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Know about Google search Algorithm and Updates

Each and every 12 months, Google changes its Google search algorithm around 500–600 times. At the same time these types of changes are minor, Google every so often rolls out a “most important” algorithmic update (similar to Google Panda and Google Penguin) that influences search results in large ways.

For search entrepreneurs, figuring out the dates of those Google updates can support explain alterations in rankings and natural website traffic and ultimately reinforce search engine optimisation. Beneath, we’ve listed the predominant algorithmic alterations that have had the largest have an effect on on search.

Make Sure you know about all the updates of google.


2016 Updates

Mobile-friendly 2 — May 12, 2016

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

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

Continuing to make the web more mobile friendly (Google)

In their quest to make the web more mobile friendly, Google’s John Mueller confirmed the completion of the roll out of the algorithm update (announced in March) that increases the effect of the ranking signal for pages that are relevant to a user’s search and are mobile-friendly.

Google Mobile SERP Features Tracker has been monitoring the Mobile-Friendly and AMP features (along with all SERP features) as they occur in mobile search. This Insight Graph demonstrates the trends in Mobile-Friendly and AMP since May 1st when Google began rolling out their latest Mobile-Friendly update.

Unnamed Major Update — May 10, 2016

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

Google Dismisses Any Recent Major Algorithm Update (SER)

Undisclosed Activity

The Rank Risk Index level spiked at 93 during 7 days of continuous Google SERP Fluctuations from May 6th through May 13th.

Search Engine Roundtable‘s Barry Schwartz reported that Google’s John Mueller indicated that to his knowledge the company had not rolled out a major algorithm update, but they do continue to make changes.

AdWords Shake-up — February 23, 2016

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

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

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

Google announced on February 19th plans to remove classic sidebar ads in the side section of search engine results.

According to Matt McGee’s Search Engine Land article, there would be only two exceptions to this rule: Product Listing Ad (PLA) boxes and ads in the Knowledge Panel.

Barry Schwartz predicted in Search Engine Roundtable that the move away from sidebar ads will lead to four ads at the top of search engine results, the news of which triggered a frenzy of comments regarding the impact of such a change on small businesses and Google’s income.

Unnamed Update — January 8, 2016

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

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

Google Core Quality Rank – JANUARY 09, 2016


Volatile fluctuations in both Desktop and Mobile search caused by a Google Core Quality Rank Algorithm update were reported by our Rank Risk Index, a SERP fluctuation monitoring tool used by SEO experts.

Google remained quiet as webmasters and SEO experts and bloggers buzzed with speculations.  Search marketing expert Barry Schwartz asked Google’s John Mueller for confirmation of an algorithm update during the January 12th Webmaster Central Office Hours livestream, and published in Search Engine Land a statement indicating that “Google Panda is now part of Google’s Core Ranking Algorithm”.

The Panda algorithm is applied to sites as one of Google’s core ranking signals. It measures the quality of a site, based on Google’s guidelines and adjusts rankings.

2015 Updates

HTTPS Update

DECEMBER 17, 2015


Google announced that they’re now indexing HTTPS pages by default as user security is top priority. Sites using HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) are being rewarded with improved Google rank.

In situations where two URLs from the same domain seem to be sharing content, Google has a set of criteriait follows to determine whether it will serve the HTTPS or the HTTP page.


RankBrain Related Search Update (undisclosed)

DECEMBER 10, 2015


Rank Ranger’s Features Graph analyzes SERP page 1 features data and stability for thousands of keywords per day, and on December 10th its reporting that Google’s RankBrain caused a boost in Google’s special SERP Features that resulted in a significant increase in the number of SERPs containing Related Search, as well as a quality improvement in the average word count of Related Search phrases.

Barry Schwartz mentioned in Search Engine Roundtable articles December 10th shift and a potential Google Search Update on December 16th.

Google has not confirmed a major algorithm update, however, our analysis demonstrates RankBrain is causing search result changes.

RankBrain* — October 26, 2015

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

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

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

Hacked Sites Algorithm

OCTOBER 05, 2015


Google’s Hacked Sites Algorithm is expected to aggressively remove hacked sites from search results to improve the quality of search. The Webmaster Central Blog reported that “a huge amount of legitimate sites are hacked by spammers and used to engage in abusive behavior, such as malware download, promotion of traffic to low quality sites, porn, and marketing of counterfeit goods or illegal pharmaceutical drugs, etc.”

It is expected that this update will impact roughly 5% of queries across the board in multiple languages.

Our Rank Risk Index reported red zone Google SERP fluctuations on Desktop on October 8th and has continued on Mobile search for several days.

Search Engine Roundtable’s Barry Schwartz obtained confirmation from Google’s Gary Illyes that this algorithm only impacts spammy queries.

Panda 4.2 (#28) — July 17, 2015

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

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

Google Panda 4.2 Is Here (SEL)

Panda 4.2 is the first refresh of Google’s Panda quality content policing of the web since September 2014. Bad news for spammy link farms and sites with low quality content, this refresh should be welcomed by sites that were penalized by Panda 4.1 – if they have corrected the issues that caused them to be penalized by Google. As with previous Panda updates, sites may notice an increase in organic ranking, be mildly affected of suffer a rank penalty depending upon the quality of their content because Google’s goal is to provide the best search experience for users of Google’s various search engine services.

Our Rank Risk Index reported red zone Google SERP fluctuations on both Desktop and Mobile search on July 18th.

Google has reported to Search Engine Land‘s Barry Schwartz that Panda 4.2 has impacted 2% to 3% of English language queries.

The Quality Update — May 3, 2015

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

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

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



Spikes in Google Desktop SERP fluctuation from the end of April through mid-May were finally verified by Google as a core algorithm change relating to quality signals that they use in determining rank.

For weeks Google did not release a statement, while SEO forums buzzed with complaints and questions. NBC News reported on a Google ‘phantom’ algorithm update on May 13th after HubPages reported a 22% drop in search traffic.

Search Engine Land‘s Barry Schwartz received confirmation from a source at Google on May 19th that “there were changes to its core ranking algorithm in terms of how it processes quality signals. It was an update to the overall ranking algorithm itself”.

Mobile Update AKA “Mobilegeddon” — April 22, 2015

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

Finding more mobile-friendly search results (Google)

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

Mobilegeddon hype swept the web for weeks leading up to Google’s mobile-friendly ranking factor algorithm update.  Adding mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal affects mobile searches internationally, across all languages. This can have a significant impact on search results, while providing better and more relevant data for users.

Business Insider’s Jillian D’onfro predicted that the mobile-friendly algorithm update “could crush millions of small businesses”.

While Computer World’s senior report Sharon Gaudin published a helpful guide: “How to prep, in 7 steps, for Google’s mobile search change“.

Here in the Bat Cave (aka Rank Ranger Development HQ), a new tool was developed to help you monitorGoogle Mobile SERP Fluctuations.

Google announced that this update would roll out gradually beginning on April 21st, however, our Mobile Search Rank Risk Index caught significant mobile search fluctuations beginning on April 18th, which may have been caused by testing or the beginning of this gradual roll-out that is expected to occur over several weeks.

Unnamed Update — February 4, 2015

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

Significant Google Search Algorithm Update Yesterday (SER)

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

Undisclosed Activity

The Rank Risk Index showed a major spike in algorithm volatility, leading to the belief that there was a major Google update, however nothing has been confirmed yet.

Search Engine Land reported that Google has said this is not related to Penguin or Panda.


2014 Updates

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

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

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

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

Google Local Algorithm Expands – DECEMBER 22, 2014


The Local Algorithm was originally launched in July 2014, and has now been expanded to English speaking countries globally. This update is known by the industry-given name of Pigeon and allows Google to provide more accurate and relevant information regarding local searches.

The Local Search Forum was one of the first sites to report major shifts in rankings of local results and later confirmed that this was a Google update.

Rank Ranger’s Shiri Berzack discusses Google Pigeon’s Flight Plan.

Mike Blumenthal, from, discusses what to expect from this update for those in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other English speaking countries.

Penguin 3.0 Extended

DECEMBER 11, 2014

The Penguin Algorithm has had significant change since its first appearance in April 2012, and now a Google spokesperson has confirmed that the major, infrequent updates will be replaced by a steady stream of minor updates.

The spokesperson told Search Engine Land:
“That last big update is still rolling out [referring to Penguin 3.0]— though really there won’t be a particularly distinct end-point to the activity, since Penguin is shifting to more continuous updates. The idea is to keep optimizing as we go now.”
Our own Shiri Berzack discusses this move towards a steady stream of Penguin updates and the positive effects it could have on businesses moving forward.

On the other side, Jill Kocher, from Practical Ecommerce, discusses the challenges this could place on companies particularly when trying to decipher reasoning behind declines or increases in traffic.

Penguin Everflux — December 10, 2014

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

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

Pirate 2.0 — October 21, 2014

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

Google Pirate Update Analysis and Loser List (Searchmetrics)

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

irate Update #2 should not affect a wide variety of sites since it specifically targets only those that have received DMCA takedown requests. In August of 2012 Google pushed out their first Pirate update by filtering down (or completely out in documented cases) pirated content in their attempt to help copyright owners.

Google’s Public Policy Blog explains how they are combating piracy across all Google services.
Torrent Freak published an article discussing the update and its effect on various websites.

Penguin 3.0 — October 17, 2014

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

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

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

ierre Far, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google UK, has confirmed their roll-out of the Penguin 3.0 algorithm update on Friday, so far affecting fewer than 1% of queries in the US English search results.

This is great news for anyone hit in October 2013 with a Google penalty during the Penguin 2.1 update, as Google’s John Mueller confirmed recently in the Google Webmaster Central Help Forum that if you’ve corrected the situation that caused the penalty “you’d need to wait for the algorithm and/or its data to refresh to see any changes based on the new situation”.  Further elaborating on that, Pierre Far posted:

“This refresh helps sites that have already cleaned up the webspam signals discovered in the previous Penguin iteration, and demotes sites with newly-discovered spam.

It’s a slow worldwide rollout, so you may notice it settling down over the next few weeks.”

Stephen Kenwright of Branded3 in his Google Penguin 3.0 Damage Report provides an assessment of how Penguin 3.0 is affecting the more than 125,000 keywords they run daily rank tracking on and discusses how to recover from a Penguin update.

“In The News” Box — October 2014

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

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

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

Panda 4.1 (#27) — September 23, 2014

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

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

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

Panda 4.1 is a significant update to the Panda algorithm that targets low quality content with greater precision. This update is expected to identify low-quality content and result in greater diversity of higher rankings for small and medium-sized sites containing good quality content. It is a gradual global roll-out expected to affect approximately 3-5% of queries.

Google’s official announcement was made by Pierre Far on Google Plus.

Providing interesting insight, Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea walks readers through the logic of a recentGoogle patent application that may be behind this latest Panda update.

The Webmaster World forum chat has been a mix of positive and negative with most medium size businesses doing well, but some smaller businesses suffering drops in SERPs.

Authorship Removed — August 28, 2014

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

Official Announcement from John Mueller (Google+)

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

For months Google has been analyzing Authorship from a user’s perspective and effectiveness for potential clicks. With this update Authors lost their edge as Google decided to stop showing authorship in search results.

Official Announcement from Google’s John Mueller

Our very own Barry Schechter’s Google Authorship is No More post

Danny Sullivan reports that Google Authorship My Be Dead, But Author Rank Is Not

HTTPS/SSL Update — August 6, 2014

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

HTTPS as a ranking signal (Google)

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

HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) is the new ranking signal. According to Google, secure sites may be given a ranking boost for the added security.

Google Webmaster Central Official Announcement

Ben Wood’s article What is HTTPS/SSL & Will It Boost My Rankings? provides useful explanations and how to implement guidance.

Google’s Support documentation on Securing your site with HTTPS

Pigeon — July 24, 2014

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

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

Google Updates Local Algo with More Web Based Signals – Turmoil in SERPs (

Google Local Algorithm Update

JULY 24, 2014

Google launched an update to their local search algorithm to help them provide more accurate and relevant local search results.

The chat in the Webmaster World Local Search Forum suggests that the update was causing inconsistent results, with “major flux” still occurring a week after the rollout.

Small Business Trends provides an analysis of how this update affects local businesses.

Authorship Photo Drop — June 28, 2014

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

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

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

Payday Loan 3.0 — June 12, 2014

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

Google Spam Algorithm Version 3.0 Launches Today (SER)

Google rolled out an update to their PayDay Loan Spam Algorithm. Version 3.0 targets the queries for ‘payday loans’, ‘casinos’, ‘accident claims’ and a variety of others that return an excessive number of web spam results.

Google’s Matt Cutts announced this algorithm update on Twitter.

Matt Southern reported in Search Engine Journal that “unless you’re running a site in a niche that Google would consider to be ‘very spammy’, there is very little for you to be personally worried about with this update.”

Panda 4.0 (#26) — May 19, 2014

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

Google Begins Rolling Out Panda 4.0 Now (SEL)

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

Our Rank Risk Index has been showing sharp fluctuations in recent weeks causing lots of chatter in SEO and webmaster forums. By mid-May we started to see a relative calm, but suddenly the red alert went up again and shortly after that Matt Cutts announced on Twitter that Google had launched Panda 4.0 and plans to be rolling out more updates.

The goal of Panda has been to penalize poor content quality and scraper sites, while boosting sites with great content up in the SERPs and thereby providing Google users with high quality results.

Google’s Matt Cutts announced Panda 4.0 on Twitter.

Tim Worstall shares in Forbes his take on this Evolution In Action; Google’s New Panda 4.0 Rollout

Payday Loan 2.0 — May 16, 2014

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

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

Google announced the release of an update to their Spam Algorithm that targets the type of queries that return an excessive number of spammy results.  This specific update was an international rollout that is reported to affect different languages to different degrees and noticeably impacts English queries by about 0.2%.

Matt Cutts Tweeted: “This past weekend we started rolling out a ranking update for very spammy queries.”

Search Engine Watch reported “Over the weekend we began rolling out a new algorithmic update,” a Google spokesperson told SEW.  “The update was neither Panda nor Penguin – it was the next generation of an algorithm that originally rolled out last summer for very spammy queries.”

Unnamed Update — March 24, 2014

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

Did Google Do An Algorithm Update Yesterday? (SER)

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

Algorithm Activity – Undisclosed – APRIL 18, 2014

The Rank Risk Index has been indicating volatile activity by Google for much of April.  Lots of chatter in the various webmaster and SEO forums and blogs about dramatic SERP changes, but no official announcement from Google.

Undisclosed Activity

MARCH 24, 2014

Webmaster and SEO forum rumors of a Soft Panda update around March 24th match up with the red zone dates displaying in our Rank Risk Index, however, no official announcement has been made by Google.

Top Heavy 3 Update –FEBRUARY 06, 2014


Google’s Page Layout Algorithm targets pages with disproportionate number of ads above the fold in relation to page content.

Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed this algorithm refresh in a Tweet.

Page Layout Algorithm’s goal is to make users’ search experience more efficient and quick, enabling them to reach the content they’re seeking.

Page Layout #3 — February 6, 2014

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

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

2013 Updates

Authorship Shake-up — December 19, 2013

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

Google’s December Authorship Shake-up (Moz)

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

In what may be the most dramatic Google update of 2013, Authorship & Rich Snippet results dropped as much as 15% as Google tightened the qualifications for rich snippets. Authors reported problems and wereadvised to refer to Google’s rel=”author” FAQs to ensure they’re following the rules.

Chatter at the Webmaster World forum indicates significant negative SERP changes.

Unnamed Update — December 17, 2013

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

The Biggest SERP Flux Since Penguin 2.0 (Dejan SEO)

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

Unnamed Update — November 14, 2013

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

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

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

Undisclosed Activity

NOVEMBER 15, 2013

Our Rank Risk Index indicates an update in the algorithm. Lots of chatter in the various webmaster and SEO forums and blogs about SERP changes, but no official announcement from Google.

Penguin 2.1 (#5) — October 4, 2013

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

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

Google Penguin 2.1 Was A Big Hit (SER)

Penguin 2.1 (Penguin 5th edition) was released in Google’s continuing battle against web spam. We see a corresponding spike in the Rank Risk Index on October 5th.

Search Engine Journal reports: Penguin 2.1: What Changed Since 2.0, and How to Recover

Hummingbird — August 20, 2013

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

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

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

Hummingbird, released around August 21st, is a new search algorithm that Google developed with a focus on Semantic Search. Their goal is to provide more personalized results based on your online behavior, location, trends, etc.  The Rank Risk Index (RRI) captured this significant change on August 21st.

Search Engine Land provides this useful FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm

In-depth Articles — August 6, 2013

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

In-depth articles in search results (Google)

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


Unnamed Update — July 26, 2013

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

Was There A Weekend Google Update? (SER)

MozCast Update (Google+)

Knowledge Graph Expansion — July 19, 2013

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

The Day the Knowledge Graph Exploded (Moz)

Panda Recovery — July 18, 2013

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

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

Multi-Week Update — June 27, 2013

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

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

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

Panda Update 26

JUNE 28, 2013

As Google was either testing or rolling out the new multi-week algorithm update that Matt Cutts mentioned on Twitter, the Rank Risk Index soared into the danger zone. This update targets websites with low quality content. Although some sources report that Google released an update on June 18th, our Risk Index indicates that the affects of this update were strongest on the 28th.

This is a good time to revisit Search Engine Land’s SEO Guide that outlines and provides possible responses to Violations & Search Engine Spam Penalties

“Payday Loan” Update — June 11, 2013

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

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

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

Panda Dance — June 11, 2013

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

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

The latest in Google’s Panda update that can cause a site’s rankings to dance up and down for days based on the Panda’s perception of site content quality. It also addresses the Payday aspect, which is an international update targeting spam in the form of payday loans and porn.

Google’s Matt Cutts addresses what a site owner should do if they think they have been negatively affected by Panda.
Search Engine Land reports on Google Payday Loan Algorithm: Google Search Algorithm Update To Target Spammy Queries.
SEO Blog talks about the dance.

Penguin 2.0 (#4) — May 22, 2013

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

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

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

Newer generation Penguin enables Google to dig deeper into sites for web spam according to Google’s Matt Cutts a few hours before this release. The update will have a greater impact on SEO and webmasters.

Read more in Search Engine Land‘s announcement of Penguin 2.0.

Domain Crowding — May 21, 2013

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

Google Domain Crowding Update: May 2013 (High Position)

Google Domain Clustering Update (Justin Briggs)

“Phantom” — May 9, 2013

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

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

SEO Findings From Google’s Phantom Update (GSQi)

Lots of volatile activity as Google’s Phantom wreaked havoc on many sites according to the buzz in SEO and webmaster forums. The Rank Risk Index validates this update as it shows that from May 7 – 14 Phantom was creating higher flux than usual.

SEO London provides a good post-Phantom analysis of Penguin and Phantom, along with a few tips.

Panda #25 — March 14, 2013

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

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

Google Panda Update 25 Seems To Have Hit (SEL)

Panda update #25 is another attempt by Google at dealing with spammers and people who abuse the system.

Search Engine Journal reports on: Matt Cutts announcement at SMX. Cutts recommends using Fetch as Googlebot tool to view sites the way Google sees them.

Panda #24 — January 22, 2013

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

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

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

Google announced this as a Panda refresh with an approximate impact of 1.2% of English search results.

Search Engine Journal offers Important SEO Habits to Adopt for Post Panda-Penguin Era Survival

2012 Updates

Panda #23 — December 21, 2012

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

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

Panda update affects about 1.3% of English search queries and comes as a surprise during the last minute holiday shopping season.

Search Engine Land provides some advice on how to stop the panic.

Knowledge Graph Expansion — December 4, 2012

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

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

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

Panda #22 — November 21, 2012

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

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

This 22nd refresh of Panda was reported to affect 0.8% of English queries.

Search Engine Journal offers an overview of the update along with tips on Overcoming the Google Panda, EMD and Disavow Updates.

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

Panda #21 — November 5, 2012

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

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

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

Panda Update 21 was reported to affect 1.1% of English queries.

Search Engine Land discusses the update in more detail.

Page Layout #2 — October 9, 2012

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

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

Google Page Layout Algorithm Officially Updated (SER)

Top Heavy 2 Update

OCTOBER 09, 2012

Google’s Page Layout Algorithm targets pages with disproportionate number of ads above the fold in relation to page content. This update affected approximately 0.7% of English queries.

Read more at Search Engine Land about this update.

Penguin #3 — October 5, 2012

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

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

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

This multilingual Penguin refresh has been reported as small, but far reaching in an international sense.

Search Engine Land covers Matt Cutts’ announcement while Search Engine Journal discusses strategies for a post Panda, Penguin world.

August/September 65-Pack — October 4, 2012

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

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

Targets content quality in addition to a batch of Google feature changes.

Highlights of the 65 changes have been published in The Official Google Search Blog.

Panda #20 — September 27, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panda Update 20 and Exact Match Domain

SEPTEMBER 27, 2012

Two big updates, Panda 20 and EMD (Exact Match Domains). This EMD update changes the way Google handles Exact Match Domains by reducing low quality matches. The Panda update was a fairly big one affecting the queries of approximately 2.4% of search results.

Webmaster World members discuss the affects of these updates.
Search Engine Land covers the crackdown on low quality exact match domains.

Panda 3.9.2 (#19) — September 18, 2012

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

Google Rolls Out Panda 3.9.2 Refresh (SER)

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

Reported as a minor data refresh affecting less than 0.7% of queries.

Search Engine Land talks about this update.

Panda 3.9.1 (#18) — August 20, 2012

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

Confirmed: Google Panda 3.9.1 Update (SER)

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

Google reported this Panda update as a data-refresh and it affected less than 1% of queries.

Read more about this refresh at Search Engine Land.

7-Result SERPs — August 14, 2012

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

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

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

It looks like Google may be moving away from their traditional 10 listings per page to only 7 results per page, and with a new format of expanded detail for the site in the number 1 position.

Search Engine Land reports: 7 Is the New 10? Google Showing Fewer Results & More From Same Domain

June/July 86-Pack — August 10, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

An update to our search algorithms (Google)

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

With the Pirate Update, Google aims to help copyright owners by filtering down or out (with documented proof) pirated content.  For example, websites with multiple submitted copyright removal notices will be ranked much lower in Google results. It will also be possible that links will be dropped from Google completely in cases of valid copyright removal notice submission.

The official Google Blog writes about the update to their search algorithms.

Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land reported that this Pirate Update is Google’s response to a challenge from Hollywood movie mogul Ari Emanuel, co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor, who compared stealing copyrighted material to child pornography, suggesting that Google’s team should be smart enough to be able to filter out pirated content in the same manner.

Panda 3.9 (#17) — July 24, 2012

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

Official: Google Panda 3.9 Refresh (SER)

Panda 3.9 didn’t make too large of an impact on results, although many sites saw fluctuations for 5 or so days after the update.

Search Engine Journal’s The Holy Grail of Panda Recovery – A 1-Year Case Study is an entertaining and informative read.
Search Engine Land talks about Google pushing out Panda 3.9.

Link Warnings — July 19, 2012

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

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

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

Link Checks

JULY 19, 2012

Webmasters received pre-penalty warnings as Google continued their push for compliance of Google Webmaster Guidelines regarding unnatural or artificial backlinks. Then Google backtracked with a “never mind”, followed shortly by instructions that it is a website’s responsibility to get the bad links removed, and the cycle repeated. Bottom line: track down the bad links, request removal and report violations to Google.

Search Engine Land provides an entertaining and informative chronology in their Insanity: Google Sends New Link Warnings, Then Says You Can Ignore Them article.

Panda 3.8 (#16) — June 25, 2012

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

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

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

A smaller impact change with data-only updates, no changes to the algorithm.

Shout Me Loud discusses What To Do Next with Google 3.8.
Read about the Official Google Panda Update 3.8 at Search Engine Land.

Panda 3.7 (#15) — June 8, 2012

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

Confirmed: Google Panda 3.7 Update (SER)

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

Panda 3.7 rolled out with less than 1% affect on US & Worldwide search results.

Weidert Group discusses how Panda 3.7 affects your SEO.
Search Engine Land talks about the update.

May 39-Pack — June 7, 2012

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

Search quality highlights: 39 changes for May (Google)

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

May saw 39 updates. The highlights of these include detecting inorganic backlinks, editing page titles and improving freshness.

Read Google’s list of all the updates on their official blog.
Search Engine Land gives an overview of the May updates.

Penguin 1.1 (#2) — May 25, 2012

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

Google Releases Penguin Update 1.1 (SEL)

Penguin Update 2 (ref 1.2)

MAY 25, 2012

Penguin’s first update was labeled a “data refresh” by Google with assurances that it would affect less than 0.1% of English searches.

Search Engine Land reports on what they’re labeling as Penguin 2 and provides an overview of how one site recovered from this update.

Knowledge Graph — May 16, 2012

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

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

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

April 52-Pack — May 4, 2012

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

Search quality highlights: 52 changes for April (Google)

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

These 52 minor updates were mostly tied to the Penguin update from earlier in 2012. Updates included indexing, spelling, site links, sports scores features and more.

Google outlines the 52 updates in their official blog.
Search Engine Land provides some insights in Penguin or Panda? How To Determine Which Google Algorithm Update Impacted Your Website.

Panda 3.6 (#14) — April 27, 2012

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

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

Penguin — April 24, 2012

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

Another step to reward high-quality sites (Google)

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

Google Penguin Update Recovery Tips & Advice (SEL)

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

Panda 3.5 (#13) — April 19, 2012

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

Google Mocks Me For Missing Panda 3.5 (SER)

Parked Domain Bug — April 16, 2012

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

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

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

March 50-Pack — April 3, 2012

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

Search quality highlights: 50 changes for March (Google)

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

Panda 3.4 (#12) — March 23, 2012

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

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

Search Quality Video — March 12, 2012

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

Video! The search quality meeting, uncut (Google)

Venice — February 27, 2012

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

Understand and Rock the Google Venice Update (SEOmoz)

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

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

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

Search quality highlights: 40 changes for February (Google)

Panda 3.3 (#11) — February 27, 2012

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

Google Confirms Panda 3.3 Update (SEL)

Confirmed: Google Panda 3.3 (SER)

February 17-Pack — February 3, 2012

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

17 search quality highlights: January (Google)

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

Ads Above The Fold — January 19, 2012

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

Page layout algorithm improvement (Google)

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

Panda 3.2 (#10) — January 18, 2012

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

Confirmed: Google Panda 3.2 Update (SEW)

Google Panda 3.2 Update Confirmed (SEL)

Search + Your World — January 10, 2012

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

Search, plus Your World (Google)

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

January 30-Pack — January 5, 2012

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

30 search quality highlights – with codenames! (Google)

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

2011 Updates

December 10-Pack — December 2011

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

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

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

Panda 3.1 (#9) — November 18, 2011

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

Google Panda 3.1 Update: 11/18 (SER)

10-Pack of Updates — November 14, 2011

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

Ten recent algorithm changes (Google)

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

Freshness Update — November 3, 2011

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

Giving you fresher, more recent search results (Google)

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

Query Encryption — October 18, 2011

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

Making search more secure (Google)

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

Panda “Flux” (#8) — October 5, 2011

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

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

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

Panda 2.5 (#7) — September 28, 2011

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

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

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

516 Algo Updates — September 21, 2011

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

Eric Schmidt’s Congressional Testimony (SEL)

Pagination Elements — September 15, 2011

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

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

Google Provides New Options for Paginated Content (SEL)

Expanded Sitelinks — August 16, 2011

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

The evolution of sitelinks: expanded and improved (Google)

Official: Google Sitelinks Expands To 12 Pack (SEL)

Panda 2.4 (#6) — August 12, 2011

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

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

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

Panda 2.3 (#5) — July 23, 2011

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

Official: Google Panda 2.3 Update Is Live (SEL)

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

Google+ — June 28, 2011

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

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

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

Panda 2.2 (#4) — June 21, 2011

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

Official: Google Panda Update 2.2 Is Live (SEL)

Why Google Panda Is More A Ranking Factor Than Algorithm Update (SEL) — June 2, 2011

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

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

Panda 2.1 (#3) — May 9, 2011

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

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

Google Panda 3.0 (SERoundtable)

Panda 2.0 (#2) — April 11, 2011

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

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

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

The +1 Button — March 30, 2011

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

Recommendations when you want them (Google)

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

Panda/Farmer — February 23, 2011

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

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

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

Attribution Update — January 28, 2011

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

Algorithm Change Launched (Matt Cutts)

Latest Google Algorithm change (Search News Central) Penalty — January 2011

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

Google Penalizes Overstock for Search Tactics (WSJ)’s Google Rankings – Too Good? (WMW)

2010 Updates

Negative Reviews — December 2010

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

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

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

Social Signals — December 2010

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

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

Google Webmaster Video Reconfirms Use Of Social Signals (SEL)

Instant Previews — November 2010

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

Beyond Instant Results: Instant Previews (Google)

Google Instant — September 2010

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

About Google Instant (Google)

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

Brand Update — August 2010

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

Google Search Results Dominated By One Domain (SEL)

Caffeine (Rollout) — June 2010

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

Our new search index: Caffeine (Google)

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

May Day — May 2010

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

Google Search Results Dominated By One Domain (SEL)

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

Google Places — April 2010

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

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

Introducing Google Places (Google)

2009 Updates

Real-time Search — December 2009

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

Google Launches Real Time Search Results (SEL)

Caffeine (Preview) — August 2009

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

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

Help test some next-generation infrastructure (Google)

Vince — February 2009

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

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

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

Rel-canonical Tag — February 2009

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

Learn about the Canonical Link Element in 5 minutes (

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

2008 Updates

Google Suggest — August 2008

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

Dewey — April 2008

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

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

2007 Updates

Buffy — June 2007

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

Google “Buffy” Update – June Update (SERoundtable)

SMX Seattle wrap-up (

Universal Search — May 2007

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

Google 2.0: Google Universal Search (SEL)

2006 Updates

False Alarm — December 2006

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

Google Update Debunked By Matt Cutts (SERoundtable)

Supplemental Update — November 2006

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

Confusion Over Google’s Supplemental Index (SERoundtable)

2005 Updates

Big Daddy — December 2005

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

Indexing timeline (

Todd, Greg & Matt Cutts on WebMasterRadio (SEOmoz)

Google Local/Maps — October 2005

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

Google Merges Local and Maps Products (Google)

Jagger — October 2005

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

A Review Of The Jagger 2 Update (SERoundtable)

Dealing With Consequences of Jagger Update (WMW)

Gilligan — September 2005

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

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

What?s an update? (

XML Sitemaps — June 2005

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

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

Personalized Search — June 2005

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

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

Search gets personal (Google)

Bourbon — May 2005

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

Google Update “Bourbon” (Batelle Media)

Bourbon Update Survival Kit (SERoundtable)

Allegra — February 2005

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

Google’s Feb. 2005 Update (SEW)

Nofollow — January 2005

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

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

2004 Updates

Google IPO — August 2004

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

Google IPO priced at $85 a share (CNN)

Brandy — February 2004

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

Google’s Brandy Update Exposed (WebProNews)

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

Austin — January 2004

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

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

Google Update Austin: Google Update Florida Again (

2003 Updates

Florida — November 2003

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

What Happened To My Site On Google? (SEW)

Supplemental Index — September 2003

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

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

Fritz — July 2003

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

Explaining algorithm updates and data refreshes (Matt Cutts)

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

Esmeralda — June 2003

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

Google Update Esmeralda (Kuro5hin)

Dominic — May 2003

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

Understanding Dominic – Part 2 (WMW)

Cassandra — April 2003

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

Google – Update “Cassandra” is here (Econsultancy)

Boston — February 2003

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

2002 Updates

1st Documented Update — September 2002

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

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

Dancing The Google Dance (Level343)

2000 Updates

Google Toolbar — December 2000

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

Google Launches The Google Toolbar (Google)

Naming Schemes

There’s been no single rhyme or rationale to how Google updates are named. The first named update was christened “Boston” through Webmasterworld customers, because it was introduced at SES Boston. The next few updates (“Cassandra”, “Dominic”, “Esmerelda”) were additionally named with the aid of WMW users, in a sort just like how hurricanes are named. Once the monthly “Google Dance” ended, that system fell into disuse. Later updates were named by means of quite a lot of sources, together with WMW, and primary search blogs and boards. Google themselves have coined the occasional identify (“Caffeine”), even as a number of names have been Google-inspired (“Vince” and “Panda” have been named after Google engineers).


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