The New Way that Google is Reading Content
The History of Google Algorithm Updates
To get data back from its search index and quickly provide the relevant results for a query, Google uses a complex system known as algorithms. These algorithms are combined with several other ranking signals by the search engine to deliver webpages with high rankings on its SERPs (search engine results pages).
When Google came on board, it was known to effect just a few updates to its algorithm, but today Google’s algorithm undergoes thousands of alterations annually. So many of these updates are hardly noticed since they’re minor. But sometimes, the search engine releases significant algorithm updates that primarily affect the SERPs. These include:
Intrusive Interstitial Update
Page Layout Algorithm
EMD (Exact Match Domain)
So, we have put together a complete list of Google algorithm setups, updates, and renewals released over the years.
Google Algorithm Story
Google Algorithm Update 2003 – 2015
November 16, 2003
A new era of SEO was introduced with Google’s first major algorithm update, the Florida update. Here, the websites including retailers who depended on allies to generate web traffic with the use of spammy techniques like keyword stuffing, inconspicuous links, invisible text, and multiple sites under one brand to rank for high-commercial keywords, experienced a clearing of their rankings before the profitable holiday period.
September 1, 2005
Jagger 1, Jagger 2, and Jagger 3 were the three phases of the Jagger update. It started in early September with several backlink-oriented updates aimed at bringing down paid links, inorganic link building, and other kinds of spam. In October, the second phase of Jagger played a much significant role, while in late November, the last phase was completed.
Big Daddy Update,
December 15, 2005
Also known as Bigdaddy, this improved version of Goggle’s algorithm was released gradually in December 2005 and completed in March 2006. With this update, there was a change in Goggle’s approach to technical problems like redirects and URL canonicalisation. Several websites couldn’t get into the latest Big Daddy data centres primarily because of inorganic linking like paid links, linking to spammy websites, and excessive reciprocal linking.
January 18, 2009
Vince update was a fast, obvious alteration in multilevel, competitive keywords terms to give an edge to big brand domains in terms of first page rankings against former high ranking sites, which included affiliate sites, low authority sites, and other sites that had achieved this prized online visibility basically using SEO tactics.
August 10, 2009
The Caffeine update brought a new web indexing system that enabled Google to crawl and save data in a better way, giving rise to fresher results by 50%. In August 2009, developers were allowed early access before the update was officially released on June 8, 2010.
April 28, 2010
Goggle’s MayDay update which was released between April 28 and May 3 changed Goggle’s evaluation of which sites were the top match for long-tail queries.
February 23, 2011
The first succession of this Google algorithm update was released without a name. It saw a good 12% of queries impacted, bamboozled the SEO industry and several big players, and brought an end to the existing business model called content farm. At first, this update was described as Farmer within the industry. However, Google announced its name as Panda after releasing the update. Panda is named after the engineer who designed the algorithm.
Panda Update 2.0 (No2),
April 11, 2011
This was the first update to the original Panda algorithm which integrated extra signals like sites blocked by Google users.
Panda Update 2.1 (No3),
May 9, 2011
It was first named Panda 3.0 within the industry, however, Google explained that it was only a data refresh, as would be confirmed in the future 2.x updates.
Panda Update 2.2 (No4),
July 21, 2011
An improved version of Goggle’s Panda algorithm.
Panda Update 2.3 (No5),
July 23, 2011
An improved version of Goggle’s Panda algorithm.
Panda Update 2.4 (No6),
August 12, 2011
This update was released globally for all anglophone countries and non-anglophone countries excluding Korea, China, and Japan.
Panda Update 2.5 (No7),
September 28, 2011
Another succession of the Panda algorithm. On October 5, 2011, Google announced plans to release some Panda-related flux over the coming weeks. October 3 and October 13 were the confirmed flux dates.
Panda Update 3.0 (No8),
October 19, 2011
New signals were included in Goggle’s Panda algorithm, and the algorithm’s impact on websites was recalculated.
November 3, 2011
Goggle’s Freshness update changed its ranking algorithm to decide when the time was right to provide more recent and fresher results such as trendy events, hot topics, etc. to increase relevance to users. 35% of searches were impacted by this update.
Panda Update 3.1 (No9),
November 18, 2011
This was a slight Panda renewal with less than 1% of impact on searches
Panda Update 3.2 (No10),
January 18, 2012
It was confirmed by Google that a data refresh of Panda was performed on this date.
Page Layout Update,
January 19, 2012
With this update, also known as Above the Fold, Google focused on websites having excessive ads above the fold. This implies that a user had to scroll down the page to see any actual content. Report from Google revealed this algorithm’s impact on websites as 1 percent
February 27, 2012
Post Venice update saw Google adding search results on the basis of either the searcher’s IP address or physical location. Again, Google improved its ability to find out if a webpage or query had relevance or local intent.
Panda Update 3.3 (No11),
February 27, 2012
Google declared a data renewal of Panda that increased its sensitivity and accuracy to latest web alterations.
Panda Update 3.4 (No12),
March 23, 2012
A Panda refresh with about 1.6% impact on queries was declared by Google.
Panda Update 3.5 (No13),
April 19, 2012
Google’s very own Matt Cutts affirmed that this day saw a Panda data refresh.
April 24, 2012
This algorithm change was initially unnamed when launched by Google. Its purpose was to lower the ranking of websites indulging in excessive webspam, for instance, inorganic linking, keyword stuffing, which was against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. According to Google, 3.1% of English searches would be impacted by this long-awaited, over-optimisation penalty, and after 2 days, the name of the algorithm was released as Penguin
Penguin Update 1.1,
May 26, 2012
Google declared a data refresh of the core Penguin algorithm with an impact lower than 0.1% on English queries. Recovery became possible for websites downranked by the first Penguin release who had been proactive in clearing up their link profiles. Penguin also caught other websites that were not noticed at first.
Panda Update 3.7 (No15),
June 8, 2012
On this day, Google affirmed the release of a refresh of the Panda algorithm with a less than 1% impact on U.S searches and about 1% on global searches. It was suggested by Ranking tools that this update was bigger than the latest Panda updates
Panda Update 3.8 (No16),
June 25, 2012
A Panda data refresh with an impact of about 1% on global searches was declared by Google
Panda Update 3.9 (No17),
July 24, 2012
A Panda data refresh with about 1% impact on search results was declared by Google.
Panda Update 3.9.1 (No18),
August 20, 2012
A Panda data refresh with about 1% impact on searches was declared by Google.
Panda Update 3.9.2 (No19),
September 18, 2012
On this date, the launch of a Panda data refresh with less than 0.7% impact on queries was declared by Google with the expression: expect some flux over the next few days
Panda Update (No20),
September 27, 2012
It took more than 1 week to completely launch this significant update of the Panda algorithm. This update had a 2.4% impact on English searches
Exact Match Domain Update (EMD), September 28, 2012
The aim of this algorithm update was to take out the SERPs of poor quality or spammy exact match domains
Penguin Update 1.2,
October 5, 2012
This second Penguin algorithm data refresh with a 0.3% impact on English searches was announced on this day.
Page Layout Update No2,
October 9, 2012
With this algorithm update, there was a 0.7% impact on English searches. Based on this, there was a chance of potential recovery for websites affected by the release of the first Google algorithm
Panda Update (No21),
November 5, 2012
A Panda data refresh with about 0.4% impact on global searches, and about 1.1 %impact on U.S searches were confirmed by Google.
Panda Update (No22),
November 21, 2012
This Google-confirmed Panda data refresh had a 0.8% impact on English searches.
Panda Update (No23),
December 21, 2012
English searches saw about 1.3% impact with the rolling out of this Panda data refresh
Panda Update (No24),
January 22, 2013
1.2% of English searches were impacted by Google’s announcement of a Panda data renewal.
Panda Update (No 25),
March 14, 2013
Google did not confirm this update although tools suggested it happened on this date. A suggestion from Google’s Matt Cutts made it look like this update would be the last before Panda was included in the main Google algorithm. But what happened later was the release of Panda data renewals every 10 days on a monthly basis without Google confirming the update.
Penguin Update 2.0,
May 22, 2013
With this version looking more intensive than the website homepage, Google considered it the next generation of Penguin algorithm. Here, high ranking pages with proof of link spam were channelled to the website. About 2.3% of English searches were impacted by this update.
Payday Loan Update,
June 11, 2013
This update focused on spammy searches highly affiliated with shady companies including porn, casinos, pharmaceuticals, super high-interest loans and payday loans, and debt consolidation. Google’s Payday Loans took around 1 to 2 months to be completely launched, and about 0.3% of U.S searches were impacted.
September 26, 2013
This update was a significant game-changer in Google’s main search technology. Due to the rise in voice search, there was a need for Google to comprehend effectively and provide the best search results to more complex queries. According to Google, around 90% of global searches were affected by this new algorithm. This update was gradually released in August 2013, though it was announced on this day.
Penguin Update 2.1,
October 4, 2013
This was the first, and only Penguin 2.0 data refresh announced by Google. About 1% of queries were affected.
Page Layout Refresh,
February 6, 2014
A refresh of this algorithm was announced without mentioning any alterations in the algorithm. Looks like Google only ran the algorithm again and had its index updated.
Payday Loan Update 2.0,
May 16, 2014
With a focus on spammy websites, this was the next generation Payday Loans algorithm.
Panda Update 4.0 (No26)
May 20, 2014
A significant improvement on the algorithm with 7.5% impact on English searches.
Payday Loan Update 3.0,
June 12, 2014
This optimised version was designed to target spammy queries. It had better security against negative SEO attacks.
July 24, 2014
This was a major local search update that earmarked Google’s use of more conventional website ranking signals to impact local search results. With this, Google’s location and distance ranking parameters were also improved
Panda Update 4.1 (No27)
September 23, 2014
With this update, some signals were added to help Panda spot poor quality content accurately. 3 to 5% of searches were affected.
Penguin Update 3.0,
October 17, 2014
This permitted the emergence and recovery of websites affected by previous updates. It also affected other websites that didn’t stop using spammy links this time around. Releasing this update took around 3 days to complete with less than 1% impact on English searches.
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Google Algorythm Update 2015-2020
April 21, 2015
Also called Mobilegeddon, this refresh aimed at promoting mobile-friendly websites via improved search rankings and results for mobile device users. This affected languages worldwide.
May 3, 2015
Also called Phantom Update, this was a confirmed alteration on Google’s evaluation of quality signals. Websites having excessive ads and poor quality content were worse hit.
Panda Update 4.2 (No28),
July 17, 2015
This Panda refresh announced by Google took months to launch and had 2 to 3% on English queries. Since the release was slow, it was vague how active the impact was or exactly when it happened. It was the last confirmed Panda update.
October 26, 2015
Known as the third most relevant signal, RankBrain was officially launched on this date, though it had been under scrutiny since April 2015. This machine-learning algorithm filters search results to provide users with the best answers to queries. At first, it impacted 15% of searches (mostly those new to Google), but today every query on Google is affected by it.
Panda Core Algorithm Incorporation,
January 11, 2016
The inclusion of Panda into Google’s main algorithm was confirmed, obviously as part of the slow Panda 4.2 release. Meaning that Panda is added as another Google core ranking signal; making it no more of a Google algorithm filter. But this doesn’t mean that the Panda classifier works in real time.
Mobile-Friendly Update (No2),
May 12, 2016
This improved version of the Mobilegeddon update focused on boosting the ranking signal effect.
June 1, 2016
Another content-affiliated Quality update to Google’s algorithm was gradually launched around June 1, with extra search ranking changes visible on June 8, 21, and 26. Google didn’t confirm this.
September 1, 2016
Penguin Update 4.0 & Core Algorithm Integration,
September 23, 2016
This last Penguin algorithm refresh was included in Google’s core algorithm, implying that Penguin was now analysing links and websites in real-time. Penguin also began to devalue links instead of lowering page rankings.
November 10, 2016
This unconfirmed Google update signalled by data from SEO tracking tools and search industry chatter took place on this date.
Intrusive Interstitials Update,
January 10, 2017
Announced on August 23, 2016, this update was targeted at intrusive interstitials and pop-ups that didn’t give mobile device users a smooth experience. Google launched this update on January 10, 2017. It had a minimal impact on rankings.
February 1, 2017
A minor update not confirmed by Google. The information about this update was more of speculation than fact. Private blog networks and website with spamming link building seemed to be the target of this update.
February 7 Update,
February 7, 2017
A lot of ranking shifts in SERPs was caused by this major unconfirmed update, leading to a significant increase or decrease for some websites. Generally, it appeared high quality and very relevant websites became more visible.
March 7, 2017
Jokingly called Fred by Google’s Gary Illyes, this update ended up with the name. The name sounded funny, yet it had a serious impact on poor quality content; its main target. Illyes officially confirmed this update on March 24; however, information on specifics was withheld by Google. According to them, Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines was where to get information about Fred.
May 17, 2017
For about 1 week beginning from May 17, so many SERP volatility was reported by tools. Though the update’s impact was minimal, it targets websites with low-value content, UX issues, and aggressive/beguiling ads.
June 25 Update,
June 25, 2017
This day saw a major but unconfirmed update identified by numerous SEO ranking tools. One evaluation discovered that this update triggered the largest changes for pages ranking between 6th to 10th positions. Reports state that it affected many niches, but the beverage and goods industry got the most hit.
July 9, 2017
This was another unconfirmed quality update with some little volatility detected by SEO ranking tools on July 9.
August 19, 2017
On August 19 to 20, this quality update characterised by signs of not being confirmed was identified by SEO ranking tools and Webmasters. The analysis revealed it affected the ranking of websites with thin/poor content, aggressive advertising, category pages, plus other not-so-good online elements. It was speculated that Google commenced test on the algorithm on August 14 because positively or negatively impacted pages on this date were also affected on August 19.
September 8, 2017
Though this update hasn’t been confirmed, it was some kind of Google update detected by tools and industry chatter. A notable personality also observed numerous significant Google alterations affecting search and traffic visibility on September 8. Extra changes and volatility followed after that on September 18, 25, and 29, and on October 4, 8 and 12
December 12, 2017
Between December 12 to 14, some websites were reportedly impacted by the update. Several small changes to the core algorithm were confirmed by Google during this period, but the significance of the flux period wasn’t considered noteworthy by Google.
Broad Core Algorithm Update,
March 9, 2018
On this date, the release of a major core algorithm update the prior week was confirmed by Google. Much details were not given by Google, but they said this update was aimed at promoting pages that were previously less rewarded. They advised websites to keep on creating quality content.
Broad Core Algorithm Update,
April 16, 2018
The launch of this update was confirmed by Google and described as being similar to the March 9, 2018 version in terms of content significance.
Broad Core Algorithm Update,
August 1, 2018
Noted as the third time in this year, Google confirmed the launch of this update. It was recommended that the same guidelines for March 9, 2018 update be observed for this update. Some within the industry had called this update ‘Medic’ even when it was referred to as a general ranking update by Google. Also, Google stated that medical sites were not its primary target.
A ‘Small’ Update,
September 27, 2018
This day which was also Google’s 20th birthday saw major reduction and problems in traffic, typical of some kind of update. It was reported that some websites recovered after being impacted by the August broad core algorithm update. Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed a smaller update, not a broad core algorithm update happened on September 29.
Unconfirmed Halloween Update,
October 31, 2018
Around Halloween, webmasters observed changes that probably showed an unconfirmed Google update. However, the evidence of a major update was small. Spillover from August broad core algorithm update and Google tamping up its use of neutral matching was a probable cause of the chatter.
Valentine’s Day Update,
February 13, 2019
On or before this date, industry chatter and algorithm trackers noticed some kind of unconfirmed update. But this update impacted positive changes in rankings, unlike other updates.
March 2019 Core Update,
March 12, 2019
Also known as Florida 2, the launch of this global update was announced by Google. This update was confirmed to be very relevant and one of the biggest in years. Again, the March 9, 2018 update guidelines were recommended to be adopted for this update.
June 2019 Core Update,
June 2, 2019
Google announced on June 2 that it’d be rolling out a new broad core algorithm update on June 3. The following day, this update was confirmed to be live and would be launched to all data centres in days to come. Just like everything other broad core algorithm update, Google reports that there’s nothing in particular to fix since a wide range of factors are included in a core update.
Broad Core Algorithm Update,
September 24, 2019
Google announced the launch of this update stating it would take few days to be completely released. This update was to be followed with the guidelines of all recent core algorithm updates.
October 25, 2019
Described as the biggest alteration to Google Search in the past 5 years, Google announced this update. BERT models provide Google with a better understanding of search queries. This update impacted featured snippets and search rankings. Google also said 10% of English searches would use BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers).
December 9, 2019
A global release of BERT was announced by Google. It was to include the following languages: Afrikaans, Albanian, Armenian, Azeri, Amharic, Arabic, Basque, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Catalan, Chinese (Simplified & Taiwan), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Farsi, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, Gujarati, German, Ukrainian, Urdu, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Japanese, Javanese, Indonesian, Italian, Serbian, Sinhalese, Slovak, Kannada, Kazakh, Khmer, Korean, Kurdish, Kyrgyz, Lao, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian Malay (Brunei Darussalam & Malaysia), Malayalam, Romanian, Russian, Maltese, Marathi, Mongolian, Nepali, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Tajik, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Uzbek, and Vietnamese.
January 2020 Core Update,
January 13, 2020
The release of this update was announced to be underway. Google recommended it used the same guidelines as other recent broad core algorithm update.
Featured Snippet Deduplication,
January 22, 2020
It was confirmed by Google’s Danny Sullivan that the practice of repeating webpages in a featured snippet position in regular page 1 organic listings would stop. This impacted 100% of all global search listings.
May 2020 Core Update,
May 4, 2020
The release of this broad core algorithm update was announced by Google, and around 90 minutes later, the update was announced to be underway, requiring 1 to 2 weeks to be completely released.
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