Google Search Algorithm Change Timeline – Major Updates

Every month Google changes its search engine algorithm to provide better results than the past. However most of the changes are minor. It is very important for webmaster and bloggers to know how often they make changes and what’s the impact of change. We all have heard about major changes like Panda and Penguin which affected 45% of bloggers as they lost 80% of daily visitors after the update. Along with SEO strategies you must be aware of all of their changes to perform well in search engine ranking.  Today, we will show you some major changes by Google that changed the meaning of SEO.

Google Search Algorithm Timeline

Recommended: Google’s 200 Ranking factors

Year: 2015

July 18 – Panda 4.2

Panda 4.2

This is quite different than usual Panda updates. Instead of few days, it would take months to roll out worldwide (due to some technical reasons). It is technically a data refresh, not an algorithm update. This refresh affects 2-3% of search queries which is lower than the previous Panda refresh (3-5%).

May 3 – Phantom 2

The Phantom update is all about quality of content. Most of the pages that lost ranking were thin, low quality supplementary content and click-bait articles. This time, Google didn’t reveal any details about the nature of signals involved.

April 21 – Mobilegeddon

This was a pre-announced update, informing that mobile rankings would be different for mobile friendly sites. The impact was much smaller than expected, because around 70 percent of page 1 results were already mobile friendly by April 20.

February 4 – Unnamed Update

mystery update

This was eCommerce focused update, not officially confirmed by Google. However, tons of webmasters and SERP trackers reported major flux on 5th Feburary. This was probably the biggest shifts in eCommerce industry and traffic-heavy keywords.

Year: 2014

December 20 – Pigeon Expands

Google’s local algorithm update called “Pigeon” expanded to the Canada, UK and Australia. The algorithm is aimed to provide relevant, useful and accurate local search results.

October 21 – Pirate 2

After two years, Google updates their DMCA algorithm to punish copyright infringements. It was targeted to a small group of sites like mp3skull.com, 4shared.com, torrentz.eu, zippyshare.com etc., who lost over 80% of organic traffic.

October 17 – Penguin 3.0

Finally, after one year Google released their Penguin update on Friday night. This was a worldwide update affecting all Google extensions. This refresh helps websites that have cleaned up/disavowed the spammy links discovered in previous penguin iteration and degrades the site having unnatural links. Moreover, it affects 1% of English search queries.

October 1st – “In the news” box

“In the news” box shows results not from only the traditional news websites but it also includes high quality and popular websites like Twitter, Reddit, Yoast and other random blogs. This update diluted the traffic of many major news/source sites.

September 25 – Panda 4.1

Earlier this week, Google started a slow roll out of new and improved version of Panda. This helps small and medium website (with in-depth and high quality contents) to rank higher. Approximate 3 to 5% of queries were affected.

August 28 – Complete Authorship Removed

On 28 June 2014, Google dropped the authorship photo from search results. This time, they completely removed the authorship markup. You will no longer see author name/circle in search results.

August 6 – SSL/HTTPS

Google is now using HTTPS as a ranking signal. This change affected lessr than 1% of global search queries. It’s a per URL signal carrying less weight than other ranking factors such as quality of content, backlinks and more.

July 24 – Pigeon

Google has released a brand new algorithm that would help you to get better and accurate local search results. Now the changes are visible in Google maps and web search results.

June 28 – Authorship photo drop in search results

Google removed all authorship photo as well as circle counts from search results in order to improve the search result design and for better mobile experience.

June 24 – Payday Loan 3

Within a month Google updated their previous Payday loan algorithm.

May 20 – Panda 4.0

The 29th Panda update affected around 7.5% of English search queries. This update was quite harsh as many popular sites lost more than 40% of their traffic including ask.com, livescience.com, health.com, history.com and ebay.com.

May 17 – Payday Loan 2

The algorithm targets spammy and adult queries that affected around 0.2% of English search queries.

March 24- Anonymous Update

There was a new and softer Panda update due to which many websites/blogs reported ranking changes. However, the update was never confirmed by Google.

February 6- Page Layout 3 

The first update of 2014 was about the ads placed on the website also called “Top heavy” developed in January 2012. This algorithm penalizes website with too many ads at the top or ads distracting users.
To be safe: Maintain good ads to content ratio and don’t let your visitor scroll to find the content they are looking for.

Year: 2013

December 19- Authorship Shake up

Google reduced authorship priority in search engine ranking positions by 15%,  Quality went up.

October 4- Penguin 2.1

This one is the 5th Google penguin update (spam fighting algorithm) that affected around 1% of search result just after its launch.

August 10 – Hummingbird

It’s the name of the new search algorithm and Google claim that it will return better results. Hummingbird results are based on 200 different factors like PageRank, Authorship, page speed etc.

August 6 – In-depth Articles

Google realized that up to 10% of user wants to learn more about a broad topic. Therefore they came up with a solution known as in depth Articles dedicated to long form content.

July 19 – Knowledge Graph Expansion

Once again Google improved their strategies to display integrated information about popular/most searched people, places and other stuff.

July 18- Panda Recovery

This Panda recovery algorithm has softened some previous Panda penalties. Around 10% webmasters noticed huge recovery of their website (25- 30%) in search engine ranking positions.

June 27- Multi-week update

This reason for this change was not clear but during this period Google may have been testing few cases which were later rolled back.

June 11- Panda Dance

The Panda algorithm is still being updated every month and gradually push out of impact in 10 days or throughout the month. The cycle repeats every month.

June 11- Payday Loan

This new search algorithm was launched to target the spammy and adult queries.

May 22- Penguin 2.0

The 4th Penguin update named 2.0 is new generation of technology that stops spam in a much better way. This change impacted 2.3% of search queries.

May 21- Domain Crowding

What if you don’t find what are you looking for in the first result, and the next result is from the same site, and the next, and so on. To stop these kinds of bad user experience Google introduced Domain Crowding due to which you never get results from the same website in top 10 positions except few exceptional queries.

May 9 Phantom

Google’s Phantom Algorithm was targeting heavy cross linking sites, unnatural links and Scraping Content. You can say that Phantom was developed to punish low quality that didn’t get caught by Panda+Penguin.

March 14 Panda 25

25th Panda update (May be the last Panda update) affected 0.5% of English search queries.

January 22 Panda 24

Google has announced the first change of 2013 i.e Panda 24 that affected English 1.2% search queries.

Year: 2012

December 21- Panda 23

Panda version 23 was launched right before Christmas that impacted 1.3% of English search queries.

December 4- Knowledge Graph Expansion

Google expanded their knowledge graph to more language including French, German, Spanish, Russian, Italian.

November 21- Panda 22

Panda was updated 22nd time impacting 0.8% of English queries.

November 5- Panda 21

Once again Google launched their Panda new version 21 that affected 1.1% of English sub queries.

October 9- Page layout 2

The second update of algorithm named “Top Heavy 2” based on ads placement on the webpage.

October 5- Penguin 3

This was the third penguin data update that impacted 0.3% of English search queries.

September 27- Panda 20

That’s the huge Panda update that impacted around 2.4% of search queries.

September 27- Exact-Match Domain

The update was to crack down low quality exact keyword match domain website in search engine ranking positions.

September 18- Panda 3.9.2

This was the 19th panda updated known as Panda 3.9.2 that affected fewer than 0.7% of search queries.

September to August- 65 Pack

The 65 updates by Google included calculation of page quality, local search position, Knowledge graph extension, 7 result search engine ranking positions.

August 20- Panda 3.9.1

Yet another Panda data update impacting less than 1% of search queries.

August 14- 7 Result SERPs

Google changed the traditional way of listing i.e top 10 to top 7 lists on first page.

August 10- 86 Pack

The mega update pack was announced on 8th August including site clustering, Panda algo and data refreshes, rank ordering algo and boost to trusted websites.

August 10- DMCA Penalty

Google is about to start penalizing website with repeat copyright violation through DMCA request.

July 24- Panda 3.9

17th panda update impacting fewer than 1% of English sub queries.

July 19- Link Warnings

Google starts sending unnatural link warning to website owners through webmaster tool. They said these kinds of warnings may or may not represent an actual problem for website ranking.

June 25- Panda 3.8

Another Panda data update impacting fewer than 1% of search queries.

June 8- Panda 3.7

Yet another Panda data update that impacted around 1% of search queries, higher impact than Panda 3.8.

June 7- 39 Pack

Google launched their 39 algo and data updates on 7th June that included improved detection of hacked pages, Penguin improvements, Auto-complete and more prediction for Japanese users, precise location on tabs, performance optimization, better detection of fresh contents.

May 25- Penguin 1.1

The second Penguin algo update that affected around 0.1% of English searches.

May 16- Knowledge Graph

Google starts displaying information about certain people, places and popular stuff along with their search result. This helped a lot of users to obtain information they are looking for without entering into a particular link shown in search results.

May 4- 52 Pack

The 52 Mega updates also known as “April 52 pack”  was announced on 4th may that included country identification for webpages, anchors bug fix, better resource caching for mobile, improved Formula 1 racing search features, Categorize paginated documents.

April 27- Panda 3.6

Within a week of Panda 3.5 update Google released another update i.e Panda 3.6, however the impact was relatively small.

April 24- Penguin

The major update in Google algo to crack down or penalize  over-optimized website and website using black hat SEO techniques. This update affected 3.1% English search queries.

April 9- Panda 3.5

This was the fairly routine update in Panda impacting very small volume of search results.

April 16- Parked Domain Bug

A Huge number of webmasters complained about ranking in search results. Google claimed that a data error caused some domains to be mistakenly treated as parked that was later resolved.

April 3-  50 Pack

Another Mega update in data and algo that included handling improvement and auto-complete math symbols, better handling of password changes, better indexing of profile pages, improved local results, Better synonym accuracy, improved name dectection technique, more accurate short answers.

March 23- Panda 3.4

12th Panda update from Google that impacted around 1.6% of search queries.

March 2- Search Quality Video

This wasn’t an algo or data update, but a video about discussion on long queries published by Google. You can see Amit Singhal, Matt Cutts and Ben Gomes in action.

February 27- Venice

It’s much more like regular updates named “Venice” that improved local search results and data.

February 27- Panda 3.3

The 11th Panda update known as Panda 3.3 that affected less than 0.5% of search results.

February 27- 40 Pack

The second 40 pack update includes more coverage for related searches, consistent thumbnail size, accurate detection of official pages, improvement to travel related searches, improvement to English spell correction, safe search updates.

February 3- 17 Pack

This was the another round of bulk updates that included faster auto-complete, better spelling correction for rare queries, blending of news results, auto-complete spelling corrections.

January 19- Page Layout

For the first time Google is going to penalize the websites having too much ads. The algo called “Top heavy”checks page content to ads ratio, placement of ads, whether the ads are scroll-able or not and much more.

January 18- Panda 3.2

This was the 10th panda update with relatively low effect on search queries.

January 10- Search Your World

Google improves their search result by integrating g+ profile to search engine. Now you will get personal results, profiles, pages and posts in search. However, you can also turn off this integration.

January 5- 30 Pack

The first bulk update of the year includes soft 404 detection technique, more relevant sitelinks,  more accurate country restricted search, better spam detection in image search, better lyrics results, faster mobile browsing.

Year: 2011

December 1- 10-Pack Update

This was the second 10 pack update of the year which includes related query result refinement, original content prediction, more auto-complete prediction and comprehensive indexing.

November 18- Panda 3.1

The 9th Panda update by Google. This was the minor algorithm update which affected less than 1 % of search results.

November 14- 10-Pack Update

Google introduced 10 packed algorithm and data update i.e cross language information retrieval update, retiring a signal in image search, fresher more recent results, refining official page detection, better page title in search results.

November 3- Freshness

According to the Google this algorithm change was going to impact around 35% of the search results (3 times more than the first Panda impact). This update affected the websites based on recent or regularly recurring events and hot topics.

October 18- Query Encryption

For privacy reasons, they were going to encrypt search queries. This led organic keyword referral information returning “not provided” for some organic traffic.

October 5- Panda Flux

Another minor Panda update impacting 2% of English search queries. “Expect some Panda-related flux in the next few weeks” – Matt Cutts Tweet.

September 28- Panda 2.5

7th Panda update that affected few websites (in a negative manner) on a large scale.

September 15- Pagination Elements

In order to avoid duplication problem Google introduced rel=”prev” and rel=”next” link attributes. Also, they had improved canonicalization for “view all” pages.

August 16- Expanded Sitelinks

Sitelinks (specific section of a site in a search result) will now be full sized link with individual section URLs. It helps the viewer to quickly navigate the most relevant stuffs of a website.

August 12- Panda 2.4

Google launched Panda for non-English queries except for Japanese, Korean and Chinese. It affected 8% of search queries.

July 23- Panda 2.3

5th Panda algorithm update that impacted less than 1% of English sub queries.

June 28- Google+

After numerous social media failure projects, Google introduced a real life sharing G+ which was kind of an attack on Facebook and Twitter. Within 2 weeks G+ reached 10 million users and 1 billion items being shared per day.

June 21- Panda 2.2

Yet another (fourth) Panda update in order to improve scrapper detection.

May 9- Panda 2.1

This was the minor update impacting less than 1% of English search queries.

April 11- Panda 2.0

2011 was the year of Google’s Panda. This time they rolled out the Panda to all English queries. Some new information also integrated such as data about the sites users blocked via Search Engine Ranking Position (SERP) directly.

February 23-Panda

The biggest search engine update in Google history- the inception of PANDA, which affected around 12% of search queries. This was the attack on minor as well as highly reputed websites having low or thin quality content.

January 28- Attribution Update

In order to stop scrapers and high profile scam cases, they rolled out an update for better content delivery. This change affected around 2% of overall queries.

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