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Each year, Google changes its search algorithm around 500–600 times. While most of these changes are minor, Google occasionally rolls out a “major” algorithmic update (such as Google Panda and Google Penguin) that affects search results in significant ways.

For search marketers, knowing the dates of these Google updates can help explain changes in rankings and organic website traffic and ultimately improve search engine optimization. Below, we’ve listed the major algorithmic changes that have had the biggest impact on search.

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2017 Updates

Snippet Length Increase  —  November 30, 2017

Confirmed

After testing longer search snippets for over two years, Google increased them across a large number of results. This led us to adopt a new Meta Description limit — up to 300 characters from the previous 155 (almost doubling). Google confirmed an update to how snippets are handled, but didn’t provide details.

Unnamed Update  —  September 27, 2017

Unconfirmed

Algorithm trackers (including MozCast) and webmaster chatter spotted increasing flux starting around September 25th, which seemed to spike on the 27th, after a period of relative calm. No update was officially confirmed.

Google Tops 50% HTTPS  —  April 16, 2017

Unconfirmed

According to our MozCast 10K tracking set, half of page-1 Google organic results were secure/HTTPs as of mid-April. This increased to close to 75% by the end of 2017.

Intrusive Interstitial Penalty  —  January 10, 2017

Confirmed

Google started rolling out a penalty to punish aggressive interstitials and pop-ups that might damage the mobile user experience. Google also provided a rare warning of this update five months in advance. MozCast showed high temperatures from January 10-11, but many SEOs reported minimal impact on sites that should have been affected.

2016 Updates

Unnamed Update  —  December 14, 2016

Unconfirmed

Multiple Google trackers showed massive flux around December 14-15, including a rare MozCast temperature of 109°F. Webmaster chatter was heavy as well, but Google did not confirm an update.

Unnamed Update  —  November 10, 2016

Unconfirmed

MozCast detected a major (106°) spike on November 10th and another on the 18th. Industry chatter was high during both periods, with some suggesting that the second spike was a reversal of the first update. Google has not confirmed either event. Many people reported bad dates in SERPs during the same time period, but it’s unclear whether this was causal or just a coincidence.

Penguin 4.0, Phase 2  —  October 6, 2016

Unconfirmed

The second phase of Penguin 4.0 was the reversal of all previous Penguin penalties. This seemed to happen after the new code rolled out, and may have taken as long as two weeks. Post-Penguin activity had one final peak on October 6th (116°), but it is unclear whether this was Penguin or a new update. Algorithm temperatures finally started to drop after October 6th.

Penguin 4.0, Phase 1  —  September 27, 2016

Confirmed

The first phase of Penguin 4.0, which probably launched around September 22-23, was the rollout of the new, “gentler” Penguin algorithm, which devalues bad links instead of penalizing sites. The exact timeline is unconfirmed, but we believe this rollout took at least a few days to fully update, and may have corresponded to an algorithm temperature spike (113°) on September 27th.

Penguin 4.0 Announcement  —  September 23, 2016

Confirmed

After 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).

Image/Universal Drop  —  September 13, 2016

Unconfirmed

MozCast recorded a nearly-record 111° temperature and a 50% drop in SERPs with image (universal/vertical) results. The universal result shake-up opened up an organic position on page 1, causing substantial ranking shifts, but it’s likely that this was part of a much larger update.

Unnamed Update  —  May 10, 2016

Unconfirmed

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.

2015 Updates

The Quality Update  —  May 3, 2015

Confirmed

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.

Mobile Update AKA “Mobilegeddon”  —  April 22, 2015

Confirmed

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)

Unnamed Update  —  February 4, 2015

Unconfirmed

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)

2014 Updates

Penguin Everflux  —  December 10, 2014

Confirmed

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).

Penguin 3.0  —  October 17, 2014

Confirmed

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”.

Payday Loan 3.0  —  June 12, 2014

Confirmed

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.

2013 Updates

Hummingbird  —  August 20, 2013

Confirmed

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.

Knowledge Graph Expansion  —  July 19, 2013

Unconfirmed

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.

Multi-Week Update  —  June 27, 2013

Confirmed

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.

2012 Updates

Panda #23  —  December 21, 2012

Confirmed

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.

Knowledge Graph Expansion  —  December 4, 2012

Confirmed

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.

August/September 65-Pack  —  October 4, 2012

Confirmed

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.

Panda 3.9 (#17)  —  July 24, 2012

Confirmed

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.

Penguin 1.1 (#2)  —  May 25, 2012

Confirmed

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.

Knowledge Graph  —  May 16, 2012

Confirmed

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?!

Panda 3.6 (#14)  —  April 27, 2012

Confirmed

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.

Penguin  —  April 24, 2012

Confirmed

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.

Panda 3.5 (#13)  —  April 19, 2012

Confirmed

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.

Panda 3.4 (#12)  —  March 23, 2012

Confirmed

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.

Search Quality Video  —  March 12, 2012

Unconfirmed

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.

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

Confirmed

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.

2011 Updates

Panda 3.1 (#9)  —  November 18, 2011

Confirmed

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)

516 Algo Updates  —  September 21, 2011

Confirmed

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)

Google+  —  June 28, 2011

Confirmed

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/Farmer  —  February 23, 2011

Confirmed

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 (Moz)

Attribution Update  —  January 28, 2011

Confirmed

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)

2010 Updates

Instant Previews  —  November 1, 2010

Confirmed

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)

Brand Update  —  August 1, 2010

Unconfirmed

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)

Google Places  —  April 1, 2010

Confirmed

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 1, 2009

Confirmed

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)

2008 Updates

Google Suggest  —  August 1, 2008

Confirmed

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)

Dewey  —  April 1, 2008

Confirmed

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

Universal Search  —  May 1, 2007

Confirmed

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 1, 2006

Unconfirmed

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 1, 2006

Unconfirmed

Throughout 2006, 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 1, 2005

Confirmed

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 (Moz)

Google Local/Maps  —  October 1, 2005

Confirmed

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 1, 2005

Confirmed

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 1, 2005

Unconfirmed

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? (MattCutts.com)

XML Sitemaps  —  June 1, 2005

Confirmed

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 1, 2005

Confirmed

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 1, 2005

Confirmed

“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 1, 2005

Unconfirmed

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 1, 2005

Confirmed

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 1, 2004

Unconfirmed

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 1, 2004

Confirmed

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)

2003 Updates

Florida  —  November 1, 2003

Confirmed

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 1, 2003

Unconfirmed

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)

Esmeralda  —  June 1, 2003

Unconfirmed

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.

Dominic  —  May 1, 2003

Unconfirmed

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 1, 2003

Unconfirmed

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.

Boston  —  February 1, 2003

Confirmed

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 1, 2002

Unconfirmed

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 1, 2000

Confirmed

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)

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