Google Algorithm Updates Timeline

Everything You Need to Know About All Google Algorithm Updates Till Date.

With over 60% of people now browsing the Internet 24/7. So, new strategies and plans need to be defined for almost every aspect of online marketing, including search performance.

If you’re taking your first steps into the world of search engine optimisation, you’ve probably heard about Google’s algorithm updates. These elusive creatures seem to have the power to make your websites disappear from searches and annoy SEO marketers – but what exactly are they?

Google’s search engine works by a set of algorithms – mathematical instructions which direct their servers to deliver you the best result. These algorithms determine not only which sites are relevant to the user’s search, but also rank these sites in order of their relevance.

Change is the only constant endless thing in SEO. It is estimated that Google updates its algorithm on a daily basis, so the underlying rules change roughly 365 times each year.

I am covering all about the major Google algorithm updates here because it’s only the major updates that will impact the most. Keep on tracking to be on the top of your game

2016 › Enlighten Yourself
2016

Penguin 4.0 — September 23, 2016

Penguin-4.0-Google-UpdateAfter almost two years of waiting, Google finally announced a major Penguin update. They suggested the new Penguin is now real-time and baked into the "core" algorithm. Initial impact assessments were small, but it was later revealed that the Penguin 4.0 rollout was unusually long and multi-phase (see September 27th and October 6th).

Penguin is now part of our core algorithm (Google)

Google updates Penguin, says it now runs in real time within the core search algorithm (SEL)

2016

"Possum" — September 1, 2016

Google-Algorithm-Update-PossumWhile unconfirmed by Google, MozCast recorded extreme temperatures of 108° and a drop in local pack prevalence, and the local SEO community noted a major shake-up in pack results. Data suggests this update (or a simultaneous update) also heavily impacted organic results.

Everything you need to know about Google’s ‘Possum’ algorithm update (SEL)

Is a big Google search update happening? Chatter thinks so. (SEL)

2016

Mobile-friendly 2 — May 12, 2016

Mobile-friendly 2 — May 12, 2016Just 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)

2016

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)

2016

Core Algorithm Update — January 8, 2016

google-core-algorithm-updateMultiple 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)

2015

RankBrain* — October 26, 2015

google-brain-data1-fade-ss-1920

Google made a major announcement, enlightening 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)

2015

Panda 4.2 — July 17, 2015

Google-Panda-UpdateGoogle 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)

2015

Mobile Update AKA "Mobilegeddon" — April 22, 2015

Google Mobile friendly updateGoogle made an official update announcement on their Google Webmaster Blog.  This change affected mobile searches in all languages worldwide and also had a significant impact on mobile search results.

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)

2014

Penguin 3.0 — October 17, 2014

Google-Launches-Penguin-3.0-Update-in-2014More 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)

2014

Panda 4.1  — September 23, 2014

google panda update 4.1Google 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)

2014

Pigeon — July 24, 2014

google pigeon update

Google wobbled the local SEO sphere with an update that histrionically transformed some local results and changed how they handle and understand location signs. Google claimed that Pigeon made 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 (Blumenthals.com)

 

2014

Panda 4.0 — May 19, 2014

google panda

Google confirmed a major Panda update that likely encompassed both an algorithm update and a data refresh. On the record, about 7.5% of English-language queries were affected.

Google Begins Rolling Out Panda 4.0 Now (SEL)

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

2013

Hummingbird — August 20, 2013

google

Google advocated that the "Hummingbird" update rolled out about a month earlier. Hummingbird has been compared to Caffeine, and seems to be a core algorithm update that possibly will influence changes to semantic search and the Knowledge Graph for several months.

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

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

2012

Penguin — April 24, 2012

google penguin

After the long wait of rumor about an "Over-optimization penalty", Google ultimately rolled out the "Webspam Update", which was shortly after dubbed "Penguin." Penguin attuned a number of spam factors, including keyword stuffing, and impacted an estimated 3.1% of English queries worldwide.

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)

2011

Google+ — June 28, 2011

google+ update

After a series of serious social media failures, Google propelled a serious attack on Facebook with Google+. Google+ revolved around circles for sharing content and was strongly incorporated into products like Gmail. Early adopters were quick to jump on board, and within 2-3 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)

2011

Panda/Farmer — February 23, 2011

panda-farmer-update

The most important algorithm updates hit sites hard, disturbing up to 12% of search results (a figure that came openly from Google). Panda seemed to bang down on thin content, content farms, sites with high ad-to-content ratios, and a number of other quality concerns.

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)

2010

Social Signals — December 2010

google-social-signals-rankings

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)

2010

Caffeine (Rollout) — June 2010

google-caffeine-cup

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)

2010

Google Places — April 2010

Google+-Local

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

Rel-canonical Tag — February 2009

rel-canonical-self-referenc

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 (MattCutts.com)

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

2008

Google Suggest — August 2008

googlesuggestlocal

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.

Google.com Finally Gets Google Suggest Feature (SEL)

2005

Big Daddy — December 2005

google-algorithm-updates1

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 (MattCutts.com)

Todd, Greg & Matt Cutts on WebMasterRadio (SEOmoz)

2005

No follow — January 2005

Nofollow-links-approved

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)

2003

Florida — November 2003

florida-google-update

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)

2002

1st Documented Update — September 2002

google-update-animated-chalkboard-1450272216

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)

 

2002 › Google Rise
2015 › Enlighten Yourself
2015

RankBrain* — October 26, 2015

google-brain-data1-fade-ss-1920

Google made a major announcement, enlightening 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)

2015

Panda 4.2 — July 17, 2015

Google-Panda-UpdateGoogle 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)

2015

Mobile Update AKA "Mobilegeddon" — April 22, 2015

Google Mobile friendly updateGoogle made an official update announcement on their Google Webmaster Blog.  This change affected mobile searches in all languages worldwide and also had a significant impact on mobile search results.

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)

2014

Penguin 3.0 — October 17, 2014

Google-Launches-Penguin-3.0-Update-in-2014More 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)

2014

Panda 4.1  — September 23, 2014

google panda update 4.1Google 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)

2014

Pigeon — July 24, 2014

google pigeon update

Google wobbled the local SEO sphere with an update that histrionically transformed some local results and changed how they handle and understand location signs. Google claimed that Pigeon made 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 (Blumenthals.com)

 

2014

Panda 4.0 — May 19, 2014

google panda

Google confirmed a major Panda update that likely encompassed both an algorithm update and a data refresh. On the record, about 7.5% of English-language queries were affected.

Google Begins Rolling Out Panda 4.0 Now (SEL)

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

2013

Hummingbird — August 20, 2013

google

Google advocated that the "Hummingbird" update rolled out about a month earlier. Hummingbird has been compared to Caffeine, and seems to be a core algorithm update that possibly will influence changes to semantic search and the Knowledge Graph for several months.

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

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

2012

Penguin — April 24, 2012

google penguin

After the long wait of rumor about an "Over-optimization penalty", Google ultimately rolled out the "Webspam Update", which was shortly after dubbed "Penguin." Penguin attuned a number of spam factors, including keyword stuffing, and impacted an estimated 3.1% of English queries worldwide.

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)

2011

Google+ — June 28, 2011

google+ update

After a series of serious social media failures, Google propelled a serious attack on Facebook with Google+. Google+ revolved around circles for sharing content and was strongly incorporated into products like Gmail. Early adopters were quick to jump on board, and within 2-3 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)

2011

Panda/Farmer — February 23, 2011

panda-farmer-update

The most important algorithm updates hit sites hard, disturbing up to 12% of search results (a figure that came openly from Google). Panda seemed to bang down on thin content, content farms, sites with high ad-to-content ratios, and a number of other quality concerns.

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)

2010

Social Signals — December 2010

google-social-signals-rankings

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)

2010

Caffeine (Rollout) — June 2010

google-caffeine-cup

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)

2010

Google Places — April 2010

Google+-Local

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

Rel-canonical Tag — February 2009

rel-canonical-self-referenc

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 (MattCutts.com)

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

2008

Google Suggest — August 2008

googlesuggestlocal

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.

Google.com Finally Gets Google Suggest Feature (SEL)

2005

Big Daddy — December 2005

google-algorithm-updates1

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 (MattCutts.com)

Todd, Greg & Matt Cutts on WebMasterRadio (SEOmoz)

2005

No follow — January 2005

Nofollow-links-approved

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)

2003

Florida — November 2003

florida-google-update

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)

2002

1st Documented Update — September 2002

google-update-animated-chalkboard-1450272216

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)

 

2002 › Google Rise

Hope this guide has helped you better understand the possible implications of the upcoming update.

If you have any other thoughts regarding any Google updates, feel free to share your views in comments!

If you are looking for the detailed description, you can read more at Rand Fishkin's Moz Site.

One Response to “Google Algorithm Updates Timeline”

  1. Abby says : Reply

    How come so many SEO linkbuilders work from Pakistan? Or is it just they are
    the ones who are not employed
    Will defo be returning, ’tis a nice site!

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