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Google has a long history of famous algorithm updates, search index changes and refreshes. Below is a history of the major Google search algorithm updates.
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Google search is changing all the time. In 2020, Google made 4,500 changes to search. This number includes changes to its ranking system, user interface and more. Plus, Google ran more than 600,000 experiments. That means Google search is changing, on average, 12 times per day.
Here is a complete history of Google algorithm updates that you need to know about, in reverse chronological order.
This global update targeted spammy links and was meant to neutralize any credit passed by unnatural links. This rollout overlapped with the helpful content system updated of Dec. 6. Google said the link spam update would take about two weeks to fully roll out.
This update added new signals to its classifier and also brought the helpful content update globally for all languages. Google said the rollout would take up to two weeks.
Google rolled out the latest improvements to its systems that detect search spam. Google did not specifically say whether this update was focused on links, content or other forms of spam. This update was global, affecting all languages. The October 2022 spam update took less than 48 hours to fully roll out.
This was the second Product Reviews Update of the year and fifth overall. While Google typically doesn’t like to overlap algorithm updates, this update was launched before the September 2022 Core Update was complete. It was meant to reward English-language product reviews that are helpful and useful to searchers. Rollout completed Sept. 26.
This was the second core update of the year and launched three days after the helpful content update finished rolling out. Overall, it seemed less significant than previous core updates, including the May 2022 core update. Rollout of completed Sept. 26.
Learn more about Core updates in our guide, Google Broad Core Algorithm Updates: Everything you need to know.
On Aug. 18, Google revealed details about its new helpful content update, a sitewide signal that is meant to reward content that helps or informs people, rather than content that is created primarily to rank well in search results. It began rolling out Aug. 25 and completed 15 days later on Sept. 9.
Google provided a list of 15 questions to ask about your content reviews to ensure you are building human-first content. It also said that the types of content that could be most impacted would be online education materials, arts and entertainment, shopping and tech-related. However, the impact was mostly felt in a few website categories (e.g., ringtones, coding, lyrics). Its overall impact was relatively small.
Google said the fourth release of the product reviews update would take 2-3 weeks to roll out but later announced it had fully rolled out after six days. This was more of a refresh than anything new, and is meant to reward high-quality product reviews. As a whole, this update was not as widespread and had little ranking volatility compared to prior product review updates.
This was the first broad core algorithm update of 2022 and the first in more than 6 months. Google said it would take up to two weeks to fully roll out. As with all other past core updates, Google has made broad changes to how its ranking systems assess content.
Google said the third release of the product reviews update, which will take a “few weeks” to fully roll out, builds on the work of the two prior product review updates. Like those, this update is meant to help Google to identify high-quality product reviews and reward them with better rankings.
There were three new bits of advice from Google around ranked lists, recommendations of “best” products and creating reviews for multiple vs. individual products.
This update included all the signals from the mobile version of the page experience update, except for the page needing to be mobile-friendly. It took 9 days to fully roll out.
The goal of the Google product reviews update, like the April Product Reviews Update, was to reward outstanding product reviews in search results. Google wanted to show users content with insightful analysis and original search, written by topical experts or enthusiasts. It took about three weeks for this update to fully roll out.
Google’s new advice for this update: provide more multimedia “evidence” around your product reviews and include links to multiple sellers.
Google said this global update was a “rebalancing of various factors we consider in generating local search results.” It ran between Nov. 30 and Dec. 8, overlapping with the December 2021 Core Update and December 2021 Product Reviews Update. However, Google didn’t confirm this update happened until Dec. 16.
This was the third and final Core Update of 2022. Like all of Google’s core updates, the November 2021 core update was wide-reaching, impacting websites and SEO across all languages and took about two weeks to fully roll out.
Google announced an update to its search spam detection systems. Google’s guidance: follow Google’s best practices for search (a.k.a., Google’s Webmaster Guidelines).
Google said the purpose of this update was to “nullify” spammy links across the web and multiple languages. Websites with spammy links were more likely to see an impact on their rankings. Google’s advice: follow best practices for all incoming and outgoing links.
This was the second of two back-to-back Core Updates that Google rolled out. As is typical of Core updates, the July 2021 core update was a comprehensive update that changed the whole algorithm slightly, but not any single function specifically. This update rolled out over 12 days, from July 1 to 12.
The promised sequel of its Spam Update. We learned that both parts of the Spam Update were “global” updates that targeted both web results and image results
Google announced the release of a Spam Update to their systems and said a second was coming the following week. There was no additional guidance or details. As part of the Twitter announcement, Google referred to its Webmaster Guidelines.
Google began using a new set of metrics – Core Web Vitals – to understand how users perceive the experience of a specific web page. The three Core Web Vitals metrics are Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) (measures loading performance); First Input Delay (FID) (measures interactivity); Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): (measures visual stability).
Part of the Page Experience Update includes existing ranking signals, such as page load speed, mobile-friendliness, HTTPS and lack of intrusive ads. This new ranking algorithm was announced in May 2020. The rollout began slowly, finishing at the end of August.
Previewed at Google I/O in May 2021, Google’s Multitask Unified Model (MUM) is built on a transformer architecture, like BERT, but 1,000 times more powerful and capable of multitasking to connect information for users in new ways. In our first glimpse of MUM, it helped the search engine identify more than 800 variations of vaccine names in over 50 languages in a matter of seconds. In September, Google announced additional applications of MUM technology.
This was the first of two back-to-back Core Updates that Google rolled out. Google decided to release these updates separately because some of the core updates they planned to roll out weren’t ready in June.
Like other Google core updates, the June 2021 update was comprehensive and wide-reaching. It’s likely many sites felt the impact of this update.
The Product Reviews Update is meant to better reward product reviews that go above and beyond (e.g., by including in-depth and original research, insightful analysis). Google said it will promote these types of product reviews in its search results rankings.
Google provided a list of nine questions to ask about your product reviews to make sure they are insightful, include original research and are written by experts or enthusiasts who know the topic well.
Google began rolling out a change to how it ranks specific passages from a web page in search results. This update was meant to help searchers find specific “needle-in-a-haystack” information. Google said this update would impact 7% of search queries across all languages.
Because this update was more about how Google understands your content, there was no specific advice on things to address or change, according to Google.
The 2020 Core Update was the last major update of 2020 and the first major update since May of that year. Like all of Google’s core updates, the December 2020 core update was wide-reaching, impacting websites and SEO across all languages.
Google announced that BERT was powering nearly all English-based search queries, a big leap from 10% it powered the year prior. You cannot optimize for BERT per se, as BERT is designed to improve the relevancy of search results by better understanding the content on webpages.
Google rolled out its relatively strong May 2020 broad core algorithm update over a few weeks in early May of 2020.
This update was broad and comprehensive. Like other core updates, it was not targeted at any specific aspect of the algorithm.
A relatively weak core update, the January 2020 Core Update wasn’t felt strongly by SEO experts. It was followed up just four months later by the much more robust May 2020 core update.
Google announced its Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) update, which impacted 10% of searches. In short, BERT was created to help Google understand queries and webpage content more like how humans do.
The September 2019 Core Update was another broad core algorithm update of the kind that Google rolls out every few months.
The June 2019 core update covered broad aspects of Google’s algorithm and was intended to improve user experience in multiple areas.
The March 2019 Core Update was somewhat confusing, briefly disrupting the usual equilibrium of the SEO world. The March 2019 Core Update was released without a name, giving users all across Twitter to speculate about the update and why it wasn’t named.
Google, catching wind of the confusion, quickly jumped on social media to right the wrong. On Twitter, they wrote, “Our name of this update is March 2019 Core Update.”
The August 2018 broad core algorithm update was a core update that shook up the SEO world. In this update, Google made major fixes to their algorithm that rewarded previously under-rewarded pages on the web.
Google said there was “no fix” to any observed drop in the rankings. The ranking drops were simply due to other under-rewarded sites finally making gains.
Google’s advice to webmasters with a ranking drop? Keep making excellent content, and you may very well see your site rise back in the rankings.
The April 2018 core update, like other updates, was aimed at improving the end-user experience by delivering the most relevant content for search queries.
Google didn’t announce this update and only came out with its announcement after speculation that there may have been a core update.
The March 2018 Core Update, quickly followed by 2018’s April Core Update, was a broad and far-reaching core update meant to improve Google’s query results.
The March 2018 Core Update had a significant impact on some sites, and webmasters who witnessed a drop in rankings were advised to continue to develop excellent content and not to try to game the system. As always, only through excellent content are durable ratings attained.
The January 2018 Update was a comprehensive core update aimed at all aspects of the site’s SERPs. It was followed by the March and April core updates of that year.
Google confirmed releasing several minor changes that were meant to improve relevancy. It seemed to negatively affect sites that were targeting huge numbers of keyword variants.
This update made corrections to the Possum update, which had inadvertently unfairly impacted local rankings.
The Possum Update of 2016, which we’ll get into a little more detail further down, was intended to improve SERP relevancy by eliminating redundant search results from the SERPs. To summarize, some local business owners were being eliminated by Google’s filters because their businesses were too close to other similar businesses that already ranked on Google’s SERPs.
The Hawk Update slightly corrected the Possum update, making local businesses that competed with others that already ranked on the SERPs more likely to be seen in a relevant search query.
An unconfirmed Google ranking update seemed to target more of the link quality aspects of the overall algorithm. This SEO community dubbed this update “Fred” based on a joke by Google’s Gary Illyes, who suggested that all future Google updates be called “Fred.”
After nearly two years, Google updated its Penguin algorithm – and it was for the last time. Google announced Penguin became part of its core search algorithm, which meant data was refreshed in real-time. It also became more granular, which essentially meant Penguin might impact ranking for individual pages on a site, parts of a site, or the entire site.
This update affected local listings. In brief, the Possum Update was a change to the way Google’s filters work.
What are filters? Filters for local results on Google eliminate websites that seem to be redundant. For local businesses, this can mean, for example, that if you have two websites for your service, only one of them will appear for a given local search term.
The Possum update was intended to improve the user experience of Google, but it may have gone too far. Certain businesses that were nearby to other businesses that already ranked on Google’s SERPs saw their website drop off significantly.
This update was more of a boost to the original Mobile-Friendly Update of 2015, a real-time, page-by-page signal that only impacts mobile search results. This update was meant to “increase the effect of the [mobile-friendly] ranking signal.”
Major fluctuations were being observed in the search results. Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed it was a core ranking algorithm update.
Following a weekend filled with ranking changes and fluctuations, Google on Jan. 12 confirmed it was due to a core ranking algorithm update.
The RankBrain algorithm is powered by machine learning, processing what people search for and sorting through billions of webpages to rank the ones believed to be best first. Initially used on a “very large fraction” of search results, it was later rolled out and used on all Google searches.
This was a refresh of the existing Panda algorithm. It impacted about 2% to 3% of English language queries.
Google said this Panda update was supposed to be more precise and allow more high-quality small and medium-sized sites to rank better. It impacted about 3% to 5% of English language queries.
This algorithm update was designed to provide more useful, relevant and accurate local search results that were tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals. Google stated that this new algorithm improves their distance and location ranking parameters.
The 27th update of Panda was supposed to be “gentler” for some websites and lay the groundwork for future changes in that direction. It impacted 7.5% of English queries.
Google confirmed that it was pushing out a new Panda update that incorporated new signals to make it more finely targeted.
On March 11 at SMX, Google’s Matt Cutts said a Panda update was coming. It seemed to roll out on time as promised. However, Google never officially confirmed the rollout happened.
This Panda refresh impacted 1.2% of English queries.
This Panda refresh impacted 1.3% of English queries.
Google launched this algorithm change to prevent low-quality sites from ranking well simply because they had words that matched search terms in their domain names.
This update demoted the rankings of sites that received too many DMCA takedown requests. It wouldn’t be until 2022 that we learned Pirate can cause up to, on average, an 89% drop in search traffic.
The goal of this update was to decrease rankings for sites that Google believed were violating Google’s quality guidelines. In particular, websites that were buying links or obtaining them through link networks that were primarily designed to boost Google rankings.
This was a means to prevent sites that were “top-heavy” with ads from ranking well in Google’s search results. Top Heavy is periodically updated. When a fresh Top Heavy Update happens, sites that have removed excessive ads may regain lost rankings. New sites deemed too “top-heavy” may get caught.
In late February, SEOs and webmasters started noticing big brands gaining more visibility in search results. On March 5, Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed the “minor change,” adding that Google’s ranking algorithm may be factoring trust, quality, PageRank, and other metrics for more generic queries. Cutts said it did not impact long-tail queries. A Googler named Vince created this change, which is how the update got its name.
Some major shuffling in search results was being reported at the end of March and into early April. Google’s Matt Cutts asked webmasters for feedback on the changes via a form and to include the word “dewey” in their feedback, giving this update a name.
Google confirmed they were lowering PageRank scores for some sites that were selling links. Google also said that some of those sites could be removed from its search results or be given penalties that prevent them from ranking well. Google’s PageRank Update Goes After Paid Links? (Oct. 24) documented multiple sites that were impacted.
This is considered to be a continuation of the work Google started with Florida, aimed at producing more relevant search results. Websites impacted by this update were using on-page SEO tactics that, at the time, had worked quite well (but today are considered spammy, outdated practices).
Florida was the first major Google algorithm update and it caused a huge outcry. Google’s goal was to make it harder for websites to rank well using manipulative SEO techniques.
Unfortunately, this update drove many websites out of business (including some “false positives”) right before the lucrative holiday season. After this update, Google promised it would try to avoid rolling out major changes around the holidays (a promise that remained unbroken until 2011).
This is the update when Google switched to indexing pages every day (or more often) instead of doing one large monthly algorithmic update (called the “Google Dance “), where everyone’s rankings would increase or decrease over a period of six to eight days. From this point onward, Google made many (typically minor) changes every day, which came to be known as “everflux.”
Google said this update will help it ‘understand content created from a personal or expert point of view.’
Google’s core ranking systems look to reward content that provides a good page experience.
This update was more widespread than previous updates because it targets more than just product reviews.
As a reminder, this reviews update started on April 12 and goes well beyond just product reviews.
Here’s what SEOs need to know about Google’s Penguin algorithm update, plus Search Engine Land’s coverage of Penguin from 2012 to 2021.
Page experience is important for your users and usability, but it never seemed all that important for rankings.
Google does add that when it comes to page experience evaluation, it is not just page specific but can also be site-wide.
We asked some of the Google tracking data providers for data on the latest Google algorithm update.
This March 2023 core update took 13 days to roll out. This was a fairly impactful update compared to previous core updates.
Learn four tips to improve your website so it won’t just survive a Google core update – but maybe even thrive.
Google said the new Ranking section of the Search Status dashboard will show active updates as well as history up to 2020.
This is the first Google core update of 2023 and the first in more than six months. The rollout may take up to 2 weeks to complete.
Semrush compared the sixth release against the July 2022 version, while Rank Ranger compared it against September 2022 data.
This update took 14 days to fully roll out and is now complete.
Here’s a complete history of the Google Panda Update, its impact on search results, and its lasting legacy on SEO.
Google core updates and other algorithm updates impacted Discover, but now Google says the helpful content system does as well.
This update brings new languages to the product reviews update including English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Polish.
Also consider evaluating the “who, how and why” of your content.
Red Ventures’ use of AI to write cheap content that ranks well in search sure sounds like the old content farms Google Panda wiped out.
The update started on December 5th and completed 38 days later on January 12th.
That’s a wrap, the second Google algorithm update this month is done rolling out.
Google said these updates may take one to two weeks longer to complete.
Google introduced a brand new ranking algorithm this year, the helpful content update but pushed the same number of official updates in 2022 as it did in 2021.
The data providers sent us data looking at the Google Search results over the last couple of weeks.
The holidays are approaching and SEOs are worried that we might get another core update by year end.
This update is rolling out now for the next couple weeks, while the helpful content is still rolling out.
Steer clear of outdated and dubious SEO tactics. Here are tips for doing SEO that benefits real-world users – without tricking anybody.
This update adds new signals and also brings the helpful content update globally for all languages.
Google also lists the algorithms that are no longer being used for search rankings.
From the importance of E-A-T to the history of Google updates, here are seven important insights about how Google search works.
At SMX Next, Google revealed that, years ago, the Panda algorithm was replaced with an updated algorithm called Coati
Yep, it is all about the Page Experience update and core web vitals when it comes to Google’s ranking alogrithms.
Give the axe to these horrifying SEO schemes and you will have a better chance at competing in the search results.
The update started on October 19th and was completed less than two days later on October 21st.
This is a global update that may take several days to fully roll out.
Building an SEO strategy around the Search Essentials documentation gives you the best chance to boost your clients’ Google performance.
Google has done a full refresh of its old Webmaster Guidelines, simplifying them and removing the term “webmaster.”
Three new examples were added to the how to write product reviews Google help document.
Content optimization today should combine a user-first approach with a good grounding in SEO. Here’s how to get the right balance.
This update impacted English-language product reviews and overlapped with Google’s September 2022 core update.
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