The Ultimate Guide To Google Algorithm Change History

Google Algorithm Change History

For any SEO, it’s critical to keep up with Google’s new updates to understand traffic patterns in your website as well as best practices. In this list of Google Algorithm Updates, we’ll not only document the seo updates, but the full story of what’s REALLY going on in the trenches including best practices, strategies, and case studies from the community.

Have a case study or resource to contribute? Email cs@thehoth.com!

 

2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000


2016 Updates

Mobile Friendly Boost Update – May 12, 2016

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

News:
Continuing to make the web more mobile friendly (Google)


Adwords Change – Feb 23, 2016

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

News:
The Winners and Losers of The Adwords Shakeup – (HOTH)
Google AdWords Switching to 4 Ads on Top, None on Sidebar


Ghost Update – Jan 8, 2016

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

News:
Google Core Ranking Update (SER)


2015 Updates

Rank Brain Algo Change – Announced Oct 26 2015, Went Live Months Before

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

News:
RankBrand & Artificial Intelligence? (Bloomberg)


Google Zombie Update – Oct 14th / Oct 15th 2015

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

News:
Google Zombie Update? (SER)


Google Snack Pack / Local 3 Pack – August, 2015

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

News:
Google Local Snack Pack Shakeup (Moz)


Panda 4.2 – July 17, 2015

Google announced a Panda update, not much happened. They said it would take months to roll out.

News:
Everything We Know About Panda 4.2 (SEM Post)


Google Quality Update – May 3, 2015

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

News:
The Quality Update (SEL)


Google Mobilegeddon Mobile Update – April 22, 2015

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

News:
How To Prepare For Mobilegeddon (The HOTH)
Google: Mobile Friendly Update (SEL)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Google released this update the impact was less than expected. We created an article with all the information on how to check if your site is affected here: Google Mobile Update


No Name Update – February 4, 2015

There was no official update but many serp tracking tools reported movement.

News:
Google Update Feb 2015 (SER)


2014 Updates

Penguin 3 – Oct 18, 2014

After a year since the last major penguin update, Penguin 3 started rolling out this past weekend. What was expected to be a brutal release seems to be relatively light in comparison to other updates. According to Google, it affected 1% of US English Queries and this is a multi-week roll out. To give some comparison, the original Penguin update affected >3% (3x) the queries. There are many reports of recoveries for those who had previous penalties, did link remediation / disavow.

News:
Google Releases Penguin 3.0 (SEL)
Google Confirms Penguin 3.0 Update (SEJ)
Penguin Update Official (Google)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Seems like this update was lighter than expected. Across the sites we track, we haven’t seen much out of the ordinary. Keep in mind that Penguin is traditionally keyword specific and not a site-wide penalty, so take a look at any specific keywords that dropped or pages that dropped and adjust accordingly.

We’ve seen a lot of reports of recovery. Usually if you were hit by a Penguin penalty in the past, you would need to fix / remove / disavow over optimized links and wait for an update. Many webmasters have been waiting this whole year for an update and it finally arrived.

Take a look at our Penguin recovery guide here.


Panda 4.1 – Sep 26, 2014

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

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


Google Starts De-Inexing Private Blog Networks In Mass – Sep 18, 2014

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

Special Note To HOTH Users: This update doesn’t affect HOTH users, as we point exactly 0 PBN links to your sites. See our link building strategy here.

News:
No Hat Digital: PBN Sites De-Indexed, How Bad Were We Hit?
ViperChill: Why I’ll Keep Growing My Private Link Network After Google’s “Crackdown”
Niche Pursuits: Alright Google, You Win…I’ll Never Use Private Blog Networks Again!
Source Wave: The Death of PBNS

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Some amount of de-indexing is normal, and anyone who has ever run a network of any substantial size knows this. What is not normal is having 50% of your network taken out in one fell swoop.

There isn’t a lot of data about what “footprint” has been caught, but common footprints include using seo hosting, not changing whois info, not using co-citations, and more.

Even if you do things “correctly”, there may not have been a single footprint that makes a site get caught and it could be a combination of factors, including a low website Quality Score.

PBNs are not dead. And if you did things right, or at least pretty close, you shouldn’t see a big change in de-indexing. With that said, times do evolve, SEOs get smarter and we diversify strategies. In the meantime, High PR links still work (Google usually goes after what is currently working).

The best “keep my PBN safe” info that has come out has been from Veteran SEO Stephen Floyd (SEOFloyd) in his Bullet Proof SEO Course.


Google Drops Authorship From Search Results Completely – Aug 28, 2014

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

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


SSL Becomes Ranking Factor – Aug 7, 2014

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

News:
Google Starts Giving A Ranking Boost To Secure HTTPS/SSL Sites


Google Pigeon – July 24, 2014

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

News:
Google Makes Significant Changes to Local Search

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Big decline in 7 packs
Local Directories Got A Boost – You should make sure you are in all the relevant local directories since they are getting a boost now. (P.S. You can do that with HOTH Local!)


No Photos on Authorship – June 28, 2014

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

News:
Google Announces End of Author Photos (Moz)


Panda 4.0 – May 19, 2014

Latest addition to the panda update family. Sources say this was a softer update and some sites got a boost that were previously hit by this update. We noticed some sites are getting dinged for having on-site over optimization. There has been some discussion that now rankings are taking longer than normal – Up to 6 weeks for links to be recognized and re-calculated.

News:
Official Announcement
Google Begins Rolling Panda 4.0 Out Now (SEL)
Panda 4 (Moz)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)
The Answers to Google’s 2014 First Algorithm Update (Search Highway) – Relevant
Panda 4 + 5 Steps To Avoid Any Penalty (Source-Wave)
Press releases took a big hit in visibility
4 Week Factor / Slow Rankings


Payday Loan / High-Spam Searches Update 2.0 — May 16, 2014

Right before Panda 4.0, Google rolled out an update that targets queries that are traditionally spammed (seo-wise). Google claims the update happened around 5/20 and it makes it hard to tell as Panda 4 came out around almost the same time.

News:
Official Announcement


No Name Update — March 24, 2014

Lots of rank trackers and data reported heavy fluctuations, but no update was confirmed by Google.

News:
Did Google Do An Algorithm Update Yesterday? (SERT)


Page Layout #3 — February 6, 2014

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

News:
Official Announcement


Unnamed Update – January 8th, 2014

An unnamed / unofficial update came out around this time. This was not an official update.

News:
Is Google Search Updating? January 8th & 9th (SER)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
The Answers to Google’s 2014 First Algorithm Update (Search Highway)


2013 Updates

Authorship Change — December 19, 2013

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

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


No Name Update — December 17, 2013

Almost all algo change trackers showed high activity around Dec 17th, although Google did not confirm an update.

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


No Name Update — November 14, 2013

Reports went out of unusual activity, which appeared along side of reports of widespread DNS errors in Google Webmaster Tools. This was not official and Google did not confirm any updates.

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


Penguin 2.1 (#5) — October 4, 2013

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

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

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Penguin (HOTH)
You’ll want to just continue to maintain diverse contextual link building strategies.


Hummingbird — August 20, 2013

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

News:
Google Reveals “Hummingbird” Search Algorithm (SEL)

More About Hummingbird:
Learn more about Google Hummingbird (HOTH)


In-depth Article Update — August 6, 2013

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

News:
How To Appear in Google’s In Depth Articles Feature


No Name Update — July 26, 2013

Another non-confirmed google update, however there were large spikes in search engine tracking activity.

News:
Was There A Weekend Google Update? (SER)


Expansion of Knowledge Graph — July 19, 2013

Significantly more amounts of Knowledge Graph data started appearing in search results, increasing the appearance to nearly 25% of all searches.

News:
The Day the Knowledge Graph Exploded (Moz)


Panda Update (Fine Tuning) — July 18, 2013

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

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

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Multi-Week Update — June 27, 2013

Screaming frog tweeted that someone was spamming for “Car Insurance” and it ranked them #2, Cutts tweets with a reply saying “Multi-week rollout going on now, from next week all all the way to the week after July 4th.”

News:
Twitter Thread
Multi-Week Update Rolling Out (SER)


Panda Dance — June 11, 2013

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

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

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Payday Loan / Spam Query Update — June 11, 2013

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

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


Penguin 2.0 (#4) — May 22, 2013

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

News:
Penguin 4 Live (SERT)
Official Announcement

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Penguin (HOTH)


Domain Crowding / Diversity — May 21, 2013

An update to help increase the amount of diversity in the serps. Previously there were problems where one domain would take up too many spots on the page.

News:
Google’s Matt Cutts: Domain Clustering To Change Again; Fewer Results From Same Domain


No Name Update — May 9, 2013

Reports of algo activity, but nothing official from Google.

News:
Large Google Update Happening Now (SER)


Panda Update 25 — March 13-14, 2013

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

News:
Google Panda Update 25 Seems To Have Hit (SEL)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Panda Update 24 — January 22, 2013

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

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

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


2012 Updates

Panda #23 — December 21, 2012

Panda hits right before the holidays. After this Google says they will try to avoid updates around the holidays.

News:
Official: It’s Google Panda Update 23, Impacting ~1.3% Of Queries


Knowledge Graph Expansion — December 4, 2012

Knowledge graph becomes available on foreign language queries in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, and Italian.

News:
Official Announcement


Panda #22 — November 21, 2012

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

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

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Panda #21 — November 5, 2012

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

News:
Google Releases Panda Update 21 (SEL)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Page Layout Update #2 — October 9, 2012

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

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


Penguin #3 — October 5, 2012

Penguin 3 wasn’t as bad as expected.

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

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Penguin (HOTH)


August & September 65 Changes Pack — October 4, 2012

Google published a post with 65 updates that went live between August & September 2012. The list includes updates to Knowledge Graph, a Panda refresh, & Knowledge Graph Carousel.

News:
Official Announcement


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

Before this update, it seemed as EMDs were getting a boost. So for instance, if you wanted to rank for “dallasdentist” having dallasdentist.com would be a huge boost. This technique caught on and was pretty widespread in the SEO community, so Google updated it’s algo to reduce the boost that these got. This also plays into the over optimization penalties. Now it’s recommended that you just get brandable / non-keyword rich domains to help avoid over optimization of URLs.

News:
Google’s EMD Algo Update – Early Data (Moz)
Deconstructing the EMD update (SEL)


Panda #20 — September 27, 2012

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

News:
Google Panda Update 20 Released, 2.4% Of English Queries Impacted (SEL)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Panda 3.9.2 (#19) — September 18, 2012

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

News:
Google Rolls Out Panda 3.9.2 Refresh (SER)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Panda 3.9.1 (#18) — August 20, 2012

Another small Panda update.

News:
Confirmed: Google Panda 3.9.1 Update (SER)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


7-Result SERPs — August 14, 2012

Google started displaying only 7 results on the front page for approx 18% of queries.

News:
Google Showing Fewer Results & More From Same Domain


The Pirate / DMCA Penalty — August 10-13, 2012

Google says they will start penalizing sites that get repeatedly accused of copyright infringement.

News:
An update to our search algorithms (Official Announcement)
The Pirate Update: Google Will Penalize Sites Repeatedly Accused Of Copyright Infringement (SEL)


86 Google updates in June & July — August 10, 2012

Big update from the Inside Search blog. 86 updates rolled out in June & July including Panda updates, synonyms, freshness, events in knowledge graph and more.

News:
Search quality highlights: 86 changes for June and July (Official Announcement)


Panda 3.9 (#17) — July 24, 2012

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

News:
Official: Google Panda 3.9 Refresh (SER)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Webmaster Tool Link Warnings — July 19, 2012

Another batch of WMT unnatural link warnings went out. The insane thing is that in June, Google said you needed to pay attention to these warnings and your site would probably drop if you ignored them. But now in July, Google says you may be able to ignore them — basically saying the exact opposite. Best thing to do is to just watch your traffic / rankings.

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

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about WMT Unnatural Link Warnings (HOTH)


Panda 3.8 (#16) — June 25, 2012

Another panda data refresh.

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

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Panda 3.7 (#15) — June 8, 2012

Another Panda refresh.

News:
Official Announcement
Confirmed: Google Panda 3.7 Update (SER)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


39 Google Updates May 2012 — June 7, 2012

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

News:
Search quality highlights: 39 changes for May (Official Announcement)
Google’s May Updates: Inorganic Backlinks, Page Titles, Fresh Results & More (SEL)


Penguin 1.1 (#2) — May 25, 2012

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

News:
Understanding Penguin 1.1: Be Safe from Updates in 3 Easy Steps (SEJ)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Penguin (HOTH)


Knowledge Graph — May 16, 2012

Google released some additions to search results – Knowledge graph is intended to do a few things. One is to be able to tell the difference between people, places, and things. The second is bringing answers and summaries directly into the search results so you can quickly get facts or information without actually visiting any sites.

News:
Cool Knowledge Graph Video
Introducing the Knowledge Graph: things, not strings (Official Announcement)


52 Google Updates for April 2012 — May 4, 2012

Google posted a blog post with 52 updates that occurred in April 2012 including improvements to freshness signal, (no freshness boost for low quality content), updates for showing public data, a 15% increase in the base index, improvements to sitelinks & more.

News:
Search quality highlights: 52 changes for April (Official Update)


Panda 3.6 (#14) — April 27, 2012

Another Panda data refresh.

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

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Google Penguin — April 24, 2012

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

News:
Another step to reward high-quality sites (Official Announcement)
Google Launches “Penguin Update” Targeting Webspam In Search Results (SEL)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Penguin (HOTH)


Panda 3.5 (#13) — April 19, 2012

Another Panda refresh.

News:
Panda Update 3.5 Is Live: Winners & Losers (SEL)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Parked Domain Bug — April 16, 2012

While webmasters reported drops in rankings, Google claimed that there was a bug in the way they classify parked domains.

News:
Google Parked Domain Classifier Error Blamed for Lost Search Rankings


50 Google Updates in March 2012 -Pack — April 3, 2012

Another group of updates including Panda 3.4, the way anchor text is calculated, image search, and local query updates.

News:
Search quality highlights: 50 changes for March (Official Announcement)


Panda 3.4 (#12) — March 23, 2012

Another panda refresh.

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

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Panda 3.3 (#11) — February 27, 2012

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

News:
Google Confirms Panda 3.3 Update (SEL)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


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

Google posted a blog post on their Inside Search blog with 40 updates that have been launched in February including updates to “related searches, sitelinks, autocomplete, UI elements, indexing, synonyms, SafeSearch and more.”

News:
Search quality highlights: 40 changes for February (Official Post)


Venice — February 27, 2012

Big update to the way Old G displays results – Basically now local sites are going to start showing up when you type in queries even without a geo-modifier. For instance, if you type in “attorney” you may get localized results based on your IP. Great News: for Local SEOs and usability in general. Even benign terms like “coffee” bring up local relevant results!

News:
Understand and Rock the Google Venice Update (SEOmoz)


17 January 2012 Google Updates — February 3, 2012

Another inside search blog post detailing 17 updates released in Jan 2012 including Panda’s integration into the main algo, updates to “freshness.”

News:
17 search quality highlights: January (Official)
Google’s January Search Update: Panda In The Pipelines, Fresher Results, Date Detection & More (SEL)


Page Layout Update — January 19, 2012

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

News:
Page layout algorithm improvement (Google)


Panda 3.2 (#10) — January 18, 2012

Another Panda update / refresh.

News:
Google Panda 3.2 Update Confirmed (SEL)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Search + Your World — January 10, 2012

Now if you use Google plus, google will attempt to put in more relevant content into your searches. Things that you’ve shared in the past, pictures from your g+ profile, things your friends have shared will start appearing in your search results in an effort to find the most relevant information. Mostly, Google just loves Google+ and wants to force it on everyone.

News:
Search, plus Your World (Google)
Video
Real-Life Examples Of How Google’s “Search Plus” Pushes Google+ Over Relevancy (SEL)


30 Google Updates in January 2012 — January 5, 2012

Another Inside Search blog post highlighting 30 updates including sitelinks, image search improvements and more.

News:
30 search quality highlights – with codenames! (Google)


2011 Updates

10 Google Updates in December 2011 — December 1, 2011

Blog post on updates made in late 2011 in addition to the last list. Updates include a parked domain classifier (reduce the amount of parked domains shown to users in results), autocomplete, and image freshness.

News:
Search quality highlights: new monthly series on algorithm changes (Official Update)


Panda 3.1 (#9) — November 18, 2011

Google Panda refresh.

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

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


10 Updates made in November 2011 — November 14, 2011

No timeline given, but Google posted a blog post highlighting 10 updates including fresher results, improved snippets.

News:
Ten recent algorithm changes (Google)
Improved Snippets, Rank Boost For “Official” Pages Among 10 New Google Algorithm Changes (SEL)


Fresher Results Update — November 3, 2011

A change to the algo where Google wants to display fresher results, especially on queries that are time sensitive.

News:
Giving you fresher, more recent search results (Google)


Query Encryption — October 18, 2011

SEOs hated this update because this was the begin of the (not provided) showing up in Analytics. Basically, google started encrypting data when users are signed in for privacy reasons. This makes it much harder to understand where you organic traffic is coming from. Good alternatives include SEMrush and using Webmaster tools (GWMT will tell you some terms you’re ranking for).

News:
Making search more secure (Official Update)
Google Hides Search Referral Data with New SSL Implementation (SEOmoz)


Panda “Flux” (Update #8) — October 5, 2011

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

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Panda 2.5 (Update #7) — September 28, 2011

Another Panda update.

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

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Pagination Elements — September 15, 2011

Google introduced the rel=”next” and rel=”prev” link attributes to help with pagination crawl / index issues.

News:
Pagination with rel=“next” and rel=“prev” (Official)


Expanded Sitelinks — August 16, 2011

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

News:
The evolution of sitelinks: expanded and improved (Google)


Panda 2.4 (Update #6) — August 12, 2011

Panda rolls out internationally.

News:
High-quality sites algorithm launched in additional languages (Google)
Official: Google Panda 2.4 Rolls Out to Most Languages (SER)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Panda 2.3 (#5) — July 23, 2011

Another manual push out of panda.

News:
Official: Google Panda 2.3 Update Is Live (SEL)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Google+ — June 28, 2011

Google launches Google+, a type of Facebook competitor that promises to integrate multiple Google services for a more personalized experience. They differentiate by creating “circles” so you can share differently with different groups of people. They gain lots of users quickly, but it’s launched with negative criticism.

News:
Google Plus+ Video
Introducing the Google+ project: Real-life sharing, rethought for the web (Google)
Google’s Launch Of Google + Is, Once Again, Deeply Embarrassing — Facebook Must Be Rolling Its Eyes (Business Insider)


Panda 2.2 (Update #4) — June 21, 2011

Panda update.

News:
Official: Google Panda Update 2.2 Is Live (SEL)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Schema.org — June 2, 2011

A collaboration between Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to create structured data. With a home base at http://schema.org, webmasters can now use a standardized markup for all kinds of data

News:
Google, Bing & Yahoo Unite To Make Search Listings Richer Through Structured Data (SEL)


Panda 2.1 (Update #3) — May 9, 2011

Another small Panda update.

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

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


Panda 2.0 (Update #2) — April 11, 2011

The first panda update and goes global.

News:
High-quality sites algorithm goes global, incorporates user feedback (Official Update

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH)


The Google +1 Button — March 30, 2011

Basically a button that’s like a Facebook “like” button – Influences results for people in your circles to help bring trusted content to the top.

News:
+1’s: the right recommendations right when you want them—in your search results (Official Google Update)


Panda Update (Also called Farmer) — February 23, 2011

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

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


Attribution Update — January 28, 2011

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

News:
Algorithm Change Launched (Matt Cutts)


Overstock.com & JCPenny Penalty — January 2011

Google started publicly calling out sites for their SEO practices, starting the PR-scare-train in prep for upcoming updates.

News:
Google Penalizes Overstock for Search Tactics (WSJ)
Overstock.com Lands in Google’s Penalty Box Over Links-for-Discounts Deal (SEW)
New York Times Exposes J.C. Penney Link Scheme That Causes Plummeting Rankings in Google (SEL)


2010 Updates

Start Using Social Signals — December 2010

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

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


Negative Reviews — December 2010

After a big story broke about how a brand was being pushed up the search results as users complained (and left links to the website), Google updated it’s algo to fix the problem.

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

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


Instant Visual Previews — November 2010

Google released an update that allowed you to see a visual preview of a website within the search results. Didn’t last too long.

News:
Beyond Instant Results: Instant Previews (Google)


Google Instant — September 2010

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

News:
About Google Instant (Google)
Google Instant: Fewer Changes to SEO than the Average Algo Update (SEOmoz)


Brand Update — August 2010

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

News:
Google Search Results Dominated By One Domain (SEL)


Caffeine (Rollout) — June 2010

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

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


May Day — May 2010

An update happened April 28 – May 3 and some webmasters noticed drops in traffic, especially in long tail traffic. This was an algo shift to help combat content farms and was a precursor to the panda update.

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


Google Places — April 2010

The Local Business Center became Google Places. This included all the same features from previous Google Places, but then added in a few additional features like advertising, service area, and more.

News:
Introducing Google Places (Official)
Google Local Business Center Becomes “Google Places” (SEL)


2009 Updates

Real-time Search — December 2009

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

News:
Google Launches Real Time Search Results (SEL)


Caffeine (Preview) — August 2009

This was Google’s preview of a gigantic change in infrastructure. This change was intended to speed up crawling, enlarge the total index, and incorporate ranking and indexation immediately. In the US, the preview lasted for the rest of the year and wasn’t fully active until early 2010.

News:
Google Caffeine: A Detailed Test of the New Google (Mashable)
Help test some next-generation infrastructure (Google)


Rel-canonical Tag — February 2009

Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft announced their Canonical Tag support campaigns. This allowed canonicalization signals to be sent by webmasters without any effect on human visitors.

News:
Learn about the Canonical Link Element in 5 minutes (MattCutts.com)
Canonical URL Tag – The Most Important Advancement in SEO Practices Since Sitemaps (SEOmoz)


Vince — February 2009

This was the major update that many SEOs claim started to support big brands. Even though it was called a “minor change” by Matt Cutts, this update had immense and long lasting repercussions.

News:
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)


2008 Updates

Google Suggest — August 2008

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

News:
Google.com Finally Gets Google Suggest Feature (SEL)


Dewey — April 2008

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

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


2007 Updates

Buffy — June 2007

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

News:
Google “Buffy” Update – June Google.com Update (SERoundtable)
SMX Seattle wrap-up (MattCutts.com)


Universal Search — May 2007

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

News:
Google 2.0: Google Universal Search (SEL)


2006 Updates

False Alarm — December 2006

While Google didn’t actually report any changes, there was quite a fuss in the SEO community about potential major changes in November and December 2006.

News:
Google Update Debunked By Matt Cutts (SERoundtable)


Supplemental Update — November 2006

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

News:
Confusion Over Google’s Supplemental Index (SERoundtable)


2005 Updates

Big Daddy — December 2005

Just like the “Caffeine” update, Big Daddy was intended to update infrastructure. This update came out over the course of 3 months and finished in March. Canonicalization and redirects (301/302) were changed by Big Daddy.

News:
Indexing timeline (MattCutts.com)
Todd, Greg & Matt Cutts on WebMasterRadio (SEOmoz)


Jagger — October 2005

Aimed at targeting low-quality links, Google unleashed the Jagger series of updates in October. These low-quality links included reciprocal links, paid links, and link farms. This update came out from September-November.

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


Google Local/Maps — October 2005

Following the launch of the Local Business Center, Google put all of its Maps data into the LBC. Requesting that businesses update their information, this would eventually lead to quite a few changes regarding SEO on the local level.

News:
Google Merges Local and Maps Products (Google)


Gilligan — September 2005

This was originally described as a false update. Google claimed that they had made no big update to the algorithm, but webmasters were seeing changes all over the board. (Matt) Cutts posted a blog saying that the index data updated by Google was done daily, but the Toolbar PR and different metrics were only changed on a quarterly basis.

News:
Google’s Cutts Says Not An Update – I Say An Update, Just Not A Dance (SEW)
What’s an update? (MattCutts.com)


Personalized Search — June 2005

Personalized search “truly” rolled out with this update. Unlike previous versions where users had to create custom settings on their profiles, the Personalized Search update streamlined it completely. While this started out small, Google would use this along with search history for many applications to come.

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


XML Sitemaps — June 2005

This update gave webmasters the ability to submit XML sitemaps with Webmaster Tools. This bypassed the old HTML sitemaps and gave SEOs a small influence over the indexation and crawling.

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


Bourbon — May 2005

Someone under the name “GoogleGuy” posted that Google would be coming out with “something like 3.5 changes in search quality.” What was a 0.5 change going to be?! Webmaster World members thought that Bourbon influenced how duplicate content as well as non-canonical URLs were treated.

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


Allegra — February 2005

Many webmasters saw ranking changes across the board, but what this update really did wasn’t exactly crystal clear. It was considered that Allegra had some effect on the “sandbox”, but others thought the LSI had been changed. This is about the time when people began feeling like Google was penalizing suspicions looking links.

News:
Google’s Feb. 2005 Update (SEW)


Nofollow — January 2005

The “nofollow” attribute was enacted to combat spam and control the outbound link quality. Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft all introduce this at the same time. This update really helped clean up spammy blog comments and unvouched for links without being a traditional algorithm update. This was a significant update when it comes to link graph impact.

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


2004 Updates

Google IPO — August 2004

This definitely was not an algorithm update, but it was a huge event when it comes to Google. 19M shares of Google were sold, it raised $1.67 billion, and the market value was set at just over $20 billion. 4 months later, Google’s share prices would be double that.

News:
Google IPO priced at $85 a share (CNN)


Brandy — February 2004

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

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


Austin — January 2004

Austin fixed the problems leftover by Florida. The continued crack-down on tricky on-page tactics, Google included invisible text and META-tag stuffing. There was serious speculation that Google took the “Hilltop” algorithm and used it again, beginning to take page relevance extremely serious.

News:
The latest on update Austin (Google’s January update) (SEJ)
Google Update Austin: Google Update Florida Again (Search-Marketing.info)


2003 Updates

Florida — November 2003

Here it is. The update that put “SEO” into real play. Numerous sites lost all ranking and there were even more unhappy business owners. Low-value SEO tactics from the late 90s were finally dead. Keyword stuffing was a thing of the past, and the game was getting serious.

News:
What Happened To My Site On Google? (SEW)


Supplemental Index — September 2003

The “Supplemental Index” was introduced so that Google could index more documents without having to hurt performance. This became a hot issue until the index became integrated again.

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


Fritz — July 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.

With this update, Google changed to an incremental or “bit by bit” approach instead of overhauling everything monthly. The index changed every single day.

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


Esmerelda — June 2003

This was the last scheduled monthly update from Google. After this, a continuous update process was started. “Google Dance” was replaced with something called “Everflux”. This update definitely had some huge structure changes regarding Google.

News:
Google Update Esmeralda (Kuro5hin)


Dominic — May 2003

This was one of many of the changes that happened in May, but not necessarily the easiest to describe. “Freshbot” and “Deepcrawler” were crawling the internet and bouncing sites left and right. Also, backlinks began to be counted and reported changed considerably.

News:
Understanding Dominic – Part 2 (WMW)


Cassandra — April 2003

Witch Cassandra, Google got down to business on basic link-quality issues. Massive linking from co-domains was one of the main focuses for this update as well as hidden text and links.

News:
Google – Update “Cassandra” is here (Econsultancy)


Boston — February 2003

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


2002 Updates

1st Documented Update — September 2002

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

News:
September, 2002 Google Update Discussion – Part 1 (WMW)
Dancing The Google Dance (Level343)


2000 Updates

Google Toolbar — December 2000

This is the one that started all the SEO arguments. Google launches the toolbar for browsers as well as the Toolbar PageRank (TBPR). When everyone started paying attention to TBPR, that’s when Google began dancing!

News:
Google Launches The Google Toolbar (Google)