Google Algorithm Change History [Infographic]: 1998 – 2013

Every year, Google changes its search algorithm around 500–600 times. While most of these changes are minor, every few months Google rolls out a “major” algorithmic update that affects search results in significant ways. For search marketers, knowing the dates of these Google updates can help explain changes in rankings and organic website traffic. Below, we’ve listed the major algorithmic changes that made the biggest impacts on search. Understanding these updates can help with search engine optimization.

This interesting infographic by the folks from Outrider shows everything that has occurred since 1998 all the way to present time, a lot has really happened since Larry and Sergey created Google in 1998 in terms of Algorithm changes, please take a look below to se the Changes that has occurred, we’ve updated this up to changes made in 2013

Google Search Algorithm Change History

google Algorithm changes - Google search

Google Search 2013 Algorithm Updates




Domain Crowding — May 21, 2013

Google released an update to control domain crowding/diversity deep in the SERPs (pages 2+). The timing was unclear, but it seemed to roll out just prior to Penguin 2.0 in the US and possibly the same day internationally.

Google Domain Crowding Update: May 2013 (High Position)

Google Domain Clustering Update (Justin Briggs)




2012 Updates

Panda #23 — December 21, 2012

Right before the Christmas holiday, Google rolled out another Panda update. They officially called it a “refresh”, impacting 1.3% of English queries. This was a slightly higher impact than Pandas #21 and #22.

Confirmed: A Panda Refresh, Version #23 (SER)







August/September 65-Pack — October 4, 2012

Google published their monthly (bi-monthly?) list of search highlights. The 65 updates for August and September included 7-result SERPs, Knowledge Graph expansion, updates to how “page quality” is calculated, and changes to how local results are determined.

Search quality highlights: 65 changes for August and September (Google)









Panda 3.9 (#17) — July 24, 2012

A month after Panda 3.8, Google rolled out a new Panda update. Rankings fluctuated for 5-6 days, although no single day was high enough to stand out. Google claimed ~1% of queries were impacted.

Official: Google Panda 3.9 Refresh (SER)






Penguin 1.1 (#2) — May 25, 2012

Google rolled out its first targeted data update after the “Penguin” algorithm update. This confirmed that Penguin data was being processed outside of the main search index, much like Panda data.

Google Releases Penguin Update 1.1 (SEL)




Panda 3.6 (#14) — April 27, 2012

Barely a week after Panda 3.5, Google rolled out yet another Panda data update. The implications of this update were unclear, and it seemed that the impact was relatively small.

Confirmed: Panda Update 3.6 Happened On April 27th (SEL)


Penguin — April 24, 2012

After weeks of speculation about an “Over-optimization penalty”, Google finally rolled out the “Webspam Update”, which was soon after dubbed “Penguin.” Penguin adjusted a number of spam factors, including keyword stuffing, and impacted an estimated 3.1% of English queries.

Another step to reward high-quality sites (Google)

The Penguin Update: Google’s Webspam Algorithm Gets Official Name (SEL)

Google Penguin Update Recovery Tips & Advice (SEL)

Two Weeks In, Google Talks Penguin Update, Ways To Recover & Negative SEO (SEL)


Panda 3.5 (#13) — April 19, 2012

In the middle of a busy week for the algorthim, Google quietly rolled out a Panda data update. A mix of changes made the impact difficult to measure, but this appears to have been a fairly routine update with minimal impact.

Google Mocks Me For Missing Panda 3.5 (SER)




Panda 3.4 (#12) — March 23, 2012

Google announced another Panda update, this time via Twitter as the update was rolling out. Their public statements estimated that Panda 3.4 impacted about 1.6% of search results.

Google Says Panda 3.4 Is ‘Rolling Out Now’ (SEL)


Search Quality Video — March 12, 2012

This wasn’t an algorithm update, but Google published a rare peek into a search quality meeting. For anyone interested in the algorithm, the video provides a lot of context to both Google’s process and their priorities. It’s also a chance to see Amit Singhal in action.

Video! The search quality meeting, uncut (Google)


Panda 3.3 (#11) — February 27, 2012

Google rolled out another post-”flux” Panda update, which appeared to be relatively minor. This came just 3 days after the 1-year anniversary of Panda, an unprecedented lifespan for a named update.

Google Confirms Panda 3.3 Update (SEL)

Confirmed: Google Panda 3.3 (SER)


February 40-Pack (2) — February 27, 2012

Google published a second set of “search quality highlights” at the end of the month, claiming more than 40 changes in February. Notable changes included multiple image-search updates, multiple freshness updates (including phasing out 2 old bits of the algorithm), and a Panda update.

Search quality highlights: 40 changes for February (Google)







2011 Updates


Panda 3.1 (#9) — November 18, 2011

After Panda 2.5, Google entered a period of “Panda Flux” where updates started to happen more frequently and were relatively minor. Some industry analysts called the 11/18 update 3.1, even though there was no official 3.0. For the purposes of this history, we will discontinue numbering Panda updates except for very high-impact changes.

Google Panda 3.1 Update: 11/18 (SER)







516 Algo Updates — September 21, 2011

This wasn’t an update, but it was an amazing revelation. Google CEO Eric Schmidt told Congress that Google made 516 updates in 2010. The real shocker? They tested over 13,000 updates.

Eric Schmidt’s Congressional Testimony (SEL)






Google+ — June 28, 2011

After a number of social media failures, Google launched a serious attack on Facebook with Google+. Google+ revolved around circles for sharing content, and was tightly integrated into products like Gmail. Early adopters were quick to jump on board, and within 2 weeks Google+ reached 10M users.

Introducing the Google+ project: Real-life sharing, rethought for the web (Google)

Larry Page On Google+: Over 10 Million Users, 1 Billion Items Being Shared Per Day (TechCrunch)







Panda/Farmer — February 23, 2011

A major algorithm update hit sites hard, affecting up to 12% of search results (a number that came directly from Google). Panda seemed to crack down on thin content, content farms, sites with high ad-to-content ratios, and a number of other quality issues. Panda rolled out over at least a couple of months, hitting Europe in April 2011.

The ‘Panda’ That Hates Farms: A Q&A With Google’s Top Search Engineers (Wired)

Google’s Farmer/Panda Update: Analysis of Winners vs. Losers (SEOmoz)


Attribution Update — January 28, 2011

In response to high-profile spam cases, Google rolled out an update to help better sort out content attribution and stop scrapers. According to Matt Cutts, this affected about 2% of queries. It was a clear precursor to the Panda updates.

Algorithm Change Launched (Matt Cutts)

Latest Google Algorithm change (Search News Central)


2010 Updates



Instant Previews — November 2010

A magnifying glass icon appeared on Google search results, allowing search visitors to quickly view a preview of landing pages directly from SERPs. This signaled a renewed focus for Google on landing page quality, design, and usability.

Beyond Instant Results: Instant Previews (Google)



Brand Update — August 2010

Although not a traditional algorithm update, Google started allowing the same domain to appear multiple times on a SERP. Previously, domains were limited to 1-2 listings, or 1 listing with indented results.

Google Search Results Dominated By One Domain (SEL)




Google Places — April 2010

Although “Places” pages were rolled out in September of 2009, they were originally only a part of Google Maps. The official launch of Google Places re-branded the Local Business Center, integrated Places pages more closely with local search results, and added a number of features, including new local advertising options.

Google Local Business Center Becomes “Google Places” (SEL)

Introducing Google Places (Google)

2009 Updates

Real-time Search — December 2009

This time, real-time search was for real- Twitter feeds, Google News, newly indexed content, and a number of other sources were integrated into a real-time feed on some SERPs. Sources continued to expand over time, including social media.

Google Launches Real Time Search Results (SEL)




2008 Updates

Google Suggest — August 2008

In a major change to their logo-and-a-box home-page Google introduced Suggest, displaying suggested searches in a dropdown below the search box as visitors typed their queries. Suggest would later go on to power Google Instant.

Google.com Finally Gets Google Suggest Feature (SEL)


Dewey — April 2008

A large-scale shuffle seemed to occur at the end of March and into early April, but the specifics were unclear. Some suspected Google was pushing its own internal properties, including Google Books, but the evidence of that was limited.

Google’s Cutts Asking for Feedback on March/April ’08 Update (SERoundtable)

2007 Updates


Universal Search — May 2007

While not your typical algorithm update, Google integrated traditional search results with News, Video, Images, Local, and other verticals, dramatically changing their format. The old 10-listing SERP was officially dead. Long live the old 10-listing SERP.

Google 2.0: Google Universal Search (SEL)

2006 Updates

False Alarm — December 2006

There were stirrings about an update in December, along with some reports of major ranking changes in November, but Google reported no major changes.

Google Update Debunked By Matt Cutts (SERoundtable)


Supplemental Update — November 2006

Throughout 2006, Google seemed to make changes to the supplemental index and how filtered pages were treated. They claimed in late 2006 that supplemental was not a penalty (even if it sometimes felt that way).

Confusion Over Google’s Supplemental Index (SERoundtable)

2005 Updates

Big Daddy — December 2005

Technically, Big Daddy was an infrastructure update (like the more recent “Caffeine”), and it rolled out over a few months, wrapping up in March of 2006. Big Daddy changed the way Google handled URL canonicalization, redirects (301/302) and other technical issues.

Indexing timeline (MattCutts.com)

Todd, Greg & Matt Cutts on WebMasterRadio (SEOmoz)


Jagger — October 2005

Google released a series of updates, mostly targeted at low-quality links, including reciprocal links, link farms, and paid links. Jagger rolled out in at least 3 stages, from roughly September to November of 2005, with the greatest impact occurring in October.

A Review Of The Jagger 2 Update (SERoundtable)

Dealing With Consequences of Jagger Update (WMW)


Google Local/Maps — October 2005

After launching the Local Business Center in March 2005 and encouraging businesses to update their information, Google merged its Maps data into the LBC, in a move that would eventually drive a number of changes in local SEO.

Google Merges Local and Maps Products (Google)



Personalized Search — June 2005

Unlike previous attempts at personalization, which required custom settings and profiles, the 2005 roll-out of personalized search tapped directly into users? search histories to automatically adjust results. Although the impact was small at first, Google would go on to use search history for many applications.

Google Relaunches Personal Search – This Time, It Really Is Personal (SEW)

Search gets personal (Google)


XML Sitemaps — June 2005

Google allowed webmasters to submit XML sitemaps via Webmaster Tools, bypassing traditional HTML sitemaps, and giving SEOs direct (albeit minor) influence over crawling and indexation.

New “Google Sitemaps” Web Page Feed Program (SEW)


Bourbon — May 2005

“GoogleGuy” (likely Matt Cutts) announced that Google was rolling out “something like 3.5 changes in search quality.” No one was sure what 0.5 of a change was, but Webmaster World members speculated that Bourbon changed how duplicate content and non-canonical (www vs. non-www) URLs were treated.

Google Update “Bourbon” (Batelle Media)

Bourbon Update Survival Kit (SERoundtable)


Allegra — February 2005

Webmasters witnessed ranking changes, but the specifics of the update were unclear. Some thought Allegra affected the “sandbox” while others believed that LSI had been tweaked. Additionally, some speculated that Google was beginning to penalize suspicious links.

Google’s Feb. 2005 Update (SEW)


Nofollow — January 2005

To combat spam and control outbound link quality, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft collectively introduce the “nofollow” attribute. Nofollow helps clean up unvouched for links, including spammy blog comments. While not a traditional algorithm update, this change gradually has a significant impact on the link graph.

Google, Yahoo, MSN Unite On Support For Nofollow Attribute For Links (SEW)

2004 Updates

Google IPO — August 2004

Although obviously not an algorithm update, a major event in Google’s history – Google sold 19M shares, raised $1.67B in capital, and set their market value at over $20B. By January 2005, Google share prices more than doubled.

Google IPO priced at $85 a share (CNN)


Brandy — February 2004

Google rolled out a variety of changes, including a massive index expansion, Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), increased attention to anchor text relevance, and the concept of link “neighborhoods.” LSI expanded Google’s ability to understand synonyms and took keyword analysis to the next level.

Google’s Brandy Update Exposed (WebProNews)

How To Beat Google’s “Brandy” Update (SitePoint)


2003 Updates

Florida — November 2003

This was the update that put updates (and probably the SEO industry) on the map. Many sites lost ranking, and business owners were furious. Florida sounded the death knell for low-value late 90s SEO tactics, like keyword stuffing, and made the game a whole lot more interesting.

What Happened To My Site On Google? (SEW)


Supplemental Index — September 2003

In order to index more documents without sacrificing performance, Google split off some results into the “supplemental” index. The perils of having results go supplemental became a hotly debated SEO topic, until the index was later reintegrated.

Search Engine Size Wars & Google’s Supplemental Results (SEW)



Esmerelda — June 2003

This marked the last of the regular monthly Google updates, as a more continuous update process began to emerge. The “Google Dance” was replaced with “Everflux”. Esmerelda probably heralded some major infrastructure changes at Google.

Google Update Esmeralda (Kuro5hin)


Dominic — May 2003

While many changes were observed in May, the exact nature of Dominic was unclear. Google bots “Freshbot” and “Deepcrawler” scoured the web, and many sites reported bounces. The way Google counted or reported backlinks seemed to change dramatically.

Understanding Dominic – Part 2 (WMW)


Cassandra — April 2003

Google cracked down on some basic link-quality issues, such as massive linking from co-owned domains. Cassandra also came down hard on hidden text and hidden links.

Google – Update “Cassandra” is here (Econsultancy)


Boston — February 2003

Announced at SES Boston, this was the first named Google update. Originally, Google aimed at a major monthly update, so the first few updates were a combination of algorithm changes and major index refreshes (the so-called “Google Dance”). As updates became more frequent, the monthly idea quickly died.

2002 Updates

1st Documented Update — September 2002

Before “Boston” (the first named update), there was a major shuffle in the Fall of 2002. The details are unclear, but this appeared to be more than the monthly Google Dance and PageRank update. As one webmaster said of Google: “they move the toilet mid stream”.

September, 2002 Google Update Discussion – Part 1 (WMW)

Dancing The Google Dance (Level343)

2000 Updates

Google Toolbar — December 2000

Guaranteeing SEO arguments for years to come, Google launched their browser toolbar, and with it, Toolbar PageRank (TBPR). As soon as webmasters started watching TBPR, the Google Dance began.

Google Launches The Google Toolbar (Google)

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Chuka is the Managing Editor @ TechTalkAfrica.com

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