Major Google Algorithm Updates Since 2000 for Your SEO

Major Google Algorithm Updates Since 2000
Major Google Algorithm Updates Since 2000

Find below, all major Google Algorithm changes history, penalties, resources, links and updates. An ultimate cheat sheet compiled starting from 2000.

Introduction to Algorithms

It's predefined on Wikipedia, 'Algorithms are set of rules that can perform calculation, data processing, automated reasoning tasks and problem solving operations by a computer.'

What are Google Algorithm updates? 

In simple terms, Google Algorithms are called search algorithms that are identified by code names. When a user searches a query on Google seeking for an answer, Google needs to sort through millions and billions of web pages from its search index, to give relevant and useful results within fraction of seconds {About 20,80,00,000 results (0.52 seconds)} 
Thus, Google has a ranking systems which are made up of a series of algorithms. They analyze and understand your query, to return with relevant and useful information.

Click here to learn >> How Google's Search algorithms work?

Google has mainly three core values on, how they approach search:
Google has made number of algorithm updates since 2000 and they are vital part of Google's ranking system. Each day predictably there are three updates in average, that are designed to improve search results.

Following are some of the major Google algorithm updates:

Contents List 
  1. Medic core or broad core algorithm update
  2. Chrome security warnings [Full Site]
  3. Mobile speed update
  4. Mobile-first index roll-out
  5. 'Brackets' core update
  6. Google jobs
  7. Intrusive interstitial penalty
  8. Snippet Length - Increase
  9. Penguin 4.0 core algorithm update
  10. AdWords Shake-up
  11. RankBrain*
  12. Mobile friendly update or Mobilegeddon
  13. Pigeon update
  14. Hummingbird algorithm update
  15. Exact-Match Domain-EMD Update
  16. Pirate - DMCA Penalty
  17. Knowledge Graph
  18. Penguin update
  19. Ads Above The Fold
  20. Search + Your World
  21. Freshness Update
  22. Query Encryption
  23. Pagination Elements
  24. Expanded Sitelinks
  25. Google+
  26. Schema.org
  27. The +1 Button
  28. Panda/Farmer
  29. Attribution Update
  30. Negative Reviews
  31. Google Instant
  32. Caffeine (Rollout)
  33. May Day
  34. Google Places
  35. Real-time Search
  36. rel-canonical tag
  37. Google Suggest
  38. Dewey
  39. Universal Search
  40. Big Daddy
  41. Google Local/Maps
  42. Jagger
  43. XML Sitemaps
  44. Bourbon
  45. Nofollow
  46. Brandy
  47. Florida
  48. Fritz
  49. Boston

#1. Medic core or broad core algorithm update:

Released on: Aug 1, 2018

This update had caused significant volatility across the web, as per Seroundtable.com over 42% sites mainly affected were healthcare, medical, fitness, healthy lifestyle space websites.

Reference: 

#2. Chrome security warnings [Full Site]:

Released on: July 24, 2018

Do you still own a HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) non encrypted site? Then, Chrome would mark your site as not-secure for users. This algorithm update is to safeguard your website information while dealing with sensitive information (passwords, credit card details) or credentials. In simple terms, Chrome's security update means "More encrypted connections, more security".

Reference:
chrome security update screen capture
Chrome Security update depict

#3. Mobile speed update:

Released on: July 9, 2018

'Need for Speed', speed is now a landing page factor for Google search and Ads. Analyzing your mobile page speed is vital to rank higher on the search engines, and to minimize unwanted bounce rate. The days of 2G/3G have gone-by, people across the globe could access internet/fibernet with high speed such as 4G/5G/WiFi etc. Check if your website is mobile friendly or not here

Reference:

#4. Mobile-first index roll-out:

Released on: Mar 26, 2018

Google has changed the way of indexing sites, it has given the priority to mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking on search engine. That's because, the number of smartphone users across the globe are expected to increase from 2.1 billion to 2.5 billion by 2019. (Statista)  

Reference:

#5. 'Brackets' core update:

Released on: Mar 8, 2018

The name 'Brackets' was first coined by Glenn Gabe and Marie Haynes called “It’s March Madness!” in her tweet. This update was mainly focused on quality of rich snippets, the time to recover your site, improvement in quality over the long-term, creating unlimited spaces via auto generated URLs from on-site searches and more
Reference:

#6. Google jobs:

Released on: June 20, 2017

It's an official launch of the dedicated Jobs tab, by Google's CEO Mr. Sundar Pichai at Google I/O annual developers conference.

Visit Google and search for a job, then you find a snippet with blue tab stating 'Jobs'. Click on it to filter jobs by category, title, location, date posted, company type and employer to apply on this portal.

Search results are synced from major job providers such as, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Monster, Indeed, Comparably etc.

If you're an employer, you can list your jobs too on Google. Learn more here

google jobs portal
Google Jobs portal depict
Reference:

#7. Intrusive interstitial penalty:

Released on: Jan 10, 2017

What does this means 'Interstitial'?...

'Interstitial' is an advertisement pop-up that appears on your mobile while loading some xyz website.

Examples of Intrusive Interstitials:
Examples of Intrusive Interstitials
Examples of Intrusive Interstitial (Source: webmasters.googleblog.com)
'Intrusive Interstitial' is a penalty to punish aggressive interstitial and pop-ups that interrupt or spoil mobile user experience. This penalty is to help users easily access content on mobile and to improve search experience of a user. 

Reference:

#8. Snippet Length - Increase

Released on: Nov 30, 2017

Snippet length of Google search results, adopting new meta description limit up-to 300 characters from 155 characters. However, this limit has been rolled back to normal later on May 13, 2018 and 'Danny Sullivan' Google's public search liaison asserts on his tweet, the length of snippets is dynamic so the maximum limit is unsure to specify.

Length of dynamic meta descriptions
Length of dynamic meta descriptions
Reference:

#9. Penguin 4.0 core algorithm 

Released on: Sep 23, 2016

Google Penguin 4.0 update has a official Wiki page "Penguin 4.0 (7th Penguin update)". Penguin is a codename for Google's algorithm update released in multi-phase which is mainly targeted to websites who violate or not follow Google's webmaster guidelines strictly and by that increasing their search engine rankings through Black Hat SEO technique [spamdexing], buying links, obtaining links through networks to boost Google rankings etc.    
Released on: Feb 23, 2016

This update brought major changes to AdWords, removing right column ads and rolling out of top 4 position ad blocks.

Right column ads before [image source: dentalcompare.com]
After the update, right column ads got vanished
Reference:

#11. RankBrain Algorithm*

Released on: Oct 26, 2015

RankBrain is an AI-Artificial Intelligence system, it helps Google to process and provide more relevant search results to users. This algorithm is believed to be one of the third most important ranking factor.

Reference:

#12. Mobile friendly update or Mobilegeddon

Released on: Apr 22, 2015

This update is for more mobile friendly search results and more relevant app content in search results.

Mobile friendliness of a site [Image source: webmasters.googleblog.com]
Reference:

#13. Google Pigeon update

Released on: Jul 24, 2014

Like rest of the Google's major updates, Google Pigeon is also a code name given for local search algorithm and one of the biggest local search updates. This update was mainly to increase local search results ranking and search results shown on the Google Maps. 

Reference:

#14. Hummingbird

Released on: Aug 20, 2013

The name was derived from the speed and accuracy of a 'Hummingbird'. Google Hummingbird Algorithm is cited as, total revamp on core algorithm which has significant algorithm change in Google search. 

Google Hummingbird Logo [Image source: Wikipedia]
Reference:
Released on: Sep 27, 2012

'Exact Match Domains' are precisely the names of search phrases or queries or keywords. For instance: buyshoesonlineinbangalore.com/ buyconverseshoesonline.com etc. 
Buying a domain name exactly matching of search keywords, that will drive traffic to your website and to rank higher in top positions. With EMD update, nearly 10.3% drop has been observed day over day

Reference: 

DMCA.com is the provider of Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it's a Unites States copyright law for online service providers to protect their valuable content from copyright infringement or theft. the DMCA reinforce the penalties for copyright infringement on Internet by users of a given website.

Reference:

#17. Knowledge Graph

Released on: May 16, 2012

Knowledge Graph is mainly a step towards semantic search, this will give users a SERP integrated infobox  next to search results, that display with an information extracted from various sources.

knowledge graph update
Google Knowledge graph depict
Reference:

#18. Penguin

Released on: Apr 24, 2012

Penguin update is a step towards rewarding high quality sites, and down-rank sites with unnatural/spam link profiles. Spamming the search results by using manipulative link tactics, this update is also called as “web-spam algorithm update.” It's a multi-phase update which has roll-outs on: May 25, 2012; Oct 5, 2012; May 22, 2013; Oct 4, 2013; Oct 17, 2014; September 27, 2016; October 6, 2016; real-time since. Current version is Penguin 4.0

Reference:

#19. Ads Above The Fold

Released on: Jan 19, 2012

This Algorithm change is also called as 'page layout algorithm improvement'. Websites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. That means placing ads on top of the page which would make users to scroll more to find the page content. This act was quite offended by users and resulted in bad experience.

ads above the fold on a web page
Ads above the fold on a website [Image source: timesofindia]
Reference:

#20. Search + Your World

Released on: Jan 10, 2012

With this update Google tries to migrate search results with your Google plus social data and user profiles together. 

Reference:

#21. Freshness Update

Released on: Nov 3, 2011

Freshness in the search results to bring new and updated content out of Google's index. These results are current and updated not the history. Today, there's so much information and content is being updated to internet in fast phase, to bring that recent information Google's algorithms need to work hard and identify the most recent fresh results for you. This is possible due to Google's advanced indexing system called "Caffeine web indexing system"

recent and fresh search results by google
Google's result for a word 'Tennis' (It's able to display live streaming of the most recent Tennis happening)
Reference:

This update is a reason behind organic keyword referral data 'not provided' keyword/ search term on your Google Analytics. Bringing more secure search by encrypting search queries for security reasons. Since then, most or all of your organic traffic would depict one or the other keywords as 'not provided'

not provided keyword result
Depict of 'not provided' keyword result
Reference:

#23. Pagination Elements

Released on: Sep 15, 2011

This update was to avoid duplication problem created by pagination. So, Google has introduced rel="next" and rel="prev" link attributes similar to rel=”canonical”. 

This markup would look something like below:

<link rel="prev" href="/page/1/">
<link rel="next" href="/page/3/">
Reference:

#24. Expanded Sitelinks

Released on: Aug 16, 2011

The pack of sitelinks on Google's search have been extended to twelve packs for most branded queries for short-time. But, later however Google limit the sitelinks to 6 packs soon after the roll-out
Google site links appearance on search
Site links on Google's search results
Reference: 

Google+ came out as a rival to Facebook with serious attack. This social media platform is tightly integrated with Gmail. Google+ has some mindblowing features such as circles, communities, profile and page options which early adopters must be aware of.

Reference:

#26. Schema.org

Released on: June 2, 2011

It's one of the markup languages or a micro-data which is distinguished from text or presented in text to embed on websites that can be understood by search engines. Similar to HTML, CSS, XML etc. Schema.org was jointly developed and announced by major search engines Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yandex. Some of the schema markup examples are contact information of your business, site logo, social profile, breadcrumbs and so on.

Structured data markup using schema.org
Structured data markup using schema.org
Reference:

#27. The +1 Button

Released on: Mar 30, 2011

Google launched the +1 button in response to rival Facebook's Like button. It's one of the responding action button to social media counterparts such as Facebook and Twitter. It allowed Google plus users to influence search results within the social circles both paid and organic results

Reference:
Released on: Feb 23, 2011

It's one of the change to Google's search results ranking. To down-rank low-quality-sites or thin sites such as 'content farms/content mill' where content is mainly generated to convince search engine algorithms with the help of large number of freelance writers

Reference: 

Attribution algorithmic change tend to rank scraper sites or sites with low levels of original content. Where searchers get to see more original content sites in place of sites that copy others.

Reference:

#30. Negative Reviews

Released on: Dec 1, 2010

An update at the year end 2010, it all started when this interesting and unusual experience of Ms. Rodriguez with 'DecorMyEyes' captioned "A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web" was published on The New York Times. This update was in response to Negative reviews or advertisement which translate to more links to your site and you show up on top of search engines.
DecorMyEyes
Current status of 'DecorMyEyes' on Google search
Reference:
Released on: Sep 1, 2010

It's an update to 'Google Suggest', to search queries on search engine. When a user wants to search a query it takes more time to type any query on search engines, that's estimated to be more-than 10 seconds. Since, to improve this experience and save time 'Google Instant' search had launched. But, later in July 2017 Google removed the same due to growing number of searches on mobile devices differed from computer. 
Released on: June 1, 2010

It's a new web indexing system and search architecture codenamed 'Caffeine' resulting in a 50% fresher results due to continuous updating of Google's index

Reference:

#33. May Day

Released on: May 1, 2010

May Day...May Day...Yep! on first of May 2010, Google's Matt Cutts confirmed the change of algorithm that impacting the long-tail traffic.

Reference:

#34. Google Places

Released on: Apr 1, 2010

Thankfully, this isn't a April Fool's update! [Just Kidding] 

Google Places, an official launch of local business center. To make it easy for users to find places in the real world like restaurants, shops, schools, parks and more. Featured included are place details, current place, find place, geocoding, geolocation and time zone.

Google Places by Google Cloud
Google Places by Google Cloud
Reference:

#35. Real-time Search

Released on: Dec 1, 2009

It's really real! Google's real time search means Twitter feeds, Google News, newly indexed content sourced and integrated for search results feed.
Real time search results for Kerala Flood 2018.
Real time search results for Kerala Flood 2018.

#36. rel-canonical tag

Released on: Feb 1, 2009

're-canonical' is a tag to filter page URL duplication. Where, if you have a single page accessible by multiple URLs with similar content, Google considers these URLs as duplicate version of the same page. So, to differentiate and crawl appropriate URL, Google chooses one as the canonical version and rest are considered as duplicate. All major search engines such as, Google, Bing, Yahoo jointly announced the support for the rel-canonical tag.

Reference:

#37. Google Suggest

Released on: Aug 1, 2008

This update is active on Google till date. Where a dropdown suggests keywords for visitors while typing their queries.

Google suggest update
Google suggest search depict
Reference:

#38. Dewey

Released on: Apr 1, 2008

This update originally referenced by 'Matt Cutts' on 'Webmasterworld' threads as one of the SERP changes. Overall, this is about major update of new index which seemed to have impacted tons of SEOs. Since, to submit feedback/issues the name 'Dewey' had been referred. 

Feedback - Let's use "dewey" as the word
Feedback - Let's use "dewey" as the word
Reference: 

#39. Universal Search

Released on: May 1, 2007

Unlike other updates, Google has integrated traditional search with news, videos, images, local, websites, blogs and more. All shown on the same page of search results for user-friendliness

Google homepage in 2007
Google homepage during 2007 [Source: venturebeat.com]
Reference:

#40. Big Daddy

Released on: Dec 1, 2005

Big Daddy not GoDaddy, it's Google's technical infrastructure update that changed the way Google handled URL canonicalization and 301/302 redirects

Reference:

#41. Google Local/Maps

Released on: Oct 1, 2005

Reference: 

#42. Jagger

Released on: Oct 1, 2005

This update was targeted at low quality links such as, paid links, reciprocal links and link farms.
Reference: 
Released on: June 1, 2005
    An update to move from traditional HTML sitemaps to XML sitemaps for crawling and indexing.

    Reference:

    #44. Bourbon

    Released on: May 1, 2005

    "GoogleGuy" (Matt Cutts or employee of Google) announced the changes in quality search version 3.5 to bring improvements.

    Reference:

    #45. Nofollow

    Released on: Jan 1, 2005

    This update was to combat link and comment spams to inform web authors.  This attribute is 'nofollow' with rel=”nofollow” inserted within an anchor tag.

    <a href=”https://www.website.com/page.html” rel=”nofollow”>My Page</a>
    Or <a rel=”nofollow” href=”https://www.website.com/page.html” >My Page</a>
    Reference:

    #46. Brandy

    Released on: Feb 1, 2004

    I know what you must be thinking of?

    But, according to Google 'Brandy' update is, changes of massive index expansion LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) attention to anchor text relevance referred as 'link neighborhood'.

    #47. Florida

    Released on: Nov 1, 2003

    'Florida' [nickname] is one of the massive update in Google's history which brought an 'high waves' to the world of SEOs. There was a significant change to Google ranking algorithm, that caused huge impact for some website owners and lose their top positions for some search terms.  

    #48. Fritz

    Released on: July 1, 2003

    Google Fritz update means, update index constantly, instead of in big batches.

    Reference:

    #49. Boston

    Released on: Feb 1, 2003

    This update was announced at SES Boston [Society of Engineering Science Conference], this was the first named Google update. 

    Reference:

    Find, fully updated list of 'Google Algorithms Change History' on 'MOZ' here (confirmed & unconfirmed)

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