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Google SEO Algorithm Update History

Complete Google SEO Algorithm Update History

2019 Updates

De-indexing Bug — April 5, 2019


A bug has been reported to have dropped pages from the search index around April 5th and the next consecutive days. There has been a drop on 5th and 7th of April, with about 4% of stable URLs falling off the page one. Most sites were recovered soon after.


March 2019 Core Update — March 12, 2019


Google has confirmed the third major core update since they started using the label of “core” updates. The specific details about the nature of the update are still unknown. Mozcast, the Google Algorithm Weather The report hit a peak of 101.2°F, A bit below the temperature of March 1st.


2018 Updates

“Medic” Core Update — August 1, 2018


The “broad core algorithm update” has been reported of massive impact and Google has confirmed the same. The effect has been rolled out about a week but peaked on August 1-2. This update has disproportionately affected the sites in all the verticals majorly affecting the health and wellness verticals.


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


During the past months, there have been warnings on the unsecured (non-HTTPS) forms, now Chrome 68 began marking sited to be “non-secure” if they are non-HTTPS. The changes came into effect on July 24 but rely on users installing the latest chrome version.


Mobile Speed Update — July 9, 2018


Google implemented the mobile page speed update six months after announcing it. They made the page speed a ranking factor for mobile results. But it is claimed that this change only affected the slowest mobile sites without any major mobile ranking shifts.


Video Carousels — June 14, 2018


Google has changed the videos from organic-like results with thumbnails to dedicated video carousel. This caused a shake-up in results which were tracked organic previously. At the same time, there had been a significant increase in the number of SERPs with videos.


Snippet Length Drop — May 13, 2018


Google went back to having the former length limit (150-160 characters) of snippets after testing the longer display snippets up to 300+ characters.


Unnamed Core Update — April 17, 2018


A heavy algorithm flux was detected and that peaked on April 17, continued for over a week. Google then confirmed it to be a “core” update but no further details or specifications were provided by the Google or the SEO community.

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


The mobile-first index was finally out according to the announcement of Google.  It suggested that the index migrates the sites gradually after being in testing for many months. But the impact of this specific roll-out is unclear, Webmasters will be able to see the notifications within the Google Search Console.


Zero-result SERP Test — March 14, 2018


Google engine started displaying zero organic results and “Show all results” button. This was done on a set of Knowledge cards including unit conversion calculators and show time/date queries. Google stopped the test after a week but it is believed that this is an important sign of things to come.


“Brackets” Core Update — March 8, 2018


In spite of Google confirming a “core” update on 7th March, volatility spiked on March 4th, with a second spike on 8th March and that continued for two weeks. This may have been the result of one prolonged, rolling update or multiple updates. Glenn Gabe coined the term “Brackets” and no further details are provided by Google.


2017 Updates

Snippet Length Increase — November 30, 2017


Google included the longer search snippets in a large number of results after testing them for two years. The new Meta Description limit rose up to 300 characters from the earlier 155 characters. Google confirmed the same and how the snippets are handled but no other details were provided.


Chrome Security Warnings (Forms) — October 17, 2017


Google started warning the visitors to site with non-HTTPS forms with the launch of Chrome 62. This may not be an algorithm update but an important step in Google’s push towards the HTTPS and may have a considerable impact on site traffic.

  • Next steps toward more connection security (Chromium)
  • Google emails warnings to webmasters that Chrome will mark http pages with forms as ‘not secure’ (SEL)

Google Jobs — June 20, 2017



The job portal of Google including a stand-alone 3-pack of job listing in the search result was officially launched. The results of Google jobs organized data from all the major providers like the LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Monster and CareerBuilder.

  • Connect to job seekers with Google Search (Google)
  • Google launches its AI-powered jobs search engine (TechCrunch)

Unnamed Update — February 6, 2017



Google Algorithm has changed by the beginning of February 1st and continued for the whole week, peaking around 6th February. Industry case studies and webmaster chatter suggests that these were individual events.

  • The February 7, 2017 Google Algorithm Update – Analysis and Findings From A Significant Core Ranking Update (GSQi)
  • February 7th Google Algorithm Update Was Big (SER)


Intrusive Interstitial Penalty — January 10, 2017



Google started to put forth a penalty to punish the pop-ups and aggressive interstitials that potentially damage the mobile user experience. The warning was also given by Google five months prior to the update. Many SEOs have reported minimal impact on sites that should have been affected.

  • Google warns it will crack down on “intrusive interstitials” in January (SEL)
  • Official: Google Intrusive Interstitials Mobile Penalty Now Rolling Out (SER)


2016 Updates

Penguin 4.0, Phase 1 — September 27, 2016


The first phase of Penguin 4.0 was the rollout of the new gentler version of the Penguin algorithm and it was launched around 22-23. It devalues the bad links instead of penalizing sites. The exact timeline is not confirmed, but we assume that the rollout took at least a few days to fully update and it might have corresponded to an algorithm temperature spike on September 27th.

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

Penguin 4.0 Announcement  —  September 23, 2016


Google announced a major Penguin update after waiting for almost two years. The new Penguin is suggested to be real-time and baked into “core” algorithm. The initial impact assessments were smaller but it was later found that the Penguin 4.0 rollout was unusually long and multi-phase.

  • 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)

Mobile-friendly 2  —  May 12, 2016


Following the original “mobile friendly” update, Google introduced another ranking signal boost after nearly a year to benefit mobile-friendly sites on mobile search. The impact of this update was small as most sites were already mobile friendly.

  • Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm boost has rolled out (SEL)
  • Continuing to make the web more mobile friendly (Google)


AdWords Shake-up  —  February 23, 2016


AdWords had undergone major changes. Google removed the right column ads and rolled out 4-ad top blocks on many commercial searches. This was a paid search update and it had impacted the CTR for both organic and paid results. The impact is mostly 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)


2015 Updates

RankBrain*  —  October 26, 2015



The major announcement of Google revealed that machine learning had been a part of the algorithm for many months and that it had contributed as the third most influential ranking factor. The date mentioned above is the announcement date, the actual launch date was close to spring 2015.

RankBrain is a machine based learning artificial intelligence (AI) system, that helps Google to process search queries and provide more relevant search results to its users. The system has a self-learning ability to help you suggest the kind of content that you are looking for. According to Google, RankBrain has become the third most important signal that is sent into the Google algorithm which is currently known as “Humming Bird”.

  • Google Turning Its Lucrative Web Search Over to AI Machines (Bloomberg)
  • FAQ: All About The New Google RankBrain Algorithm (SEL)


Panda 4.2 (#28) — July 17, 2015


A data refresh update called the Panda update was announced and it was said that it could take months for it to be fully rolled out. There were no clear signs of a major update of algorithm and immediate impact.

  • Google Panda Update: Everything We Know About Panda 4.2 (The SEM Post)
  • Google Panda 4.2 Is Here (SEL)

The Quality Update — May 3, 2015


Google confirmed a core algorithm change that impacted the quality signals. These changes originally dubbed “Phantom 2” and the update had a broad impact but Google hadn’t revealed any specifications on 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)

Mobile Update AKA “Mobilegeddon” — April 22, 2015


Google pre-announced an algorithm update which is a pretty rare move and told that the mobile rankings would differ taking mobile-friendly sites into consideration stating on April 21st. This had a short term impact which was smaller than expected. The algorithm flux seemed to have peaked on April 22nd.

  • Finding more mobile-friendly search results(Google)
  • 7 Days After Mobilegeddon: How Far Did the Sky Fall?(Moz)

2014 Updates

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


The original update of Google’s major local algorithm update which dubbed “Pigeon” hit the United States in July 2014. Google has expanded that to the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. The update was rolled out on 19th July and confirmed by 22nd July.

  • Google Pigeon Update Rolls Out To UK, Canada & Australia (SEL)
  • Local Search Results Affected as Google Pigeon Update Hits UK (Strategy Digital)

Penguin Everflux  —  December 10, 2014


Instead of having infrequent major updates, Penguin had shifted to having continuous updates as per Google. The exact timeline is still unclear and the claim had seemed to fit the flux experienced after Penguin 3.0.

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

Pirate 2.0  —  October 21, 2014


Google launched Pirate 2.0 update after nearly two years of launching the original Pirate update. This update is to combat digital media piracy and software. This was a highly targeted update and caused dramatic drops in ranking.

  • Google Pirate Update Analysis and ​Loser List (Searchmetrics)
  • Google’s New Search Downranking Hits Torrent Sites Hard (TorrentFreak)

Penguin 3.0  —  October 17, 2014


Google had launched a Penguin refresh after a year of launching the Penguin update (2.1). This update was not a new Penguin algorithm but data-only and it was smaller than expected. Google confirmed that the update was spread out over some 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)

“In The News” Box  —  October 1, 2014


Google had changed the display of News-box results and later it was announced that those changes had expanded news links to much larger sets of potential sites. Major news sites had reported significant traffic changes and the presence of news results in the SERPs had also spiked.

  • 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)

Panda 4.1 (#27)  —  September 23, 2014


Google confirmed a significant Panda update and that it included an algorithmic component. The impact estimated was that 3-5% of queries to be affected. The exact timing of the update was unclear because of the slow rollout.

  • 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)

Authorship Removed  —  August 28, 2014



Following the drop of authorship photos on June 28th, Google was set to remove the authorship mark-up. As said, by the next morning, we faced the disappearance of authorship by-lines from all SERPs.

  • Official Announcement from John Mueller (Google+)
  • It’s Over: The Rise & Fall Of Google Authorship For Search Results (SEL)

HTTPS/SSL Update  —  August 6, 2014


Google announced that the preference would be given to secure sites and provide them lightweight rankings boost by adding encryption. It was claimed that this boost would start small but eventually have greater changes if results are positive.

  • HTTPS as a ranking signal (Google)
  • Google Starts Giving A Ranking Boost To Secure HTTPS/SSL Sites (SEL)

Pigeon  —  July 24, 2014


The local SEO was shook by the Google update that altered some local results dramatically and interprets location cues. Google claimed that closer ties had been created between the core algorithm and the local algorithm.

  • 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)

Authorship Photo Drop  —  June 28, 2014


The announcement of John Mueller came out surprising as all the authorship photos from SERPs were to be removed. After the announcement on 25th June, the drop was completed around 28th June.

  • 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)

Payday Loan 3.0  —  June 12, 2014


Google launched another major update less than a month after the anti-spam update of Payday Loan 2.0. Official statements claimed that 2.0 targeted some specific sites, while 3.0 entirely targeted spam queries.

  • Google Spam Algorithm Version 3.0 Launches Today (SER)

Panda 4.0 (#26)  —  May 19, 2014


Google announced a major Panda update that most probably included both an algorithm update and data refresh. Officially, the impact affected about 7.5% of English-language queries. Matt Cutts said that it began rolling out on 20th May but it seems like that the effect was seen much 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


Google updated it’s “payday loan” algorithm prior to Panda 4.0 and it mostly targeted spam queries. We are unclear about the exact date of the roll-out but Google said that it’s happened the weekend before 20th May. It involved some back-to-back updates which had difficult details to sort out.

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


Page Layout #3  —  February 6, 2014


Google confirmed on refreshing their page layout algorithm which is also called as “top heavy”. Originally it was launched on January 2012 and the page layout algorithm was said to penalize sites with too many ads above the fold.

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

2013 Updates

Penguin 2.1 (#5)  —  October 4, 2013


Google had launched another Penguin update after a gap of four and a half months. This was probably supposed to be a data update given the 2.1 designations, and not to cause a major change to the existing Penguin algorithm. The overall impact of the update seemed to be moderate, although there are some webmasters who reported to 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


Google suggested that the “Hummingbird” update was introduced about a month earlier than the announced date which was on September 26th. The best guess is that it was rolled out on 21st or 22nd August. Caffeine was the comparison to Hummingbird and it seemed to be a core algorithm update powered changes to Knowledge Graph and the semantic search 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 “in-depth articles” which were dedicated to more evergreen and long-form content and it was a new type of news result. It included links to three articles during the launch and it was said to have appeared across about 3% of the searches.

  • In-depth articles in search results (Google)
  • Inside In-depth Articles: Dissecting Google’s Latest Feature (Moz)


Panda Recovery  —  July 18, 2013


Panda update was confirmed by Google, but there was no clarity that if it was one of the 10-day rolling updates or if it was something new. It was implied that it was algorithmic and would have softened some of the 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 considering a “multi-week” algorithm update roughly between the week after July 4th and June 12th. We are unclear on the nature of the update, but massive rankings were disrupted during the time period, and it seemed to be peaking on June 27th. Google may have been testing some changes during that time and later they might have been 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 had announced a targeted algorithm update that can take on the niches with notoriously spamming results, specifically those that mention porn and payday loans. On June 11th, the update was announced. But Matt Cutts claimed that it would be rolled 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)


Penguin 2.0 (#4)  —  May 22, 2013


Speculating about bordering on the hype for about months, the 4th Penguin update had arrived with just a moderate impact. Some evidence suggested that Penguin 2.0 was more targeted to the page level but the exact nature of the changes were unclear.

  • 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 had released an update which can control the domain crowding and diversity deep in the SERPs. The timing of this update was unclear, but it had rolled out just prior to Penguin 2.0 in The US and probably on the same day internationally.

  • Google Domain Clustering Update (Justin Briggs)
  • Google’s Matt Cutts: Domain Clustering To Change Again (SEL)


Panda #24  —  January 22, 2013


The first official update of Google was announced in 2013, and it claimed 1.2% of the queries to be affected. This did not appear to be related to the talk of an update around 17th and 18th Jan.

  • Google Announces 24th Panda Refresh; Not Related To January 17th (SER)
  • Google Panda Update Version #24; 1.2% Of Search Queries Impacted (SEL)

2012 Updates

Panda #23  —  December 21, 2012


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

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

Knowledge Graph Expansion  —  December 4, 2012


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

  • 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 giving some mixed signals, Google had confirmed about the 22nd Panda update, which appeared to have been not an algorithm change but data-only. This came on around November 19th but remained unnamed update.

  • 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 had finally rolled out their 21st Panda update which was roughly five and a half weeks after Panda #20 update. This update officially impacted 1.1% of English queries and was reported to be smaller.

  • 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 confirmed an update to change its original page layout algorithm back in January and it targeted the pages that had too many ads above the fold. We are still not clear if that was a Panda-style data refresh or an algorithm change

  • 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


Google launched a minor Penguin data update after suggesting that the next Penguin update would be a major one. It impacted 0.3% of the queries. The 3rd Penguin update numbering was rebooted and it was similar to Panda.

  • 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 had published the monthly list of their search highlights. The 65 updates of August and September had included Knowledge Graph expansion, 7-result SERPs, updates on how the page quality was calculated, and the changes to how local results were being determined.

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

Panda #20  —  September 27, 2012


A fairly major Panda update that overlapped the EMD update had rolled out and it officially affected 2.4% of the queries. As the 3X series was getting old, industry sources had opted to start naming the Panda updates in a particular order.

  • 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 had changed the way in which it handled the exact-match domains (EMDs). This, in turn, led to large-scale devaluation and it reduced the presence of EMDs in a reliable data set by over 10%. The change seemed to impact 0.6% of queries.

  • 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


Another Panda refresh was rolled out and it appeared to be data-only. There was a moderate impact on ranking flux but not so close to the 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 set out another Panda update whose impact seemed to be relatively small and nature was data-only. Having run out of numbers at 3.9, the Panda 3.0 series dubbed 3.9.1 to be the new update.

  • Confirmed: Google Panda 3.9.1 Update (SER)
  • Google Panda Refresh On August 19th: Version 3.9.1 (SEL)


June/July 86-Pack  —  August 10, 2012


The June and July Search Quality Highlights were released after a summer hiatus, in one mega-post. Important updates comprised of the Panda algorithm and data refreshes, a ranking boost for the trusted sources, an improved rank-ordering function, and changes to the 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


It was announced by Google that they will start to penalize sites with repeated copyright violations which will probably happen via DMCA takedown requests. It was supposed to start the following week of 13th August.

  • 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


Google implemented a new Panda update a month after Panda 3.8. Rankings fluctuated for 5-6 days, but no single day stood out to be claimed as the date of highest fluctuation. The impact as per Google is that ~1% of queries were affected.

  • Official: Google Panda 3.9 Refresh (SER)


Panda 3.8 (#16)  —  June 25, 2012


The Panda data refresh was introduced by Google, but it was data only with no algorithm changes which had a very small 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


With less than 1% of queries claimed to be under effect, Google pulled off yet another Panda data update. The impact was considerably higher than previous Panda updates as suggested by the rankings fluctuation.

  • Confirmed: Google Panda 3.7 Update (SER)
  • The Bigfoot Update (AKA Dr. Pete Goes Crazy) (Moz)

May 39-Pack  —  June 7, 2012


Google released 39 updates in May as a part of its monthly Search Highlights. Significant changes included the Penguin improvements, changes to snippet/metadata rewriting, updates to Google News, and better link-scheme detection.

  • 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


After the “Penguin” algorithm update, Google released its first targeted data update. This update confirmed that the Penguin data, like the Panda data, was getting processed outside of the main search index.

  • Google Releases Penguin Update 1.1 (SEL)

Knowledge Graph  —  May 16, 2012


Google released the “Knowledge Graph” as a step towards semantic search, which was a SERP-integrated display that provided supplemental object regarding certain people, things and places. Over time, it is expected to see “knowledge panels” appearing on several SERPs.

  • 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


The details of 52 updates were established in April, and it included the changes that were tied to the “Penguin” update. There were other highlights which included a number of updates to site links and a fifteen percent larger “base” index that improved pagination handling.

  • 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


Google released yet another Panda data update nearly a week after Panda 3.5. The impact of the update was relatively small and the implications were seemed unclear.

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

Penguin  —  April 24, 2012


Speculating about an “Over-optimization penalty” for some weeks, Google finally released the “Webspam Update”. This was soon after dubbed “Penguin”. Penguin had adjusted a number of spam factors which included the keyword stuffing and seemed to have impacted an estimated 3.1% of the 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


Google quietly released a Panda data update in the middle of a busy week for the algorithm. It made a mix of changes which made it difficult to measure the impact. But it appeared to have been a routine update which had minimal impact.

  • Google Mocks Me For Missing Panda 3.5 (SER)

Parked Domain Bug  —  April 16, 2012


Google had confirmed that a data error caused some domains to be mistakenly treated as parked domains after a number of webmasters reported the ranking shuffles that happened. It was not an algorithm change that was intended to happen.

  • 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 had posted a batch of update highlights which covered almost 50 changes in March. These included the changes to anchor-text “scoring”, confirmation of Panda 3.4, changes to how queries that work with local intent are interpreted and updates to Google image search.

  • 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


This time Google had announced another Panda update via Twitter as the update was being released. It is estimated that Panda 3.4 had impacted about 1.6% of the search results.

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


Venice  —  February 27, 2012


Google mentioned a code-name “Venice” as part of their monthly update. This local update appeared to have more aggressively localized the organic results and integrated the local search data more tightly. We are still unclear on the exact roll-out date.

  • 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


At the end of the month, Google had published a second set of “search quality highlights” and claimed to have more than 40 changes in February. The notable changes comprised of multiple image-search updates, a Panda update, and multiple freshness updates

  • Search quality highlights: 40 changes for February (Google)

Panda 3.3 (#11)  —  February 27, 2012


Google released another post-“flux” Panda update and this appeared to be a relatively minor one. This came out 3 days after the Panda’s 1st year anniversary. It seemed to have 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 rolled out another 17 “search quality highlights”. Many of these were related to speed, spell-checking and freshness. But there was one major announcement that put the tighter integration of the 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 had updated their page layout algorithms to devalue the sites which had too much ad-space above the “fold 0”. A similar factor was in play in Panda as per the previous suspicion. There was no official name for the update, but it was referred to 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


Although the algorithm hasn’t changed, Google confirmed a Panda data update. It was still unclear as to how this had fit into the “Panda Flux” scheme which is 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 confirmed a radical shift in personalization which aggressively pushed Google+ user profiles and social data into SERPs. Google had also added a prominent and new toggle button to switch 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


Over the previous month, Google had announced 30 changes that included the image search landing-page quality detection, more rich snippets, more relevant site-links, and related-query improvements. This had blurred the line between an algorithm update and a feature.

  • 30 search quality highlights – with codenames! (Google)
  • Google Announces “Megasitelinks,” Image Search Improvements & Better Byline Dates (SEL)

2011 Updates

December 10-Pack  —  December 1, 2011


Google confirmed a set of 10 updates and announced that these posts would arrive every month. Updates that were included are – parked domain detection, related query refinements, image search freshness, and blog search freshness. We are unclear on the exact dates of each update.

  • 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


Google entered a period of “Panda Flux” after Panda 2.5, frequent minor updates happened. Even though there was no official 3.0, the 11/18 update was called the 3.1 by the industry analysts. We will discontinue numbering the Panda updates except for those with very high-impact for the purposes of this history.

  • Google Panda 3.1 Update: 11/18 (SER)

10-Pack of Updates  —  November 14, 2011


To become transparent, Matt Cutts had released a post which included the 10 recent algorithm updates. It was a bit unusual. The timeline of the updates was unclear and most were small updates. This did signal a shift about how Google had communicated its 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


According to Google, an algorithm change that rewarded freshness would have an impact up to 35% of the queries. This update majorly affected the time-sensitive results, but later signalled a much stronger impact 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 had announced that they would encrypt the search queries for privacy reasons. This disrupted the organic keyword referral data, unfortunately. It returned “not provided” for some organic traffic. This number had increased in the weeks that followed 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 had tweeted us to expect some Panda-related flux in the upcoming few weeks. He also gave a figure of approximately 2%. There were other minor Panda updates that occurred on 10/13, 10/3, 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


Google released another Panda update after more than a month. It is unclear on the specific details of what had changed, but large-scale losses were reported by some sites.

  • 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 was an amazing revelation and not an update. Eric Schmidt, Google CEO had told Congress that Google had made nearly 516 updates in 2010. The real shocker is that they tested over 13,000 updates.

  • Eric Schmidt’s Congressional Testimony (SEL)

Pagination Elements  —  September 15, 2011


Google introduced the rel=”prev” and rel=”next” link attributes to help fix problems like crawl and duplication that was created by pagination. Google also made an announcement that they improved the automatic canonicalization and consolidation for the “View All” pages.

  • Pagination with rel=“next” and rel=“prev” (Google)
  • Google Provides New Options for Paginated Content (SEL)

Expanded Sitelinks  —  August 16, 2011


Google officially released the expanded site-links after experimenting for a while mostly for the brand queries. These were 12-packs at first but Google had limited the expanded site-links to 6 after the release.

  • The evolution of sitelinks: expanded and improved (Google)
  • Official: Google Sitelinks Expands To 12 Pack (SEL)

Panda 2.4 (#6)  —  August 12, 2011


Google had internationally rolled out Panda, both for English-language queries and the non-English queries except for Korean, Japanese, and Chinese. The impact affected 6-9% of queries in affected countries according to Google.

  • 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


Google rolled out yet another update according to Webmaster chatter. We are not sure whether any new factors were introduced, or it was simply an update to Panda ranking and data factors.

  • Official: Google Panda 2.3 Update Is Live (SEL)
  • A Holistic Look at Panda with Vanessa Fox (Stone Temple)

Google+  —  June 28, 2011


Google rolled out a serious attack on Facebook with Google+ after a number of social media failures. Google+ revolved around the circles for sharing content, and it was tightly integrated into some products like Gmail. Many Early adopters were quick and within 2 weeks Google+ had reached 10million 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 the Panda-impacted data and sites which led to the official acknowledgment of version 2.2. Panda updates took place separately from the main index and had not occurred in real-time.

  • 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, Microsoft, and Yahoo jointly announced to support a consolidated approach towards structured data. In an apparent bid to move toward even richer search results, they also had created a number of new schemas.

  • 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


Google appeared to release yet another round of changes which was initially dubbed “Panda 3.0”. Google hadn’t discussed these changes in detail and it seemed to be a relatively minor one.

  • 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 confirmed the Panda update to be available to all English queries worldwide. New signals were also integrated and it included the data about the sites where users were blocked via the Chrome browser or the SERPs directly.

  • 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


In response to the competition by major social sites, like Twitter and Facebook, Google launched the +1 button which was placed directly next to results links. Clicking it allowed the users to influence the search results within the user’s social circle, among both paid and organic 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 affected up to 12% of search results and hit sites hard. Panda seemed to crack down on content farms, thin content, a number of other quality issues and the sites with high ad-to-content ratios. Panda was released over at least a couple of months and hit 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


Google released an update to help sort out content attribution better and stop scrapers in response to high-profile spam cases. This affected about 2% of queries according to Matt Cutts. It was a clear precursor to the upcoming Panda updates.

  • Algorithm Change Launched (Matt Cutts)
  • Latest Google Algorithm change (Search News Central)


2010 Updates

Negative Reviews  —  December 1, 2010


Google made a rare move after an expose in the New York Times about how an e-commerce site, DecorMyEyes ranked based on negative reviews. It reactively adjusted the algorithm to target the sites which use similar tactics.

  • A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web (NY Times)
  • Being bad to your customers is bad for business (Google)


Instant Previews  —  November 1, 2010


On Google search results, a magnifying glass icon appeared that allowed the search visitors to quickly view a preview of the landing pages directly from SERPs. This established a renewed focus for Google on landing page design, usability, and quality.

  • Beyond Instant Results: Instant Previews (Google)


Google Instant  —  September 1, 2010


Google Instant was launched by displaying the search results as a query was being typed thereby expanding on Google Suggest. SEOs spontaneously combusted, but later realized that the impact was fairly small.

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


Caffeine (Rollout)  —  June 1, 2010


Google finished establishing the Caffeine infrastructure after months of testing. Caffeine did not only boost Google’s raw speed but also integrated the indexation and crawling much more tightly which resulted in a 50% fresher index.

  • Our new search index: Caffeine (Google)
  • Google’s New Indexing Infrastructure “Caffeine” Now Live (SEL)

May Day  —  May 1, 2010


Webmasters noticed significant drops in their long-tail traffic in late April and early May. Matt Cutts later confirmed that the algorithm change, May Day was the one impacting the long-tail. Sites which had a large-scale thin content were especially hit 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


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

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

2009 Updates

Real-time Search  —  December 1, 2009


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

  • Google Launches Real Time Search Results (SEL)


Rel-canonical Tag  —  February 1, 2009


Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft had jointly announced support for the Canonical Tag that allowed the webmasters to send canonicalization signals to search the bots without affecting 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)

2008 Updates

Google Suggest  —  August 1, 2008


Google introduced Suggest in a major change to their logo-and-a-box home page that displayed the suggested searches in a dropdown which is below the search box as the visitors’ type in their queries. Suggest was later supposed to go and power Google Instant.

  • Google.com Finally Gets Google Suggest Feature (SEL)

Dewey  —  April 1, 2008


At the end of March and into early April a large-scale shuffle had occurred, but the specifics of it were unclear. Google was suspected to have been pushing its own internal properties, including Google Books, but there was not enough evidence of that.

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

2007 Updates

Universal Search  —  May 1, 2007


Google integrated the traditional search results with Video, News, Local, Images, and other verticals that dramatically change their format while not being a typical algorithm update. The old 10 listing SERP was now officially dead.

  • Google 2.0: Google Universal Search (SEL)

2005 Updates

Big Daddy  —  December 1, 2005


An infrastructure update, Big Daddy was released over a few months, wrapping up in March of 2006. Big Daddy had changed the way in which Google handled the URL redirects, canonicalization, and other technical issues.

  • Indexing timeline (MattCutts.com)
  • Todd, Greg & Matt Cutts on WebMasterRadio (Moz)

Google Local/Maps  —  October 1, 2005


Google merged its Maps data into the LBC after launching the Local Business Center in March 2005 and it encouraged businesses to update their information. This was held in a move that would eventually cause a number of changes in local SEO.

  • Google Merges Local and Maps Products (Google)

Jagger  —  October 1, 2005


Google had released a series of updates which mostly targeted the low-quality links that included the reciprocal links, paid links, and link farms. Jagger was released in at least 3 stages, from around September to November of 2005. This had the greatest impact during October.

  • A Review Of The Jagger 2 Update (SERoundtable)
  • Dealing With Consequences of Jagger Update (WMW)


XML Sitemaps  —  June 1, 2005


Bypassing the traditional HTML sitemaps, and giving the SEOs a direct influence over indexation and crawling, Google allowed the webmasters to submit XML sitemaps via Webmaster Tools.

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

Personalized Search  —  June 1, 2005


The 2005 roll-out of personalized the search got in directly into the users’ search histories and automatically adjust results unlike the previous attempts at personalization that required custom settings and profiles. The impact was small at first but Google continued to go on to use our search history for many applications.

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

Bourbon  —  May 1, 2005


Matt Cutts announced that Google was releasing the 3.5 changes in search quality. It wasn’t sure what the 0.5 of a change was, but the Webmaster World members predicted that the Bourbon changed how non-canonical (www vs. non-www) URLs and duplicate content were treated.

  • Google Update “Bourbon” (Batelle Media)
  • Bourbon Update Survival Kit (SERoundtable)


Nofollow  —  January 1, 2005


Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo collectively introduced the “Nofollow” attribute to combat the spam and control outbound link quality. Nofollow helped to clean up the untouched for links, that included spammed blog comments. This change gradually had a significant impact on the link graph and it was not a traditional update.

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


2004 Updates

Brandy  —  February 1, 2004


Google announced a variety of changes that even included a massive index expansion, the concept of link “neighborhoods”, increased attention to anchor text relevance, and Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). LSI had expanded Google’s ability to understand synonyms and had taken the keyword analysis to the next level.

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


2003 Updates

Florida  —  November 1, 2003


This was the update that put SEO industry updates on the map. Many sites had lost their ranking, and the business owners were furious. Florida fell for low-value late 90s SEO tactics that included keyword stuffing which made the game a whole lot more interesting.

  • What Happened To My Site On Google? (SEW)

Fritz  —  July 1, 2003


The “Fritz” update finally marked the end of the monthly “Google Dance”. Google switched to an incremental approach instead of overhauling the index on a monthly basis. The index had changed daily.

  • Explaining algorithm updates and data refreshes (Matt Cutts)
  • Exclusive: How Google’s Algorithm Rules the Web (Wired)


Boston  —  February 1, 2003


This was the first named Google update and was announced at SES Boston. Google aimed at a major monthly update originally. So the first few updates were a combination of major algorithm changes and index refreshes. As updates had become more frequent, the monthly idea died quickly.



2000 Updates

Google Toolbar  —  December 1, 2000


Google launched its browser toolbar guaranteeing that the SEO arguments will take years to come, and with it, Toolbar PageRank (TBPR). The Google Dance began as soon as webmasters started watching TBPR.

  • Google Launches The Google Toolbar (Google)

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