March Core Quality Update
This update hit on March 12th 2019 which Google called the “March Core Quality Update”.
Google stated, on 13th March 2019, via the Google search liaison twitter handle, “This week, we released a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year”.
It looks like YMYL (Your-Money-or-Your-Life) sites were impacted most.
Many sites that saw ranking improvements from the August update had their gains reversed with this update as the medic update was most likely tweaked.
Despite the significant volatility, Google’s Danny Sullivan called this update “small”.
This was related to E-A-T; expertise, authoritativeness and trust. YMYL sites, sites that may affect your money or your life, were most affected, especially medical sites; hence it being labelled the “Medic” update.
Google confirmed this update as a broad core algorithm update.Article
Starting to roll out on July 9th 2018, the speed update was implemented to demote sites with poor page speed.
Google stated “it will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries. It applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”
Our website page speed tool is recommended to diagnose any factors which are affecting page speed.
Broad Core Algorithm Update
This update hit on April 16th 2018, Google confirmed the update stating, “we released a broad core algorithm update, as we routinely do throughout the year”.
This seemed to be a general update rather than focusing on anything specific.
“Brackets update” confirmed
Glenn Gabe labelled this update the “Brackets update”. This was a major update, confirmed by Google and occurring in and around March 9th.
Google’s John Mueller confirmed that this update was mainly about relevance
“Maccabees update” confirmed
Dubbed the Maccabees update by Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable, this update hit around the 12th and 13th of December 2017.
Google confirmed the update stating “We released several minor improvements during this timeframe, part of our regular and routine efforts to improve relevancy”.
Websites with no schema data & those relying on doorway pages were thought to be most impacted.
Snippet Length Increase
Google confirmed via Search Engine Land that it had changed the way it displays snippets in search results. Crucially this paved the way for longer meta descriptions – up to 300 characters (a 100% increase) for some queries.
Google’s AI-powered jobs search engine goes live in the US, introducing a pack of 3 ‘cards’ drawing in content from major jobs portals such as LinkedIn, Monster, Glassdoor, and CareerBuilder. Google.co.uk is yet to implement this type of result, however.Article
Jokingly dubbed as “Fred” on Twitter by Google’s Gary Illyes. This was never officially confirmed as a definite update but considerable shakeup in the SERPs were widely reported by the SEO community.
Unnamed Major Update
The month of February saw algorithmic changes across the search landscape, with the turbulence peaking around the end of the week. This may have been a larger single update or several smaller ones, though details of exactly what tweaks were made remain vague.
Intrusive Interstitial Penalty
Aggressive interstitials and invasive pop-up adverts, those that partially or entirely restrict a mobile user’s view of the page content, were penalised as part of this update. Those interstitials that are in response to legal requirements – such as the EU cookie regulation or age verification – were confirmed to not represent a negative quality factor. Google took the unusual (for them) step of announcing this change around 5 months in advance but, despite the highly visible nature of this update, the search results saw only minor turbulence.
Release of the next iteration in the Penguin link quality algorithm began in late September and was aimed at devaluing individual bad links rather than penalising sites. Penguin was also confirmed as running in real-time as a part of the core algorithm. Google reiterated that Webmasters should continue to concentrate on creating quality content and that updates like Penguin only represented 1 aspect of over 200 ranking signals.Article
Announced by Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller and released a little over a year after the first mobile-friendly update. This update was intended to improve the visibility of mobile-friendly sites within the mobile search results. More robust guidance was provided direct from Google via the Webmaster Mobile Guide. Claims that this would amount to ‘mobilegeddon 2’ were denied by staff at Google, as the impact was expected to be quite minor.
Google made major changes to the way paid ads were displayed in the SERPs. They disappeared from the right hand side of the page, and instead four more natural looking ads appeared at the top of the page, with a further three present at the bottom of the page. This update saw many companies see rises in their CPC, with some reporting a rise of 30-40% for competitive keywords.
Google confirmed a “core algorithm update” with many tracking tools reporting large movements in rankings. They also said that this was not part of a Penguin update.
Google revealed that machine learning had been part of the algorithm for months, contributing to one of the most influential ranking factors. Although Google only announced this at this point, it is suspected that the launch was back in the Spring.
Real Time Penguin Update
Google has announced that it is planning a real-time Penguin update to take place ‘before the end of the year’. The speculation is that the algorithm will no longer be refreshed in large manual updates. This means that instead of seeing large changes across SERPs in short periods of time, we will have more frequent, subtle changes on a regular basis.Article
Google announced a Panda update that could take months to roll out, though there were no signs of a major change in rankings.
Core Search Algorithm Update
A large number of webmasters reported significant ranking movement around June 17th. This was later confirmed by Google officially as a core algorithm update, and to expect more of these in the future as they make ‘hundreds’ of such changes each year. While few details have been released about the exact nature of the update, Gary Ilyes of Google stated that it was unrelated to HTTPS, Penguin and Panda.
A real time, page-by-page mobile friendly algorithm that many are dubbing ‘Mobilegeddon’ as it has been hyped as being more significant than the Panda and Penguin updates. Google took the unusual route of telling its users exactly when and what to expect from this update all the way back in February, and integrated mobile usability reports and testing tools as part of Google Webmaster Tools to help us get up to speed on the required changes. The update itself, which only impacts the main search results, is an expansion of the mobile ranking demotion algorithm from 2013 and is intended to help users with finding quality results that are optimised for their devices. It’s also expected to improve the ranking ability of Android (so far) apps indexed via App Indexing.Article
With an unusual amount of upheaval across multiple SERPs reports came flying in to blame an e-commerce or mobile usability update, but these rumours were never officially confirmed by Google
Pigeon Expansion (English-Speaking Regions)
The local algorithm update ‘Pigeon’ is expanded to the UK, Australia and Canadian SERPS after its initial US launch in July of 2014. There was surprise that this update was rolled out just before the Christmas period as it was expected to impact local shopping traffic.
Penguin Continuous Updates
A Google representative confirms that Penguin will be shifted to continuous updates, rather than the series of major releases that we’ve seen in the past.
Google Pirate Update
After receiving a barrage of criticism, Google publishes a blog updating us on what it is currently doing to tackle online piracy. Less than a week later, TorrentFreak reports a shakeup in the SERPs with many popular torrent sites having been impacted. The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) among others, welcome the update.Article
Google Penguin 3.0
The first revision of the Penguin algorithm in over a year is made and rolled out. Many sites reported fluctuations, but details released by Google are scant. Google previously indicated that a new system to be introduced in the next Penguin update (this one) would allow for more frequent refreshes of the Penguin data, but nobody yet knows if this has been introduced.Article
Google Panda 4.1 Update
The 27th Google Panda update had arrived. Depending on location, around 3-5% of search queries were affected. Google indicated that this update would improve the rankability of high quality small- and medium-sized sites and improve the accuracy of the algorithm.
Google Authorship Removed Update
In line with theories among industry experts about authorship becoming less important, Google officially announced that authorship mark-up would be completely removed from the SERPs overnight. Although the authorship experiment had ultimately provided little value to the end user, this change showed that Google was prepared to put their hands up and admit when things weren’t working.
Google HTTPS/SSL Update
Secure sites were to receive a slight boost in rankings, as Google announced that encrypted sites would be given a degree of preference. Google has indicated that increases could become more significant in future.
Google Pigeon Update
In a bid to provide better quality local search results, this algorithm improved Google’s distance and location ranking parameters. Traditional ranking signals became more significant in processing local search results.
Google Authorship Photo Drop Update
To the surprise of much of the industry, Google announced that authorship photos would no longer be included in the SERPs. Google had previously promoted the connection between authorship and Google+, so this change made it look as if Google+ had become less significant, not to mention authorship itself. All photos were dropped by June 28th.
Google Payday loan (3) Update
Very shortly, after the last Google payday loan 2.0 update, this algorithm was again updated, this time targeting specific spammy queries. Officials indicated that that last payday loan update had instead targeted specific spammy sites.Article
Google Panda 4.0 Update
This was the most significant update to the Panda algorithm for a while and was probably both a data refresh and algorithm change. Many think that Google started rolling it out before the official date given (20/05). Approximately 7.5% of English-language queries were impacted by this update.Article
Google Payday Loan (2) Update
This was an update to the “payday loan” algorithm launched in June, with yet more payday loan companies receiving hefty penalties. Specific details were limited.
Google Page Layout 3 Update
This was simply a refresh of an algorithm update from 2012, when sites with too many ads at the top of their pages, or with ads considered too distracting to users were penalised. Sites which had escaped the original update or which were new and contravened Google’s rules about layout were in trouble.
Google Authorship Shake-up Update
It had previously been posited by Matt Cutts that authorship mark-up could see a reduction for a number of queries, and in the first half of December this was realised, with around 15% of queries no longer including authorship mark-up. Google clearly felt that the volume of mark-up in their results was impeding the quality of their results.Article
Google Penguin (2.1) or 5 Update
Another Penguin update, this was suspected to involve a data refresh, instead of any significant change to the algorithm. Some sites appeared to be hit hard, but many concluded that this was a minor event.
Google Hummingbird Update
This algorithm update was a significant infrastructure change (likened to the Caffeine update in 2010), leading to massive improvements in semantic search and the Knowledge Graph. However, unlike Caffeine, instead of improving the way data was collected, this update improved the way that Google sorted through and processed information. An example of Google’s new semantic abilities was the new “Conversational Search” – you could now ask questions like “Where is New York?” and then ask “How many people live there?”, without mentioning New York for a second time. Search was no longer only about individual searches, but also multiple and consecutive and joined-up queries.
Google In-depth Articles Update
Fresh, quality content was once again pushed to the fore of industry discussions, as Google introduced new news results called “in-depth articles”. Only the very freshest, ever-green and comprehensive content would gain exposure within these results.
Google Unnamed Update
An update that Google never confirmed, industry sources indicated that there had been a huge spike in ranking movements across the board (‘105°F’ according to MozCast).
Google Knowledge Graph Expansion Update (2)
Google significantly increased the number of searches that would produce Knowledge Graph (KG) entries within the SERPs. MozCast data suggested that there was an increase of over 50%. There was an indication that brand searches in particular had seen an increase, suggesting that Google wanted to allow users easier access to information about brands. Over 25% of all searches would now include KG entries.
Google Panda Recovery Update
This was an official Panda update, but nobody knew if it was part of the ongoing monthly updates previously announced. It seemed that this update resulted in the severity of some previous Panda penalties being reduced.
Google Multi-week Update
Google had previously announced that it regularly tested changes, without those changes necessarily becoming permanent updates. This appeared to be a live test of changes, as some significant movements in rankings were observed. Matt Cutts hinted that updates over several weeks (between around 12th June and “the week after July 4th”) might be taking place. After this period of volatility, the calm after the storm indicated that the changes tested had not been permanent.
Google Panda Dance Update
This was more of a clarification than an update, as Matt Cutts released crucial information that Panda was not in a state of “everflux”, but was instead updated on a monthly basis, with each phase taking around 10 days to complete. Everybody do the Google dance!
Google Payday Loan Update
Payday loan and pornographic sites, which were often known to benefit from spammy practices, were under scrutiny, as Google introduced one of its most industry-specific updates yet on 11th June. Such a spammy set of verticals would take a long time to clean up and the official word was that this update might take a couple of months to fully implement.
Google Penguin (2.0) or 4 Update
Google kept quiet about the exact nature of the changes, but after much of a to do and a huge amount of speculation, the 4th incarnation of Penguin hit the scene – without really rocking the boat. Industry figures speculated that the algorithm was more focussed on issues at the page level.Article
Google Domain Crowding Update
Domain crowding and diversity was to be better handled from page two and beyond in the SERPs. This update was released internationally and seemed to take effect shortly before Penguin 2.0 was announced.
Google Phantom Update
The industry reported significant ranking fluctuations consistent with an algorithm update around 9th May. Nobody knew what actually happened, but many reported negative movements in rankings.
Google Panda 25 Update
Matt Cutts indicated at SMX West that the next Panda update would be the last before it became part of the main search algorithm. Nobody knows exactly when it was absorbed into the primary algorithm, but some suspect it happened sometime in the middle of the month. Everybody who was sick of reading about Panda updates breathed a sigh of relief!
Google Panda 24 Update
Google said ‘happy new year’ by making yet another Panda update. 1.2% of queries were impacted, but it did not correlate with rumoured discussions around an update.
Google Panda 23 Update
Google’s Christmas present was a Panda “refresh”, affecting 1.3% of English queries and shaking the ground slightly more than the last two Panda updates.
Google Knowledge Graph Expansion Update
Google’s knowledge graph went global and began responding to non-English queries in most major languages. There were additional enhancements to the knowledge graph, providing enhanced performance in all languages.
Google Panda 22 Update
Another minor update, Google updated Panda’s data. The update didn’t cause much movement.
Google Page Layout 2 Update
Google had already started to penalise sites with too much ad space at the top of their pages in January and this was an update to that system. Nobody knew if it was an algorithmic or data-based change.
Google Penguin 3 Update
0.3% of search queries were affected by this update, as “Penguin 3” was released. The update was data based and not algorithmic – this conflicted with industry expectations that this would be a significant update.Article
Google August/September 65 pack Update
Monthly updates had seemingly become bi-monthly, as Google released two months’ worth of changes in one update. August and September saw a total of 65 changes, including improvements to local search and page quality assessment.
Google Exact Match Domain (EMD) Update
Exact Match Domains became less of a bonus and more of a burden to some as Google devalued them. Officials say that only 0.6% of queries were affected, but many felt it was more significant.
Google Panda 20 Update
Coinciding with an update to EMDs, the Panda algorithm was amended and its data refreshed, affecting 2.4% of queries. Naming conventions for the Panda algorithm had got lost, so industry sources decided that we’d have to refer to Panda updates by order. This was the 20th, so it became known as ‘Google Panda 20’
Google Panda (3.9.2) or 19 Update
Another Panda data refresh takes place, leading to some ranking flux, but nothing major.
Google Panda (3.9.1) or 18 Update
Google made another change to the Panda algorithm, causing hardly any changes. Google officially dubbed this Panda 3.9.1.
Google 7 results SERP Update
Google’s top ten became its top seven with this update. Although it didn’t apply to all search queries, some search queries were limited to seven results on the first page.
Google DMCA penalty Update
Repeat copyright violators were for the chop, as Google vowed to penalise any offending sites. DMCA takedown requests were considered by the search community to be a possible source of data upon which to base these decisions. The announcement was made a week before roll-out.
Google June/July 86 pack Update
Google had taken a summer holiday and had returned with a bumper pack of details about updates that had been made in June and July. A whopping 86 changes included better detection of queries about weather, refinements around which titles to display in search snippets, and refinements to Google Image search.
Google Panda (3.9) or 17 Update
Around 1% of search queries were affected by this next Panda update. Although ultimately very few rankings were affected, there was an initial period of fluctuation over the first few days after the update was released.
Google Manual Action Warning Update
Following warnings issued through Webmaster Tools since March/April about unnatural links, Google suddenly announced that everybody should take these warnings with a pinch of salt. Nobody was sure what this really meant.
Google Panda (3.8) or 16 Update
This was another Panda data refresh, which didn’t cause much movement in the SERPs.
Google Panda (3.7) or 15 Update
Less than 1% of search queries were to be affected by this algorithmic change to Panda, but the update had a bigger effect on rankings than the last two Panda updates, which had seemed fairly routine and minor, and which had mainly concerned refreshing Panda data.
Google May 39 Pack Updates
Google announced 39 changes made in May. There was, among others, yet more detail around Penguin, music rich snippets on mobile, better detection of major new events, and deeper detection of hacked pages.
Google Penguin (1.1) or 2 Update
Some had considered changes relating to Penguin, detailed in April’s 52 pack update, to be a second incarnation of the algorithm. Not everybody agreed, but now came a further update to Penguin. Similarly to Panda data, Penguin data was to be handled separately from the main search index.
Google Knowledge Graph Update
An enrichment of the SERP and powered by significantly improved semantic analysis and interpretation, Google introduced the “Knowledge Graph” to automatically and instantaneously display information for certain searches within the SERP. The idea was to provide users with the information more directly.
Google April 52 pack Update
Google releases details about even more changes made in the last month, elaborating on some of the ingredients that went into the “Penguin” recipe. Some changes had a multilingual search focus and included the introduction of identification of country for webpages, more spelling corrections globally and in more languages, as well as offering better HTML 5 resource caching for mobile.
Google Panda (3.6) or 14 Update
Another routine update of Panda is made and its impact is considered to be small. It took place only a week after the last Panda update.
Google Penguin Update
With the range of algorithm updates to date, the search community had been speculating about the possibility of Google introducing an “Over-optimisation penalty”. This was it – Google Penguin had arrived and was initially called the “web spam update”. Sites guilty of keyword stuffing and link schemes were to be significantly devalued, with approximately 3.1% of English queries to be affected. This was to be one of the most significant updates since the inception of Panda. Google had already started to issue warnings about possible contravention of guidelines through Webmaster Tools and this update prompted even more.
Google Panda (3.5) or 13 Update
The umpteenth Google Panda update is made, refreshing data yet again and introducing a host of changes, the impact of which could not be easily ascertained. It seemed to have a minimal effect.
Google Parked Domain Bug
Algorithms aren’t always perfect and Google had accidentally devalued domains it thought were parked, but weren’t. Google fixed the bug with this update.
Google March 50 Pack Update
Even more updates were covered in the March “search quality highlights”. An impressive 50 changes had been made, including fresher image predictions, better local results, sources in Google News, and the introduction of the ‘+1’ button to more countries and for more domains. Google also referenced their tweet about the last update Panda update, confirming its implementation.
Goole Panda (3.4) or 12 Update
Here signals yet another Panda update, which was announced at the same time as it was being rolled out. A tweet from ‘A Googler’ broke the news and indicated that around 1.6% of search queries would be affected by the refresh.
Google Search Quality Video Update
Google gave the public insight into its weekly search quality review meeting, by recording and releasing a short video featuring some key Google staff members. Matt Cutts and Amit Singhal are there, along with Google staff from all over the globe. While this wasn’t an update, it did give us a feel for how the people within search worked behind the scenes.
Google Panda (3.3) or 11 Update
One year and three days after the launch of the original Panda algorithm update and as part of Google’s “search quality highlights” , another minor update to Panda was launched, updating it’s handling of link evaluation and making improvements to rankings for local search results.
Google February 40 pack Update
A massive 40 changes were detailed in this next set of “search quality highlights”. Increased accuracy in detecting official sites, improvements to foreign language synonyms, retiring of old algorithms related to query freshness, and another refresh of Panda were just a few of the changes.
Google Venice Update
The localisation screw was tightened with this update, as organic results became more localised and local data was pulled into local searches. No specific launch date was given, but it was clear that Google hadn’t lost sight of local search.
Google February 17 pack Update
Search Quality Highlights were announced for a fourth time, detailing 17 specific algorithm changes. The most interesting news was better integration of the Panda algorithm with indexing and ranking systems.
Google Ads above the fold Update
Sites with too much ad-space above the fold were to be devalued in a bid to reduce ad-sense packed sites. This change smacked of Panda, but it never had an official name. Some called it “Top Heavy”.
Google Panda (3.2) or 10 Update
Panda data had been updated, but no algorithm changes had taken place. Was this change part of “Panda-related flux”, or was it something separate? Google didn’t say, so nobody knew!
Google Search + (plus) your world Update
Controversially and unashamedly self-promoting, Google aggressively threw Google+ social data and user profiles into the SERPs. This was a big change to personalised search that infuriated many and titillated some. There was a button to switch off personalisation if desired, something many people chose to do. Nobody knew the extent to which this impacted the significance of Google+ on rankings, but it was clear that Google wanted a big slice of the social media cake.
Google January 30 pack Update
A new year gift for all the [search] family, Google released details of 30 changes made over the past month. The changes included more rich snippets, better spam detection in Image Search and better lyrics results. Hearing about updates as bundles of detailed changes was refreshing and put more meat on the SEO bone.
Google December 10pack Update
To the astonishment of the search community, Matt Cutts announced a further 10 specific algorithm changes and explained that this information would be posted every month. The changes focussed on freshness, related query improvements and detection of parked domains. Again, there were no dates, but it was great to have more detail around the goings-on at Google.
Google 10 pack of Updates Release
A wholly unexpected, but seemingly technically insignificant update, Matt Cutts explicitly detailed 10 recent changes to Google’s algorithms. Timeframes were missing from the information, but at least Google was trying to be more transparent about its algorithm changes.
Google Freshness Update
A mammoth range of up to 35% of search queries was affected by this update, intended to reward those sites who provided fresh content. The majority of search queries affected were those which were time-specific/sensitive results, but it was clear that Google wanted webmasters to regularly add valuable content to their sites.Article
Google Panda (3.1) or 9 Update
Following Matt Cutt’s announcement about “Panda-related flux” and two small Panda updates, another was released. Many in the search community had lost count of which update was what number, and so discussions from this point would focus more on significant changes to the algorithm. Everybody had been excited by Matt Cutt’s ‘Panda-related’ tweet.
Google Query Encryption Update
This update marks the dawn of “(not provided)” being returned for organic keyword referral data. Google said that the update was for privacy reasons. By encrypting search queries, in initially for some, but later for most organic traffic, the way SEOs reported the value of their service had to change significantly.
Google Panda Flux (8) Update
Yet another series of small changes to Panda were announced by Matt Cutts on Twitter. The series of changes would bring about a period of “Panda-related flux in the next few weeks”, with approximately 2% of search queries set to be affected. Changes were made on 3rd and 13th October.
Google panda (2.5) or 7 Update
A month on from the last Panda update, Google made some further changes to the Panda algorithm and several sites were significantly impacted. Nobody knew when the Panda updates would stop coming, but Google was clearly on a course of constant Panda-refinement!
516 Google Algorithm Update
Google announced that 516 updates had been made in 2010. It wasn’t really an updated, but Eric Schmidt’s (Google’s CEO) also highlighted that more than 13,000 potential changes had been explored in the same year. The message Google was keen to convey was that it wanted to put the user and their search experience first und was taking significant steps and investing money in order to do so.
Google Pagination Elements Update
This update was hugely significant for e-commerce sites, which often had regular issues with crawling and duplication. The Google solution was the ‘rel=”next”‘ and ‘rel=”prev”‘ attributes, which, when correctly implemented, helped Google’s spiders navigate these sites. An improvement to consolidation and canonicalisation for ‘View All’ pages was also introduced.
Google Panda (2.4) or 6 Update
Google Panda went global, as all major languages (except for Chinese, Japanese and Korean) were now covered by algorithm changes, affecting between 6-9% of queries in the relevant local markets.
Google Expanded Site-links Update
An enrichment of search snippets displayed in the SERPs, Google introduced expanded site links to provide yet more information beneath each sitelink displayed. There were initially up to 12 links displayed for authoritative sites, but shortly after launch, this was limited to six.Article
Goole Panda (2.3) or 5 Update
A small update to the Panda filter was made, but specifics were hard to make out, as only very limited information was available. The search industry concluded that the changes were simply a small refinement of the existing algorithm.
Google + (Plus) Update
Google’s answer to Facebook, Google+, launches. Using a different model to Facebook and placing more emphasis on sharing content through specific social groups, or ‘circles’, Google+ was adopted by 10 million people in its first two weeks. The search industry began to discuss the importance of this new social media player in the context of very established social media platforms, such as Facebook, but only time could tell how important the new platform might be.
Google Panda (2.2) or 4 Update
Was it 2.2 or 4.0? Nobody knew which, but Google officially acknowledged that an update to Panda had taken place. Data about sites impacted by the update and its various incarnations were reprocessed separately from the main index – a retro throwback to the good old Google Dance!
Google Schema.org Update
Data needs structure and Google, along with Yahoo and Microsoft agreed, introducing support for a range of new “schemas”. Consolidating data to allow for enriched search results would be the outcome of this update, as SERP snippets looked set to take up more real estate than ever.
Google Panda (2.1) or 3 Update
Google couldn’t decide whether this was Panda 2.1 or 3, and released almost no information about it. The search community decided to consider it a set of minor enhancements to the existing Panda update.
Google Panda 2 Update
Worldwide English queries (regardless of local language) were now covered by the Panda update and additional signals were added to further refine the algorithm. Google started to include data about sites that users had chosen to block. This behavioural data would give Google an indication of sites that users did not want to see and which therefore may be offering a poor user experience.Article
Google +1 Button Update
Google launched the ‘+1’ button. This appeared next to snippets in the SERPs. Clicking the button would affect the way paid and organic search results were served to those within a user’s circles. The update was a response to competition from the likes of Facebook and Twitter.
Google Farmer & Panda Updates
One of the most significant algorithm changes came into force, affecting up to 12% of Google search results. This was an atomic attack on spam, targeting low quality sites and activity not in line with Google’s Quality Guidelines. Content farms, sites full of ad-sense or thin content and other low quality tactics were targeted, with the update hitting European search markets in April 2011.
Google Attribution Update
After the exposure of several high-profile guideline contraventions, Google took steps to reduce the impact of scrapers by changing the way the algorithm processed content attribution. 2% of queries were affected, but it was clear that Google was warming up for something bigger.
Google Overstock Penalty Update
Google took the war on spam to the next level with this update, by outing black hat SEO activity carried out by Overstock.com webmasters and subsequently penalising the site. JCPenney was also penalised and outed in the same way. This was a side of Google we hadn’t seen since 2006, when Google had caught BMW red-handed for using doorway pages to boost its rankings. This can now be seen as another precursor to the later Panda update.
Google Negative Reviews Update
Google decided to modify its algorithm in response to a report in the New York Times that indicated that negative reviews had provided increased visibility for the e-commerce site, ‘DecorMyEyes’. Following this update, sites whose rankings were benefitting from negative reviews were targeted and their visibility adjusted accordingly.
Google Social Signals Update
Google confirms to the search community that social signals are included in the ranking algorithm, specifically mentioning Twitter and Facebook signals. Microsoft also confirmed that social signals were used in its algorithm. Many believed that this was a long time coming, but Matt Cutts explained that this was a recent change.
Google Instant Previews Update
Google allowed users to preview pages from within the SERPs for the first time. Poor front-end design would be showcased and any offenders put to shame. This was an extension of Google’s focus on the quality of the online user’s search experience beyond the Google platform. Landing page quality and design had become more important.
Google Instant Update
Google Brand Update
This may not have been a complex change, but Google’s decision to serve the same domain multiple times in its search results helped many brands gain increased visibility in search. Google had previously only allowed one or two instances of any given domain to appear in the SERP.
Google Caffeine (Official Roll-out) Update
It was time for Google to finalise the roll-out of its Caffeine infrastructure update. Testing over several months had provided Google with the necessary feedback to not only significantly improve the speed of search results, but also to provide a “50% fresher index”. Google had brought crawling and indexing even closer together.
Google Mayday Update
Retrospectively considered to be a precursor to the future ‘Panda’ update, Google began to penalise sites with a majority of thin content and cut off a significant portion of their long-tail traffic. Effects of this update were first felt in April and in early May, Matt Cutts confirmed the implementation of the algorithm changes.
Google Places Update
Google’s Local Business Center is rebranded as ‘Google Places’, as the technology originally launched as part of Google Maps takes centre stage in local search, providing more detailed local results and providing local advertising options to paid search customers.
Google Real-Time Search Update
As part of gearing up for improved search freshness, Google released this update to bring real-time content from Twitter feeds, in Google News, some newly indexed content and a number of other content sources. Over time, social media would become a more significant part of real-time search, as the debate over the significance of social in search continued.Article
Google Caffeine (preview) Update
One of the most significant changes to Google’s infrastructure planned to date, Google took the precaution of releasing a beta version for public testing. The future update would bring faster crawl speeds and a significantly expanded index, all with a view to aligning indexation and ranking as closely as possible. This was a huge project and the rollout wouldn’t begin until early 2010, taking until the summer to complete.
Google Rel-Canonical Tag Update
The search industry starts to support the ‘canonical tag’, allowing webmasters to tell search engines about which instance of any necessary duplicate content is the version they wish to be indexed/displayed to searchers. Not only Google, but also Microsoft and Yahoo announced support for the attribute in a joint announcement.Article
Google Vince Update
This update was seen as Google favouring major brands. Vince was apparently only a “minor change”, but its impacts were felt by many smaller brands
Google Suggest Update
Google Suggest was Google’s biggest move towards a more guided search approach; Google didn’t just want to provide the best results to users after they’d typed in a search query – they wanted to help them choose the search query itself, displaying a dropdown of possible searches as users typed in the search box. This technology would later provide the basis for Google Instant.
Google Dewey Update
Yet more limited clarity from Google HQ as people were seeing some major shifts in the search results and interestingly, Google’s Matt Cutts requested webmaster feedback on the changes that were made (without giving us any detail on what exactly had been changed).
Google Buffy Update
Another vague Google update that nobody seemed to be able to explain. This didn’t seem to be anything major and all anybody knew for sure was that it was named in honour of Vanessa Fox leaving Google. Matt Cutts indicated that a range of less significant adjustments had been made.
Google Universal Search Update
Google makes a major change to the way it displayed search results, blending multiple verticals of search with the ‘traditional’ 10-site listing. News, videos, images, and other content relevant to a user’s search query were now displayed among results for relevant websites. Content was now at the forefront of search and the face of the SERP had been changed forever.
Google supplemental Update
Google changes the way pages are filtered out into its supplemental index are handled. Many felt that being in the supplemental index was the result of being penalised, but Google confirmed that this was not the case, recommending that more quality backlinks was key to being in Google’s main index
Google Big Daddy Update
Google make some big changes under the bonnet, changing their infrastructure significantly. As the changes were so extensive, the update took several months, finishing in March 2006. Google now worked differently with a range of technicalities, such as URL canonicalisation and redirects. This new crawl and index system was rumoured to allow Google to more accurately assess the trustability of links in and out of sites and thereby determine how many pages Google should index. Many low quality pages were deindexed as a result of this update.
Google Jagger Update
The Google spam police strike again, gradually rolling out this update to target poor quality reciprocal and paid links, as well as link farms. The update was introduced in around three stages between September and November, with many reporting changes in October.
Google Local Maps Update
Google merges its maps data with the recently launched Local Business Center. This update didn’t have an immediate impact, but it was clear that Google was focussing more on local search.
Google Gilligan Update
Changes in rankings are observed, with WebmasterWorld initially putting them down to an update (and giving it a name). Matt Cutts denies any update and explains that Google is in a state of “everflux”, with constant low-level changes taking place. This ‘update’ became known as the ‘false’ update. While nobody could identify exactly what had changed, Cutts explained that Google updated its PageRank and backlink data on an ongoing basis but indicated that data visible to the public was only updated around once every 3 months.
Google Personalised Search Update
The dawn chorus of personalised search sounded and Google started to refer to users’ search histories in order to present them with more relevant search results. The earth wasn’t exactly shaken from its axes, but this update marked a significant change in Google’s approach to providing the most relevant results for every user. It also allowed Google to begin amassing an even greater wealth of individualised data about users’ search behaviour.
Google XML Sitemaps Update
For the first time, webmasters could submit XML sitemaps directly to Google using Webmaster Tools, reducing the importance of HTML sitemaps. It was now a case of Google being told the intended structure of websites, instead of having to allocate resource to find out itself.
Google Bourbon Update
A mysterious “something like 3.5 changes” were announced (possibly by Matt Cutts), but nobody knew for sure what these changes were. Some believed that Google had changed the way it handled duplicate content and non-canonical URLs.
Google Allegra Update
Due to very limited detail around this update, nobody was very sure of what was behind it, but most agreed it was a refinement of the implementation of LSI and that Google was starting to limit the effects of links it ‘suspected’ were in contravention of its quality guidelines.
Google Nofollow Update
Introduction of the ‘nofollow’ link attribute, allowing webmasters to closely moderate outbound links and reduce link spam on their websites. Interestingly, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft all announced support for this attribute at around the same time, producing an industry-wide change and impeding forum and blog comment link spammers.
Google Brandy Update
A very wide set of changes launch. Google’s index increases significantly in size, keyword analysis is significantly refined through the introduction of Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) and link neighbourhoods are identified by Google.
Google Austin Update
A refinement of the changes made in the Florida update, Austin resulted in more penalties for sites using underhand on-page tactics, such as META-tag stuffing.
Google Florida Update
Google instils its algorithm with significantly refined AI, giving it the ability to more accurately determine the context of any given web page. The result was that not individual keywords, but broader meanings inferred within text became important. Keyword stuffers were hit for the first time, in one of Google’s most significant strikes in the war on spam.
Google Supplemental Index Update
Google beefs up its storage capacity to allow it to move less important results into a secondary index and prioritise inclusion of more valuable pages in its search results. Using it’s PageRank technology, Google sifts out pages of less importance. Pages in Google’s supplemental index will still feature low down in the SERPs, but only where there aren’t enough pages in its main index.
Google Fritz Update
Google starts to update its index on a daily basis, ushering in a new era of fluid search results and ever-changing rankings.
Google Esmeralda Update
The last of Google’s monthly updates is launched, putting an end to monthly updates and marking a shift towards more regular updates.
Google Dominic Update
Google makes a major change to the way it crawls and analyses backlinks. This update would set the tone for the communication of future Google updates, with only very limited detail around this update made available. One thing we did know was that it was named after a Pizza restaurant in Boston!
Google Cassandra Update
Google says no to hidden text and links, penalising sites using them and also compromising the visibility of co-owned domains. This update marked Google’s first major attack in the war against poor quality link building.
Google Boston Update
The first Google update with a name is launched, combining a range of algorithm updates with a significant index update. This marked the start of ongoing index updates, which caused periodic fluctuations in rankings in some verticals – hence the term ‘Google Dance’.
The 1st major Documented Google Algorithm Update
Google makes its first publicly announced algorithm change, prompting many to hail the death of PageRank and a reduction in the quality of Google’s search results.
Google’s browser toolbar add-on launches, providing easily-accessible visibility of PageRank for the first time.