Google alters its search algorithms more than 500 times each year, with both “major” and “minor” updates taking place on a regular basis. Although most updates fall into the former category, significant algorithm updates like Panda and Penguin have had a significant impact on search engine results. At Soderman Marketing, knowing and anticipating these changes is vital to the success of our clients - and it is ultimately just one of the many things that seperates us from the pack. Below, we have listed the major Google algorithm change history. Just the Major updates.
Penguin 4.0 has been long awaited by most webmasters as the last time they saw anything Penguin related was almost 2 years ago. The impact of this update was relatively small compared to the last time that rocked the internet. Additionaly, Penguin 4.0 is now part of the core algorithm that operates in "real time".
This universal result shake-up caused substantial rankings shifts. We figured this update to be part of a much larger update.
Possum resulted in a local pack shake-up. Results suggests that Possum impacted the organic results in a big way.
Following on from the “mobile-friendly” update that was implemented in 2015, Google released a further update that boosted the rankings of mobile-optimized sites. Since most modern websites are now designed for multiple screen sizes, it is believed that the impact of this update shouldn’t be significant.
This update remains unconfirmed by Google and no official explanation of it is available. What we do know is that several of our Google algorithm-reporting tools found significant algorithm activity taking place during this week.
Major changes were made to the Google AdWords program, with many implications for click through ratios on both paid and organic results. The changed included the removal of adverts on the right-hand side of search results, and the introduction of four ads at the top of Google searches. It is believed that ultra competitive keywords are most significantly affected by the update.
Another unnamed update occurred in January, with many of our Google algorithm-reporting tools identifying large changes in search rankings. The company identified the changes as “a core algo update,” although it also said it was not to do with Penguin.
Google announced the new Google RankBrain algorithm, which uses machine learning to rank websites. It is believed that the algorithm came into use during Spring 2015 and was the third most important factor in determining rankings.
Google announced Panda 4.2, which was a data update that was expected to take several months to fully come into effect. No obvious signs of an algorithm update were noted, so it was initially unclear what impact the update would have on rankings.
After much speculation about a so-called “Phantom 2” update, Google confirmed an algorithm update surrounding “quality signals.” The company avoided releasing specific details about the exact changes it made to quality assessment, however observers noted that the update is having a wide impact.
Google made an important announcement about a future update that would affect the rankings of mobile-optimized sites. The company announced that from April 21st 2015, rankings for mobile-friendly sites would be boosted in search results. Although some dubbed the algorithm update as “Mobilegeddon,” the short-term effect was actually much less impactful than originally expected.
Although Google itself did not announce an algorithm update, many SERP trackers and website owners reported significant changes in Google search results. Speculation was that the update focused on mobile usability and e-commerce sites.
In July 2014, Google announced a significant algorithm update affecting local search results in the United States. In December of the same year, the company revealed further expansion of the update to the UK, Australia and Canada. Although the update was announced on the 22nd December, it is believed that it may actually have been rolled out several days earlier.
Google announced a major change to the way it rolled out Penguin updates, with the company revealing that it would be moving away from infrequent, major updates and replacing them with a program of “continuous updates.” This appeared to support changes monitored after the introduction of Penguin 3.0.
This update attempted to tackle the issue of digital and software piracy, with the update causing large drops in rankings of torrent sites. The update followed on from the earlier DMCA (or “Pirate”) update that had been rolled out in 2012.
Google announced that over the previous few weeks it had been rolling out Penguin 3.0, which was a further refresh of the Penguin 2.1 update that had been launched a year earlier. Rather than being a new Penguin algorithm, 3.0 appeared to be a data-only update, with the impact therefore being less severe than originally expected.
In October 2014 Google made changes to its “In The News” box that appears in search results. In addition to changes to the way results are displayed, the company also increased the number of sites from which it draws news stories. The result was increased traffic to featured news sites, thanks to the greater visibility of their stories.
Google revealed its 27th update to Panda, with 4.1 including significant algorithmic changes that are estimated to have affected around 3 to 5% of search queries. The company failed to reveal exact details of timing but insisted it was a “slow rollout.”
As a follow-up to the removal of author photos from search results, Google revealed that it would also be removing authorship bylines from SERPs and would no longer process such markup. The change came into effect the following day.
Google announced that secure sites would be given preferential treatment in SERPs, with encryption said to provide what it called a “lightweight” rankings boost. The move followed months of speculation, and although it stated that ranking increases would be small to begin with, the company implied that boosts might increase if the update proved successful.
In a surprise move, Google announced a significant update that would have a major impact on local search results. “Pigeon” changed the way location cues are handled and interpreted, with the update being made in an attempt to create closer links between local and core algorithms.
On June 25th, John Mueller announced that it would be removing authorship photos from Google search results. The change certainly took the SEO world by surprise, especially given the heavy promotion of authorship within Google+. The change took around three days to fully come into effect.
In a further move targeting online spam, Google launched version 3.0 of its so-called “Payday Loan” update. The latest update was aimed at “spammy” queries and came less than a month after version 2.0, which targeted specific websites.
In the 26th update to Panda, 4.0 included both algorithmic and data refreshes, with around 7.5% of English search queries said to be affected. Google itself claimed that the update was to be rolled out from 20th May, however several online sources state that the changes actually started at an earlier date.
Google made a further change to its “Payday Loan” algorithm, in a move made to target “spammy” queries. The exact details of when the change came into effect are unclear, however Google said it was implemented “this past weekend” around 5/20.
Although Google never officially announced an update, many sites reported ranking changes around this time, with many in the SEO world speculating that a “softer” version of Panda had been rolled out. Activity was reported by several prominent algorithm flux trackers.
Google launched a further refresh of the page-layout algorithm it rolled out in January 2012, which negatively affects the rankings of websites that are “top heavy” and have too many adverts appearing above the fold.
Authorship mark-up was removed from around 15% of search queries during a month-long period. Although this figure reached its peak around the 19th December, the numbers continued to fluctuate.
Although Google avoided confirming an update, the majority of worldwide algorithm flux trackers reported high activity on this day. The algorithm weather reporter MozCast also reported an increase in some PMDs (Partial-Match Domains).
In another unnamed update, numerous Google weather reporters tracked unusual activity on November 14th. In addition, users of Google Webmaster Tools reported DNS errors, leading many in the SEO community to speculate than an update had been rolled out.
Google launched a further Penguin update, some four and a half months after the previous one. As the impact was moderate for the majority of webmasters, it is believed that version 2.1 was mainly an update to data, rather than a full Penguin algorithm change.
Although not officially announced until September 26th, many believe that “Hummingbird” was actually released somewhere around August 20th, with many Google weather trackers reporting spikes on or around that date. As an important algorithm update, it was believed that Hummingbird would power many changes in semantic search.
A new feature was added to Google search results, with three long-form “in-depth articles” now appearing in some search results. MozCast found that the results initially appeared in around 3% of user searches.
Google tracking tools including MozCast reported high activity on the weekend of July 26th, leading many to believe that the company had released a new update. Google itself failed to confirm that an algorithm update had taken place.
Our data showed that Knowledge Graph entries increased by 50.4% on the morning of 19th July. KG is a knowledge base that uses semantic search information to enhance search engine results.
Google announced a Panda update, however the exact details of the update remained unclear, with the implication being that it was the introduction of a “softer” Panda algorithm.
Matt Cutts of Google made a tweet suggesting that a prolonged “multi-week” algorithm update was being rolled out between June 12th and the week of July 4th. Although exact details of the update were never confirmed, MozCast data recorded significant volatility in rankings around this time, with many believing that Google was trialing several algorithm changes.
On June 11th Matt Cutts announced that Google was making a new algorithm update that would specifically target results for “spammy” queries like payday loans (hence the “Payday Loan” name) and porn, with the update expected to be rolled out over the period of 1-2 months.
Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed at SMX Advanced that Panda updates were still being rolled out monthly, but instead over a ten-day period in each month. The announcement came after the company previously said it would not be announcing further Panda updates and would instead be releasing “rolling” updates.
The long awaited 4th Penguin update was finally released on May 22nd, although the impact of the update turned out to be less than anticipated. Although the specific details of the update remained unconfirmed, many believe that the 2.0 update primarily concerned the page level.
This latest update attempted to control domain crowding/clustering, therefore promoting greater diversity of sites that appear beyond the first few pages of search results. It is believed that the update was rolled out just before the Penguin 2.0 update came into force.
Several websites saw significant drops in visitor numbers around May 9th, which led many SEO observers to believe that Google had rolled out an algorithm change. Although specific details of the update never materialized, significant MozCast activity would seem to support the theory of an update having taken place.
Google’s Matt Cutts used SMX West to reveal a new Panda update that he also suggested would be the last one before Panda was placed into the company’s core algorithm. Although specific details remained vague, Google weather reporter MozCast indicated that the update was implemented on either the 13th or 14th March.
Google kicked off the New Year by revealing its 24th Panda update, which it said would affect around 1.2% of search queries. It appeared that the change was not related to other unconfirmed reports of an update around 17th and 18th January.
In the final update of 2012, Google revealed its 23rd Panda refresh, which it said would impact 1.3% of English search queries.
Google expanded its Knowledge Graph feature to include queries made in languages including, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese and Russian. The update also included enhanced Knowledge Graph capabilities.
This was a minor data-only update and followed on from a larger update that is said to have happened around November 18th. Around 0.8% of queries are said to have been impacted.
The 21st Panda update was another minor update that is believed to have impacted 1.1% of English queries. The change came around five and a half weeks after the previous Panda update was confirmed.
Following on from the page layout algorithm change announced at the beginning of the year, Google revealed a further update that targeted top-heavy pages with numerous adverts appearing above the fold. Exact details about the update were unclear.
On October 4th Google published a list of 65 changes for July and August 2012. The updates included Knowledge Graph expansion, changes to page quality calculations, and improvements to how local web results are retrieved. It also introduced seven-result SERPs.
The 20th Panda update introduced major algorithm and data changes, which Google said would affect 2.4% of queries. To save confusion, many industry experts started to name Panda updates in the order they were released (Update #20, rather than update 3.9.X).
In a crackdown on low quality Exact-Match Domains, Google revealed a change to the way it handles them. Whilst Google said this would affect 0.6% of search queries, MozCast data shows that appearance of EMDs in search results was reduced by over 10%.
This was a further Panda data refresh, which caused only minor flux in rankings.
The 18th Panda update was fairly minor, with relatively little impact on most rankings. The update was dubbed Panda 3.9.1.
Google implemented a change that meant only 7 results were shown on the first page of search results. Research showed that the change was implemented over several days and impacts around 18% of queries.
Google released details of 86 changes that had taken place during June and July. Changes included major algorithmic and data changes to Panda, alterations to site clustering and ranking boosts for trusted sources There was a focus on page quality and improvements to ranking orders.
Google revealed it was to crackdown on repeat copyright offenders and penalize sites accused of copyright violations. The company said the update would be brought in from the following week.
The 17th Panda update (3.9) was rolled out around a month after version 3.8. Although ranking fluctuations were seen for around five or six days, Google said that only around 1% of queries were affected.
After sending out unnatural link warnings via Google Webmaster Tools, the company then announces that users can effectively ignore them and that they do not represent a serious issue.
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