Google constantly updates and changes its search engine and the algorithms behind it. Every year Google makes hundreds of small and large changes at the very least. It's important to understand the different algorithm updates in order to understand the reasons for changes in traffic on our website, and in the event of a website emergency - also having an idea of how to deal with the update and recover from it.
The following is a list of known Google updates from recent years.
On January 13, 2020, Google announced a broad core update is about to roll out. Google usually launches core updates every three months. The previous update took place in Sept. 2019. Between one core update to another, we get to "enjoy" additional updates, some related to changes in search result positions and others related to the structure or design of the search result pages.
On September 10, 2019 Google introduced a nofollow extension in the form of 2 new features signaling link types to search engines in a more precise way.
An update designed to diversify search results and prevent the appearance of multiple pages from the same site in the search results.
A Google bug caused some pages to be removed from the index.
Google is now canonizing (uniting) data from the canonical and non-canonical URLs in order to make it easier to view the data.
Although not officially approved by Google, this update was noticed by tools that measure changes in SERP.
Google announces that starting July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.
Possible update that wasn't approved by Google
This update has significantly reduced video previews and replaced them with a "video carousels".
.Possible update that was not officially approved by Google
Extensive core algorithm update that occurred in April 2018
This update adds a description below each image based on the title of the page it’s on.
An experiment in which Google removed all organic results from queries returning numerical answers and presented only the answer to the question.
Severe malfunction in Yoast causes rankings to drop.
An update made to Google's core algorithm aiming to improve the relevance of search results. The update is not a single change or a new parameter in the algorithm, but a number of changes that Google made to improve their core algorithm.
Changes in Google site's ranking, only when using a mobile device.
Fred's update mainly affects sites with low-quality content that also contain a large amount of advertisements - meaning, sites whose sole purpose is to make profits from poor content that targeting long tail terms.
This update primarily affected "black hat" links, so it is commonly assumed that this update is a Penguin version update or an algorithm that joins it. Spam links and web networks are the primary casualties of this update.
Google has announced an update of the Penguin 4.0 algorithm. This algorithm will work in real time so that the changes will appear faster.
According to many reports in the SEO community and various tracking tools, it is speculated that two updates were recently rolled out by Google. Google has not confirmed the update(s), but multiple fluctuations in search traffic were noted by various tracking tools in addition to ranking changes that were reported by many SEOs.
Google has started displaying sponsored results above the local result 3-pack in search results (business results). The change is visible in mobile searches only. Example of the new display.
The June 2016 update has occurred on 3 different dates, significant fluctuations in organic results were noted on each of these dates. It is estimated that several algorithm versions were released, or a gradual rollout of the same algorithm.
A year following their first mobile friendly update, Google has rolled out another update which prioritizes mobile-friendly website rankings (for mobile search results). According to Google the update doesn’t impact websites that are already mobile-optimized, although it is possible that non-optimized websites may drop in rankings.
As of today there are 4 paid results at the top of Google's search results, 3 paid results at the bottom, and none on the sidebar which previously featured 7 paid ads. This set of changes comes to improve Google's profits and make better use of their page space.
A Google algorithm update has occurred on this date, affecting website rankings across the web. Not much is known about this update beyond Google's statement that this is a core algorithm update, and not a Penguin update. Google has confirmed this update in the following video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7Qnau9yY0Y (from minute 3:00).
Google have released a silent terminology update, changing the term “Web” to “All” in Google search options.
Starting from early December 2015, some of Google’s result pages started showing 4 sponsored results (as opposed to 3 results thus far).
Google has removed the option to filter search results by user location due to "very little usage".
In 2009 Google released a proposal for making AJAX based content crawlable. In this update, Google have announced they are now capable of indexing AJAX based content without aid, deprecating their earlier proposal and encouraging webmasters to allow Googlebot access to the page's CSS and JS.
Google have updated the appearance of local results on SERPs, changing the number of results shown from 7 to 3.
Rumors of a Google update. Speculations vary between fluctuations caused by Wikipedia's transition to HTTPS, and a news website boosting update.
Wikipedia is switching to the HTTPS protocol. This case is not a Google algorithm update, but since Wikipedia is very dominant in Google’s search results, many SEOs have noticed shake-ups and fluctuations that day.
This update is a core engine update rather than a penalty update, and it changes the way Google assesses the quality of content found on web pages.
The update causes mobile-friendly websites to appear more frequently in search results. That is to say – making a website compatible with mobile devices becomes a parameter in determining a website's ranking.
This update is meant to penalize websites that contain a large amount of doorway pages. Obvious examples being websites that are attempting to rank for a large amount of local expressions.
This update seems to have focused mostly on brand e-commerce terms. Most around misspellings of brand keywords.
Many website owners reported changes in organic traffic and its conversion rates on their websites. In most of the reported cases in this context, increases in traffic and significant decreases in conversion rates were observed.
The Pigeon update was released on July 24th for English search results in the USA. The update was also officially released on December 19th 2014 in England, Canada and Australia. The update reached other countries worldwide on the same date as well, albeit unofficially.
Regarding this update specifically, many have reported that previously observed changes made by the Penguin 3.3 update have reverted back to the earlier ranking state of Penguin 3.2.
Google has confirmed that this is a part of the ongoing Penguin 3.0 release, many website owners reported previously observed changes reverting back to pre-Penguin 3.0 rankings.
This update is a Penguin 3.0 follow-up that was released as a result of the many issues caused by Penguin 3.0 and multiple complaints made by website owners.
Google have confirmed this update is a part of the Penguin 3.0 rollout, many fluctuations, reversals and changes
The update checks the relevant of links, intended to avoid spam
A new filter designed to penalize “thin” or poor content from ranking high. Google said that depending on location, about 3% - 5% of search queries will be affected by this update.
The Pigeon update is not a website-penalizing update websites like the Panda or Penguin updates, but a change in the way Google’s search engine works. This update was released on July 24th for English language search results in the USA.
Google Spam Algorithm Version 3.0 is designed to clean and take care of "spammy" queries such as [viagra[, [casinos], [payday loans] etc.
Google announced an algorithm that affects sites using duplicate content or thinned with many advertisements (7.5% impact for searches in English)
This update is a Google Spam Algorithm update, and its purpose is to tackle spam websites and queries that appear on search result pages. Google refer to this algorithm as the Google Spam Algorithm 2.0, but it also has also been nicknamed the ‘Payday Loan Algorithm’ for the noticeable use of the phrase "Payday Loan" in the description for the update. According to Google's estimation the update will impact about 0.2% of queries in English.
A significant decrease in traffic for mainly MP3 sites and lyrics sites.
Rumors and reports about "soft" Panda - a drastic drop of the movement.
The algorithm emphasizes the layout of the page and its content. About 1% globally search results changes .
In this update, titled the “authorship update”, rich snippet results were reduced by 15%.
Reports about major changes in search results since penguin 2.0 . Google denies.
Changes in rankings for the top domains
Though Google claims update affected ~1% of searches to a noticeable other tests show a larger impact percent.
According to several webmasters they have seen traffic drops at this date. Google has not announced any official update.
The Hummingbird update was released by Google on August 2013 and introduced by their representatives as the first significant update since Caffeine at 2010, and the biggest update of its kind since 2001. According to Google Hummingbird affected 90% of searches world-wide.
Official Google message: In the last few days we’ve been pushing out a new Panda update that incorporates new signals so it can be more finely targeted.
Google’s "Payday Loan Algorithm" is an update that aims to tackle spammy queries and spam websites that appear in search results. According to Google's initial statement, the update mainly checks for problematic link schemes, so if you were affected by this update you might want to check your website's link profile.
Changes in traffic and search results positions
Update 2.0 for Google’s Penguin algorithm. This update is both an algorithm update (the new algorithm works differently than Penguin 1.0) and a data refresh which addresses the current status of sites on the web. According to Google, 2.3% of English (US) queries were affected to a degree that is noticeable by standard search engine users.
This update has received very vague credentials by Google. ("No, this is not the Penguin update" was the most official reference given to the update - https://twitter.com/mattcutts/status/332914600095907840) Many site owners have reported significant falls in ranking.
future Panda updates will be rolling over time, no more confirmations from google regarding Panda changes or updates
A data refresh for the Panda algorithm. This refresh affected 1.2% of English queries.
Fluctuations in Google search results indicate the feasibility of refreshes / update from Google.
This is a data refresh for the Panda update. The refresh affected 1.3% of queries in English. This update is significant in comparison to its predecessor which affected only 0.8% of queries.
Google added knowledge graph for Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, and Italian.
Data refresh #22 for the Panda update. The update affected 0.8% of queries in English.
Data refresh #21 for the Panda update. This refresh affected 1.1% of queries in English and 0.4% of queries worldwide.
Data refresh for 'Page Layout Algorithm'. Affected on 0.7% of queries in English.
A small penguin data update affecting 0.3% of queries.
Google confirmed that a Panda update was released on September 27th 2012, affecting 2.4% of English queries, which is an exceptional percentage for a Panda update impact. This update is not just a data refresh, but an actual algorithm update
Google announced a change in the way it was handling exact match domains (EMDs). Leading to a large scale reduction in the presence of EMDs in the MozCast data set by over 10%. Official word is that this change impacted 0.6% of queries (by volume).
A Panda refresh, affecting less than 0.7% of queries.
A Panda refresh, affecting less than 1% of queries.
Google conducted significant changes to the first 10 results displayed; display is now reduced to 7 results for many queries. A current research indicated that the change was spread throughout a few days but effected on about 18% of keywords being tracked.
Major updates included Panda data and algorithm refreshes, an improved rank-ordering function (?), a ranking boost for "trusted sources", and changes to site clustering.רים.
The Pirate Update (or the DMCA Penalty update), aims to penalize websites that have repeatedly received removal requests for copyright infringing content.
About 1% of queries affected
Google sent out a large number of unnatural link warnings via Google Webmaster Tools. They later announced that these new warnings may not actually represent a serious problem.
Google rolled out another Panda data refresh, but this appeared to be data only (no algorithm changes) and had a much smaller impact than Panda 3.7.
Google released another Panda data update, claiming that less than 1% of queries were affected. Ranking fluctuation data suggested that the impact was substantially higher than previous Panda updates (3.5, 3.6.)
Google released their monthly Search Highlights, with 39 updates in May. Major changes included better link-scheme detection, changes to title/snippet rewriting, and updates to Google News.
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.
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. "Knowledge panels" would be expected to appear on more and more Search results.
Google published details of 52 updates that were tied to the "Penguin" update. Other highlights included a 15% larger "base" index, improved pagination handling, and a number of updates to sitelinks.
Panda data update. The implications of this update were unclear, and it seemed that the impact was relatively small.
The Penguin update is one of Google’s most well-known updates and one of the company’s most important algorithm updates. The update was launched on April 24th 2012 with the aim of giving a ranking advantage to quality websites, and lowering the rankings of spam generating websites that employ invalid SEO methods. The algorithm impacted an estimated 3.1% of English queries.
Google rolled out a Panda data update that appears to have been a fairly routine update with minimal impact.
After a number of webmasters reported ranking shuffles, Google confirmed that a data error had caused some domains to be mistakenly treated as parked domains (and thereby devalued). This was not an intentional algorithm change.
Google posted another batch of update highlights, covering 50 changes, including confirmation of Panda 3.4, changes to anchor-text "scoring", updates to image search, and changes to how queries with local intent are interpreted.
Another Panda update, affecting 1.6% of queries
Google published a second set of "search quality highlights", claiming more than 40 changes. Notable changes included multiple image-search updates, multiple freshness updates (including phasing out 2 old bits of the algorithm), and a Panda update.
Google posted another post-"flux" Panda update, which appeared to be relatively minor. This came just 3 days after the 1-year anniversary of Panda, an unprecedented lifespan for a named update.
Google released additional "search quality highlights" (17 in all). Many related to speed, freshness, and spell-checking, but one major announcement was tighter integration of Panda into the main search index.
The “Page Layout Algorithm”, also known as the “Above the Fold Update” and the “Top Heavy Update”, addresses the issue of pages with an overabundance of ads above the “fold”.
Google confirmed a Panda data update, although suggested that the algorithm hadn't changed.
Google announced a radical shift in personalization - aggressively pushing Google+ social data and user profiles into SERPs, but also adding a prominent toggle button to shut off personalization.
Google announced 30 changes; including image search landing-page quality detection, more relevant site-links, more rich snippets, and related-query improvements.