Major Google Algorithm Updates – Most Recent & Historical Changes

Shall we dance?

In the SEO world, the Google Dance has a full dance card. But, what is this mystery known as the Google Dance? Quite simply, it’s a period of time whereby the behemoth search engine Google rebuilds their rankings, fluctuating rankings and results completely for approximately 3-5 days.

However, the dance can lead to flux and the flux to scheduled updates. Some algorithm updates are recognized by Google, named by the company, named by the SEO industry or simply stated as unconfirmed. However, to a certain extent, they all impact a significant number of users or site owners.

Annually, the mega search engine company Google alters their search algorithm approximately 500 to 600 times. Granted, while most of the changes are considered minuscule, there are those major updates like the humorously named Panda and Penguin which make significant changes in search engine results.

SEO marketers are in need of the Google update dates to explain why their customers’ ranks and traffic fluctuate. Following, are all of the most significant algorithmic changes and what they actually meant.

NOTE: The various entries will make more sense to you if you scroll all the way to the bottom of this page, and begin with the earliest entry. Reading as you go upwards, will give you information on prior updates and help to put new(er) updates into proper perspective. Enjoy!

2018

3/2018 Mobile-First Indexing

March 26 saw a long-awaited announcement at the Webmaster Central Blog regarding Google’s launch of mobile-first indexing. For the last 18 months, the search giant has been testing and refining a major, mobile-focused update that will impact its “crawling, indexing, and ranking systems,” the three pillars of its search engine technology. Instead of considering desktop sites the default, the new system will prioritize mobile versions of pages for indexing, caching, and ranking purposes.

Although the updated approach will eventually become the norm, it will be rolled out progressively over the coming months. Webmasters can expect to be notified via the Search Console when Google switches over to crawling and indexing their own sites with its new technology.

This update will likely be used to support the mobile-based page speed signal announced back in January. Google notes that webmasters can expect to see significantly more traffic from the Smartphone Googlebot crawler, but promises that mobile-first indexing will not impact SERP rankings, everything else remaining equal.

More Info: Rolling out mobile-first indexing

3/2018 March Madness

Manning the much-appreciated @searchliaison Twitter account, Googler Danny Sullivan on March 12 officially confirmed that “a broad core algorithm update” had gone live the week before. SEO veterans Glenn Gabe and Marie Haynes tweeted some evidence of the effects, with the two agreeing that rankings and traffic levels really started shaking up about a week later.

Even so, Gabe also pointed to a fair amount of unusual activity in the days immediately following Sullivan’s claimed launch date. In particular, quite a few websites that had previously lost Rich Snippets placements owing to apparent quality concerns regained them. This seemed to square with Sullivan’s elaboration on Twitter that “changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded.”

In his detailed analysis of the update, Gabe took Google’s longstanding side by pointing out that sites which focused on maintaining quality over the long term would not need to worry so much either way. With Google now “doing a better job at surfacing higher quality sites,” in the estimation of Gabe and many others, too much emphasis on short-term SERP developments could be counterproductive. That conclusion very much jibes with John Mueller’s detailed advice from a Google Webmasters “office hours” Hangout of last August.

More Info: The Brackets Update

1/2018 Mobile Page Speed Update Scheduled

All the way back in 2010, Google announced that it had begun issuing ranking penalties to desktop sites it deemed overly slow. When mobile-focused rankings started to become available, Google originally claimed that those results did not incorporate the desktop-based speed signals.

In a 2014 Hangout chat with Barry Schwartz of SEO Roundtable, though, Google analyst John Mueller admitted that the search engine was utilizing a number of desktop-based metrics in its mobile rankings. That included doling out penalties based on desktop-site speed, even when pointing users to corresponding mobile-specific destinations.

This never made much sense, and Google had promised for some time to resolve the issue at some point. An official January 17 post at the Webmaster Central Blog finally put a deadline on the associated update: Starting in July 2018, “pages that deliver the slowest experience to users” will be penalized in Google’s search rankings, whether they’re mobile-specific, responsive, or otherwise.

Webmasters with mobile-only subdomains and sites will likely want to run them through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool or Chrome Developer Tools’ Lighthouse before then to make sure everything is in order. Responsive sites and desktop-oriented pages that have already been vetted should not be impacted either way by the upcoming update.

Over on Twitter, Mueller also assured Schwartz that fast AMP pages would not receive penalties even when canonical, corresponding mobile URLs did. In other words, speed-based ranking factors should finally correspond accurately to the types of pages particular search results point to, regardless of the situation.

More Info: Using page speed in mobile search ranking

2017

12/2017 Maccabees

Right around the start of Hanukkah, many webmasters began noticing unusual levels of traffic volatility. Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable published the first take not long after, dubbing the update “Maccabees” in honor of the historical people and events commemorated by the holiday. Posters at WebmasterWorld and elsewhere reported seeing sudden organic traffic losses of 25 percent or more, with several measures of SERP fluctuation suggesting an algorithm update had gone live. Google later confirmed that a few “minor improvements” had been released at the time, with Schwartz concluding that sites heavy with landing pages aimed at particular keyword permutations had suffered the most. Others agreed with his assessment that some Fred-related refinements had coincided with the Maccabees update to make pinning down the true nature of the latter more difficult.

More Info: Google Maccabees Update Analysis: Sites Targeting Many Keyword Permutations

11/2017 Extended Snippets

After holding strong at a maximum of 160 characters for quite a few months, many of the page-summarizing snippets Google shows below search results URLs began growing, starting in the middle of November. With certain of these now spanning as many as four lines, a Google representative confirmed that the limits had been relaxed. While this suggested to some SEO experts that reworking existing meta descriptions could be worthwhile, others counseled simply keeping the higher limits in mind when writing new ones.

More Info: Google officially increases length of snippets in search results

9/2017 No-Name Update

A sudden flood of complaints at WebmasterWorld suggested to some that Google had issued another significant algorithm update. Search engine rankings trackers did seem to indicate that something notable had happened behind the scenes. Google never officially commented on the speculation, and no real consensus regarding the matter emerged in the SEO community.

More Info: More Google Algorithm & Search Results Shuffling

5/2017 No-Name Major Update

Many of the most popular SERP volatility trackers began showing unusual levels of activity starting around the middle of May. Digital marketer and Search Engine Land columnist Glenn Gabe opined on Twitter that the cause was likely a “core ranking update focused on quality.” SERP volatility remained high for some time, with one in-depth analysis concluding that shakeups for a number of big retail sites contributed heavily to the tracking tool measurements.

More Info: Google Search Ranking & Algorithm Shifts Still Underway

3/2017 Fred

Not one of the official updates, “Fred” was named by Google analyst Gary Illyes on his own, not as an official confirmation. The update seemed to be aimed at black hat tactics tied to aggressive advertising. While certainly not all sites hit by Fred were dummy sites installed just for ad revenue, but they did seem to all have been created for the purpose of adding cash to pockets as opposed to answering a query.

More Info: Fred aggressively attacks black hat tactics

2/2017 February Major Update

Coming after the SERP volatility the SEO world saw in January, chatter indicated a new update had been released. Word seems to say updates were related to backlinks, Private Blog Networks and Penguin. Another update, estimated approximately a week later, combined with the one on the 1st made this February algorithm update one of major proportions.

More Info: 2 Updates for the price of one

1/2017 Intrusive Interstitial Penalty

Set to penalize interstitials (ads that load between two content pages) and pop-ups on mobile browsers, Google additionally warned of this update five months ahead of time.

More Info: Google warns of mobile Intrusive Interstitials

2016

12/2016 No-Name Major Update

Not all that fluctuates has a name. Such was the case with the massive flux in mid-December. The flux was traced by several Google trackers; however, Google would not confirm the update.

More Info: Mid-December update with no name

11/2016

Insiders noticed a major spike Nov. 10th and again about a week later. Industry speculation was ongoing during periods, some of which suggested the second spike was actually a reversal of the first. Google did not confirm either “update”.

More Info: Was there an update?

10/2016 Phase 2 of Penguin 4

Rewinding the previous Penguin penalties, phase two appears to have occurred with a new code rollout. Stats indicate this may have taken up to two weeks to accomplish.

More Info: Phase 2/Penguin 4

9/2016 Phase 1 of Penguin 4

Thought to be launched on or about 9/22-9/23, the first phase of the rollout was a gentle introduction, devaluing bad links instead of assigning a penalty to the site.

More Info: Phase 1 of Penguin 4

9/2016 Penguin 4 Announcement

It’s been two years now and finally delivered what others suspected was coming for a long time. The Penguin update was a formality, with Google stating it was now real-time and a part of the core algorithm. Initially, it looked like a small impact, but that could be because the rollout was actually a long and multi-phased process.

More Info: Penguin a Part of Core

9/2016 Image/Universal Drop

With a 50% drop in SERPs containing images, a universal shake-up is thought to have been part of a larger update. The result of this massive update was to open up an organic positioning on page 1, making massive ranking shifts. Most insiders believe this was part of a larger update.

More Info: Part of Penguin?

9/2016 Possum

This was not a confirmed update by Google, however, insiders noted extreme temps of 108F and a decline in local pack prevalence. Furthermore, local SEO experts saw an extreme shake-up in pack outcomes. It also looks as though organic results saw a shakeup, too.

More Info: What it’s important to know about Possum

5/2016 Mobile Friendly 2

About a year ago, Google launched the original mobile-friendly update; now, they’ve unveiled another signal boost to rankings to the advantage of mobile-friendly websites on mobile search. These days, most sites are already mobile-friendly, therefore, the impact was minor.

More Info: Not a Mobilegeddon: Just an update

2/2016 AdWords Alterations

AdWords was the subject of this February update, taking out the right-column advertisements completely and putting 4 blocks of ads on many commercial search requests. Yes, this was a paid searching update, however, there were major implications for CTR on both paid and organic results. This especially held true for competitive keywords.

More Info: AdWords Shake-up: What you need to know

2015

10/2015 RankBrain

While it may have been released sooner, as in spring of ’15, Google only announced this major update in October. It has been revealed that machine learning has been an integral part of their algorithm for months.

More Info: Web Search influenced by AI Machines

7/2015 Panda 4.2

Giving it many months to roll out instead of several days, Google spoke up about the supposed Panda data refresh. There are no numbers regarding the impact or the details of the algorithm update.

More Info: What to know about Panda 4.2

5/2015 Quality Update

Ranking changes were rampant according to a number of reports, with a spooky name given to the changes, “Phantom 2”. And finally, Google ‘fessed up to a core algorithm alteration set to impact quality signals. With a large impact, Google did not give any details about the particulars of the signals included.

More Info: Phantom Changes affect many

4/2015 Mobilegeddon

Going against the norm, Google pre-announced this algorithm update, informing the industry that mobile ranks would be different for mobile-friendly sites beginning in mid-April. With a much smaller impact than expected, the algorithm flux peaked on the 22nd of April.

More Info: Mobile-friendly sites are given priority

2/2015

A number of SERP followers and webmasters went to the web to report major fluxes in Google SERPs. While some thought it concerned e-commerce, still others felt it was a mobile usability change. There was no confirmation from Google, however, regarding this fluctuation.

More Info: Unexplained fluctuation

2014

12/2014 Expansion of Pigeon

Pigeon is ready to fly, specifically to the UK, Canada and Australia. The massive update to the local algorithm went active in July, 2014 for the US, but rolled out elsewhere in mid-December.

More Info: Let that pigeon fly

12/2014 Penguin Everflux

Those in charge at Google confirmed that Penguin shifted to on-going updates, abandoning the occasional, large updates. This statement fell in line with the continuous flux of updates after Penguin 3.0

More Info: Penguin in a state of Flux

10/2014 Pirate 2.0

It’s been two years since the original DMCA (Pirate) update, and Google is at it again. Now, they’ve launched an update set to battle software and media piracy. As a very targeted update, it caused significant drops in rankings for a small group of websites. Their goal was to remove out-of-compliance websites from appearing in the results.

More Info: Pirate 2.0 updated

10/2014 Penguin 3.0

Believe it or not, it’s been over a year since we last had a Penguin update (2.1). Now, Google is launching a refresh to the old bird, but it seems to be smaller than one might think. It only affects less than 1% queries and is thought to be data only, no algorithm alterations. Google states the update was spread out over weeks.

More Info: Penguin 3.0: What you need to know

10/2014 In the News Box

It appears Google has made a display alteration to the News box results, but, the search engine gurus stated they had simply enlarged news links to a larger group of potential sites. But, this alteration did cause a spike in SERPs and news sites also stated they’d seen traffic changes as well.

More Info: More Sites “in the news” box

9/2014 Panda 4.1

A major update was made to Panda including an algorithmic portion. It was estimated that 3-5% of queries were actually affected, but it wasn’t clear when the rollout occurred. It is, as always, aimed at removing redundant content from result pages.

More Info: Panda 4.1 Information

8/2014 Removal of Authorship

Back in late June, authorship was removed from photos. Now, Google stated they would remove all authorship markups and would no longer even process it. This was an almost immediate response, as by the next day, all authorship bylines vanished from SERPs. Google stated that in their research, they found no correlation between click-throughs with or without photos or bylines of the authors.

More Info: End of authorship experiment

8/2014 HTTP & SSL Updates

It was thought to be coming for a while now, but Google finally gave the word that secure sites would be given preference and encryptions would also provide a slight boost in the rankings. It was assured the boost would begin on a small scale, but let it slip that it may increase if positive changes were observed.

More Info: Secure Sites Gain Preference

7/2014 Pigeon

Shaking up the SEO industry once again, Google dropped an update to dramatically change local search results and alter how they interpret and handle location cues. The reason behind this change was to create closer connections amongst local and core algorithms. The name was tacked on by the SEO industry after the homing tendencies of the pigeon.

More Info: Introducing Pigeon

6/2014 Authorship Photo Drop

Google declared in a surprise statement that they would be discontinuing authorship photos from SERPs. This was quite the contrary of their earlier stance of promoting authorship in connection with Google+. This update impacted desktop and mobile platforms alike.

More Info: Photo Authorship dropped

6/2014 Payday Loan 3.0

In under 30 days, Google again updated the Payday Loan anti-spam algorithm, targeting the queries as opposed to the sites themselves.

More Info: Payday loan 3.0 Launches

5/2014 Panda 4.0

Panda 4.0 is said to have included an algorithm update and a refresh to data, with approximately 7.5% of English speaking queries being affected. Google states the updated began on May 20, but insiders suggest it actually started earlier. The search and destroy mission to clean up results and provide relevant searches was apparent in the results. Sites such as press portals, celebrity news/gossip sites, price comparison sites and weather portals were targeted as they often published regenerated stories from news agencies.

More Info: Panda 4.0 targets re-published stories

5/2014 Payday Loan 2.0

Supposedly unleashed in mid-May, Google updated the payday loan algorithm to target those spammy queries.

More Info: Payday Loan 2.0 targeting spam filled queries

2/2014 Page Layout 3

Remember the Top Heavy updates? Started in 2012, this update penalizes those advertising sites who choose to put their advertising all at the top, making users scroll to the bottom of the page to get to the real content. Well, this Page Layout was the third update to penalize those still not playing according to the rules.

More Info: Top Heavy Part 3

2013

12/2013 Authorship Update

This update was foreshadowed by Matt Cutts at the Pubcon Las Vegas, but reality showed it as affecting 15% of queries over a 30-day period.

More Info: Shake-up regarding authorship

10/2013 Penguin 2.1

It was a bit of a surprise Google took 4.5 months to send out a new update to Penguin, but the impact was relatively minor. Stats show it wasn’t a major change to the Penguin’s algorithm, and while some people reported being hit hard by the update, the overall impact seemed to be moderate.

More Info: Penguin 2.1 update information

8/2013 Hummingbird

Google came clean in September that the Hummingbird update actually rolled out about a month earlier. One can see spikes in mid-August and reports were coming in about flux in the following weeks. Similar in some ways to Caffeine, it appears to be related to the core algorithm update, powering change to semantic searches and the Knowledge Graph in the coming months. Hummingbird affected a whopping 90% of queries and was meant to not only improve search results, but to quicken speed and translation from regular speech such as those used by mobile searchers.

More Info: Hummingbird flies in: what users needed to know

8/2013 In-depth Articles

To the news results, Google added a new result known as in-depth articles. These were hyped as being more “evergreen, long-form content.” Google does acknowledge not every search will have in-depth articles associated with it.

More Info: In-depth Articles introduced in search engine results

7/2013 Expanded Knowledge Graph

It appeared to come out of the blue, but queries utilizing Knowledge Graph jumped by over 50%, with more than 25% of all searches producing a KG entry of some sort.

More Info: Knowledge Graph Popslosion

7/2013 Panda Recovery

The word from Google was that there was a Panda update. However, execs wouldn’t comment as to if it was one of the 10-day updates everyone had become accustomed to, or something else. They implied it was an algorithm change and might have softened a few of the Panda penalties.

More Info: A softer and gentler Panda

6/2013 Multiple Weeks of Updates

Coming straight from the horse’s mouth, Matt Cutts sent a reply via Twitter implying a multi-week algorithm update lasting from mid-June going through 4th of July would be in effect. No further details were given, but massive rankings were lost and found during the time period and it appears Google was testing some changes, but later rolled them back.

More Info: Multi-Week Algorithm Changes

6/2013 Payday Loan Update

In an effort to target industries with famously spammy results, Google took on specifically the payday loan and porn industries. Industry insiders stated it could roll out over a one to two month period.

More Info: Google Targets Certain Niches

6/2013 Panda Dance

Making announcements at SMX Advanced, Matt Cutts stated that Panda was still updating, creating that everflux seen earlier in Google’s update history. Each update tended to roll out over a ten-day period.

More Info: The Dance Returns

5/2013 Penguin 2.0

The speculation was boiling over when the fourth update to Penguin arrived. And truthfully, it only produced a moderate impact. Google never came forth with the exact changes, but insiders suspect it was aimed at page levels.

More Info: Penguin 2.0 Update

5/2013 Domain Crowding

Timing was a bit fuzzy, but the domain crowding update sought to control he crowding deeper into search engine results.

More Info: The same domains can’t conquer the Internet

5/2013 Phantom

Reports began to circulate in early May regarding reports of an algorithm update. Details were sketchy, but sites were quick to complain about noticeable traffic loss.

More Info: No Confirmation

3/2013 Panda 25

Rushing things a bit, Matt Cutts pre-announced the Panda 25 at SMX West, suggesting it might be the last update before Panda became a part of the core algorithm. While Google did not specify a certain date, data seems to suggest it was mid-March

More Info: Final Panda refresh? Only time will tell

1/2013 Panda 24

Starting off the year much like they ended it, Google released their January update. This version claimed to affect 1.2% of queries but didn’t appear to relate to the big buzz about an earlier update around the middle of the month.

More Info: Panda 24th Update

2012

12/2012 Panda 23

Just prior to Christmas, Panda 23 was unrolled, officially refreshing 1.3% of English queries. This was a small increase over Panda 21 & 22.

More Info: Panda 23 Update

12/2012 Expanding Knowledge Graph

Now non-English queries, such as Spanish, Japanese, and Italian just to name a few, will be able to utilize Knowledge Graph. Stated to be more than translation, it also added a boost to KG capabilities.

More Info: Knowledge Graph expands to multiple languages

11/2012 Panda 22

To be honest, there was some confusion here, but after a bit, Google did acknowledge the 22nd Panda update, affecting data. This was after a previous update only days before.

More Info: Panda 22 on heals of 21

11/2012 Panda 21, The bear is legal

With their 21st update to Panda, a smaller change was noted. This update affected 1.1% of English speaking queries.

More Info: Panda Turns 21

10/2012 Page Layout 2

January saw the original change to page layout’s algorithm, targeting ads above the fold. This update followed up and made further changes to the algorithm so that pages displaying ads first before content would not show up as high up in the SERPs.

More Info: Top Heavy Two

10/2012 3rd Update to Penguin

Google had suggested that the next update to Penguin was going to be a doozy, however, this did not pan out with this release only affecting 0.3% of all English speaking queries. The naming of the updates also changed to reflect the number of releases to occur making this one Penguin 3.

More Info: Penguin 3 Information

10/2012 65-Pack of Updates

In this month’s pack, Google announced 65 updates, but it was truly more of a bi-monthly announcement for August and September both. These updates addressed the new 7-results ruling, the expanding of Knowledge Graph, page quality calculations and changes in the local results determination.

More Info: 65-Pack Updates for 2 months

9/2012 Panda Hits 20

Occurring at approximately the same time as the EMD update, this was a relatively major Panda update affecting both algorithm and data. The general consensus was that it hit approximately 2.4% of queries. The 3.9.12345 series was not working well, so the SEO industry chose to start naming Panda updates in order, making this the 20th since its inception.

More Info: Panda 20 Update

9/2012 Exact Match Domain [EMD]

Today’s change was in regards to exact-match domains, in an effort to stop poor quality sites from ranking high up in the SERP simply because they utilized words that match search terms in their domain names. A huge devaluation occurred, greatly reducing the overall existence of EMDS by approximately 10%. The official word on the street, however, was that the change only touched about .6% of queries.

More Info: Exact Match Domain Update

9/2012 Panda 3.9.2

A data refresh rolled out impacting on the rankings at a moderate level. The official numbers said it hit .7% of queries, but it served as a warning that websites MUST have quality content to avoid penalization.

More Info: Panda 3.9.2 Information

8/2012 Panda 3.9.1

Yes, more updates to Panda, but again, the impact is low. Because Panda’s series ended at 3.9, the new update just added the .1

More Info: War on Spammers Continues

8/2012 7 Results SERPS

Indeed, this was a significant change to the Top 10, now limiting it to seven results for most queries. The rollout appears to have taken a couple days, ultimately impacting approximately 18% of the keywords.

More Info: Seven is the new Ten

8/2012 June & July 86-pack

Quality highlights took a summer vacation but were released in August for both June and July. Significant updates included that to Panda data as well as algorithm refreshing, improvement to rank-order functioning and a ranking boost to trusted sources, and alterations to site clustering.

More Info: Mega Release in August for June & July

8/2012 DMCA Penalty

The big announcement stated a penalty would be placed on sites who had repeated copyright violations, assumedly by DMCA takedown requests. Google put the deadline as to “next week”

More Info: Copyright piracy penalty

7/2012 Panda 3.9

Once again, Google is saying less than 1% of queries are impacted, however, this update saw almost a week of ranking fluctuations.

More Info: Panda 3.9 updates

7/2012 Link Warnings

Reminiscent of March and April of 2012, Google issued a great number of unnatural link warnings through Google Webmaster Tools. However, in a reversal, they stated the warnings may not actually be due to a serious problem.

More Info: Link Warnings: Don’t panic, but don’t ignore

6/2012 Panda 3.8

Targeted at data only with no change to the algorithm, 3.8 impacted far fewer queries than 3.7. According to Google, the update was merely a basic data refresh, running the algorithm again.

More Info: Panda 3.8 runs algorithm again

6/2012 Panda 3.7

The newest Panda data update claimed to target less than 1% of all queries, however, fluctuation in data implied the impact was a good deal higher than in Panda 3.5 or 3.6.

More Info: Panda 3.7 info

6/2012 39-Pack for May

The monthly highlights were released and 39 updates were put into place in May. In addition to Penguin improvements, link-schemes were made easier to detect and there were changes to title/snippet re-writes. Additionally, updates were made to Google News.

More Info: May 39-Pack

5/2012 Penguin 1.1

A targeted data update was sure to come on the heels of the Penguin algorithm update and true to form, it came out confirming the Penguin information was processed outside the primary search index, similar to Panda data. According to head honchos, this update only affected 0.1%, so you might want to consider it a tweak rather than an update.

More Info: Penguin 1.1 update

5/2002 Knowledge Graph

As typical with big changes, the Knowledge Graph was hinted at for a while before it was launched. This new technology will be utilized to give popular factoids regarding people, places and things in addition to Google’s traditional search engine results. Google shows with this new technology an innovative way of searching, not just for pages matching up with the keywords used, but for entities or concepts derived from the string of words.

More Info: Knowledge Graft Explained

5/2012 52-Pack

As April came to a close, Google revealed there had been 52 updates the previous month, including the famous Penguin. They also announced an increase of 15% to the base index, an improvement to pagination, and multiple updates to site links.

More Info: April Updates

4/2012 Panda 3.6

It’s only been a week since Panda 3.6, but Google is on a roll, releasing yet another Panda update. This data targeted update had little impact to the naked eye

More Info: Panda 3.6 confirmed

4/2012 Penguin

The “over-optimization penalty” everyone sensed was coming hit the streets on April 24 in the code name of Penguin. Here, Google unleashed its Webspam update by adjusting multiple spam activities, such as stuffing keywords and it was said to have hit approximately 3.1% of all English queries.

More Info: Penguin strikes out against Spam

4/2012 Panda 3.5

It had already been a busy week for Google’s algorithm, so, they chose to roll out Panda 3.5 on the down low. With a conglomerate of alterations, it was hard to measure the impact, but by all accounts, it was routine with little impact.

More Info: All About Panda 3.5

4/2012 Parked Domain

Considered an unintentional bug, Google admitted a data error caused some domains to be seen as “parked domains” and therefore devalued.

More Info: Parking Ticket for Google

4/2012 March’s 50 Pack

Following protocol, Google posted their latest batch of update changes, stating there were 50 in March. They confirmed Panda 3.4, alterations to how scoring was done on anchor texts, changes to searches for images/pictures, and changes for local intent queries and how they’re understood.

More Info: Google March Updates

3/2012 Panda 3.4

Using Twitter as their update platform, Google released their latest Panda version. According to vital records, Panda 3.4 is thought to have affected approximately 1.6% of all searches.

More Info: Google Releases Panda 3.4

3/2012 Insight Into Search Quality

Again, no, this wasn’t an update, but it was a rarity, where Google allowed the public to glimpse an unusual look into a search quality meeting. The video provided shows a great deal of context for both Google’s way of conducting business and what they hold important. If nothing else, view it for a chance to see Amit Singhal.

More Info: Google Gives a Peep Show

2/2012 Introducing Venice

With the monthly informational update, Google casually dropped the name Venice into the conversation. As a local update, it looked to be more aggressive at localizing organic results and integrating local search information. Google stated they’d be able to tell when both queries and documents were local to a user.

More Info: Local Venice Information

2/2012 40 pack of Changes

This second set of search quality highlights skirted in at the end of the month announcing forty changes in the previous month. Of interest were multi-search changes, numerous freshness changes and a Panda upgrade.

More Info: 40 Updates in February, 2012

2/2012 Panda 3.3

Considered yet another follow-up to Flux, this was a minor update, although some SEOs saw major drops in their keywords. According to Google, they were dumping a few of the link eval signals they’d been using for years.

More Info: Panda 3.3 changes

2/2012 17 Releases

This 17-pack was another round of search quality improvements, most related to improving speed, freshness of the results (checking the date of a document) and spell-checking. Further, the releases drove home tighter compliances of Panda into Google’s main search index.

More Info: January’s changes in February

1/2012 Ads “above the fold”

This update tackled the algorithms that handled the page layout. Their goal was to reduce the value of sites who utilized an exorbitant amount of ad-space above the “fold”. In the past, insiders thought a similar change was a part of Panda. There was no name for this update, but “Top Heavy” was floated about by some SEOs.

More Info: Above the Fold Update

1/2012 Panda 3.2

Google owned up to another Panda update, suggesting, however, that the algorithm had not been altered. No news is available on how this update fit into the whole flux, They said it was only a data refresh.

More Info: Panda 3.2 Update

1/2012 Search+ Your World

With a major shift in personalization, Google took the offensive when it came to pushing Google+ social data and their user’s profiles into the SERPs. The big G also added a prominent button allowing users to cut off the personalization.

More Info: All About Search from Google

1/2012 30-Pack

During the month of January, Google owned up to 30 changes, such has quality detection on the image search main page, increased relevance of site-links, richer snippets, and related search improvement.

More Info: 30 quality highlights

2011

12/2011 10-pack

In their continuing effort of transparency, Google explained a second set of 10 updates, stating these type of announcements would come monthly. These updates included query refinements, freshness to blog searches and a freshness for searches of pictures/images. Google did not provide any dates.

More Info: Google releases new monthly changes to algorithm

11/2011 Panda 3.1

After a period of minor updates following 2.5, the November update was tongue in cheek referred to as 3.1, even though there was no official 3.0. Google stated this update affected less than 1% of all searches.

More Info: Panda 3.1

11/2011 Transparency

Matt Cutts made an effort to provide a more transparent look at updates, releasing 10 recent updates to the algorithm. Granted, no timeline was provided, and most of the changes were minuscule, however, it was a shift in Google’s communication process.

More Info: A look at algorithm changes

11/2011 Freshness Update

Approximately 35% of queries were impacted by an algorithm update that rewarded freshness, almost three times the number impacted by Panda 1.0. Time-sensitive results were the primary target of this update, but also indicated a strong focus on more recently published content.

More Info: Fresh News on Freshness Update

10/2011 Query Encrypted

In October, Google stated they would begin encrypting search queries for their own privacy reasons. The outcome, however, was a problem for certain organic traffic who experienced issues with “not provided” returns. The problem seemed to get far worse before it got better.

More Info: SSL Implemented

10/2011 Multiple Updates Reported

The powers-that-be warned via Twitter that webmasters should look for Panda related movement in the coming weeks, giving the estimate at approximately 2%. Still other Panda upgrades went into effect Oct 3, Oct 13, and November 18.

More Info: Panda “Flux”

9/2011 Version 2.5 of Panda

Waiting approximately a month, Google again launched a Panda update. However, Google was fuzzy on the changes made, but sites were loud about reporting major losses in placement.

More Info: No real news on Panda 2.5

9/2011 Update on…Updates

No, officially this couldn’t be considered an update, however, it did reveal a great deal to the world. Google’s leader Eric Schmidt revealed to Congress the fact that Google made 516 updates in ’10, testing 13,000 updates in the process. WOW.

More Info: Eric Schmidt’s Revelations to Congress

9/2011 Pagination Elements

For a great deal of time, crawl and dupe problems were created by issues with pagination. With this in mind, Google introduced the rel=next and rel=prev link attributes indicating the connection between component URLS in a paginated series. There was also the announcement of VIEW ALL re-vamping with improved automatic canonicalization and consolidation.

More Info: Pagination

8/2011 Site-links Expanded

Brand queries received attention here, with Google rolling out expanded site-links. Starting out with 12/packs, Google then decided to limit the expanded site-links to six shortly afterward. What this meant to businesses was Google would still show ten separate results on a page, but the expanded site-links offered new chances to push the unrelated brand information further down the SERP.

More Info: Google Site-Links increases to 12

8/2011 Panda 2.4

Welcome to the world Panda! Here, Google rolls out to the rest of the world, both English and non-English queries. All languages were included except Korean, Japanese and Chinese. This update is said to have impacted almost 10% of all searches in affected locals, lower than the initial rollout which affected approximately 12% of all queries.

More Info: Panda launched to rest of the world

7/2011 Panda 2.3

The word on the street seemed to suggest this was just one of many Google updates: the been there, done that thought process. However, the truth of the matter was it was murky as to if new features were added, or if 2.3 was merely a Panda update to data and ranking factors. Again, content farms seemed to be the target as Google sought to improve and produce quality results.

More Info: What To Know About Panda 2.3

6/2011 Introducing Google+

Google had tried and failed in the social media arena several times before. This time, however, was different, and a dedicated launch was made to compete head to head with the social media giant Facebook and fellow media mogul Twitter. Unlike Twitter, however, Google+ has no limit in the number of characters an announcement can be. The key to Google+ was the circles created to share content, be it email, pictures, videos or articles. Early users enjoyed the interface and within two weeks of its launch, the search engine giant had 10 million users on its social media platform.

More Info: Say Hello to Google+

6/2001 2.2 Panda

This time, Panda received the acknowledgment it had been previously been denied. The process continued in an effort to update impacted Farm sites and data. One of the major tidbits revealed was an update slated to be an improvement to detecting regurgitated content from one site to another. These updates took place separately from the main index, much like in the days early days of the Google Dance.

More Info: Panda 2.2 Update, what you need to know

6/2011 Schema.org

Everyone wants the same thing it seems. For this reason, Google, Bing and Yahoo all pitched in to show support for a unified method to structured data (and they named it Schema.org). The effort included 100+ unique websites markups for sites such as movies, music, television, products and locations, By creating multiple schemas, they were shooting towards richer searching results.

More Info: Schema.org Info

5/2009 Panda 2.1 (or 3)

In the beginning, this update was called Panda 3.0. Here, Google seemed to be rolling out another group of changes, but the changes were never explained in detail by Google and seemed to be minor in comparison to others.

More Info: Google Update 3.0 or 2.1 to Panda

4/2011 Panda Part 2

In a comprehensive roll out for all English searches (but certainly not just countries where English is spoken), Google introduced the new Panda update which included new signals, data for sites users cancelled using the SERPS or Chrome. They also included signals for new users designed to help improve searching results.

More Info: Panda2

3/2011 Placement of the +1 Button

Twitter and Facebook both were closing in fast on Google, so in response, Google launched the +1 button displayed beside search results and advertisements. With the click of a button, articles or urls will be saved to the consumer’s profile and their contacts could see recommendations. Considered shorthand for “check this out”, the button grew quickly in popularity.

More Info: Click +1 To Recommend

2/2011 Panda Takes on Farms

Nothing is grown in these farms except content, and these shallow, poor content sites with high advertiser to content ratios were the effective target of Google. Bearing down on thin content, content farms and other quality problems, Panda began its rollout over the next couple of months, reaching Europe in April.

More Info: Panda attacks the farmland

1/2011 Attribution Update

High publicity spam situations led Google to unload an update, hoping to sort content attribution and quell scrapers. Experts state this update hit about 2% of searches and definitely was just the tip of the iceberg of Panda to come.

More Info: Launching of Algorithm Update

1/2011 Overstock Penalty

Shady actions on the part of Overstock.com lead Google to penalize them in the rankings. Some considered this a foreshadowing to the Panda update and definitely a change in Google’s attitude toward scamming. The basics of the Overstock.com scandal included the website offering discounts on merchandise to students and faculty in exchange for them embedding links for specific keywords to product pages of the retail giant. The penalty dropped the retailer from the top three on the SERP to approximately number 50.

More Info: Overstock drops to bottom of the pile

2010

12/2010 The Use of Social Signals

Suspected for a while, in December of 2010 Google (as well as Bing) confirmed to the public that they indeed do use social signals from sites such as Twitter and Facebook as an influencer on rankings. How does this work? Well, social signals have reached a peak, with the public taking recommendations within their social networks. Consulting friends and those with experience results in good advice, however, it’s also a social signal from the standpoint of Google.

More Info: Explaining Social Signals

12/2010 Negative Reviews

Who says the power of the press can’t produce changes? After a huge story hit the presses discussing how negative comments could push a brand to the top of the search engine results, Google set about to fix the problem with an update to the alogorithm.

More Info: The real story

11/2010 Instant Visual Preview

Taking the search feature to a higher level, Google launched the Instant Visual Preview. Now, searchers could take a peek via a small preview window of the page in question without the requirement of clicking through. Impacting SEO practices greatly, it allowed users to make decisions on a site without clicking through, the previous measure of success.

More Info: Google Instant Preview

9/2010 Google Instant

Considered a supplement to Google Suggest, this update allows suggested results to appear before the search is completely entered. While some users see this predictive searching as a scary, invasive feature, overall, the response is positive.

More Info: Predictive Searching, Instantly

8/2010 Brand Update

Changes were seen in this update to grant certain brands and/or domains to pop up multiple times (8+ occasions) on the front page of specified searches.

More Info: Multiple brand names on 1st page

2005

12/2005 Big Daddy

Make no mistake, there had been updates to the algorithm before, but Big Daddy was far more aggressive. While the results took a while to be seen, this update upgraded how Google handled the search indexes via updates to the data center infrastructure. With new code meant to sort and examine web pages, it was also able to take on technical index situations far better than before. This huge software infrastructure upgrade defined BigDaddy.

More Info: Update of Big Daddy Proportions

10/2005 Google Local Maps

With a great effort to encourage website owners to update their listings, Google launched the Local Business Center back in March. Then, in October, the merge of local maps to the LBC drove multiple changes in local SEO.

More Info: Local Business Center merges with Maps

10/2005 Jagger

Once again going after the second rate links such as reciprocal links, link farms and paid varieties, Jagger was released in approximately three stages, September – November, with the most impact hitting in October. A Google insider states the update included changes stemming from multiple backlink updates. The update had a three-pronged to-do list:

  1. Dealing with devious, link-networking schemes established with scraped text and other forms of search engine spam,
  2. Allowing and accounting for including more spiderable docs and file types.
  3. Allowing and accounting for new ways of acquiring sites beyond just the use of Googlebot.

More Info: All About Jagger

9/2005 Gilligan (no Skipper)

This could be called the update no one would admit to. Webmasters stated they saw changes, but Google wasn’t taking credit. Instead, it’s widely believed Gilligan was simply an update to the Toolbar PR and other various metrics that occurs ongoing, every three months.

More Info: Update by any other word

6/2005 XML Sitemaps

Using Webmaster Tools and circumnavigating the standard HTML sitemaps, Google was able to provide SEOs a bit of direct influence over webcrawlers and indexing. At the time, it was considered experimental, but it stood as a significant development where crawler tech was concerned. Now, with the creation of the XML feed, the site owner can submit the sitemap index, pointing to product and category sitemaps.

More Info: A Map To More Info On Sitemaps

6/2005 Personalized Searching

Using a user’s search history, language and location, Google was able to adjust search engine results. This was different from past stabs at personalization which needed customized settings as well as profiles. This was truly just the tip of the iceberg as Google went on to utilize search histories in any number of applications, whether the user had a Google account or not.

More Info: Past Predicts the Future

5/2005 Bourbon (on the rocks)

Duplicate content is once again the target as Bourbon takes the stage. This time, Google was going after duplicate or similar content even within a site, on more than one page or on different domains or subdomains. The further targeted fraternal linking, whereby sites create a network, all linking back to same main site to boost the master URL in rankings. Experts also state Bourbon changed how non-canonical URLS were handled, IE www vs non-www site.

More Info: An Update to Bourbon

2/2005 Allegra

As one of the most talk-about adjustments to page indexing, this update addressed in further detail the need to minimize spam pages in the massive index, specifically, dup content was impacted. While it took three updates (Florida, Austin and Brandy) to comb out spam pages from SERP, this next update had many industry experts a befuddled. Some consultants felt the LSI was altered, while still others thought there had been changes to the sandbox. (FYI, the sandbox is a temporary filter where new websites go until they’re “proven” valid.). Still others gave thought that Google was starting to impose penalties to suspicious links.

More Info: Allegra Update

1/2005 To Follow or Not to Follow

In their ongoing quest to eliminate spam and improve the quality of outbound links, Google teamed up with Yahoo and Microsoft to introduce the nofollow feature. This here-to-now unknown feature helps clean up the unknown links and blogs full of spamesque blog comments. This change did nothing to change the algorithms; however, it definitely impacted the link graph.

More Info: Big 3 Unite

2004

2/2004 Google Update and some Brandy

Brandy wasn’t the HUGE update SEO professionals saw in Austin and Florida, but it did take aim at the analysis of keywords, stepping it up a notch. With several changes, the main one seemed to be a huge expansion of the index. LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) allowed more attention to be placed on anchor text relevance and neighborhoods of links. Furthermore, it aimed to help those unfairly penalized under its predecessors by deactivating some of the criteria used to evaluate the sites.

More Info: Explanation of Brandy

1/2004 Austin

Florida update couldn’t get all of them, so Austin came in behind it to pick up the leftovers. Deceptive page tactics such as invisible text and stuffing a page with META-tags were the target. Google was on a quest to make the most relevant pages rise to the top, not the most optimized. Those who suffered from the follow-up Austin update were those who put too much emphasis on on-the page SEO, websites who traded links with un-related, off-topic sites in order to improve their rankings and location-based sites.

More Info: Austin following Florida

2003

11/03 Welcome to Not So Sunny Florida

While Florida has been on the map since the days of Ponce De Leon, the Google update Florida was impactful, so much so, it certainly landed the SEO industry on “the” map. Considered a catastrophe by many, numerous sites not only lost their first page placements, but couldn’t be found with a fine tooth comb, and, quite frankly website owners were more than a little peeved. This update appeared to be the grim reaper for the low-value web pages which had taken shape in the late 90s with such tactics as stuffing keywords. The “game” was about to get a lot more intense.

More Info: Florida “Hurricane” hits SEO Industry

9/2003 Supplemental Index

With the battle of the search engine’s war heating up, Google increased their size from 3.1 to 3.3 billion pages indexed. However, all the major search engines were pretty close in competition. So the main question became, which search engine’s results were most relevant? At the same time, the world saw Google put some results into a supplemental index, a highly debated topic, especially if your site was one put into these results instead of the traditional results pages. These supplemental pages would appear if the search failed to discover good matches

More Info: Size Matters, Substance Matters More

7/2003 Fritz

As the last monthly dance, Google boogied on down with Fritz. Google deciding to switch off to an incremental update instead of completely overhauling the index each and every month. Now, Google actually had its index changing daily, certainly lending credence to the new “Everflux” title.

More Info: Fritz Brings Daily Changes

6/2003 Esmerelda

With Esmerelda Update, Google could begin to see an end to a regular monthly update. However, a continuity was emerging and The Google Dance was replaced with “Everflux”. What is this “everflux” we refer to? It’s just the permanent state of fluctuation to the Google Ranking Algorithm. Everflux makes certain all the ranking factors which are evaluated stay current, guaranteeing the search results are reliable for the user. This brought much needed infrastructure change to the search engine giant, Google.

More Info: Esmerelda and Everflux

5/2003 Dominic Comes Aboard

Supposedly named after a local Boston pizza restaurant, Dominic brought abundant in May of 2003, with Dominic leading the spring cleaning. This update’s plan was to thoroughly scrutinize the quality of backlinks, preventing the up and coming work-around of splogging. The use of splogging meant website owners would create unrelated, often unintelligible offsite content in order to increase the SERP of various other sites. Further, another practice known as Googlebombing was called to task, eliminating negative anchors forwarding to popular sites. Therefore, Google began to scrutinize backlinks and internal links. Another issue Dominic took aim at was the practice of linking to ones’ own site with various anchor texts, allowing the site contribute to PageRank excessively.

More Info: Dominic Info

4/2003 Introducing Cassandra

Early days of SEO saw the unscrupulous use of hidden text and links within articles in an effort to gain ranking favor. However, Cassandra was the first update to crack down on the importance of link quality, including the practice of using massive numbers of links from domains with co-owners. While those doing “right things right” saw few changes with this update, those who wanted to try and side step quality keyword placement, titles and the structure of a site were finding themselves at the bottom of the SERP.

More Info: Discuss Cassandra

2/2003 Boston Update

The first of the updates to be named, this version was named for the location where it was announced. The original train of thought from Google was to have a major update monthly, so this first update combined algorithm modifications as well as index refreshing (or the Google Dance). Because updating was required so often, the monthly update issue fell by the wayside. This update is known for its significant alogorithmic changes and the plan to update the index frequently.

2002

9/2002 NO Name, BUT 1st real Update

Not only did this update pre-date the naming of the update, but very little information is known about this version. However, it appears to have been more significant than the typical Google Dance and updates to the PageRank. Bloggers everywhere revolted after discovering difficulty in manipulating the search engine results, thus reducing their power

More Info: Google Dance

2000

12/2000 Welcomes The Google Toolbar

Together with the toolbar PageRank (TBPR), Google launched the toolbar. Now, with its front and center tab bar above the browser, the toolbar was originally meant for Internet Explorer. Later enhanced, it was launched to Firefox, but now is only available for Chrome. The bar was meant to allow individuals to search for content, locate and highlight specific terms, view the Google Cache and share webpages on Google+. NOTE: PR (PageRank) has since been discontinued.

More Info: Google Toolbar Launch

As seen from the preview, Caffeine is the latest web indexing program intended to hasten the indexing rate and give newer results to its users.

More Info: Further details about Caffeine

5/2010 Mayday

A decline in online traffic, specifically in long tail traffic was the signal to webmasters that an update occurred in late April/early May. The powers noted there was an algorithm shift helping to combat content writing firms. This could be seen as a harbinger of Panda to come. The update seemed to impact mega sites with numerous item pages. These item pages didn’t have many individual links into them and would be a couple of clicks from the main page. Furthermore, they probably had very little of the much sought after value Google looks for.

More Info: Mayday targets long tail traffic

4/2010 Google Places

Remember the Local Business Center? Well, now it’s been re-branded as Google Places, including many of the same features found in the old version of Google Places, but also adding in other items such as advertising, a dedicated service area and others.

More Info: Where and what to know about Google Places

2009

8/2009 Caffeine Preview

In the past, updates came and went without a single word or even acknowledgment from the powers that be at Google. In this case, not only did Google announce it, but provided a preview as well. Included in this preview will be significant infrastructure alterations designed to improve indexing, speed and the accuracy of the search engine’s results. For US pages, the preview went on for the rest of 2009, not fully becoming functional until early ’10.

More Info: What you need to know about Caffeine

2/2009 Rel Canonical Tag

In their ever vigilant effort to eliminate duplicate content, Google “tag” teams with Yahoo and Microsoft (Bing) to offer a method of eliminating this villain. With a simple line of HTML, website builders can consolidate index properties from duplicates such as inbound links, which specify the URL to be displayed on the results page.

More Info: Rel=Canonical Tag or Link on A Webpage

2/2009 Vince

You say minor, we say major, at least, that’s how webmasters viewed it. With Vince, the SEO community had something to talk about. For ages, “everyone” had been talking about the unfair placement big names had in the mega search engine’s results. But Vince stomped into town ready to change this. It could be said Google is attempting to fast-forward past the link-based algorithm, allowing for monitoring of mentions of any brand, big or small, in social media or other URLs, regardless of it was hyperlinked or not

2008

8/2008 Google Suggest

With the intro of ‘Suggest’, substantial alterations were made to the logo and box styling of the homepage. A new menu suggested relevant searches in the box below the typing area. In the future, this would go on to power Google Instant. The suggestion feature was built into various products, including the toolbar, Chrome, Firefox and the iPhone search app

More Info: Suggested Information

4/2008 Dewey

Some said one thing, others another, and therein was the problem with Dewey. There was no general consensus in the SEO community as to what updates were performed. One change noted, however, was that results varied dependent upon the Google server delivering them.

More Info: Mysterious Dewey

2007

6/2007 Buffy (minus the vampire)

The update, name derived as a tribute to a vacating employee of Google, targeted one-word keywords. Webmasters reported various other changes, but Google was rather vague about the changes, saying only that Buffy was a conglomerate of various small changes.

More Info: What happened with Buffy?

5/2007 Universal Search

Updating search results, this universal search was a radical alteration to search results as it merged listings from news, book, pictures/images, and local engines to its results. This was seen as large bonus for search users.

More Info: Explaining the Merge to Make for a Universal Search

2006

12/2006 The Update that Wasn’t

Google actually reported no changes at this time, but you couldn’t convince the SEO community of this. They “heard” there were going to be major changes in November/December of 2006. They believed it whether it was true or not. Noted Google spokesmen debunked the theory.

More Info: Google False Alarm

11/2006 Supplemental Update

With a total change to how pages were filtered, 2006 was a year dedicated to cleaning up the supplemental index. While many perceived it as penalizing, Google denied the accusation, stating the supplemental updates were not intended to be that way.

More Info: Explaining the Supplemental Update

 

 

2005

12/2005 Big Daddy

Make no mistake, there had been updates to the algorithm before, but Big Daddy was far more aggressive. While the results took a while to be seen, this update upgraded how Google handled the search indexes via updates to the data center infrastructure. With new code meant to sort and examine web pages, it was also able to take on technical index situations far better than before. This huge software infrastructure upgrade defined BigDaddy.

More Info: Update of Big Daddy Proportions

10/2005 Google Local Maps

With a great effort to encourage website owners to update their listings, Google launched the Local Business Center back in March. Then, in October, the merge of local maps to the LBC drove multiple changes in local SEO.

More Info: Local Business Center merges with Maps

10/2005 Jagger

Once again going after the second rate links such as reciprocal links, link farms and paid varieties, Jagger was released in approximately three stages, September – November, with the most impact hitting in October. A Google insider states the update included changes stemming from multiple backlink updates. The update had a three-pronged to-do list:

  1. Dealing with devious, link-networking schemes established with scraped text and other forms of search engine spam,
  2. Allowing and accounting for including more spiderable docs and file types.
  3. Allowing and accounting for new ways of acquiring sites beyond just the use of Googlebot.

More Info: All About Jagger

9/2005 Gilligan (no Skipper)

This could be called the update no one would admit to. Webmasters stated they saw changes, but Google wasn’t taking credit. Instead, it’s widely believed Gilligan was simply an update to the Toolbar PR and other various metrics that occurs ongoing, every three months.

More Info: Update by any other word

6/2005 XML Sitemaps

Using Webmaster Tools and circumnavigating the standard HTML sitemaps, Google was able to provide SEOs a bit of direct influence over webcrawlers and indexing. At the time, it was considered experimental, but it stood as a significant development where crawler tech was concerned. Now, with the creation of the XML feed, the site owner can submit the sitemap index, pointing to product and category sitemaps.

More Info: A Map To More Info On Sitemaps

6/2005 Personalized Searching

Using a user’s search history, language and location, Google was able to adjust search engine results. This was different from past stabs at personalization which needed customized settings as well as profiles. This was truly just the tip of the iceberg as Google went on to utilize search histories in any number of applications, whether the user had a Google account or not.

More Info: Past Predicts the Future

5/2005 Bourbon (on the rocks)

Duplicate content is once again the target as Bourbon takes the stage. This time, Google was going after duplicate or similar content even within a site, on more than one page or on different domains or subdomains. The further targeted fraternal linking, whereby sites create a network, all linking back to same main site to boost the master URL in rankings. Experts also state Bourbon changed how non-canonical URLS were handled, IE www vs non-www site.

More Info: An Update to Bourbon

2/2005 Allegra

As one of the most talk-about adjustments to page indexing, this update addressed in further detail the need to minimize spam pages in the massive index, specifically, dup content was impacted. While it took three updates (Florida, Austin and Brandy) to comb out spam pages from SERP, this next update had many industry experts a befuddled. Some consultants felt the LSI was altered, while still others thought there had been changes to the sandbox. (FYI, the sandbox is a temporary filter where new websites go until they’re “proven” valid.). Still others gave thought that Google was starting to impose penalties to suspicious links.

More Info: Allegra Update

1/2005 To Follow or Not to Follow

In their ongoing quest to eliminate spam and improve the quality of outbound links, Google teamed up with Yahoo and Microsoft to introduce the nofollow feature. This here-to-now unknown feature helps clean up the unknown links and blogs full of spamesque blog comments. This change did nothing to change the algorithms; however, it definitely impacted the link graph.

More Info: Big 3 Unite

2004

2/2004 Google Update and some Brandy

Brandy wasn’t the HUGE update SEO professionals saw in Austin and Florida, but it did take aim at the analysis of keywords, stepping it up a notch. With several changes, the main one seemed to be a huge expansion of the index. LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) allowed more attention to be placed on anchor text relevance and neighborhoods of links. Furthermore, it aimed to help those unfairly penalized under its predecessors by deactivating some of the criteria used to evaluate the sites.

More Info: Explanation of Brandy

1/2004 Austin

Florida update couldn’t get all of them, so Austin came in behind it to pick up the leftovers. Deceptive page tactics such as invisible text and stuffing a page with META-tags were the target. Google was on a quest to make the most relevant pages rise to the top, not the most optimized. Those who suffered from the follow-up Austin update were those who put too much emphasis on on-the page SEO, websites who traded links with un-related, off-topic sites in order to improve their rankings and location-based sites.

More Info: Austin following Florida

2003

11/03 Welcome to Not So Sunny Florida

While Florida has been on the map since the days of Ponce De Leon, the Google update Florida was impactful, so much so, it certainly landed the SEO industry on “the” map. Considered a catastrophe by many, numerous sites not only lost their first page placements, but couldn’t be found with a fine tooth comb, and, quite frankly website owners were more than a little peeved. This update appeared to be the grim reaper for the low-value web pages which had taken shape in the late 90s with such tactics as stuffing keywords. The “game” was about to get a lot more intense.

More Info: Florida “Hurricane” hits SEO Industry

9/2003 Supplemental Index

With the battle of the search engine’s war heating up, Google increased their size from 3.1 to 3.3 billion pages indexed. However, all the major search engines were pretty close in competition. So the main question became, which search engine’s results were most relevant? At the same time, the world saw Google put some results into a supplemental index, a highly debated topic, especially if your site was one put into these results instead of the tradition results. These supplemental pages would appear if the search failed to discover good matches

More Info: Size Matters, Substance Matters More

7/2003 Fritz

As the last monthly dance, Google boogied on down with Fritz. Google deciding to switch off to an incremental update instead of completely overhauling the index each and every month. Now, Google actually had its index changing daily, certainly lending credence to the new “Everflux” title.

More Info: Fritz Brings Daily Changes

6/2003 Esmerelda

With Esmerelda Update, Google could begin to see an end to a regular monthly update. However, a continuity was emerging and The Google Dance was replaced with “Everflux”. What is this “everflux” we refer to? It’s just the permanent state of fluctuation to the Google Ranking Algorithm. Everflux makes certain all the ranking factors which are evaluated stay current, guaranteeing the search results are reliable for the user. This brought much needed infrastructure change to the search engine giant, Google.

More Info: Esmerelda and Everflux

5/2003 Dominic Comes Aboard

Supposedly named after a local Boston pizza restaurant, Dominic brought abundant in May of 2003, with Dominic leading the spring cleaning. This update’s plan was to thoroughly scrutinize the quality of backlinks, preventing the up and coming work-around of splogging. The use of splogging meant website owners would create unrelated, often unintelligible offsite content in order to increase the SERP of various other sites. Further, another practice known as Googlebombing was called to task, eliminating negative anchors forwarding to popular sites. Therefore, Google began to scrutinize backlinks and internal links. Another issue Dominic took aim at was the practice of linking to ones’ own site with various anchor texts, allowing the site contribute to PageRank excessively.

More Info: Dominic Info

4/2003 Introducing Cassandra

Early days of SEO saw the unscrupulous use of hidden text and links within articles in an effort to gain ranking favor. However, Cassandra was the first update to crack down on the importance of link quality, including the practice of using massive numbers of links from domains with co-owners. While those doing “right things right” saw few changes with this update, those who wanted to try and side step quality keyword placement, titles and the structure of a site were finding themselves at the bottom of the SERP.

More Info: Discuss Cassandra

2/2003 Boston Update

The first of the updates to be named, this version was named for the location where it was announced. The original train of thought from Google was to have a major update monthly, so this first update combined algorithm modifications as well as index refreshing (or the Google Dance). Because updating was required so often, the monthly update issue fell by the wayside. This update is known for its significant alogorithmic changes and the plan to update the index frequently.

2002

9/2002 NO Name, BUT 1st real Update

Not only did this update pre-date the naming of the update, but very little information is known about this version. However, it appears to have been more significant than the typical Google Dance and updates to the PageRank. Bloggers everywhere revolted after discovering difficulty in manipulating the search engine results, thus reducing their power

More Info: Google Dance

2000

12/2000 Welcomes The Google Toolbar

Together with the toolbar PageRank (TBPR), Google launched the toolbar. Now, with its front and center tab bar above the browser, the toolbar was originally meant for Internet Explorer. Later enhanced, it was launched to Firefox, but now is only available for Chrome. The bar was meant to allow individuals to search for content, locate and highlight specific terms, view the Google Cache and share webpages on Google+. NOTE: PR (PageRank) has since been discontinued.

More Info: Google Toolbar Launch

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