnamed Update – Unconfirmed

MozCast and other Google weather trackers showed a historically rare week-long pattern of algorithm activity, including a 97-degree spike. Google would not confirm this update, and no explanation is currently available.

Google Dismisses Any Recent Major Algorithm Update (SER)

February 23th – 2016 – AdWords Shake-up – Confirmed

Google made major changes to AdWords, removing right-column ads entirely and rolling out 4-ad top blocks on many commercial searches. While this was a paid search update, it had significant implications for CTR for both paid and organic results, especially on competitive keywords.

Four Ads on Top: The Wait Is Over (Moz)

Google AdWords Switching to 4 Ads on Top, None on Sidebar (SEM Post)

January 8th – 2016 – Unnamed Update – Unconfirmed

Multiple tracking tools (including MozCast) reported historically-large rankings movement, which Google later confirmed as a “core algo update”. Google officially said that this was not a Penguin update, but details remain sketchy.

Google Confirms: Core Search Ranking Update Took Place But Not Penguin Related (SER)

Google Updates in 2015

October 26th –  2015 – RankBrain*  Confirmed

Google made a major announcement, revealing that machine learning had been a part of the algorithm for months, contributing to the 3rd most influential ranking factor. *Note: This is an announcement date – we believe the actual launch was closer to spring 2015.

Google Turning Its Lucrative Web Search Over to AI Machines (Bloomberg)

FAQ: All About The New Google RankBrain Algorithm (SEL)

July 17th – 2015 – Panda 4.2 (#28) – Confirmed

Google announced a Panda update (most likely a data refresh), saying that it could take months to fully roll out. The immediate impact was unclear, and there were no clear signs of a major algorithm update.

Google Panda Update: Everything We Know About Panda 4.2 (The SEM Post)

Google Panda 4.2 Is Here (SEL)

May 3th –  2015 – The Quality Update – Confirmed

After many reports of large-scale ranking changes, originally dubbed “Phantom 2”, Google acknowledged a core algorithm change impacting “quality signals”. This update seems to have had a broad impact, but Google didn’t reveal any specifics about the nature of the signals involved.

The Quality Update: Google Confirms Changing How Quality Is Assessed, Resulting In Rankings Shake-Up (SEL)

Google’s ‘phantom’ algorithm update hits websites (CNBC)

April 22th –  2015 – Mobile Update AKA “Mobilegeddon” – Confirmed

In a rare move, Google pre-announced an algorithm update, telling us that mobile rankings would differ for mobile-friendly sites starting on April 21st. The impact of this update was, in the short-term, much smaller than expected, and our data showed that algorithm flux peaked on April 22nd.

Finding more mobile-friendly search results (Google)

7 Days After Mobilegeddon: How Far Did the Sky Fall? (Moz)

Finding more mobile-friendly search results (Google)

7 Days After Mobilegeddon: How Far Did the Sky Fall? (Moz)

February 4th – 2015Unnamed Update – Unconfirmed

Multiple SERP-trackers and many webmasters reported major flux in Google SERPs. Speculation ranged from an e-commerce focused update to a mobile usability update. Google did not officially confirm an update.

Significant Google Search Algorithm Update Yesterday (SER)

Google Brand-eCommerce “Update” causing fluctuations (Searchmetrics)

Significant Google Search Algorithm Update Yesterday (SER)

Google Brand-eCommerce “Update” causing fluctuations (Searchmetrics)

Google Updates in 2014

December 22th – 2014 – Pigeon Expands (UK, CA, AU) – Confirmed

Google’s major local algorithm update, dubbed “Pigeon”, expanded to the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. The original update hit the United States in July 2014. The update was confirmed on the 22nd but may have rolled out as early as the 19th.

Google Pigeon Update Rolls Out To UK, Canada & Australia (SEL)

Local Search Results Affected as Google Pigeon Update Hits UK (Strategy Digital)

December 10th – 2014Penguin Everflux – Confirmed

A Google representative said that Penguin had shifted to continuous updates, moving away from infrequent, major updates. While the exact timeline was unclear, this claim seemed to fit ongoing flux after Penguin 3.0 (including unconfirmed claims of a Penguin 3.1).

Google Says Penguin To Shift To “Continuous Updates” (SEL)

October 21th – 2014Pirate 2.0 – Confirmed

More than two years after the original DMCA/”Pirate” update, Google launched another update to combat software and digital media piracy. This update was highly targeted, causing dramatic drops in ranking to a relatively small group of sites.

Google Pirate Update Analysis and Loser List (Searchmetrics)

Google’s New Search Downranking Hits Torrent Sites Hard (TorrentFreak)

October 17th – 2014 – Penguin 3.0 – Confirmed

More than a year after the previous Penguin update (2.1), Google launched a Penguin refresh. This update appeared to be smaller than expected (<1% of US/English queries affected) and was probably data-only (not a new Penguin algorithm). The timing of the update was unclear, especially internationally, and Google claimed it was spread out over “weeks”.

Google AutoCorrects: Penguin 3.0 Still Rolling Out & 1% Impact (SER)

Penguin 3.0 Analysis – Penguin Tremors, Recoveries, Fresh Hits, and Crossing Algorithms (GSQi)

October 1th – 2014 – “In The News” Box – Confirmed

Google made what looked like a display change to News-box results, but later announced that they had expanded news links to a much larger set of potential sites. The presence of news results in SERPs also spiked, and major news sites reported substantial traffic changes.

Google’s “In The News” Box Now Lists More Than Traditional News Sites (SEL)

New Publishers Upset With Google’s “In The News” Box (SER)

September 23th – 2014 – Panda 4.1 (#27) – Confirmed

Google announced a significant Panda update, which included an algorithmic component. They estimated the impact at 3-5% of queries affected. Given the “slow rollout,” the exact timing was unclear.

Panda 4.1 — Google’s 27th Panda Update — Is Rolling Out (SEL)

Panda 4.1 Analysis and Findings – Affiliate Marketing, Keyword Stuffing, Security Warnings, and Deception Prevalent (GSQI)

August 28th – 2014 – Authorship Removed – Confirmed

Following up on the June 28th drop of authorship photos, Google announced that they would be completely removing authorship markup (and would no longer process it). By the next morning, authorship bylines had disappeared from all SERPs.

Official Announcement from John Mueller (Google+)

It’s Over: The Rise & Fall Of Google Authorship For Search Results (SEL)

August 6th – 2014 – HTTPS/SSL Update – Confirmed

After months of speculation, Google announced that they would be giving preference to secure sites, and that adding encryption would provide a “lightweight” rankings boost. They stressed that this boost would start out small, but implied it might increase if the changed proved to be positive.

HTTPS as a ranking signal (Google)

Google Starts Giving A Ranking Boost To Secure HTTPS/SSL Sites (SEL)

July 24th – 2014 – Pigeon – Confirmed

Google shook the local SEO world with an update that dramatically altered some local results and modified how they handle and interpret location cues. Google claimed that Pigeon created closer ties between the local algorithm and core algorithm(s).

Google “Pigeon” Updates Local Search Algorithm With Stronger Ties To Web Search Signal (SEL)

Google Updates Local Algo with More Web Based Signals – Turmoil in SERPs (Blumenthals.com)

June 28th – 2014 – Authorship Photo Drop – Confirmed

John Mueller made a surprise announcement (on June 25th) that Google would be dropping all authorship photos from SERPs (after heavily promoting authorship as a connection to Google+). The drop was complete around June 28th.

Google Announces the End of Author Photos in Search: What You Should Know (Moz)

Google Removes Author Photos From Search: Why And What Does It Mean? (SEL)

June 12th – 2014 – Payday Loan 3.0  —


Less than a month after the Payday Loan 2.0 anti-spam update, Google launched another major iteration. Official statements suggested that 2.0 targeted specific sites, while 3.0 targeted spammy queries.

Google Spam Algorithm Version 3.0 Launches Today (SER)

Panda 4.0 (#26)  —  May 19, 2014


Google confirmed a major Panda update that likely included both an algorithm update and a data refresh. Officially, about 7.5% of English-language queries were affected. While Matt Cutts said it began rolling out on 5/20, our data strongly suggests it started earlier.

Google Begins Rolling Out Panda 4.0 Now (SEL)

Panda 4.0, Payday Loan 2.0 & eBay’s Very Bad Day (Moz)

Payday Loan 2.0  —  May 16, 2014


Just prior to Panda 4.0, Google updated it’s “payday loan” algorithm, which targets especially spammy queries. The exact date of the roll-out was unclear (Google said “this past weekend” on 5/20), and the back-to-back updates made the details difficult to sort out.

Official: Google Payday Loan Algorithm 2.0 Launched: Targets “Very Spammy Queries” (SEL)

Unnamed Update  —  March 24, 2014


Major algorithm flux trackers and webmaster chatter spiked around 3/24-3/25, and some speculated that the new, “softer” Panda update had arrived. Many sites reported ranking changes, but this update was never confirmed by Google.

Did Google Do An Algorithm Update Yesterday? (SER)

Did the Softer Panda Update Arrive on March 24, 2014? (GSQi)

Page Layout #3  —  February 6, 2014


Google “refreshed” their page layout algorithm, also known as “top heavy”. Originally launched in January 2012, the page layout algorithm penalizes sites with too many ads above the fold.

Google Updates Its Page Layout Algorithm To Go After Sites “Top Heavy” With Ads (SEL)

Google Updates in 2013

Authorship Shake-up  —  December 19, 2013


As predicted by Matt Cutts at Pubcon Las Vegas, authorship mark-up disappeared from roughly 15% of queries over a period of about a month. The fall bottomed out around December 19th, but the numbers remain volatile and have not recovered to earlier highs.

Google’s December Authorship Shake-up (Moz)

Authorshipocalypse! The Great Google Authorship Purge Has Begun (Virante)

Unnamed Update  —  December 17, 2013


Almost all global flux trackers registered historically high activity. Google would not confirm an update, suggesting that they avoid updates near the holidays. MozCast also registered a rise in some Partial-Match Domains (PMDs), but the patterns were unclear.

The Biggest SERP Flux Since Penguin 2.0 (Dejan SEO)

Google Denies A Major Update On December 17th (SEL)

Unnamed Update  —  November 14, 2013


Multiple Google trackers picked up unusual activity, which co-occurred with a report of widespread DNS errors in Google Webmaster Tools. Google did not confirm an update, and the cause and nature of this flux was unclear.

Was There a November 14th Google Update? (Moz)

Was There A Google Update On November 14th? (SER)

Penguin 2.1 (#5)  —  October 4, 2013


After a 4-1/2 month gap, Google launched another Penguin update. Given the 2.1 designation, this was probably a data update (primarily) and not a major change to the Penguin algorithm. The overall impact seemed to be moderate, although some webmasters reported being hit hard.

Penguin 5, With The Penguin 2.1 Spam-Filtering Algorithm, Is Now Live (SEL)

Google Penguin 2.1 Was A Big Hit (SER)

Hummingbird  —  August 20, 2013


Announced on September 26th, Google suggested that the “Hummingbird” update rolled out about a month earlier. Our best guess ties it to a MozCast spike on August 20th and many reports of flux from August 20-22. Hummingbird has been compared to Caffeine, and seems to be a core algorithm update that may power changes to semantic search and the Knowledge Graph for months to come.

FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm (SEL)

Some Reports Of An August 21/22 Google Update (SER)

In-depth Articles  —  August 6, 2013


Google added a new type of news result called “in-depth articles”, dedicated to more evergreen, long-form content. At launch, it included links to three articles, and appeared across about 3% of the searches that MozCast tracks.

In-depth articles in search results (Google)

Inside In-depth Articles: Dissecting Google’s Latest Feature (Moz)

Unnamed Update  —  July 26, 2013


MozCast tracked a large Friday spike (105° F), with other sources showing significant activity over the weekend. Google has not confirmed this update.

Was There A Weekend Google Update? (SER)

MozCast Update (Google+)

Knowledge Graph Expansion  —  July 19, 2013


Seemingly overnight, queries with Knowledge Graph (KG) entries expanded by more than half (+50.4%) across the MozCast data set, with more than a quarter of all searches showing some kind of KG entry.

The Day the Knowledge Graph Exploded (Moz)

Panda Recovery  —  July 18, 2013


Google confirmed a Panda update, but it was unclear whether this was one of the 10-day rolling updates or something new. The implication was that this was algorithmic and may have “softened” some previous Panda penalties.

Confirmed: Google Panda Update: The “Softer” Panda Algorithm (SER)

Multi-Week Update  —  June 27, 2013


Google’s Matt Cutts tweeted a reply suggesting a “multi-week” algorithm update between roughly June 12th and “the week after July 4th”. The nature of the update was unclear, but there was massive rankings volatility during that time period, peaking on June 27th (according to MozCast data). It appears that Google may have been testing some changes that were later rolled back.

Google’s “Multi-Week” Algorithm Update (Moz)

Google’s Matt Cutts: Multi-Week Update Rolling Out (SER)

“Payday Loan” Update  —  June 11, 2013


Google announced a targeted algorithm update to take on niches with notoriously spammy results, specifically mentioning payday loans and porn. The update was announced on June 11th, but Matt Cutts suggested it would roll out over a 1-2 month period.

Google Payday Loan Algorithm: Google Search Algorithm Update To Target Spammy Queries (SEL)

Google Spam Algorithm For Spammy Queries: Pay Day Loans+ (SER)

Panda Dance  —  June 11, 2013


While not an actual Panda update, Matt Cutts made an important clarification at SMX Advanced, suggesting that Panda was still updating monthly, but each update rolled out over about 10 days. This was not the “everflux” many people had expected after Panda #25.

Google’s Panda Dance: Matt Cutts Confirms Panda Rolls Out Monthly Over 10 Of 30 Days (SEL)

Penguin 2.0 (#4)  —  May 22, 2013


After months of speculation bordering on hype, the 4th Penguin update (dubbed “2.0” by Google) arrived with only moderate impact. The exact nature of the changes were unclear, but some evidence suggested that Penguin 2.0 was more finely targeted to the page level.

Penguin 4, With Penguin 2.0 Generation Spam-Fighting, Is Now Live (SEL)

Penguin 2.0/4 – Were You Jarred and/or Jolted? (Moz)

Domain Crowding  —  May 21, 2013


Google released an update to control domain crowding/diversity deep in the SERPs (pages 2+). The timing was unclear, but it seemed to roll out just prior to Penguin 2.0 in the US and possibly the same day internationally.

Google Domain Clustering Update (Justin Briggs)

Google’s Matt Cutts: Domain Clustering To Change Again (SEL)

“Phantom”  —  May 9, 2013


In the period around May 9th, there were many reports of an algorithm update (also verified by high MozCast activity). The exact nature of this update was unknown, but many sites reported significant traffic loss.

A Google Update Is Happening (Google: Nothing To Announce Now) (SER)

SEO Findings From Google’s Phantom Update (GSQi)

Panda #25  —  March 14, 2013


Matt Cutts pre-announced a Panda update at SMX West, and suggested it would be the last update before Panda was integrated into the core algorithm. The exact date was unconfirmed, but MozCast data suggests 3/13-3/14.

Google’s Final Manual Panda Refresh Here? #25 (SER)

Google Panda Update 25 Seems To Have Hit (SEL)

Panda #24  —  January 22, 2013


Google announced its first official update of 2013, claiming 1.2% of queries affected. This did not seem related to talk of an update around 1/17-18 (which Google did not confirm).

Google Announces 24th Panda Refresh; Not Related To January 17th (SER)

Google Panda Update Version #24; 1.2% Of Search Queries Impacted (SEL)

Google Updates in 2012

Panda #23  —  December 21, 2012


Right before the Christmas holiday, Google rolled out another Panda update. They officially called it a “refresh”, impacting 1.3% of English queries. This was a slightly higher impact than Pandas #21 and #22.

Confirmed: A Panda Refresh, Version #23 (SER)

Knowledge Graph Expansion  —  December 4, 2012


Google added Knowledge Graph functionality to non-English queries, including Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, and Italian. This update was “more than just translation” and added enhanced KG capabilities.

Get smarter answers from the Knowledge Graph from Portuguese to Japanese to Russian (Google)

Google’s Knowledge Graph Expands To More Languages, Including Italian, French, Japanese And Russian (TechCrunch)

Panda #22  —  November 21, 2012


After some mixed signals, Google confirmed the 22nd Panda update, which appears to have been data-only. This came on the heels of a larger, but unnamed update around November 19th.

Official Google Panda #22 Update: November 21 (SER)

Confirmed: Google Panda Refresh #22 On November 21st; 0.8% Of Queries Impacted (SEL)

Panda #21  —  November 5, 2012


Google rolled out their 21st Panda update, roughly 5-1/2 weeks after Panda #20. This update was reported to be smaller, officially impacting 1.1% of English queries.

Google Releases Panda Update 21, Impacts 1.1% Of US Queries In English (SEL)

Official: Google Panda Refresh On November 5th (Version 21) (SER)

Page Layout #2  —  October 9, 2012


Google announced an update to its original page layout algorithm change back in January, which targeted pages with too many ads above the fold. It’s unclear whether this was an algorithm change or a Panda-style data refresh.

It’s “Top Heavy 2?” As Google Rolls Out Update To Its Page Layout Algorithm (SEL)

Google Page Layout Algorithm Officially Updated (SER)

Penguin #3  —  October 5, 2012


After suggesting the next Penguin update would be major, Google released a minor Penguin data update, impacting “0.3% of queries”. Penguin update numbering was rebooted, similar to Panda – this was the 3rd Penguin release.

Google Penguin Update 3 Released, Impacts 0.3% Of English-Language Queries (SEL)

Google Released 3rd Penguin Update: Not Jarring Or Jolting (SER)

August/September 65-Pack  —  October 4, 2012


Google published their monthly (bi-monthly?) list of search highlights. The 65 updates for August and September included 7-result SERPs, Knowledge Graph expansion, updates to how “page quality” is calculated, and changes to how local results are determined.

Search quality highlights: 65 changes for August and September (Google)

Panda #20  —  September 27, 2012


Overlapping the EMD update, a fairly major Panda update (algo + data) rolled out, officially affecting 2.4% of queries. As the 3.X series was getting odd, industry sources opted to start naming Panda updates in order (this was the 20th).

20th Google Panda Algorithm Update: Fairly Major (SER)

How Do You Know If Google Panda Or EMD Hurt Your Site? (SER)

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


Google announced a change in the way it was handling exact-match domains (EMDs). This led to large-scale devaluation, reducing the presence of EMDs in the MozCast data set by over 10%. Official word is that this change impacted 0.6% of queries (by volume).

Google’s EMD Algo Update – Early Data (Moz)

The EMD Update: Google Issues “Weather Report” Of Crack Down On Low Quality Exact Match Domains (SEL)

Panda 3.9.2 (#19)  —  September 18, 2012


Google rolled out another Panda refresh, which appears to have been data-only. Ranking flux was moderate but not on par with a large-scale algorithm update.

Google Rolls Out Panda 3.9.2 Refresh (SER)

Panda Update 3.92 Rolling Out (Or Is It Panda 20 Time?) (SEL)

Panda 3.9.1 (#18)  —  August 20, 2012


Google rolled out yet another Panda data update, but the impact seemed to be fairly small. Since the Panda 3.0 series ran out of numbers at 3.9, the new update was dubbed 3.9.1.

Confirmed: Google Panda 3.9.1 Update (SER)

Google Panda Refresh On August 19th: Version 3.9.1 (SEL)

7-Result SERPs  —  August 14, 2012


Google made a significant change to the Top 10, limiting it to 7 results for many queries. Our research showed that this change rolled out over a couple of days, finally impacting about 18% of the keywords we tracked.

SERP Crowding & Shrinkage: It’s Not Your Imagination (Moz)

7 Is The New 10? Google Showing Fewer Results & More From Same Domain (SEL)

June/July 86-Pack  —  August 10, 2012


After a summer hiatus, the June and July Search Quality Highlights were rolled out in one mega-post. Major updates included Panda data and algorithm refreshes, an improved rank-ordering function (?), a ranking boost for “trusted sources”, and changes to site clustering.

Search quality highlights: 86 changes for June and July (Google)

Google’s June-July Updates: Site Clustering, Sitelinks Changes & Focus On Page Quality (SEL)

DMCA Penalty (“Pirate”)  —  August 10, 2012


Google announced that they would start penalizing sites with repeat copyright violations, probably via DMCA takedown requests. Timing was stated as “starting next week” (8/13?).

An update to our search algorithms (Google)

The Emanuel Update: Google Will Penalize Sites Repeatedly Accused Of Copyright Infringement (SEL)

Panda 3.9 (#17)  —  July 24, 2012


A month after Panda 3.8, Google rolled out a new Panda update. Rankings fluctuated for 5-6 days, although no single day was high enough to stand out. Google claimed ~1% of queries were impacted.

Official: Google Panda 3.9 Refresh (SER)

Link Warnings  —  July 19, 2012


In a repeat of March/April, Google sent out a large number of unnatural link warnings via Google Webmaster Tools. In a complete turn-around, they then announced that these new warnings may not actually represent a serious problem.

Insanity: Google Sends New Link Warnings, Then Says You Can Ignore Them (SEL)

Google Sends Out New Batch Of Unnatural Link Notifications (SER)

Panda 3.8 (#16)  —  June 25, 2012


Google rolled out another Panda data refresh, but this appeared to be data only (no algorithm changes) and had a much smaller impact than Panda 3.7.

Official Google Panda Update Version 3.8 On June 25th (SEL)

Google Panda 3.8 Live: June 25th & Refresh Only (SER)

Panda 3.7 (#15)  —  June 8, 2012


Google rolled out yet another Panda data update, claiming that less than 1% of queries were affect. Ranking fluctuation data suggested that the impact was substantially higher than previous Panda updates (3.5, 3.6).

Confirmed: Google Panda 3.7 Update (SER)

The Bigfoot Update (AKA Dr. Pete Goes Crazy) (Moz)

May 39-Pack  —  June 7, 2012


Google released their monthly Search Highlights, with 39 updates in May. Major changes included Penguin improvements, better link-scheme detection, changes to title/snippet rewriting, and updates to Google News.

Search quality highlights: 39 changes for May (Google)

Google’s May Updates: Inorganic Backlinks, Page Titles, Fresh Results & More (SEL)

Penguin 1.1 (#2)  —  May 25, 2012


Google rolled out its first targeted data update after the “Penguin” algorithm update. This confirmed that Penguin data was being processed outside of the main search index, much like Panda data.

Google Releases Penguin Update 1.1 (SEL)

Knowledge Graph  —  May 16, 2012


In a major step toward semantic search, Google started rolling out “Knowledge Graph”, a SERP-integrated display providing supplemental object about certain people, places, and things. Expect to see “knowledge panels” appear on more and more SERPs over time. Also, Danny Sullivan’s favorite Trek is ST:Voyager?!

Introducing the Knowledge Graph: things, not strings (Google)

Google Launches Knowledge Graph To Provide Answers, Not Just Links (SEL)

April 52-Pack  —  May 4, 2012


Google published details of 52 updates in April, including changes that were tied to the “Penguin” update. Other highlights included a 15% larger “base” index, improved pagination handling, and a number of updates to sitelinks.

Search quality highlights: 52 changes for April (Google)

Google’s April Updates: Bigger & Tiered Index, Document Ranking, Sitelink Changes & More (SEL)

Panda 3.6 (#14)  —  April 27, 2012


Barely a week after Panda 3.5, Google rolled out yet another Panda data update. The implications of this update were unclear, and it seemed that the impact was relatively small.

Confirmed: Panda Update 3.6 Happened On April 27th (SEL)

Penguin  —  April 24, 2012


After weeks of speculation about an “Over-optimization penalty”, Google finally rolled out the “Webspam Update”, which was soon after dubbed “Penguin.” Penguin adjusted a number of spam factors, including keyword stuffing, and impacted an estimated 3.1% of English queries.

Another step to reward high-quality sites (Google)

The Penguin Update: Google’s Webspam Algorithm Gets Official Name (SEL)

Google Penguin Update Recovery Tips & Advice (SEL)

Two Weeks In, Google Talks Penguin Update, Ways To Recover & Negative SEO (SEL)

Panda 3.5 (#13)  —  April 19, 2012


In the middle of a busy week for the algorthim, Google quietly rolled out a Panda data update. A mix of changes made the impact difficult to measure, but this appears to have been a fairly routine update with minimal impact.

Google Mocks Me For Missing Panda 3.5 (SER)

Parked Domain Bug  —  April 16, 2012


After a number of webmasters reported ranking shuffles, Google confirmed that a data error had caused some domains to be mistakenly treated as parked domains (and thereby devalued). This was not an intentional algorithm change.

Dropped In Rankings? Google’s Mistake Over Parked Domains Might Be To Blame (SEL)

Updated: Google Update April 2012? Over SEO Penalty? (SER)

March 50-Pack  —  April 3, 2012


Google posted another batch of update highlights, covering 50 changes in March. These included confirmation of Panda 3.4, changes to anchor-text “scoring”, updates to image search, and changes to how queries with local intent are interpreted.

Search quality highlights: 50 changes for March (Google)

Google’s March Updates: Anchor Text, Image Search, Navigational Search & More (SEL)

Panda 3.4 (#12)  —  March 23, 2012


Google announced another Panda update, this time via Twitter as the update was rolling out. Their public statements estimated that Panda 3.4 impacted about 1.6% of search results.

Google Says Panda 3.4 Is ‘Rolling Out Now’ (SEL)

Search Quality Video  —  March 12, 2012


This wasn’t an algorithm update, but Google published a rare peek into a search quality meeting. For anyone interested in the algorithm, the video provides a lot of context to both Google’s process and their priorities. It’s also a chance to see Amit Singhal in action.

Video! The search quality meeting, uncut (Google)

Venice  —  February 27, 2012


As part of their monthly update, Google mentioned code-name “Venice”. This local update appeared to more aggressively localize organic results and more tightly integrate local search data. The exact roll-out date was unclear.

Understand and Rock the Google Venice Update (Moz)

Google Venice Update – New Ranking Opportunities for Local SEO (Catalyst eMarketing)

February 40-Pack (2)  —  February 27, 2012


Google published a second set of “search quality highlights” at the end of the month, claiming more than 40 changes in February. Notable changes included multiple image-search updates, multiple freshness updates (including phasing out 2 old bits of the algorithm), and a Panda update.

Search quality highlights: 40 changes for February (Google)

Panda 3.3 (#11)  —  February 27, 2012


Google rolled out another post-“flux” Panda update, which appeared to be relatively minor. This came just 3 days after the 1-year anniversary of Panda, an unprecedented lifespan for a named update.

Google Confirms Panda 3.3 Update (SEL)

Confirmed: Google Panda 3.3 (SER)

February 17-Pack  —  February 3, 2012


Google released another round of “search quality highlights” (17 in all). Many related to speed, freshness, and spell-checking, but one major announcement was tighter integration of Panda into the main search index.

17 search quality highlights: January (Google)

Google’s January Search Update: Panda In The Pipelines, Fresher Results, Date Detection & More (SEL)

Ads Above The Fold  —  January 19, 2012


Google updated their page layout algorithms to devalue sites with too much ad-space above the “fold”. It was previously suspected that a similar factor was in play in Panda. The update had no official name, although it was referenced as “Top Heavy” by some SEOs.

Page layout algorithm improvement (Google)

Pages With Too Many Ads “Above The Fold” Now Penalized By Google’s “Page Layout” Algorithm (SEL)

Panda 3.2 (#10)  —  January 18, 2012


Google confirmed a Panda data update, although suggested that the algorithm hadn’t changed. It was unclear how this fit into the “Panda Flux” scheme of more frequent data updates.

Confirmed: Google Panda 3.2 Update (SEW)

Google Panda 3.2 Update Confirmed (SEL)

Search + Your World  —  January 10, 2012


Google announced a radical shift in personalization – aggressively pushing Google+ social data and user profiles into SERPs. Google also added a new, prominent toggle button to shut off personalization.

Search, plus your world (Google)

Real-Life Examples Of How Google’s “Search Plus” Pushes Google+ Over Relevancy (SEL)

January 30-Pack  —  January 5, 2012


Google announced 30 changes over the previous month, including image search landing-page quality detection, more relevant site-links, more rich snippets, and related-query improvements. The line between an “algo update” and a “feature” got a bit more blurred.

30 search quality highlights – with codenames! (Google)

Google Announces “Megasitelinks,” Image Search Improvements & Better Byline Dates (SEL)

Google Updates in 2011

December 10-Pack  —  December 1, 2011


Google outlined a second set of 10 updates, announcing that these posts would come every month. Updates included related query refinements, parked domain detection, blog search freshness, and image search freshness. The exact dates of each update were not provided.

Search quality highlights: new monthly series on algorithm changes (Google)

Google: Parked Domains, Scraper Sites Targeted Among New Search Changes (SEL)

Panda 3.1 (#9)  —  November 18, 2011


After Panda 2.5, Google entered a period of “Panda Flux” where updates started to happen more frequently and were relatively minor. Some industry analysts called the 11/18 update 3.1, even though there was no official 3.0. For the purposes of this history, we will discontinue numbering Panda updates except for very high-impact changes.

Google Panda 3.1 Update: 11/18 (SER)

10-Pack of Updates  —  November 14, 2011


This one was a bit unusual. In a bid to be more transparent, Matt Cutts released a post with 10 recent algorithm updates. It’s not clear what the timeline was, and most were small updates, but it did signal a shift in how Google communicates algorithm changes.

Ten recent algorithm changes (Google)

Improved Snippets, Rank Boost For “Official” Pages Among 10 New Google Algorithm Changes (SEL)

Freshness Update  —  November 3, 2011


Google announced that an algorithm change rewarding freshness would impact up to 35% of queries (almost 3X the publicly stated impact of Panda 1.0). This update primarly affected time-sensitive results, but signalled a much stronger focus on recent content.

Giving you fresher, more recent search results (Google)

Google Search Algorithm Change For Freshness To Impact 35% Of Searches (SEL)

Query Encryption  —  October 18, 2011


Google announced they would be encrypting search queries, for privacy reasons. Unfortunately, this disrupted organic keyword referral data, returning “(not provided)” for some organic traffic. This number increased in the weeks following the launch.

Making search more secure (Google)

Google Hides Search Referral Data with New SSL Implementation (Moz)

Panda “Flux” (#8)  —  October 5, 2011


Matt Cutts tweeted: “expect some Panda-related flux in the next few weeks” and gave a figure of “~2%”. Other minor Panda updates occurred on 10/3, 10/13, and 11/18.

Taking a Closer Look at the Google’s Panda 2.5 “Flux” (SEL)

“Minor” Google Panda Update On November 18th (SEL)

Panda 2.5 (#7)  —  September 28, 2011


After more than month, Google rolled out another Panda update. Specific details of what changed were unclear, but some sites reported large-scale losses.

Confirmed: Google Panda 2.5 Update Arrived This Week (SEL)

Google Panda 2.5: Losers Include Today Show, The Next Web; Winners Include YouTube, Fox News (SEL)

516 Algo Updates  —  September 21, 2011


This wasn’t an update, but it was an amazing revelation. Google CEO Eric Schmidt told Congress that Google made 516 updates in 2010. The real shocker? They tested over 13,000 updates.

Eric Schmidt’s Congressional Testimony (SEL)

Pagination Elements  —  September 15, 2011


To help fix crawl and duplication problems created by pagination, Google introduced the rel=”next” and rel=”prev” link attributes. Google also announced that they had improved automatic consolidation and canonicalization for “View All” pages.

Pagination with rel=“next” and rel=“prev” (Google)

Google Provides New Options for Paginated Content (SEL)

Expanded Sitelinks  —  August 16, 2011


After experimenting for a while, Google officially rolled out expanded site-links, most often for brand queries. At first, these were 12-packs, but Google appeared to limit the expanded site-links to 6 shortly after the roll-out.

The evolution of sitelinks: expanded and improved (Google)

Official: Google Sitelinks Expands To 12 Pack (SEL)

Panda 2.4 (#6)  —  August 12, 2011


Google rolled Panda out internationally, both for English-language queries globally and non-English queries except for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Google reported that this impacted 6-9% of queries in affected countries.

High-quality sites algorithm launched in additional languages (Google)

Google’s Panda Update Launches Internationally in Most Languages (SEL)

Panda 2.3 (#5)  —  July 23, 2011


Webmaster chatter suggested that Google rolled out yet another update. It was unclear whether new factors were introduced, or this was simply an update to the Panda data and ranking factors.

Official: Google Panda 2.3 Update Is Live (SEL)

A Holistic Look at Panda with Vanessa Fox (Stone Temple)

Google+  —  June 28, 2011


After a number of social media failures, Google launched a serious attack on Facebook with Google+. Google+ revolved around circles for sharing content, and was tightly integrated into products like Gmail. Early adopters were quick to jump on board, and within 2 weeks Google+ reached 10M users.

Introducing the Google+ project: Real-life sharing, rethought for the web (Google)

Larry Page On Google+: Over 10 Million Users, 1 Billion Items Being Shared Per Day (TechCrunch)

Panda 2.2 (#4)  —  June 21, 2011


Google continued to update Panda-impacted sites and data, and version 2.2 was officially acknowledged. Panda updates occurred separately from the main index and not in real-time, reminiscent of early Google Dance updates.

Official: Google Panda Update 2.2 Is Live (SEL)

Why Google Panda Is More A Ranking Factor Than Algorithm Update (SEL)

Schema.org  —  June 2, 2011


Google, Yahoo and Microsoft jointly announced support for a consolidated approach to structured data. They also created a number of new “schemas”, in an apparent bid to move toward even richer search results.

Google, Bing & Yahoo Unite To Make Search Listings Richer Through Structured Data (SEL) What is Schema.org? (Schema.org)

Panda 2.1 (#3)  —  May 9, 2011


Initially dubbed “Panda 3.0”, Google appeared to roll out yet another round of changes. These changes weren’t discussed in detail by Google and seemed to be relatively minor.

It’s Panda Update 2.1, Not Panda 3.0, Google Says (SEL)

Google Panda 3.0 (SERoundtable)

Panda 2.0 (#2)  —  April 11, 2011


Google rolled out the Panda update to all English queries worldwide (not limited to English-speaking countries). New signals were also integrated, including data about sites users blocked via the SERPs directly or the Chrome browser.

High-quality sites algorithm goes global, incorporates user feedback (Google)

Panda 2.0: Google Rolls Out Panda Update Internationally & Incorporates Searcher Blocking Data (SEL)

The +1 Button  —  March 30, 2011


Responding to competition by major social sites, including Facebook and Twitter, Google launched the +1 button (directly next to results links). Clicking [+1] allowed users to influence search results within their social circle, across both organic and paid results.

Recommendations when you want them (Google)

Meet +1: Google’s Answer To The Facebook Like Button (SEL)

Panda/Farmer  —  February 23, 2011


A major algorithm update hit sites hard, affecting up to 12% of search results (a number that came directly from Google). Panda seemed to crack down on thin content, content farms, sites with high ad-to-content ratios, and a number of other quality issues. Panda rolled out over at least a couple of months, hitting Europe in April 2011.

The ‘Panda’ That Hates Farms: A Q&A With Google’s Top Search Engineers (Wired)

Google’s Farmer/Panda Update: Analysis of Winners vs. Losers (Moz)

Attribution Update  —  January 28, 2011


In response to high-profile spam cases, Google rolled out an update to help better sort out content attribution and stop scrapers. According to Matt Cutts, this affected about 2% of queries. It was a clear precursor to the Panda updates.

Algorithm Change Launched (Matt Cutts)

Latest Google Algorithm change (Search News Central)

Overstock.com Penalty  —  January 1, 2011


In a rare turn of events, a public outing of shady SEO practices by Overstock.com resulted in a very public Google penalty. JCPenney was hit with a penalty in February for similar bad behavior. Both situations represented a shift in Google’s attitude and foreshadowed the Panda update.

Google Penalizes Overstock for Search Tactics (WSJ)

Overstock.com’s Google Rankings – Too Good? (WMW)

Google Updates in 2010

Negative Reviews  —  December 1, 2010


After an expose in the New York Times about how e-commerce site DecorMyEyes was ranking based on negative reviews, Google made a rare move and reactively adjusted the algorithm to target sites using similar tactics.

A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web (NY Times)

Being bad to your customers is bad for business (Google)

Social Signals  —  December 1, 2010


Google and Bing confirmed that they use social signals in determining ranking, including data from Twitter and Facebook. Matt Cutts confirmed that this was a relatively new development for Google, although many SEOs had long suspected it would happen.

What Social Signals Do Google & Bing Really Count? (SEL)

Google Webmaster Video Reconfirms Use Of Social Signals (SEL)

Instant Previews  —  November 1, 2010


A magnifying glass icon appeared on Google search results, allowing search visitors to quickly view a preview of landing pages directly from SERPs. This signaled a renewed focus for Google on landing page quality, design, and usability.

Beyond Instant Results: Instant Previews (Google)

Google Instant  —  September 1, 2010


Expanding on Google Suggest, Google Instant launched, displaying search results as a query was being typed. SEOs everywhere nearly spontaneously combusted, only to realize that the impact was ultimately fairly small.

About Google Instant (Google)

Google Instant: Fewer Changes to SEO than the Average Algo Update (Moz)

Brand Update  —  August 1, 2010


Although not a traditional algorithm update, Google started allowing the same domain to appear multiple times on a SERP. Previously, domains were limited to 1-2 listings, or 1 listing with indented results.

Google Search Results Dominated By One Domain (SEL)

Caffeine (Rollout)  —  June 1, 2010


After months of testing, Google finished rolling out the Caffeine infrastructure. Caffeine not only boosted Google’s raw speed, but integrated crawling and indexation much more tightly, resulting in (according to Google) a 50% fresher index.

Our new search index: Caffeine (Google)

Google’s New Indexing Infrastructure “Caffeine” Now Live (SEL)

May Day  —  May 1, 2010


In late April and early May, webmasters noticed significant drops in their long-tail traffic. Matt Cutts later confirmed that May Day was an algorithm change impacting the long-tail. Sites with large-scale thin content seemed to be hit especially hard, foreshadowing the Panda update.

Google Search Results Dominated By One Domain (SEL)

Video: Google’s Matt Cutts On May Day Update (SERoundtable)

Google Places  —  April 1, 2010


Although “Places” pages were rolled out in September of 2009, they were originally only a part of Google Maps. The official launch of Google Places re-branded the Local Business Center, integrated Places pages more closely with local search results, and added a number of features, including new local advertising options.

Google Local Business Center Becomes “Google Places” (SEL)

Introducing Google Places (Google)

Google Updates in 2009

Real-time Search  —  December 1, 2009


This time, real-time search was for real- Twitter feeds, Google News, newly indexed content, and a number of other sources were integrated into a real-time feed on some SERPs. Sources continued to expand over time, including social media.

Google Launches Real Time Search Results (SEL)

Caffeine (Preview)  —  August 1, 2009


Google released a preview of a massive infrastructure change, designed to speed crawling, expand the index, and integrate indexation and ranking in nearly real-time. The timeline spanned months, with the final rollout starting in the US in early 2010 and lasting until the summer.

Google Caffeine: A Detailed Test of the New Google (Mashable)

Help test some next-generation infrastructure (Google)

Vince  —  February 1, 2009


SEOs reported a major update that seemed to strongly favor big brands. Matt Cutts called Vince a “minor change”, but others felt it had profound, long-term implications.

Big Brands – Google Brand Promotion: New Search Engine Rankings Place Heavy Emphasis on Branding (SEO Book)

Google’s Vince Update Produces Big Brand Rankings; Google Calls It A Trust “Change” (SEL)

Rel-canonical Tag  —  February 1, 2009


Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo jointly announced support for the Canonical Tag, allowing webmasters to send canonicalization signals to search bots without impacting human visitors.

Learn about the Canonical Link Element in 5 minutes (MattCutts.com)

Canonical URL Tag – The Most Important Advancement in SEO Practices Since Sitemaps (Moz)

Google Updates in 2008

Google Suggest  —  August 1, 2008


In a major change to their logo-and-a-box home-page Google introduced Suggest, displaying suggested searches in a dropdown below the search box as visitors typed their queries. Suggest would later go on to power Google Instant.

Google.com Finally Gets Google Suggest Feature (SEL)

Dewey  —  April 1, 2008


A large-scale shuffle seemed to occur at the end of March and into early April, but the specifics were unclear. Some suspected Google was pushing its own internal properties, including Google Books, but the evidence of that was limited.

Google’s Cutts Asking for Feedback on March/April ’08 Update (SERoundtable)

Google Updates in 2007

Buffy  —  June 1, 2007


In honor of Vanessa Fox leaving Google, the “Buffy” update was christened. No one was quite sure what happened, and Matt Cutts suggested that Buffy was just an accumulation of smaller changes.

Google “Buffy” Update – June Google.com Update (SERoundtable)

SMX Seattle wrap-up (MattCutts.com)

Universal Search  —  May 1, 2007


While not your typical algorithm update, Google integrated traditional search results with News, Video, Images, Local, and other verticals, dramatically changing their format. The old 10-listing SERP was officially dead. Long live the old 10-listing SERP.

Google 2.0: Google Universal Search (SEL)

Google Updates in 2006

False Alarm  —  December 1, 2006


There were stirrings about an update in December, along with some reports of major ranking changes in November, but Google reported no major changes.

Google Update Debunked By Matt Cutts (SERoundtable)

Supplemental Update  —  November 1, 2006


Throughout 2006, Google seemed to make changes to the supplemental index and how filtered pages were treated. They claimed in late 2006 that supplemental was not a penalty (even if it sometimes felt that way).

Confusion Over Google’s Supplemental Index (SERoundtable)

Google Updates in 2005

Big Daddy  —  December 1, 2005


Technically, Big Daddy was an infrastructure update (like the more recent “Caffeine”), and it rolled out over a few months, wrapping up in March of 2006. Big Daddy changed the way Google handled URL canonicalization, redirects (301/302) and other technical issues.

Indexing timeline (MattCutts.com)

Todd, Greg & Matt Cutts on WebMasterRadio (Moz)

Google Local/Maps  —  October 1, 2005


After launching the Local Business Center in March 2005 and encouraging businesses to update their information, Google merged its Maps data into the LBC, in a move that would eventually drive a number of changes in local SEO.

Google Merges Local and Maps Products (Google)

Jagger  —  October 1, 2005


Google released a series of updates, mostly targeted at low-quality links, including reciprocal links, link farms, and paid links. Jagger rolled out in at least 3 stages, from roughly September to November of 2005, with the greatest impact occurring in October.

A Review Of The Jagger 2 Update (SERoundtable)

Dealing With Consequences of Jagger Update (WMW)

Gilligan  —  September 1, 2005


Also called the “False” update webmasters saw changes (probably ongoing), but Google claimed no major algorithm update occurred. Matt Cutts wrote a blog post explaining that Google updated (at the time) index data daily but Toolbar PR and some other metrics only once every 3 months.

Google’s Cutts Says Not An Update – I Say An Update, Just Not A Dance (SEW)

What’s an update? (MattCutts.com)

XML Sitemaps  —  June 1, 2005


Google allowed webmasters to submit XML sitemaps via Webmaster Tools, bypassing traditional HTML sitemaps, and giving SEOs direct (albeit minor) influence over crawling and indexation.

New “Google Sitemaps” Web Page Feed Program (SEW)

Personalized Search  —  June 1, 2005


Unlike previous attempts at personalization, which required custom settings and profiles, the 2005 roll-out of personalized search tapped directly into users’ search histories to automatically adjust results. Although the impact was small at first, Google would go on to use search history for many applications.

Google Relaunches Personal Search – This Time, It Really Is Personal (SEW)

Search gets personal (Google)

Bourbon  —  May 1, 2005


“GoogleGuy” (likely Matt Cutts) announced that Google was rolling out “something like 3.5 changes in search quality.” No one was sure what 0.5 of a change was, but Webmaster World members speculated that Bourbon changed how duplicate content and non-canonical (www vs. non-www) URLs were treated.

Google Update “Bourbon” (Batelle Media)

Bourbon Update Survival Kit (SERoundtable)

Allegra  —  February 1, 2005


Webmasters witnessed ranking changes, but the specifics of the update were unclear. Some thought Allegra affected the “sandbox” while others believed that LSI had been tweaked. Additionally, some speculated that Google was beginning to penalize suspicious links.

Google’s Feb. 2005 Update (SEW)

Nofollow  —  January 1, 2005


To combat spam and control outbound link quality, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft collectively introduce the “nofollow” attribute. Nofollow helps clean up unvouched for links, including spammy blog comments. While not a traditional algorithm update, this change gradually has a significant impact on the link graph.

Google, Yahoo, MSN Unite On Support For Nofollow Attribute For Links (SEW)

Google Updates in 2004

Google IPO  —  August 1, 2004


Although obviously not an algorithm update, a major event in Google’s history – Google sold 19M shares, raised $1.67B in capital, and set their market value at over $20B. By January 2005, Google share prices more than doubled.

Google IPO priced at $85 a share (CNN)

Brandy  —  February 1, 2004


Google rolled out a variety of changes, including a massive index expansion, Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), increased attention to anchor text relevance, and the concept of link “neighborhoods.” LSI expanded Google’s ability to understand synonyms and took keyword analysis to the next level.

Google’s Brandy Update Exposed (WebProNews)

How To Beat Google’s “Brandy” Update (SitePoint)

Austin  —  January 1, 2004


What Florida missed, Austin came in to clean up. Google continued to crack-down on deceptive on-page tactics, including invisible text and META-tag stuffing. Some speculated that Google put the “Hilltop” algorithm into play and began to take page relevance seriously.

The latest on update Austin (Google’s January update) (SEJ)

Google Update Austin: Google Update Florida Again (Search-Marketing.info)

Google Updates in 2003

Florida  —  November 1, 2003


This was the update that put updates (and probably the SEO industry) on the map. Many sites lost ranking, and business owners were furious. Florida sounded the death knell for low-value late 90s SEO tactics, like keyword stuffing, and made the game a whole lot more interesting.

What Happened To My Site On Google? (SEW)

Supplemental Index  —  September 1, 2003


In order to index more documents without sacrificing performance, Google split off some results into the “supplemental” index. The perils of having results go supplemental became a hotly debated SEO topic, until the index was later reintegrated.

Search Engine Size Wars & Google’s Supplemental Results (SEW)

Fritz  —  July 1, 2003


The monthly “Google Dance” finally came to an end with the “Fritz” update. Instead of completely overhauling the index on a roughly monthly basis, Google switched to an incremental approach. The index was now changing daily.

Explaining algorithm updates and data refreshes (Matt Cutts)

Exclusive: How Google’s Algorithm Rules the Web (Wired)

Esmeralda  —  June 1, 2003


This marked the last of the regular monthly Google updates, as a more continuous update process began to emerge. The “Google Dance” was replaced with “Everflux”. Esmerelda probably heralded some major infrastructure changes at Google.

Dominic  —  May 1, 2003


While many changes were observed in May, the exact nature of Dominic was unclear. Google bots “Freshbot” and “Deepcrawler” scoured the web, and many sites reported bounces. The way Google counted or reported backlinks seemed to change dramatically.

Understanding Dominic – Part 2 (WMW)

Cassandra  —  April 1, 2003


Google cracked down on some basic link-quality issues, such as massive linking from co-owned domains. Cassandra also came down hard on hidden text and hidden links.

Boston  —  February 1, 2003


Announced at SES Boston, this was the first named Google update. Originally, Google aimed at a major monthly update, so the first few updates were a combination of algorithm changes and major index refreshes (the so-called “Google Dance”). As updates became more frequent, the monthly idea quickly died.

Google Updates in 2002

1st Documented Update  —  September 1, 2002


Before “Boston” (the first named update), there was a major shuffle in the Fall of 2002. The details are unclear, but this appeared to be more than the monthly Google Dance and PageRank update. As one webmaster said of Google: “they move the toilet mid stream”.

September, 2002 Google Update Discussion – Part 1 (WMW)

Dancing The Google Dance (Level343)

Google Updates in 2001


Google Updates in 2000

Google Toolbar  —  December 1, 2000


Guaranteeing SEO arguments for years to come, Google launched their browser toolbar, and with it, Toolbar PageRank (TBPR). As soon as webmasters started watching TBPR, the Google Dance began.

Google Launches The Google Toolbar (Google)

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