Ever since the inception of Google web search, getting higher results in search results page used to be a game or race. Webmaster’s who were very keen in black hat SEO techniques were having a winning edge in this race.
But in present time, It’s not the same anymore.
Black hat SEO’s – no matter how professional they were few years back in outsmarting Google are now having a hard time getting their results on top.
So, what is keeping them away from ranking top on google?
Well, it is the effect of major Google algorithm changes or updates that is hitting them hard. The sole reason for these kinds of updates is to fight against search spamming or to keep spammers & black hat SEO’s away from getting their top position on the google search.
Google has had a long history of updating its algorithms. Although, some of these updates and changes were minor but then there were some major updates and changes such as farmer update, penguin update, hummingbird update, mobile-friendly update etc. which changed the face of indexing and crawling by google. The latest Google update is believed to be rolled out in March, 2017 but it is not officially confirmed by Google. Webmasters called it as “Fred update” which is believed to target sites that mainly focus on generating larger revenue thereby neglecting the focus on content & its quality.
A single google’s search algorithm update could take a toll on webmasters and SEO’s years of hard work. That’s why it is much important for SEO’s to be aware of each and every single update in Google’s core algorithm.
Following is a descriptive yet knowledgeable guide for SEO’s to understand all the major google algorithm changes that took place in past years:
Google Algorithm Changes and Updates till 2017
Launch date: February 2003
Google Boston update was the first named update announced by Google itself. The update was done in order to analyze the backlink data which later made a major impact on SERP.
Launch date: April 2003
This was the second major update by Google which emphasized on link quality issues, hidden links and texts. After the official announcement of this update, Google also allows different banned sites to request for reconsideration. This was the first time Google allows to reconsider websites for removal of ban.
Launch date: 14, May 2003
Google targets websites that are made to rank by manipulating link practices. This results in a big change in the way google used to crawl the web to display search results.
Result: A huge impact was seen as an improvement of counting & reporting backlinks
Launch date: 15, June 2003
This update was made to hit hard websites with poor quality backlinks and illegal practices of using hidden texts and links.
Result: Release of this update led to a significant change in index infrastructure used by google.
Launch date: 01, July 2003
This update made a huge change in the indexing process used by google. With this update, google now switched from monthly indexing to daily indexing with a certain percentage to display more accurate and faster search results.
Result: Change in indexing process
Launch date: 16, Nov 2003
This update resulted as a nightmare for black hat SEO practitioners across the world. Those websites that were manipulated and ranked high with several black hat SEO tactics gets targeted as a result. This algorithm update was aggressive and large in the history of google’s search algorithm updates.
Result: Heavy crackdown on sites with black hat SEO practices
Launch update: 23, Jan 2004
The Austin update was released in January 2004, with an aim to attack various illegal or unconventional SEO tactics. This update results in massive change in ranking on SERP. Sites that were suffered due to this experienced heavy loss in search rankings.
Result: Sites that used to practice black hat SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing etc were hard hitted and that resulted in lost rankings
Launch date: 17, feb 2004
This search algorithm change resulted in a huge expansion of google indexing database. Various inbound SEO tactics such as link quality, latent semantic indexing (LSI) and anchor text were introduced.
Result: LSI rollout and expansion of google’s indexing database
Launch date: 18, Jan 2005
This was the minor yet an important Google algorithm update which introduced an addition of Nofollow attribute. According to the update, just adding rel=”nofollow” attribute to an anchor text will tell google to not give any credit to the redirected site. This update introduced the concept of link credit or link juice to the SEO world.
Launch date: 2, feb 2005
This update resulted in a crackdown on duplicate content websites. Also, a newer ranking system with LSI google’s algorithm was introduced to the world.
Result: Sites sporting suspicious looking links were targeted
Launch date: 20, May 2005
This update affected about 3.5 % of search queries. Google now focused on handling duplicate content issues with canonicalization in SEO.
Launch date: 02, june 2005
With this major update, google gave major control to SEO’s over crawling and indexing with the help of google’s webmaster tools. SEO’s and webmasters are allowed to submit XML sitemap via webmaster tools.
Launch date: 28, june 2005
Google started to use user’s search history to make search results more personalized and unique.
Launch date: 08 sept, 2005
Google referred Gilligan as a refresh rather than an update. This update resulted in bringing an underlying change in Google’s search index.
Google local and map merge
Launch date: 06, oct 2005
With this Google algorithm update, searchers can now locate location and information both on the same search result page. Google maps was introduced.
Launch date: 19, oct 2005
This update resulted in a massive crackdown on sites practicing low-quality links and link farms. The main aim was to reduce spamming.
Big daddy update
Launch date: 01, Nov 2005
Bigdaddy update was believed to be as an infrastructural update that is considered to deal with URL canonicalization, redirection and more. The update remained undeployed till the end of march 2006.
Universal Search update
Launch date: 16, may 2007
Universal search is another google algorithm SEO update which focus on combining the search results with images, videos, news, local searches etc.
Launch date: 17, june 2007
Buffy impacts single word search queries on SERP. It was introduced as collection of smaller updates.
Launch date: 02, April 2008
Dewey was an unspecified update. It was buzzed that it was related to search indexing.
Launch date: 25 august 2008
As the name implies, Google Suggest update was related to auto suggestion by google. Google confirmed that whenever a specific query will be entered, it will autocomplete that query with some suggestions.
Launch date: 20, feb 2009
Google Vince update was released in order to focus on trust, authority, and reputation of websites. This led to top ranking boost of top brands which have higher trust and authority.
Launch date: 10, Aug 2009
Caffeine algorithm was first introduced by google to people back in 2009. Google called it as “secret project” of “next-generation architecture for Google’s web search“.
Launch date: 20, april 2010
Google places search update was released in order to provide a better way of searching local businesses. Later on, google created a different API for it.
Result: Enhancement in local business search
Launch date: 01, May 2010
Google’s may day update introduced long tail queries search control for higher quality sites.
Result: Introduction of long tail queries for higher quality sites
Launch date: 08, June 2010
Caffein algorithm update was google’s new web indexing system. This update resulted in providing 50% fresher content in SERPs.
Result: It creates larger collection of web content than ever
Launch date: 08, Sep 2010
Google’s Instant algorithm tends to provide faster web results by autocompleting suggestion options for a query. According to google, 15 technologies were used to make this update possible.
Panda update 1
Launch date: 23, feb 2011
Launched back in 2011, panda update by google affected about 12% search queries. Webmaster’s relate the update as a new beginning era in the field of SEO. Panda update targets sites having low-quality content and particularly content farms. The main aim was to bring higher quality content sites to top.
Result: Sites having low quality content are hard hitted and there was a huge drop in ranking
Panda update 2
Launch date: 11, April 2011
Panda 2.0 hits all english language search results. US was targeted as a major.
Panda update 3
Launch date: 9, May 2011
Panda 2.1 comes with some minor changes. However, there was no official announcement by google.
Panda update 4
Launch date: 21, June 2011
Panda 2.2 was released in order to penalize sites that scraps content from other sites and repurpose it to create a new one. The main aim of this update was to keep content scrappers away from ranking high on SERP.
Panda update 5
Launch date: 23, June 2011
Panda 2.3 makes it easier for Google to recognize the original difference between a low quality content and high quality content.
Panda update 6
Launch date: 12, Aug 2011
Panda 2.4 resulted in search improvements in google’s core algorithm for all the languages except korean, chinese and japanese.
Panda update 7
Launch update: 28, Sept 2011
Panda 2.5 was released to mainly focus on site’s content quality analysis. Google now can analyze site’s content while indexing.
Panda update 8 (Flux)
Launch date: 05, Oct 2011
This update of panda affected about 2% queries. SearchEngineLand talks about the flux which was experienced after the rollout of Panda algorithm.
Launch date: 03, Nov 2011
Freshness update by google affected about 35% of search queries. The main focus was put into bring fresh and newly updated content on top SERP pages.
November Roundup – 10 updates back to back
Launch date: 14, Nov 2011
Google officially confirmed its release of 10 back to back updates to be held on month on november. Some of the updates are related to fresh content, rich snippets, cross language support, improvements in date-restricted queries and other factors as well.
Panda update 9
Launch date: 18, Nov 2011
Panda 3.1 was released as a less effective or minor update that affected about 1% of search queries.
December Roundup – 10 back to back updates
Launch date: 01, Dec 2011
Google’s official search blog confirmed the release of 10 back to back updates which involved improvement in autocomplete feature, comprehensive indexing, new “parked domain” classifier etc.
January Roundup – 30 updates (Search updates)
Launch date: 05 January 2012
January Roundup involved 30 back to back series of updates such as SafeSearch, encryption, relevancy, country restricted search & more. Google confirmed it with their official search update.
Panda update 10
Launch date: 18, Jan 2012
Google made a refresh on its data related to the sites that were affected by panda algorithm.
op Heavy1 update
Launch date: 19, Jan 2012
Google’s “Page Layout” algorithm targets and penalized the sites which have too many ads above the fold.
Venice, Panda 11 and release of 38 more updates
Launch date: 27, Feb 2012
Google confirmed their release of Panda 3.3, Venice and 38 more series of search updates that was believed to change the face of global SEO. Panda 3.3 update was made more accurate in terms of providing search results whereas Venice update by google was focused on triggering local search results with the help of main search results ranking. 38 more updates were released.
Panda update 12
Launch date: 23, March 2012
This google algorithm update by google targeted low quality sites thereby affecting about 1.6% of search queries.
March Roundup – About 50 series of update
Launch date: 03, April 2012
Google officially confirmed the release of over 50 updates including navigational search, image search, sitelink data refresh, better profile pages indexing and many more.
Launch date: 19, April 2012
Panda 13 or Panda 3.5 was focused on rewarding big brands and high quality sites.
Result : Highly reputed brands and high quality sites were given ranking boost as a result
Penguin update 1
Launch date: 24, April 2012
Penguin update SEO was released to punish sites who were breaching google search guidelines. It targeted sites that were focused on using black hat techniques, link schemes, keyword stuffing etc.
Launch date: 27, April 2012
This update comprised of few implications that affect on SERP results.
April Roundup – 52 updates
Launch date: 04, May 2012
April roundup updates were tied to initial launch of first Penguin update. This include sitelinks, spelling, sports score and many more. Google officially confirmed the update through official search blog.
Penguin update 2
Launch date: 25, May 2012
Penguin Update 2 affected less than 0.1% of English language search. It was reffered as a “data refresh” by Google.
May Roundup – 29 updates
Launch date: 07, June 2012
Google official search blog claimed the release of their May roundup updates for the year 2012. The updates were closely related to inorganic backlinks, site title update, improved freshness and many more.
Panda update 15
Launch date: 08, June 2012
Panda 3.7 update affected about 1 % search results in the English language.
Panda update 16
Launch date: 25, June 2012
Panda 3.8 update was rolled out as a data update. However, there was no update done on the core panda algorithm.
Panda update 17
Launch date: 24, July 2012
Panda 3.9 didn’t take a toll on search results this time. However, some fluctuations were recorded by webmasters this day.
Pirate Update / DMCA penalty
Launch date: 10, Aug 2012
Google officially confirmed the release of this update with their blog. Google focused on filtering down pirated content with documentation proof thereby helping the original copyright owner.
Panda update 18
Launch date: 20, Aug 2012
Panda 3.9.1 was the 18th update of google panda algorithm. This google algorithm update affected less than 1 % of queries. The update was related to data refresh. No change in the core algorithm was there.
Panda update 19
Launch date: 18, Sep 2012
Panda 3.9.2 was reportedly a minor update which affected less than 0.7% of search queries.
Exact Match Domain update and Panda 20
Launch date: 27, Sep 2012
Exact Match Domain update by google handles the way google used to handle low quality exact match domains.
Panda 20 affected about 2.4% of search results.
September Roundup – 65 updates
Launch date: 04, Oct 2012
Google officially claimed changes in its feature with these updates. The main focus was made in regards with content quality.
Penguin update 3
Launch date: 05, Oct 2012
The Penguin 1.3 update was multilingual. It had a wider reach internationally too.
Top Heavy 2
Launch date: 09, Oct 2012
Top Heavy update targeted sites which boasts disproportional no. of Ads above fold. The attack was based on the basis of page content.
Panda update 21
Launch date: 05, Nov 2012
It targeted about 1.1 % of english search queries.
Panda update 22
Launch date: 21, Nov 2012
It affected about 0.8% of english language search queries.
Panda update 23
Launch date: 21, Dec 2012
It affected about 1.3% of english language search results.
Panda update 24
Launch date: 22, Jan 2013
It affected 1.2% of english search results.
Panda update 25
Launch date: 14, March 2013
This time, Google again takes a toll on spammers with Panda 25 update.
Penguin update 4
Launch date: 22, May 2013
Penguin update 4 or Penguin 2.0 was a big update which affected the world of SEO’s and webmasters. This time google made improvements in its ability to deal with web spam.
Panda update 26
Google Panda 26th update was rolled out on June 18th 2013 but the most danger areas were indicated on 28th of the same month. A large shift in the google rank was seen. Sites boasting of low quality content were largely affected.
Google hummingbird update
Launch date: 21, Aug 2013
Google Hummingbird algorithm was focused on semantic search. The main aim was to improve search results by knowing the searchers intent which involves trends, location and searchers online behaviour.
Penguin update 5
Launch date: 4, Oct 2013
Penguin 2.1 or Penguin 5 update was released in order to continuation of fight against search spamming.
Top Heavy 3
Launch date: 6, Feb 2014
Google’s Page layout algorithm was intended to improve the user’s search experience with a response to the information they tend to seek. The update was known to targeted sites which boast disproportionate number of ads above the fold in terms of content.
Launch date: 20, May 2014
Google Panda algorithm update 4.0 was intended to improve quality of search results by penalizing low quality sites or scraper sites.
Matt Cutts informed about the update via Twitter.
Google Local algorithm update
Launch date: 24, July 2014
The Local algorithm update by Google intended to improve local search results quality.
Launch date: 06, Aug 2014
HTTPS update focused on the security of websites. Google signalled that secured sites which boast https layer may be given a slighter ranking boost on SERP.
Launch date: 23, Sep 2014
Panda 4.1 google update affected about 3-5% of queries globally. The update was intended to penalize sites with low quality content but with greater precision.
Penguin 3.0 update
Penguin 3.0 algorithm was named as slow worldwide rollout by webmaster UK forum. The update was intended to help sites that had refreshed their backlinks after penguin initial update. Moreover, the update also demoted sites that boast newly discovered scam links.
Google Mobile Friendly
Launch date: 21, April 2015
Google confirmed that mobile friendliness will be a ranking factor in the upcoming days. The update was intended on providing accurate search results to searchers.
Launch date: 18, July 2015
Panda 4.2 affected sites which boast spammy link practices and low quality content. The update was also intended to restore ranking changes for the sites that may had corrected the issues that caused them penalty with panda 4.1 update.
Hacked sites algorithm
Launch date: 05, Oct 2015
With this algorithm, google intended to remove sites that were being hacked by hackers. The sites were then used by spammers to showcase abusive content such as downloads, porn, etc.
HTTPS update (confirmed)
Launch date: 17, Dec 2015
Google officially confirmed that they will now put security as top ranking factor. They finally confirmed that sites which boast of security layer such as https will be given ranking boost on SERP.
Mobile Interstitials Penalty
Launch date: 23, Aug 2016
Google signaled that with the start of the new year i.e 2017 (1, Jan 2017), mobile sites that boast intrusive interstitials may be penalized and they may lost ranking as well. They explained with an example, which sort of sites may be targeted as a result.
Launch date: 02, Sep 2016
Possum update intended to improve local search rankings by filtering the spammy links and by eliminating duplicate listings on SERP. SearchEngineLand explained everything that falls under this google’s algorithm update.
Launch date: 11, Jan 2017
On the basis of their warning about intrusive interstitials boast by mobile site, Google confirmed the update which will demote the sites that boast popups that covers the main content as a part of user’s experience.
Fred – Google Link Quality update
Launch date: 09, March 2017
The fred update (as it is jokingly called by webmasters) is known to target websites that are more focused on generating income with affiliate links and less focused on providing quality content to visitors.
Result: More emphasis on Quality Backlinks
Final Words – As stated above, SEO’s and Digital Marketers need to keep pace with latest Google Algorithm Updates and trends in Digital Marketing field in order to become more competent in their work. Having said that, If you want to stay unaffected and safe in terms of google terms and condition violation then the above mentioned algorithm updates are a must known for you.
So, find out if your site is affected by any one among these google updates. In case, you found that you are being affected then don’t panic and take appropriate actions needed for prevention from further damage in rankings.
All the best!