History of Google Algorithm Updates – From SEO Perspective

Google Algorithm Updates - Semidot Infotech

People believe Google has made it tougher for people to rank their businesses, but they have actually made it easier, even tough complicated than before. Google algorithm updates have set filters for those for who was trying to fake it, making it an honest competition, while promoting their own Adsense business. Google is expected to roll out a new, and big update, very soon. It is expected to be a very major update and will change how we browse the intern

Google updates it’s algorithm almost every single day. The major updates though usually come in a month or two. Google categorizes its updates and changes to make it easier to explain whenever they are rolled out. There’s a major play of Adsense in all this, but let’s discuss it another time. We are here today to make a quick list of SEO updates since Google started taking it seriously.

For easier understanding, we will categorize Google algorithms updates and put in them the updates date wise.

There are a total of 9 categories, so let’s get started with Google algorithm updates

1. Panda

Google finally realized the need to keep the trash content away and releases a new algorithm update called Panda/Farmer. As we said, the series of updates were aimed at maintaining the quality of the content of websites appearing at the top of search results.

February 23, 2011

On this day, the auspicious google algorithm update was first implemented. It was reported that approximately 12% of all queries were impacted. Google considerably de-ranked content farm websites which were just producing irrelevant content for every niche and topping page ranking.

April 11, 2011

Generic improvements to the general google algorithm, it added and improved upon factors which users directly reported, like blocking websites.

May 9, 2011

The industry first called this Panda 3.0, but Google clarified that it was just a data refresh, as would be true for the 2.x updates to come.

June 21, 2011

Panda version 2.2 was finally acknowledged by Google, along with Google continuing to take Panda further and beyond, impacting sites and data worldwide.

July 23, 2011

The changes remained unannounced, so it wasn’t clear what exactly was changed in this update.

August 12, 2011

Over 8 percent of queries were affected, Panda rolled out internationally. It included complete support for English and all global language excluding Chinese, Japenese, Korean.

September 28, 2011

Even though exact details of the update weren’t disclosed, many sites reported huge loses because of it.

October 19, 2011

Some new minor additions to the algorithm, which affected how would the Panda update now affect Google search. Also, Google started taking collected previous data of far has Panda taken it and impacted different websites.

November 18, 2011

No official announcement for Panda 3.0, but a statement saying there will be flux upcoming. The update was called 3.1 and was going to be followed by minor and frequent updates.

January 18, 2012

No typical algorithm changes but a mild data change was reported by Google for Panda 3.2

February 27, 2012

A Post flux update, but yet again, nothing much was said by Google for the same.

March 12, 2012

Over 1.6% of all searches were affected with the rollout of Panda 3.4, what was new was Google took to Twitter to announce it to the public.

April 19, 2012

No high impact was reported, it was a fairly generic data update from Google.

April 27, 2012

No updates or details were provided, but it was believed the update was to compliment Penguin, which was released just 3 days prior to this update.

June 8, 2012

Google claimed less than 1% searches were affected, however, ranking fluctuation data suggested otherwise. This 3.7 update supposedly was much more impactful than the last two updates.

June 25, 2012

Only data changes were made without making any changes to the actual algorithm.

July 24, 2012

A Short term impact was made on the rankings, taking things back to normal in a week’s time. Google claims about 1% of all searches were affected with update 3.9

August 20, 2012

The new naming convention, update 3.9.1 was introduced due to the update being minor and necessary before the upcoming Panda 4.0.

September 18, 2012

Moderate ranking flux was caused by this data only update, no changes in the algorithm were made.

September 27, 2012

The highly impactful update overlapped with the EMD update. This Panda update changed both the data and the algorithm to affect over 2.4% queries. At this update, Google decided that there was a lot more to do before version 4, and so, started naming Panda updates by indexing. This being the 20th Panda update, the further would be named as update 21 for panda then 22 and so on.

November 5, 2012

This was a small yet impactful update from Google, it was officially reported to have affected over 1.1% of all English queries.

November 21, 2012

The 22nd Panda update was mostly data driven, but there was some activity reported just before this update on 19th November.

December 21, 2012

A high impact Panda update since last 2 iterations, Google officially called it a refresh and told it affected about 1.3% English queries.

January 22, 2013

The official statement says it affected 1.3%, the first update of 2013 was pretty intense for the community.

March 14, 2013

The last manual update to the Panda, after this, all the hard work Google put in it was going to be integrated into the core algorithm. The update was pre-announced and was speculated to affect a lot of users at its roll out.

June 11, 2013

Matts Cutts clarifies a few things which were said previously. Panda wasn’t yet been incorporated in the core algorithm, rather Google will start making slow roll outs in over 10 days. The ever flux wasn’t happening just yet, but there were new updates making way to the algorithm as a whole to dance.

July 18, 2013

Panda’s penalties were getting too harsh, Google rolled out Panda recovery to make sure they don’t get too hard on the internet businesses.

May 19, 2014

Panda 4.0 was here, and it affected the English queries massively, over 7.5% of all the queries. The speculation was being made that instead of slow rollouts, this was an algorithm as well as data change update. While Matt Cutts claims it started rolling out on 20/5, the web statics were showing it actually came out earlier.

September 23, 2014

Given the slow rollouts, the exact date for Panda 4.1 can only be speculated. The official news came on 25/9, but we firmly believe it was earlier than that. This Google algorithm update made a huge impact by affecting over 3-5% of all queries.

July 17, 2015

Major update to Panda was announced, Google called it a data-based update, and told it will take months and more to completely roll out. The immediate effect couldn’t be calculated and not much is know about its the actual overall impact of Panda 4.2

January 11, 2016

Approximately 6 months after the last update and official announcement, Google announced that Panda has now been included in its core algorithm for page ranking. The changes made now will be subtle and won’t be announced explicitly. In a way, Panda was now perfect to be used along with other Google’s core algorithm factors, and won’t require many changes at all. Panda was perfected to be, in a long span of so many years, Google said it will keep working in its full potential.

History of Google Algorithm Updates - From SEO Perspective

2. Penguin

In the wake of spammers using their resources to promote thin content and low-quality websites, Google came up with the Webspam update. The update was decided to be called Penguin, Google just being Google. Over a series of Google algorithm updates, Penguin took a real place in the core search algorithm and eliminated a lot of spammers from Google’s search results.

April 24, 2012

When Penguin first came onto the surface, this was directly linked to the increased problem of scammers using Black Hat SEO techniques to promote websites with thin content and fooling Google. Penguin adjusted a lot of spam factors, like keyword stuffing, and affected almost 3.1% of all English queries.

May 25, 2012

The first update to Penguin, Penguin 1.1 came out officially. Google announced that just like Panda, Penguin’s main data would be maintained outside the main search index. This obviously meant updates and optimization for Penguin.

October 5, 2012

Unlike Panda, Penguin’s updates weren’t going full swing. On this day, Google made an announcement of a minor update along with telling the public a major update is coming soon. Since this was a minor data update, it impacted only 0.3% of all search queries. This version had no name, the convention was rebooted just like Panda.

May 22, 2013

After months and months of wait and speculations, Penguin 2.0 was finally announced by Google. The widespread effect on the search result was not announced, but it’s speculated that it affected a lot of web traffic by reducing spamming considerably. The update was aimed at the page level to let Google dig deeper into the SEO.

October 4, 2013

Minor update with data changes was release after a 4 and a half months of wait. The algorithm wasn’t modified much in this one, and it was called to be Penguin 2.1. Even though the update was minor, a lot of website owners reported major loses after the update.

October 17, 2014

The update to Penguin came after a year and was yet a minor update according to the impact it made. The Penguin refresh was now called Penguin 3.0, even though no major changes were made to the algorithm. The time of arrival of the algorithm remains unclear due to it’s spread taking weeks, according to Google.

December 10, 2014

It was announced by Google that Penguin will be going on the path of an ever flux, continuous, and no major announcements. All this happened with speculations about Penguin 3.1 going over the roof. There was no update as such and one thing was clear, Google’s Penguin was soon going to be included in the core search algorithm.

September 23, 2016

2 Years of no updates on Penguin and then, Google finally comes up with a major update which says Penguin will now be a part of the core algorithm. Things were being perfected in the meantime, and now finally, Google integrates it in the main algorithm for better.

Initial assessments weren’t possible due to the fact that the update was on a slow roll out. The algorithm was now more gentle towards spammers and was aimed at devaluing the bad backlinks instead of directly penalizing websites. In the second phase, all penalties were taken off, it was speculated that the update rollout took almost two complete weeks.

3. Pirate

Pirated content was getting problematic each day, the copyright holders were furious and incurring huge loses. So, Google finally came up with an update to ban pirated content in its search results. The update was called “Pirate” for obvious reasons.

August 10, 2012

Google implements Pirate through DMCA’s list of repeat offenders and starts heavily penalizing them. The update was said to be scheduled and wasn’t effective immediately.

October 21, 2014

Pirate 2.0 was launched after almost 2 years of the first DMCA update, it was aimed at taking down all websites offering pirated digital media and software. The update was called off as a success with a lot of pirated site owners reporting huge losses.

4. Hummingbird

Hummingbird was the next step for Google to take the search engine crown. It was aimed at taking advantage of showing a result focused on the user’s actual intent. Showing a side page for facts, or for recipes in case of food search, added the much needed personal touch in every single search query.

August 20, 2013

Google announced a new update came a month ago on 26th September. They said the new algorithm update was directly at core algorithm, unlike others which were first perfected with a series of updates. The main changes in the update were how about the semantics were searched in a query and the knowledge base used by Google’s algorithm.

5 Pigeon

This update was aimed at promoting local business to local users, a much-needed update to the algorithm which was, to be honest, expected much earlier from Google. This update helped everyone near you to be displayed as a search result, which made complete sense as you need to find local shops/ restaurants and more on a daily basis.

Google was now working on a tighter grip on local search algorithms for tailor-made results to the user, it also included major search improvements on google maps.

July 24, 2014

Google made the perfect move by bridging the gap between it’s local and core algorithm by releasing this update. The update was made directly on the algorithm and the fluctuation was reported for as long as 8 weeks.

December 22, 2014

The algorithm was expanded from the US to other countries like the UK, CA, and AUS. The slow rollout was due to the widespread effect of the update on local searches.

6. Mobile friendly update

Mobile friendly updates were a special case in Google algorithm updates. They weren’t aimed at search engine algorithm in general, but to maintain the webpage quality in mobile phones. Mobile sites were back then not given much attention, and given the wake of the smartphone era, this decision became a necessity for Google. Best SEO services also started working separately for mobile-friendly updates.

April 21, 2015

Google pre-announces an update specifically for mobile phones, it was dubbed “Mobilegeddon”. It was focused on making a different ranking system for mobile-friendly sites on mobile. The move was praised but the actual outcome said otherwise, no hyper changed ranks were reported and things went smooth.

May 12, 2016

More than a year after the first major update, Google made an announcement that they are still working to make the mobile web better. For an even better user experience on mobiles, a minor update was released to encourage more websites to make mobile-friendly websites.

January 10, 2017

Google finally realized to limit ads on mobile phones, it was getting really frustrating to see pop-ups and more and more tabs opening continuously. Intrusive Interstitial Penalties was applied to such websites and advertisers, this was in the wake of deteriorating user mobile experience. This was one of the first updates about which Google sent out a statement 6 months prior, on the day of update no major activity was reported and things went further smoothly.

March 26, 2018

Google was going all in on the portables, with its update dubbed “Mobile first index”. The update meant to bet big on mobile sites rather than desktop websites, it meant the website would be first indexed on mobile and then on desktop. No huge impact was reported and webmasters were notified directly about the update.

July 9, 2018

A Mobile speed update was rolled out to accommodate phones running on low-speed mobile data. Page speed was made a deciding factor for page ranking in case of mobiles and Google specified it would only affect the slowest of the mobile sites.

7. RankBrain

The RankBrain was a game changer for Google, they did what others only dreamt about. For SEOs, things were only going to get harder, as the only way to rank now was to follow the basics and working hard. The RankBrain is Google’s machine learning algorithm made through all the data they have collected since the beginning of their journey. The algorithm keeps on learning through everything that’s happening on the search engine and moving ahead to correctly decipher the meaning behind users queries.

October 26, 2015

A Huge algorithm update announcement shook the world, Google announced the machine learning algorithm has been in work for months. It contributed to be the 3rd most influential factor in page rankings and was continually learning. Google took its time to announce after they actually ran the algorithm for months as a test run.

8. Possum

Another update to Google’s local search algorithm, the one that hit some very hard, and made some very happy. This update was aimed at improving businesses that went unconsidered as they were outside city limits, even if just by a few miles. Local web development companies also started working for smaller businesses while putting SEO first.

Things were now focused on the users’ location, rather than the business’s location. Things improved a lot by Possum, and maps were now implementing the search algorithm much better for local businesses. It was reported that around 60% of all local search results were affected because of Possum, which is an impact, unlike any other update.

September 1, 2016

Even though no official announcement was made by Google, huge changes were reported in local searches. It was also speculated that both inorganic and organic results shook up with this unannounced update. It also led to the closure of businesses which put up fake addresses in every city to improve their presence.

9. Fred

Fred was another Google update which targeted sites with thin content by changing the entire algorithm. This was Google’s answer to blogs who strived on ads and affiliate marketing and had no relevant content on offer. They were just like content farms, but the target was different this time around, and so was Google’s approach to tackle it.

This update shook the results by storm, most thin content sites were now nowhere to be found. Google also pushed hard on webmaster’s guidelines with this update.

March 8, 2017

Google released an unannounced update, Garry Illeys called it ‘Fred’ jokingly. No official announcements were made and the name was called off as a joke. But the update was still very real, seeing the effect it had search results. It made more and more people comply and follow Google’s guidelines for a better experience for everyone.

Conclusion

Google has evolved from being a meager search engine to the best one out there. Every single person relies on Google for an internet search, people now give examples of Google as a synonym to internet search. Google has worked very hard upon improving search results for general users while maintaining free practices and quality content.

Things went from simple algorithms to a full-fledged machine learning algorithm, which knows exactly what you’re looking for when you type those words.

Overall, from an SEO perspective, Google has stayed true to what it stands for. Even though Google’s main business is marketing and ads, they ensure the organic search remains unaffected. That means if you don’t want to pay for ads, and can maintain the quality, you can rank on top of all those webpages you’re targeting.

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