Tuesday, 12 November 2019

A complete (and actionable) Google update history timeline

Editor’s Note: This article will be updated regularly. Last update July 9, 2019.
The Google search algorithm is a highly sophisticated system that helps millions of people around the world find the information they’re looking for in a matter of seconds. Although each search happens in an instant, there’s actually a lot going on behind the scenes.
Google analyzes your search query, matches thousands of web pages that may hold relevant information, ranks them based on hundreds of signals, considers context such as your physical location, and then returns the results in a format that is intuitive to understand.
Every year, Google makes hundreds of updates to its core and periphery search algorithms. We’ve created a guide for the most important updates from each year since the first major update in 2000.
google update history


Site Diversity Update – June – Confirmed
Google announced that this update would improve SERPS with more than two duplicate sites on page one. The goal of this algorithm tweak is to create more diverse SERPs to give readers more options. The update recognizes subdomains as part of the main domain. Branded queries aren’t likely to be impacted, however. For example, searching for Amazon will still result in a page of Amazon links.
June 2019 Core Update – June – Confirmed
In a rare occurrence, Google announced this core update a day before its release. Sites previously affected by the March 2019 Core Update and the 2018 Medic Update reported ranking fluctuations. Some experts believe the update impacted YMYL pages that do not meet E.A.T. (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness) quality guidelines.
March 2019 Core Update – March – Confirmed
Though Google confirmed a broad core update in early March, the company provided no details about what it changed. Some sites saw their rankings fluctuate, though not significantly. Google noted that there would be no way to “fix” pages that experienced a performance drop, because they had not been directly impacted; rather, previously under-rewarded pages were benefitting from the update.


Medic Update – August – Confirmed
This update to Google’s core algorithm had a major impact on what Google calls “Your money or your life” pages. These are pages that Google has deemed potentially harmful to a user’s happiness, health or financial stability. This update reduced the likelihood that fear-mongering health websites would appear at the top of SERPs.
Mobile Speed Boost – July – Confirmed
Google announced that it would include page speed as a ranking factor in searches conducted on mobile devices. This move was meant to encourage developers to provide faster user experiences.
Video Carousel Update – June – Confirmed
In June 2018, Google stopped showing video results as organic results. In the latest version, videos were moved to a carousel that shows three video results at a time.
Snippet Length Reduction – May – Confirmed
Less than half a year since Google increased the limit for page meta descriptions, the decision was reversed. Once again, meta descriptions are limited to between 150-160 characters.
Mobile-First Indexing – March – Confirmed
After a year and a half of experimentation, Google officially rolled out its mobile-first indexing strategy. From now on, mobile versions of webpages will be used for indexing before desktop versions. Around this time, search from mobile devices was beginning to surpass desktop traffic.


Maccabees – December – Unconfirmed
Though never officially announced, Maccabees is likely several smaller updates that were rolled out around the same time. Industry insiders noticed unusual fluctuations in web traffic, including unseasonable drops near the holidays.
Snippet Increase – November – Confirmed
Prior to this update, page meta descriptions were limited to 155 characters. Google increased the limit to 300, allowing for more in-depth content.
Featured Snippets Update – October – Unconfirmed
In October 2016, webmasters noticed a drop in featured snippets for common search terms. This update remains unconfirmed.
Google Jobs – June – Confirmed
Using data from major career websites, Google began to list job opportunities at the top of relevant SERPs.
Fred – March – Unconfirmed
This unconfirmed search engine update further thwarted spam efforts from black hat SEOs and generally improved the quality of results.
Intrusiveness Penalty Update – January – Confirmed
After announcing the update five months earlier, Google rolled out penalties for mobile sites with pop-ups and interstitials that impede the user experience.


Penguin 4.0 – September/October – Confirmed
In September 2016, Google officially rolled Penguin into its core algorithm. In doing so, Google also softened Penguin penalties, instead devaluing bad links. Throughout October, Google continued to roll back harsh Penguin penalties.
Possum – September – Unconfirmed
Though never announced by Google, this update made some significant changes to local search. For instance, businesses located outside of official city limits began to appear in SERPs. Broadly, this update made the user’s location history more important than ever. A user’s browsing history may also have some weight in how pages are ranked in results.
Mobile Update 2 – May – Confirmed
As more web traffic came from mobile devices, Google doubled down on its mobile experience. This update increased the effect of the ranking signal to push mobile-friendly sites higher in SERPs.
AdWords Update – February – Confirmed
In February 2016, Google removed AdWords content from the right-hand column and placed four ad-blocks at the top of SERPs containing commercial/shopping-oriented search queries.


RankBrain – October – Confirmed
The RankBrain algorithm added machine-learning capabilities to Google Search. At launch, RankBrain improved the relevancy of results that do not specifically include query terms. Though this update likely launched sometime in the spring of 2015, it wasn’t officially announced until October.
Quality Update – May – Confirmed
This broad update tweaked how Google’s core algorithm identified quality content. Though Google didn’t offer much insight into exactly what changed, some sites saw a significant drop in traffic.
Mobile Update – April – Confirmed
In what many SEOs called “Mobilegeddon” at the time, Google announced that mobile rankings would differ from desktop rankings. For instance, if a user was searching on mobile, the algorithm would prioritize mobile-friendly websites.
e-Commerce Update – February – Unconfirmed
Though never confirmed by Google, many webmasters noticed fluctuations in site traffic in February 2015. Many suspect that Google tweaked how its algorithm handled incorrect spellings of common brand names.


Pigeon Expansion – December – Confirmed
At the end of 2014, Googled rolled out its Pigeon update to the UK, Canada and Australia.
Continuous Penguin Updates – December – Confirmed
On Dec. 10, Google announced that it would begin to update Penguin continuously, rather than push numbered updates periodically.
DMCA Update – October – Confirmed
In another push against piracy, Google reduced the likelihood that torrent sites would appear in SERPs.
Penguin 3.0 – October – Confirmed
Google pushed a new version of Penguin in October 2014 but did not extrapolate on the changes.
“In the news” Update – October – Confirmed
Google expanded the number of sites the search engine would display in news results. It also streamlined the news box UI within SERPs.
HTTPS/SSL Update – August – Confirmed
To make security more of a priority, Google added HTTPS as a ranking signal. In other words, more secure websites would be given priority over less secure sites.
Pigeon – July – Confirmed
The Pigeon updates brought together many elements of Google’s core and local search algorithms. With this update, the search engine placed more weight on the user’s location history. This allowed for more in-depth content within the Knowledge Graph, as well as a greater understanding of synonyms.
Authorship Photo Removal – June – Confirmed
In June 2014, Google officially removed all authorship photos from SERPs.
Payday Loan 3.0 – June – Confirmed
Google became very proactive in its fight against spam, pushing another update in June 2014 that broadly targeted spammy search queries.
Panda 4.0 – May – Confirmed
Another update to Panda further protected SERPs against spammy content and shady SEO tactics. It impacted about 7.5 percent of queries.
Payday Loan 2.0 – May Confirmed
This update targeted specific spam websites and “very spammy queries” in another effort to protect users.


Authorship Update – December – Unconfirmed
For a few years, many Google results included information about the page’s author, sometimes including an author portrait next to the search result. With this update, fewer results included this information and it marked the decline of Google authorship for the foreseeable future.
Hummingbird – August – Confirmed
The major Hummingbird update improved conversational search, laying the groundwork for voice search. It also made local search more precise and increased search speed dramatically. This was Google’s biggest update since Caffeine.
In-depth Articles – August – Confirmed
In August 2013, Google created another type of news result, the “in-depth article.” These were evergreen pieces such as blog posts with more depth and less dependence on freshness.
Knowledge Graph Expansion – July – Unconfirmed
Knowledge Graph expanded to include results about companies – specifically companies with robust Google+ pages. For instance, if a user searched for “Nike,” the search engine would display a card featuring a summary of the company, the location of its headquarters and current stock price.
Payday Loan Update – June – Confirmed
This summer update addressed how Google would return results of spammy search queries. Specifically, the update went after payday loans and pornography-related results.
Penguin 2.0 – June – Confirmed
The new version of Penguin updated how spam results were detected and removed from SERPs.
Domain Crowding – May – Confirmed
With this update, Google reduced the likelihood that a single domain would dominate SERP results after page two.
Phantom – May – Unconfirmed
In May 2013, many websites reported dropping traffic levels. There was much speculation from webmasters, but no official announcement from Google.


Knowledge Graph Expansion – December – Confirmed
At the end of 2012, Google expanded the Knowledge Graph to non-English search queries.
65-Pack Update – October – Confirmed
This pack of updates was filled with small algorithm improvements, such as improved UI for movie showtimes and sports scores. It also added better handling of natural language to universal search.
Exact-Match Domains – September – Confirmed
Google devalued exact-match domains with this update. For example a search for cool bow ties would bring up the most relevant bow tie content and not just direct the user to “”
7-Result SERPS – August – Unconfirmed
For some search queries, Google began to display seven results instead of 10. Industry insiders claim this update impacted 18 percent of keywords.
86-Pack Update – August – Confirmed
This pack included all updates made in the summer of 2012. Most were small tweaks, such as a feature to show the live results of soccer games during the European championship.
DMCA Penalty – August – Confirmed
Google began to penalize webpages with repeated copyright violations.
39-Pack Update – June – Confirmed
This pack included updates to how the algorithm identified hacked pages, made additional autocomplete improvements, rolled out music-related rich snippets at the international level and improved how the algorithm detected fresh content.
Knowledge Graph – May – Confirmed
With this update, SERPs began to feature more content on the right side of the page. Related search results appeared for search queries that could mean more than one thing. The knowledge graph also included people summaries pulled from Wikipedia.
52-Pack Update – May – Confirmed
The biggest pack of updates released so far, this one included bug fixes, larger snippets, better handling of non-English languages and internationalization of the search engine’s “Did you mean…?” feature.
Penguin – April – Confirmed
Also known as the “Webspam Update,” Penguin further penalized shady SEO tactics like keyword stuffing.
Panda 3.5 – April – Confirmed
Once again, Google updated Panda but did not announce specific changes.
50-Pack Update – April – Confirmed
This large pack of updates added math symbols to autocomplete, improved handling of symbols for indexing and refreshed UI in the News tab.
Panda 3.4 – March – Confirmed
For the first time, Google announced an update on Twitter. Without elaborating, the company said that the Panda 3.4 refresh would impact 1.6 percent of searches.
Venice – February – Confirmed
With Venice, Google made search more local, offering users results that were more closely tied with their location history.

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