The Ultimate Guide To Google Algorithm Change History

Google Updates & 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.

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2024|2023|2022|2021|2020|2019|2018 |2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000

2024 Updates

March 5th, 2024: March 2024 Core Update 

The first major update of 2024, March’s core update was a massive one. In fact, the update contained new spam policies and included a spam update with the goal of reducing unhelpful content online by 40%. 

It didn’t take long for websites to notice the update’s impact, as Google issued a historic amount of manual penalties (echoing the Penguin update of 2012). 

Google March 2024 Core Update: Reducing Unhelpful Content by 40% (Search Engine Journal)

Google Issues Search Ranking Penalties Through Manual Actions (Search Engine Land) 

2023 Updates

November 8th, 2023: November Reviews Update 

The last official update of the year, November 8th kicked off a reviews update that targets content on a page-level basis. This was also the last officially announced reviews update, as they’ll happen at a regular and ongoing pace in the future. 

Google Releases November 2023 Reviews Update (Search Engine Land) 

Google Reviews Update Finished – What to Know (Search Engine Journal) 

November 2nd, 2023: November Core Update 

Two weeks after the October core update was completed, Google announced yet another update to its core algorithm. 

While some assumed this update was due to the Discover bug from last month, the two issues are unrelated. Google claims this update focuses on a core ranking system different from the October update. 

It should take approximately two weeks for this update to complete. 

Google November 2023 Core Update Rolling Out (SEO Roundtable) 

Google November 2023 Core Update Released (Search Engine Land) 

October 5th – October 19th, 2023: October Core Update 

Just one day after rolling out the October spam update, Google announced the third core update of the year, following the one in August. 

This update was on the rockier side, as it caused a lot of volatility in the SERPs. 

In particular, the update aimed to improve Google Discover but wound up causing a bug that negatively affected traffic on Discover. 

As of October 31st, they’ve fixed the issue, so any dips in Discover traffic should recover over the following weeks. 

Google October 2023 Core Update Rollout is Now Complete (Search Engine Land) 

Google’s October 2023 Core Update Now Complete (Search Engine Journal)  

 October 4th – October 20th, 2023: Spam Update 

On October 4th, 2023, Google announced its most recent spam update, which completed its rollout on October 20th. 

The purpose of the update was to improve Google’s spam detection systems for multiple types of spam, including:

  • Auto-generated spam 
  • Cloaking 
  • Scraped spam 
  • Hacking

September 15th, 2023: Helpful Content Update 

At approximately 4:20 PM ET on September 15th, 2023, Google began rolling out its latest helpful content update, which should take about two weeks to complete (as with most other updates). 

What’s new this time around?

An improved classifier aims to crack down on content created solely for ranking well on search engines instead of providing real value to users. 

Google also made changes to its official Helpful Content Page, including changing the phrase ‘helpful content written by people, for people’ to ‘helpful content created for people’ – which would imply that Google’s okay with content generated by AI as long as it’s relevant and high-quality. 

Google September 2023 Helpful Content Update – Changes To The Algorithm (Search Engine Journal) 

Google September 2023 helpful content system update rolling out (Search Engine Land) 

August 22nd, 2023: Core Algorithm Update 

The second core algorithm update of the year, Google’s August core algorithm update aimed to improve search results by refreshing SERP rankings to ensure users receive the highest quality content. 

Google compares its core algorithm updates to refreshing ‘best of’ movie lists for each year, which is why some websites may see their rankings drop while others rise. 

The update finished rolling out on September 8th, 2023. 

Google Completes Rollout Of August 2023 Core Update (Search Engine Journal) 

How the August 2023 Google core update compared to March 2023 core updates (Search Engine Land) 

Google August 2023 Core Update Hit Hard Around August 25th For Some Sites (Search Engine Roundtable) 

August 8th, 2023: How-to and FAQ Changes 

Google announced changes to its rich results earlier in August, primarily by reducing SERP features based on how-to and FAQ structured data. 

Yet, as of September 2023, these changes have been minimal, with only how-to SERP features showing a reduction. 

Google reduces the visibility of HowTo and FAQ-rich results in search (Search Engine Land) 

May 25th, 2023: Search Generative Experience 

Eager to show off the capabilities of Bard, Google unleashed its ‘Search Generative Experience’ (SGE), which added AI results to the top of some user queries. 

However, AI-generated results only appeared for users who opted in and signed up for the waitlist. 

Google opens access to Search Generative Experience today (Search Engine Land) 

April 12th, 2023: Reviews Update 

Lasting just under two weeks, Google’s April Reviews Update expanded beyond product reviews to also include reviews of businesses, media (i.e., games and movies), services, destinations, and more. 

Google also provided advice for ‘writing high-quality reviews’ via Google Search Central. 

How to Write High-Quality Reviews (Google Search Central)

Google releases April 2023 reviews update (Search Engine Land)

March 15th – 28th, 2023: Core Algorithm Update 

The first core algorithm update of the year, this update finished rolling out on March 28th. 

As with other core updates, rankings drops don’t necessarily mean that anything is wrong with the affected web pages. 

Google releases March 2023 broad core update (Search Engine Land) 

Google Rolls Out March 2023 Core Algorithm Update (Search Engine Journal) 

February 1st, 2023: Product Reviews Update 

While specifics were unclear, Google mentioned that this update to their product review system was rolling out for 11 languages, which included:

  • Dutch
  • English
  • French 
  • German 
  • Indonesian
  • Italian
  • Polish
  • Portuguese 
  • Russian 
  • Spanish
  • Vietnamese

According to a report by Search Engine Land, this update was more volatile than previous ones, as ranking volatility was significantly higher than the July 2022 Product Reviews Update. 

Google February 2023 Product Reviews Update (Search Engine Journal) 

Google February 2023 product reviews update more volatile than previous updates, say data providers (Search Engine Land) 

2022 Updates

December 15th, 2022: E-E-A-T Update to Quality Rater Guidelines 

One of the most significant updates in recent years, Google updated its famous Quality Rater Guidelines algorithm to include an extra E. 

What was E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) became E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness). 

Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines inform its team of human quality raters, significantly influencing Google’s algorithm. In particular, the work the quality raters do directly influences what Google views as a quality website. 

This update emphasized the importance of demonstrating first-hand experience in content, especially for reviews. 

Our latest update to the quality rater guidelines: E-A-T gets an extra E for Experience (Google) 

E-E-A-T and major updates to Google’s quality rater guidelines (Search Engine Land) 

What is Google E-E-A-T? How To Demonstrate First-Hand Experience (Search Engine Journal) 

December 14th, 2022: Link Spam Update 

One day prior to rolling out the E-E-A-T update, Google announced its latest link spam update. 

Its goal was to crack down on the effect unnatural backlinks (mainly paid backlinks) had on SERP rankings, and the update’s impact was immediate and quite drastic for some websites. 

December 2022 link spam update releasing for Google Search (Google) 

Four Takeaways from Google’s Updated Link Guidance (Search Engine Journal) 

Google December 2022 link spam update done rolling out (Search Engine Land) 

December 5th, 2022: Helpful Content Update & Continuous Scroll on Desktop 

This update took over a month to roll out, which means it bled over into the Link Spam Update. 

The goal was to improve Google’s classifier and improve the quality of Google’s search results, namely by rewarding content that’s designed to help users. 

Google Helpful Content Update & Link Spam Update Still Making SERP Turbulence (Search Engine Roundtable) 

Google Rolls Out December 2022 Helpful Content Update (Search Engine Journal) 

October 19th, 2022: Spam Update 

This marked Google’s first update to its spam detection system in nearly a year. Surprisingly, this update only took a mere 48 hours to complete. 

As with other spam updates, it targeted specific Google guidelines violations, but it didn’t target link spam. 

Google October 2022 spam update done rolling out in less than 48 hours (Search Engine Land) 

Google Spam Algorithm Update Rolling Out Now (Search Engine Journal) 

September 20th, 2022: Product Review Update 

This update had the goal of targeting low-quality reviews that reached the top of the SERPs. It was one part of a five-part series of updates cracking down on subpar product reviews. 

It’s crucial to note that this update only affected websites that publish product reviews

What We’re Seeing From The Google Product Reviews Update #5 (Search Engine Roundtable) 

Google September 2022 Product Review Algorithm Update Rolling Out Now (Search Engine Journal) 

September 12th – September 26th, 2022: Core Algorithm Update 

Analyzing SERP results from late August to late September was a bit difficult due to how many updates were overlapping. 

This core update came just a few weeks after August’s Helpful Content Update, and it bled over into the Product Review Update. 

As with other core updates, changes to SERP rankings don’t necessarily mean that anything was wrong with the affected web pages. However, this update didn’t seem to have as much of an impact as other core updates. 

Google’s September 2022 core update hit fast but was less significant than previous updates (Search Engine Land) 

Google Announces September 2022 Core Algorithm Update (Search Engine Journal) 

August 25th – September 9th, 2022: Helpful Content Update 

This update promised to reward ‘people-first’ content above articles written primarily to rank high on search engines. 

It was a surprise update, as the announcement came less than a week in advance. Yet, this update didn’t appear to have that much of an impact.

Google’s Helpful Content Update Rolls Out: 7 Things To Know (Search Engine Journal) 

What creators should know about Google’s August 2022 helpful content update (Google) 

July 27th – August 2nd, 2022: Product Reviews Update 

This update to Google’s product review system was far less volatile than the one occurring a year later in 2023. 

That’s likely due to the fact that this update yielded no unique changes and was likely just Google refreshing the algorithm and making minor adjustments. 

Google releases July 2022 product reviews update (Search Engine Land) 

Google July 2022 Product Review Algorithm Update Rolling Out Now (Search Engine Journal) 

May 22nd – June 9th, 2022: Core Algorithm Update 

Google’s core update that occurred in May 2022 was much like previous ones, meaning it was light on specifics. 

It was the first core update of 2022. 

May 2022 core update releasing for Google Search (Google) 

Google Launching May 2022 Broad Core Algorithm Update (Search Engine Journal) 

March 23rd, 2022: Product Review Algorithm Update 

In late March of 2022, Google unleashed a significant update to its product review algorithm that took a total of 19 days to roll out. 

It claimed to help Google better identify high-quality product reviews. 

Google March 2022 product reviews update is finished rolling out (Search Engine Land) 

New Google Algorithm Update Aimed At Product Reviews (Search Engine Journal) 

February 22nd – March 3rd, 2022: Page Experience Update 

The first official algorithm update for 2022, the Page Experience Update rolled out for desktops, as it had previously completed for mobile SERPs. 

Google Page Experience Update Starts Rolling Out On Desktop  (Search Engine Journal) 

Google Page Experience Update For Desktop Rolling Out (Search Engine Roundtable) 

2021 Updates

December 1st, 2021: Product Review Update 

On December 1st, Google introduced its refresh of the April 2021 product review update, with the goal of rewarding high-quality reviews written to provide value to users. 

The update took approximately three weeks to complete. 

December 2021 Product reviews update and your site (Google) 

Google December 2021 Product Review Update (Search Engine Journal) 

November 30th – December 8th, 2021: Local Search Update 

On the platform formerly known as Twitter, Google announced an update to its local search results in late November 2021. 

The update rebalanced several crucial ranking factors for local businesses. 

Google Confirms Update To Local Search Results (Search Engine Journal) 

Google also had a local search update from November 30th through December 8th (Search Engine Land) 

November 17th, 2021: Broad Core Algorithm Update 

During this Google core update, many sites saw a single-day spike in rankings, which is a bit odd. However, it was par for the course for a core update, as it didn’t target anything specific but aimed to improve Google’s search results as a whole. 

Google’s November 2021 core update hit fast and hard; here is what the data providers saw (Search Engine Land) 

Google Launching November 2021 Broad Core Algorithm Update (Search Engine Journal) 

November 3rd, 2021: Spam Update

This spam update was a bit vague, as Google didn’t specify what it was targeting. Also, they made sure not to call this update a ‘link spam’ update. 

Google November spam update is fully rolled out (Search Engine Land) 

Google Spam Update Done Rolling Out (Search Engine Journal) 

July 26th, 2021: Link Spam Update

In July 2021, Google announced an official link spam update that took approximately 2 – 4 weeks to roll out. 

Unlike the spam update in November, this one specifically targeted link spam tactics. 

A reminder on qualifying links and our link spam update (Google) 

Google Search link spam update rolling out now (Search Engine Land) 

July 1st – 12th, 2021: Core Algorithm Update 

The second core update of the year, this one was a follow-up to the core update that took place in July. 

As with other core updates, it was up in the air whether websites would see positive or negative results. 

Google July 2021 core update rolling out now (Search Engine Land) 

Google July 2021 Core Update Begins Rolling Out (Search Engine Journal) 

June 23rd – June 28th, 2021: Spam Update 

While this spam update was a two-parter, it wasn’t quite clear what was impacted and what wasn’t. Some websites did show impacts from the update, but there was no significant impact on rankings volatility. 

Part two of Google Search spam update on June 28th rolling out (Search Engine Land) 

Google Search Spam Algorithm Update Part Two On June 28th (Search Engine Roundtable) 

June 15th, 2021: Page Experience Update

Google promised that most websites shouldn’t see much of an impact from this update and that any noticeable drop-offs in rankings will be mitigated by the rollout process. 

Google Page Experience Update Begins Rolling Out (Search Engine Journal) 

More time, tools, and details on the page experience update (Google) 

June 2nd – 12th, 2021: Broad Core Algorithm Update 

The first core update of 2021 occurred in early June, and they announced the July update at the same time as the two were connected. 

How’s that?

Some of the planned improvements weren’t quite ready by June, which was the reason for the second update that occurred in July. 

Google June 2021 core update finished rolling out June 12th (Search Engine Land) 

Google Broad Core Algorithm Update Rolling Out June 2nd, 2021 (Search Engine Journal) 

April 8th, 2021: Product Reviews Update

This product reviews update sought to reward in-depth reviews that share lots of research and details instead of thin reviews that don’t provide any unique insights. 

On Google Search Central, the company released nine questions to consider when writing product reviews. 

What creators should know about Google’s April 2021 product reviews update (Google) 

Google Product Reviews Update Goes Live in Search Results (Search Engine Journal) 

February 10th, 2021: Passage Indexing Update 

A highly unique update, Google announced ‘passage indexing’ in early 2021. 

What’s that?

It’s where Google indexes individual passages from websites to help determine the context of a given web page. 

Google made sure to note that “This doesn’t mean that we’re indexing passages independently of pages. We’re still indexing pages and considering info about the entire pages for ranking. But now we can also consider passages from pages as an additional ranking factor.”

What Is Google Passage Ranking: 16 Key Points You Should Know (Search Engine Journal) 

How AI is powering a more helpful Google (Google)   


2020 Updates

December 2020 Core Update — December 3, 2020

Google rolled out another broad core update seven months after their last update on May 2020. And as expected, this update triggered a huge impact.

Google December 2020 core update is now fully rolled out (Search Engine Land)
Google’s December 2020 Core Update: By the Numbers (Moz)
The Themes Running Through The December 2020 Core Update (Rank Ranger)

Google Announces May 2020 Core Update – May 4, 2020

This is the second broad core algorithm update for 2020. Websites should again expect notable effects as this update continues to roll out over the next two weeks or so.

Google’s May 2020 Core Update (SEMrush)
Google May 2020 Core Update rolling out (Search Engine Land)
Google Core Update May 2020: All you need to know (Searchmetrics)

Google Announces Featured Snippet De-duping – January 22, 2020

This latest update from Google means that URLs in the Featured Snippets will not appear as traditional organic results anymore.

Google Featured Snippet and Core Updates in January 2020: Expert Roundup (Semrush)
Google’s Featured Snippet Deduplication: What Does It Mean for Web Publishers? (SEO Smarty)
Google’s Featured Snippet-Apocalypse, FAQ Schema, No Snippet & Max Snippets Tags (Claire Carlile Marketing)

Google Announces January 2020 Core Update – January 13, 2020

The January 2020 core update is a broad core algorithm update. That means it’ll have a widely notable effect across all search results on a worldwide scale.

Google Rolls Out January 2020 Core Update (Edgy)
Google January 2020 Core Update is Rolling Out Imminently (Search Engine Journal)
Search Buzz Video Recap: Google January 2020 Algorithm Update, Intent vs Keyword Search, Medium Hit & Much More (Search Engine Round Table)

2019 Updates

Google Announces “BERT” Algorithm Update – October 24, 2019

The Google BERT update was announced on October 24, 2019, but reported that it has already been rolling out for a few days. According to the release, Google says that this will affect 10% of queries, which means this is one of the biggest Google updates of the last 5 years!

The New Google BERT Update Explained In Plain English (The HOTH)
Why you may not have noticed the Google BERT update (Search Engine Land)
Google BERT Update – What it Means (Search Engine Journal)

Broad Core Algorithm “September 2019 Core Update” Announced – September 24, 2019

Google’s March and June Core Updates were about them wanting to better evaluate E.A.T. criteria. The September update, however, tells a different story. If affected by the update, Google has suggested you pay attention to 4 main factors: content & quality, expertise, presentation & production, and competitive comparison.

September 2019 Google Update – Winners and Losers (Search Engine Journal)
Google September 2019 Core Update: All You Need To Know (SearchMetrics)
Google Sept. 2019 Core Update ‘weaker’ than June core update (Search Engine Land)

Broad Core Algorithm “June 2019 Core Update” Announced – June 2, 2019

Google actually pre-announced this update on Twitter, letting the SEO community know that a broad core algorithm update would be rolling out over the next few days. The SEO community has pondered the idea of this update being a reversal of the March 2019 core update. Analysis of website traffic data shows that a variety of niches have seen volatility in rankings and Google is focusing heavily on search intent.

June 2019 Core Update: Everything You Need To Know (HOTH Blog)
Google SearchLiason Announces Core Algorithm Update (Twitter)
Google SearchLiason Confirms This Update Has Been Rolled Out (Twitter)
Performance Changes Observed by SEOs from this Update (Search Engine Land)


Broad Core Algorithm “March 2019 Core Update” Announced – March 13, 2019

The marketing community previously referred to the update as the “Florida 2” update because it happened close to the time of the popular Pubcon conference in Florida. Analysis of website traffic data appears to suggest that this update is independent of the previous “Medic” update and is intended to reward sites that focus on providing a good user experience.

March 2019 Core Update: What It Is and Action Steps to Take (HOTH Blog)
Google SearchLiason Announces Core Algorithm Update (Twitter)
Google SearchLiason Officially Names it the “March 2019 Core Update” (Twitter)
Performance Changes Observed by SEOs from this Update (Search Engine Journal)

2018 Updates

Broad Core Algorithm “Medic” Update Announced – August 1, 2018

Periodic broad core updates are part of Google’s continual refinement of their algorithm to produce the best quality search results. Websites saw changes in their rankings from the August 2018 Broad Core Algorithm update, but no specific factors were targeted. The update affected many prominent sites in the health and medical niche, and was named the Medic update by Barry Schwartz as a result.

Google’s Medic Update: How to Fix Your Website If You Were Impacted (HOTH Blog)
What You Need to Know About Google’s August 2018 Broad Core Algorithm Update (HOTH Blog)
Google SearchLiason Announces Core Algorithm Update (Twitter)
Performance Changes Observed by SEOs from this Update (Search Engine Roundtable)

Algorithm Quality Update – Mid-May 2018

Google continued to make tweaks to their algorithm in May to reward quality content as they did the previous two months. Websites that wasted Google’s crawl rates primarily through thin and duplicate pages as well as bad loading times, high bounce rates and ad-heavy content saw the biggest rankings drop.

Google Core Algorithm Updates Explained (Charles Floate)

Broad Core Algorithm Quality Update Announced – April 16, 2018

This update to the rankings algorithm was done to benefit pages with quality content that were previously “under-rewarded.” Websites with content markedly better than their competitors saw improvement, while sites with thin content were bumped down.

Google Confirms Core Algorithm Update (Twitter)
Google Confirms Algorithm Update Released on April 16th

A Change to the Core Algorithm – Mid-March 2018

This change to the rankings algorithm was implemented to not punish anyone, but to simply reward websites that are doing things right.

Google Confirmed Weekend Algorithm Ranking Shift As “Core Update”

2017 Updates

“Maccabees” Update — December 14, 2017

Named “Maccabees” by SEO expert Barry Schwartz, there was no formal announcement of this update by Google other than confirmation of several small updates occurring around this time. This update caused a stir when some prominent digital marketer’s websites along with e-commerce website rankings took a hit during the busy season of the holidays.

Google Maccabees Update: The Top Analyses and Theories on the Latest Google Update (HOTH Blog)
Google Search Ranking Algorithm Update: The Maccabees Update (Barry Schwartz on Search Engine Roundtable)
Google confirms mid-December search ranking algorithm updates (Search Engine Land)

Google Fred is Announced – Mid-March 2017

The Google Fred Update’s main target was low-value content. This was done in an attempt to rank higher without putting in a quality effort.

Google Rolling Out its New Fred Update (HOTH Blog)
Google’s Fred Update Taking on Sites Focused on Revenue, Not Users
Google Fred Update (

Google Doing Some Housekeeping – Early February 2017

Google released 2 unnamed but major updates in early February, in just a week. With no official release announcements, there have been many experts conducting research to quantify what these updates are doing.

Google Update May be Better at Discounting Links and Spam (SEL)
The Impact of Google’s Update on Core Rankings (GSQi)

Intrusive Interstitial Penalty (The Popup Penalty) – Jan 10, 2017

Google’s penalty to publish sites with intrusive popups went into effect.

Google Mobile Popup Update (HOTH Blog)
Google Rolling Out Mobile Penalty (SER)

2016 Updates

Google Penguin 4.0 Announced – Friday September 23 2016

Google Penguin 4 was announced and includes a few pieces. First, it is now a part of the core algorithm and will update in real time. Second, it will be more “granular” or page specific as opposed to affecting the entire domain.

Google Penguin 4.0, Possum, And Craziness Update September 2016 (HOTH Blog)
Penguin 4 Official Announcement (Google Webmaster Central)

Google Went Crazy September – Early to Mid September 2016

Around Sept 1-2 many tools reported high SERP fluctuations, especially in local search. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of data to support what exactly changed. Google’s results started changing again around the 15th, so we are waiting for things to calm down.

Is a big Google search update happening? (SEL)
Google downplays the algorithm ranking update this week as “normal fluctuations” (SEL)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Google Zombie Update? (SER)

Google Snack Pack / Local 3 Pack – August, 2015

Not an algorithm 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.

Google Local Snack Pack Shakeup (Moz)

Panda 4.2 – July 17, 2015

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

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.

The Quality Update (SEL)

Google Mobilegeddon Mobile Update – April 22, 2015

Google updated its 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.

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

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Google released this update and 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.

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 rollout. 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.

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 all 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.”

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.

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.

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.

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

Google Pigeon – July 24, 2014

Google updated its local search algorithm 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.

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.

Google Announces End of Author Photos (Moz)

Panda 4.0 – May 19, 2014

The 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.

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
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.

Official Announcement

No Name Update — March 24, 2014

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

Did Google Do An Algorithm Update Yesterday? (SERT)

Page Layout #3 — February 6, 2014

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

Official Announcement

Unnamed Update – January 8th, 2014

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

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.

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

No Name Update — December 17, 2013

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

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

No Name Update — November 14, 2013

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

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 algorithm, just an update.

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 anchors text & links.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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 algorithm that specifically targets queries that are regularly spammed for SEO including payday loans, porn, and others.

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 algorithm, not just a data refresh. This was long awaited since it was ~6 months from the last one.

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.

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

No Name Update — May 9, 2013

Reports of algorithm activity, but nothing official from Google.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Official Announcement

Panda #22 — November 21, 2012

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 would be a huge boost. This technique caught on and was pretty widespread in the SEO community, so Google updated its algorithm 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 blog post highlighting 39 changes in May including “Better application of inorganic backlinks signals” “Improvements to Penguin” and more.

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.

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.

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 site links & more.

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

Panda 3.6 (#14) — April 27, 2012

Another Panda data refresh.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Panda 3.4 (#12) — March 23, 2012

Another panda refresh.

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.

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, site links, autocomplete, UI elements, indexing, synonyms, SafeSearch and more.”

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!

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 algorithm, updates to “freshness.”

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.

Page layout algorithm improvement (Google)

Panda 3.2 (#10) — January 18, 2012

Another Panda update / refresh.

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.

Search, plus Your World (Google)
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.

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.

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

Panda 3.1 (#9) — November 18, 2011

Google Panda refresh.

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 was given, but Google posted a blog post highlighting 10 updates including fresher results, improved snippets.

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 algorithm where Google wants to display fresher results, especially on queries that are time sensitive.

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 your organic traffic is coming from. Good alternatives include SEMrush and using Webmaster tools (GWMT will tell you some terms you’re ranking for).

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.

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.

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

Expanded Sitelinks — August 16, 2011

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

The evolution of sitelinks: expanded and improved (Google)

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

Panda rolls out internationally.

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.

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.

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.

Official: Google Panda Update 2.2 Is Live (SEL)

What Really Happened & How to Beat This Update:
Learn more about Google Panda (HOTH) — June 2, 2011

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

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.

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.

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.

+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.

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.

Algorithm Change Launched (Matt Cutts) & JCPenny Penalty — January 2011

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

Google Penalizes Overstock for Search Tactics (WSJ) 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

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 its algorithm to fix the problem.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 algorithm shift to help combat content farms and was a precursor to the panda update.

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.

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:, newly 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.

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.

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.

Learn about the Canonical Link Element in 5 minutes (
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.

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: 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.

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.

Google “Buffy” Update – June Update (SERoundtable)
SMX Seattle wrap-up (

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.

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.

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.

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.

Indexing timeline (
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.

A Review Of The Jagger 2 Update (SERoundtable)

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 suspicious looking links.

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 un-vouched for links without being a traditional algorithm update. This was a significant update when it comes to link graph impact.

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.

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.

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

Austin — January 2004

Austin fixed the problems left over by Florida. The continued crackdown 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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Explaining algorithm updates and data refreshes (Matt Cutts)

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 structural changes regarding Google.

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.

Cassandra — April 2003

With 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.

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.

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!

Google Launches The Google Toolbar (Google)