Last updated 9/29/16
This page covers all of the Google updates that have occurred since 2012. The Ignite Visibility team keeps this updated on a weekly basis. Below you will find every Google update that occurred in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. This information has been compiled based on Ignite Visibility insight, as well as announcements from Google, Tweets from Matt Cutt’s, articles from Search Engine Land, Search Engine Roundtable, MOZ, and Search Engine Journal. This is one of the most complete lists of Google updates that impact SEO online.
Google Update History 2016
Google Update – Penguin 4.o – September 23, 2016
It’s finally here. After about 2 years of patiently waiting, Penguin 4.0 is here and it’s in real-time according to Google. Penguin has been incorporated into Google’s core algorithm, so when Google re-crawls/re-indexes your pages, those signals will be used right away in the new Penguin algorithm. We also know that Penguin is now more granular, meaning the algorithm will devalue spam on a page-by-page basis, rather than site-wide. In the past, whole sites would be penalized if hit by Penguin, however now spammy links will instead be devalued on a given page. To the surprise of many people, the initial impact hasn’t been as massive most would assume. However we will stay tuned and continue to monitor the algorithm over the next few weeks. PENGUIN!!!!
Google Update – Possum – September 1, 2016
Google never did confirm this update, but that’s not really anything new. This update appeared to target spammy listings in the local pack and caused a major shake up in the local results. There was indeed shifts within organic SERPs, however details are still being hashed out there.
Google Update – Mobile Friendly #2 – May 12, 2016
About a year after the original “mobile friendly” update, Google pushed out another ranking boost for mobile friendly sites. This update essentially gives an additional ranking boost to mobile friendly sites.
Google Update – Unnamed Update – May 10, 2016
It’s tough to tell what exactly happened with this update, however tracking tools across the board showed some pretty big changes. Again, Google never confirmed this update. Details remain to be seen.
Google Update – AdWords Layout Restructuring – February 22, 2016
This was some pretty big news industry wide. Google confirmed removing the right side column ads and now placing four ads at the top of the SERPs. Previously there had been three or less ads at the top. Yes this is a paid search update, but it definitely made an impact on the organic results and CTR and we felt it was highly necessary to cover. Were you on the winning or losing side of this AdWords shake up?
Google Update – Core Algorithm Update – January 9th, 2016
While many people initially suspected that this update may be Penguin related, Google later confirmed that was not the case. Instead they confirmed that it was a “core algo update.” Massive ranking fluctuations, on both mobile and desktop, caused quite a bit of chatter in the industry. This update had a global impact on a multitude of queries. Details are continuing to be gathered as more data is acquired.
Google Update History 2015
Google Update – Google Quality Update (Phantom 3) – November 19, 2015
While Google did not confirm this update, the SEO community had plenty to say about it. This update is running off of the “Quality Update” that we saw early in May of this year. There are not many details to announce just yet, although Google may possibly confirm this update later on as they sometimes tend to do. Many of the monitoring tools out there picked up big changes on November 19th, while a couple tools not so much. So it may just apply to certain queries at the moment.
Google Update – Rankbrain – October 26, 2015
Rankbrain, an artificial intelligence machine learning system, was announced by Google on 10/26/2015. Rankbrain is a Google ranking factor and artificial learning machine that enables them to decipher the best search results. This has already been out for a few months, but Google did not make the announcement until October 26th. It is already considered the third most important signal! While this information is still new to us, it is clear that it is definitely important. We are working on strategies for Rankbrain and will be updating via our blog. Stay tuned!
Google Update – Hacked Site Algorithm Update – October 5, 2015
Hacked sites have been a big concern as of late, as we have seen with many WordPress sites. Google has announced that they will be making an effort to be “aggressively targeting hacked spam in order to protect users and webmasters.” About 5% of queries will be impacted on Google, depending on the language. Note that some users may not see the standard 10 blue links for a given query. Sometimes you may see 5 or even 8 results and this would be a result of hacked sites being removed. We are still learning more information upon this as Google continues to roll out the update.
Google Update – Google Panda 4.2 Update – July 18, 2015
About 10 months since the last refresh, Google finally makes an update to the Panda algorithm. So far it is rolling out a a really slow pace and Google confirmed it can take up to months to completely roll out, even on a site by site basis. This Panda refresh is said to impact 2-3% of queries.
Google Update – Newsworthy Content Update – June 18, 2015
Shortly after a Google Quality Update just last month, we are seeing yet another change by Google. Google has yet to confirm the algorithm update, but tools across the board caught on quickly. The winners in this update appear to be media related sites – mainly news, magazines, newspapers and so on.
Google Update – Google Quality Update – May 1st, 2015
Google has confirmed an update (Phantom 2) that changes how it assesses the quality of content. This has been named the “Quality Update” as we are still gathering more information on it. The update did not go after a specific niche, rather it was an update to the overall core search quality ranking algorithm. It is not a spam-related update. We have seen quite a bit of moving around in the rankings. We will update this timeline with more specific information as it becomes available.
Google Update – Google Mobile Update – April 21, 2015
The Google Mobile Update, known by most as Mobilegeddon, was one of the largest updates to hit the search engine in history. This update made it so all non-mobile websites were demoted in the mobile search results and all mobile ready sites were promoted.
Google Update – Significant Algorithm Update to Google Search – February 4, 2015
This was an unnamed update that Google has rolled out. Many webmasters and SERP tools have noticed a major fluctuation in the Google search results. So far, it has appeared to be an e-commerce related update and a mobile usability update. This update has not officially been confirmed by Google.
Google Update History 2014
While Google has not officially announced an algorithm update, there was definitely an update worth noting. It is not believed to be related to Panda or Penguin, however. We will provide a more detailed update soon, as we are continuing to gather and analyze information related to this.
Google Update – Pigeon Rolls Out to UK, Canada & Australia– December 22, 2014
The local ranking algorithm, Pigeon, first introduced itself to the United States this past summer. Google announced that Pigeon has made it’s way to the UK, Canada & Australia.
Google Update – Penguin Everflux – December 10, 2014
Google announced that the Penguin algorithm would be shifting to being updated “continuously.” A Google representative stated that “the idea is to keep optimizing as we go now.” This is moving away from Penguin previously being updated every so often with major updates. The exact time frame is not clear, considering it is now an ongoing update.
Google Update – Google Pirate 2.0Update – October 24, 2014
The Google Pirate Update was focused on websites that are providing stolen content online. In particular, large website that offer free torrent downloads were hit very hard. A torrent is file that contains metadata about files and folders to be distributed, which means it is basically stolen information.
Google Update – Google Penguin 3 Update – October 17, 2014
For the first time in over a year, Google has officially confirmed the latest Penguin update– Penguin 3.0. This update targets link spam primarily. There were major winners and losers. This thread is still being updated.
Google Update – Google Panda 4.1 Update – September 24, 2014
This was an update to the Google Panda algorithm, which looks at thin content. In this update, we saw that lyric websites, gaming websites and some medical websites were hit hard. Also, sites that published a large amount of short posts saw a big drop in traffic. This update actually added additional ranking factors to the Panda algorithm, it was not just a refresh. Google did not report on what these were.
Google Update – Authorship Removed – August 28, 2014
First we saw Google drop authorship photos on June 28th, then just two months later Google announced they would be completely removing authorship markup and no longer processing it.
Google Update – HTTPS/SSL Update – August 6, 2014
Google announced they would start giving a “lightweight” ranking boost to secure HTTPS/SSL sites. The SEO community was discussing this quite a bit in the months leading up to the announcement made by Google. They made it clear that the boost would be starting out small and could potentially increase if the changes began showing positive signs.
Google Update – Google “Pigeon” Local Search Algorithm Launches – July 24, 2014
The Google “Pigeon” local search algorithm rolls out. This is a major algorithm update that aims to involve more of the traditional web search ranking signals, essentially making local search more user friendly.
Google Update – Authorship Photo Dropped in Search Results – June 28, 2014
Google’s John Mueller stated that all authorship photos would no longer be showing up in the SERPs.
Google Update – MetaFilter 2 Update – June 13, 2014
This is the second MetaFilter update, so we are calling it MetaFilter 2. The first happened in November of 2012 and Google denied the update happened. Two years later they came out and confirmed the 2012 update and then announced MetaFilter 2. The update looks at forum based websites. This particular update increased traffic to forum sites, after it was reduced in 2012.
Google Update – Google Payday Loan 3.0 Update – June 12, 2014
The Google Payday loan 3.0 update targeted spammy websites in the most competitive niches as well as the actual queries themselves. In addition, it lessened the effect of negative SEO, which had been a major issue in this niche. It is still an issue, but possible not as big of an issue following this update.
Google Update – Google Panda 4.0 Update – May 21, 2014
We are still learning about this update. But we do know that Panda historically targets thin content and onsite spam. We also know that Google has gone on record saying that they would soften the Panda update in the future.
Google Update – Payday Loan 2.0 – May 19, 2014
Google launched the first of these updates in June 2013. This is a particularly spamming niche that Google has focused on heavily. We see some of the worst webspam in this area. This update looked at anchor text, sites injected with code and other items.
Google Update – Another Update with no Name – March 24, 2014
This update was reported on Search Engine Roundtable primarily, but it was clear that an update occurred. The update seemed to be a refresh, where the Google algorithm ran a refresh of the Panda update. This resulted in websites who had the correct ranking criteria recovering and websites who were still seen as spamming declining. We saw many clients gain ground following this update.
Google Update – Page Layout Update #3 – February 6, 2014
Google refreshed the page layout update. This update made it so that websites which had a large amount of ads above the fold lost rankings. In general, more than 3 or 4 ads above the fold is too many. We saw a few websites who were hit hard by this update. It was in fact a real and important update for SEO.
Google Update History 2013
Google Update – Authorship Update – December 19, 2013
Google authorship markup was reduced in the search engines by 15%. SEO professionals knew this was coming, as Matt Cutt’s had announced it would happen.
Google Update – No Name Update – December 17, 2013
There was a large update that seemed to change rankings for partial match domains.
Google Update – No Name Update – November 14, 2013
Google did not confirm an update, but many Google trackers noted an update on this day.
Google Update – Penguin 2.1 (#5) – October 4, 2013
Google launched another Penguin update. This was not a major change, but some link spammers lost many rankings.
Google Update – Hummingbird Update – August 20, 2013
This was a huge update! Read about the Hummingbird Update.
Google Update – In-Depth Article Update – August 6, 2013
This allowed articles that were very good to show extra linking in the search results.
Google Update – Knowledge Graph Expansion – July 19, 2013
On this date knowledge graph search results grew by over 50%! Google made a huge push at this time to further integrate KG.
Google Update – Panda Recovery Update – July 18, 2013
Google confirmed another Panda Update. This update made Panda soften up just a bit and some websites recovered.
Google Update – Multi-Week Google Update – June 27, 2013
Matt Cutt’s made it clear that this update occurred, but we didn’t get any details! There were huge SEO fluctuations at this time, but things returned to normal later.
Google Update – Payday Loan Update – June 11, 2013
This update hit major spam niches such as payday loans and adult sites. This update took a couple months to fully roll out.
Google Update – Penguin 2.0 (#4) – May 22, 2013
This update looked at more specific web spam elements that exist on page. It did not have a huge impact, except on black hat websites.
Google Update – Domain Crowding – May 21, 2013
This update created more diversity in the search results.
Google Update – Phantom Update – May 9, 2013
Everyone knows something happened based on fluctuations, but it wasn’t commented on heavily.
Google Update – Panda (#25) – March, 14, 2013
Another important Panda update hit, causing low quality content sites to get hurt badly.
This was a tweaking of the Panda update. It is the first official Google update of 2013. There was not a lot of specifics reported on how this impacted search.
Google Update – What was That! – January 17, 2013
Not even worthy of a name, this was Google’s first unofficial update of 2013 (will this lead to a new numbering system in Google Search Update History?). Despite the company’s claim that this was an insignificant update, the buzz on the forums suggests that this update was actually more meaningful than Panda #24.
Google Update History 2012
Google Update: Date: December 21, 2012
Panda #23: Officially designated a “refresh,” it affected 1.3% of queries, slightly more than its two immediate Panda predecessors, Panda #21 and #22.
Google Update: Date: December 4, 2012
Knowledge Graph Expansion: Knowledge Graph functionality was added to non-English queries, including German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Japanese. More than a simple translation, enhanced KG capabilities were added.
Google Update: Date: November 21, 2012
Panda #22: A mini-update, affecting 08.% of queries in English.
Google Update: Date: November 19, 2012
Another unnamed, but nonetheless significant, update. Confusion on the forums. Could this have been a “trailer” for Panda #22? A frustrating day in Google search update history.
Google Update: Date: November 17, 2012
Meta Filter Update: This was an update that Google actually denied. It was called the Meta Filter Update. We found out in June, 2014 that there was an update that took place. The update hurt forum websites.
Google Update: Date: November 5, 2012
Panda #21: This refresh affected 1.1% of English-language queries and probably appeared on the radar of 0.4% of regular Google users worldwide. A quiet day in Google search engine optimization update history.
Google Update: Date: October 5, 2012
Page layout #2: This involved an adjustment to the page layout to dispense with unwanted ads ‘above the fold’ by the user. This has often been referred to as the “top heavy update” in Google Search Update History. It was noticeable in around 0.7% of English queries.
Google Update: Date: October 5, 2012
Penguin #3: Affecting 0.3% of English queries and 0.4% worldwide. Forum users seemed almost disappointed that Penguin #3 had so little impact.
Google Update: Date: October 4, 2012
August/September 65-Pack: These 65 alterations embraced 7-result SERPS, expansion of the Knowledge Graph, altered the way local results are calculated and changed the way page quality was assessed.
Google Update: Date: September 27, 2012
Exact-Match Domain (EMD) Update: Changing how Google handled EMDs resulted in widespread devaluation, diminishing the number of EMDs in the MozCast data set by greater than 10%. Elimination of low-quality EMDs. Impact on 0.6% of queries (by volume).
Google Update: Date: September 27, 2012
Panda #20: Because the 3.X numbering system was becoming unwieldy, industry sources changed the way Panda updates were numbered. This fairly major update affected 2.4 of queries (data and algo).
Google Update: Date: September 18, 2012
Panda 3.9.2 (#19): Thankfully the last of the infernal 3.X numbering system.
Google Update: Date: August 20, 2012
Panda #3.9.1(#18): Minor refresh, impacting less than 1% of search queries.
Google Update: Date: August 14, 2012
7-Result SERPs: Major change, reducing 10 results per page to 7. Made it easier for a given domain to command the page. Affected 18% of keywords tracked. A big day at the office for Google SEO Update History. This one did not stick however, and 10 is now the standard again.
Google Update: Date: August 10, 2012
DMCA Penalty: Digital Millennium Copyright Act kicks in. Google start penalizing sites with repeated copyright violations.
Google Update: Date: August 10, 2012
June/July 86-pack: Google goes back to school after summer break with a satchel full of Search Quality Highlights. Key updates include a ranking boost for trusted sources, better rank-ordering and Panda algo/data refresh.
Google Update: Date: July 24, 2012
Panda 3.9 (#17): No biggie. Rankings fluctuated for a few days but less than 1% of sites were affected.
Google Update: Date: July 19, 2012
Link Warnings: Google sends out a truckload of unnatural link warnings then almost immediately retracts them. Not the finest moment in Google Update History.
Google Update: Date: June 18, 2012
Panda 3.8 (#16): Data only refresh. Smaller impact than its immediate predecessor, Panda #15.
Google Update: Date: June 8, 2012
Panda 3.7 (#15): Google claimed that fewer than 1% of queries were affected but ranking fluctuation data suggested otherwise.
Google Update: Date: June 7, 2012
May 39-Pack: Major changes including improvements in link-scheme detection, Google News updates and alterations in title/snippet rewriting.
Google Update: Date: May 25, 2012
Penguin 1.1 (#2): Determined to confuse users with yet another awkward numbering system, Google introduced what the rest of us refer to as “Penguin 2.” Google called it a data refresh, affecting less than 0.1% of English queries. Users plunged into turmoil on a holiday weekend. Were they better off? Worse off? Will anybody ever know?
Google Update: Date: May 16, 2012
Knowledge Graph: Another watershed in Google search optimization update history. Google rolls out Knowledge Graph, integrated with SERP, providing supplemental info about certain places, people and things. Knowledge panels expected to make regular appearances on SERPs as time goes by.
Google Update: Date: May 4, 2012
April 52-Pack: Google SEO changes including changes linked to Penguin update, an expanded base index (+15%), updates to sitelinks and better handling of pagination. A productive day in Google update history.
Google Update: Date: April 27, 2012
Panda 3.6 (#14): Busy week for pandas, less so for Google-watchers. Update released less than a week after previous Panda. It is unclear what happened but the impact was negligible.
Google Update: Date: April 24, 2012
Penguin: A watershed day in Google search engine optimization update history and a bad day for black hat-makers. Google rolls out over-optimization penalty in a long-awaited webspam update that was subsequently nicknamed “Penguin.” Spam factors such as keyword stuffing were adjusted. Penguin affected a whopping 3.1% of English-language queries.
Google Update: Date: April 19, 2012
Panda 3.5 (#13): A quiet Panda update with minimal impact.
Google Update: Date: April 16, 2012
Parked Domain Bug: Unintentional algorithm change. Some domains devalued as a result of Google data error.
Google Update: Date: April 3, 2012
March 50-Pack: In this batch of Google SEO changes, Panda 3.4 was confirmed, changes were made to anchor-text scoring, method for interpreting queries with local intent was changed and image search updates were introduced.
Google Update: Date: March 23, 2012
Panda 3.4 (#12): Update announced on Twitter simultaneously with actual rollout of changes. Impact estimated at 1.6% of search results.
Google Update: Date: March 12, 2012
Search Quality Video: Not so much an algorithm update, but a rare opportunity to see the quality team in action. View uncut, annotated video here: http://insidesearch.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/video-search-quality-meeting-uncut.html.
Google Update: Date: February 27, 2012
Panda 3.3 (#11): Minor, post-“flux” update, three days after Panda’s first anniversary. No party hats, just enhanced accuracy and sensitivity.
Google Update: Date: February 27, 2012
February 40-Pack (2): These Google SEO changes incorporated more than 40 updates. Updates included phasing out of two old pieces of algorithm, image search updates and slipping in a crafty Panda update.
Google Update: Date: February 27, 2012
Venice: Organic results were fiercely localized; local search data became more tightly integrated.
Google Update: Date: February 3, 2012
February 17-Pack: Comparatively small as far as monthly updates go. Major edit was integration of Panda into the main search index. Minor edits thrown in included tweaks related to spell-checking, freshness and speed. Updated efficiency and meaner Panda.
Google Update: Date: January 19, 2012
Ads Above the Fold: Updated to penalize sites with excessive ad space “above the fold.”
Google Update: Date: January 18, 2012
Panda 3.2 (#10): A confirmed data update rather than an algorithm update. Weakening of sites with excessive ratio of ads to credible content.
Google Update: Date: January 10, 2012
Search + Your World: Aggressive push of Google+ user profiles and social data into SERPs. Addition of a permanent new toggle button to switch off personalization.
Google Update: Date: January 5, 2012
January 30-Pack: Richer snippets, more relevant site-links, improvements in related-queries, introduction of quality detection of image search landing page.