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Prajwol Rai

Google Algorithm Updates and Changes History

Prajwol Rai SEO


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Google changes it algorithm frequently and it is very hard task for marketers to know the Google’s pattern of algorithm roll out.  Most of the updates released by Google throughout the year are minor updates which have lesser impact on search queries and affect lesser sites throughout the world. Google occasionally releases major algorithm updates which have a bigger impact on search queries causing rank decrease of many sites and even penalisation of some sites which go against Google policy.

It is surely a critical thing to know the pattern of Google’s algorithm updates and changes, but keeping the track of Google’s algorithm updates history can help you to get perspective on the rank fluctuations and organic website traffic, ultimately you can recheck your SEO strategies and improve search engine optimisation of your website.

To help you keep track of all minor and major algorithmic updates by Google, we had a deep research on this and documented the major and minor SEO updates and changes that was confirmed by Google. However, some <g>for</g> the changes were not confirmed by Google, but some webmasters noticed sudden drop in their website rankings and some experienced ranking fluctuations which made them sure there was some changes or updates done by Google behind the curtain.

Now, let’s go through all the major and minor Google algorithm updates.

2016 Google Updates

Google introduced a new algorithm “Possum” algorithm in 2016 to diversify the local results and reduce spam. Updates to mobile friendly and Penguin algorithms where also seen.

Major Updates

Penguin 4.0 Released (23rd <g>September,</g> 2016)

Google announced the release of Penguin 4.0 update on 23rd of September, 2016. The main objective of this algorithm was to reduce the spams in the search engine result. Websites that employed black hat SEO tricks such as keyword stuffing and linking schemes to rank their site in the SERP were found affected or <g>penalised</g>. People did see fluctuation in their rankings but in overall, nothing major effect <g>were</g> seen.

<g>Pengiun</g> 4.0 had two major changes. First change, it is now real time. So, the Penguin’s data is refreshed in real time which results <g>into</g> the quick visibility of the changes. The next change is Penguin is now more granular. Rather affecting the whole website, it devalues the spam adjusting ranking based on spam signals.


 “Possum Algorithm Update” (1st September, 2016)

Google updated Possum algorithm with the objective to diversify the local results and prevent spam from ranking. This Possum algorithm was updated on 1st September of 2016. The algorithm used addresses and affiliation to filter out the duplicate local results. Possum algorithm update has given more priority to the physical location of the business. So, if a user is searching <g>from</g> a closer location from you then, the chances is more that your business get higher ranking.


Mobile Friendly Update (12th May, 2016)

Google rolled out the first mobile friendly algorithm on 21st April, 2015 which was to boost the ranking of the sites with mobile friendly pages. After one year of the mobile update, Google rolled out another mobile friendly algorithm on 12th May, 2016 with the objective to increase the effect of the ranking signal to help the users find even more pages that are relevant and mobile-friendly. Those sites with mobile friendly design did not have any bad effect.


 Unnamed Major Update (10th <g>May,</g> 2016)

Though Google did not confirm this unnamed major update which took on 10th May 2016, many of the MozCast and other Google <g>Webweather</g> trackers went through a <g>97 degree</g> spike algorithm changes. From 6th May to 13th May, there was a continuous fluctuation in Google SERP.


AdWords Change Update (23rd February, 2016)

Google performed Adword change update on 23rs February, 2016. The update made a major change to Adwords by removing the ads of right-column entirely and adding 4 ads at the top blocks on many commercial searches. These paid search updates not only lead to zero sidebar in the SERP, but it also lead to increase in bottom of the SERP ads.

Minor Updates

SERP Shake-Up (13th September, 2016)

High fluctuation in rankings, especially in local search was seen in between early to mid September. Webmasters were pretty sure there were substantial ranking shifts however, there were no confirmation from Google about the update.


Google Core Quality Rank Update (8th January, 2016)

Webmasters found lots of changes in their ranking, which they thought was Penguin update. But, later on Google denied it and confirmed the update was core ranking change totally un-related to Penguin.


2015 Google Updates

2015 was the year of mobile update, Google decided to give ranking boost to those sites which had mobile friendly web pages.

Major Updates

RankBrain Related Algorithm Update (26th October, 2015)

Google announced the release of RankBrain algorithm, which uses artificial intelligence to filter results. Webmasters viewed unusually high increase in SERP fluctuations in Google desktop for a month. This algorithm helped Google to deliver more intelligent and precisely focused related search results.


Panda 4.2 (17th July, 2015)

The spammy links and sites with low quality which were penalised by Google Panda 4.1 in September, 2014 were refreshed by this update as Panda 4.2 was the first refresh after the update in 2014. The update took whole month to roll out and only 2-3% of queries were impacted by this Panda update.


The Core Quality Update — May 3, 2015

After spikes in Google desktop SERP fluctuation from April end to mid-May, Google confirmed Google core quality update on 13th May, 2015 which was called Google “Phantom 2” algorithm update. This update had a broad impact on “quality signals”.


Google Mobile-Friendly Update (22nd April, 2015)

On April 21st, 2015 Google pre-announced the Google Mobilegeddon Mobile Update to change the mobile results ranking. This update gave a boost to mobile friendly pages in Google’s mobile search results and the sites without mobile friendly design were given less priority. However, the impact of this update was much smaller than expected.


Minor Updates

HTTPS Update (17th December, 2015)

Google announced HTTPS update on 17th December, 2015 in order to decrease the risk for users to browse a website over an insecure connection. After this update, HTTPS sites were give more priority and Google started giving ranking boost to those HTTPS URLs in search results.


Hacked Sites Update (5th October, 2015)

In order to improve the quality of search, Google updated hacked sites algorithm which removed all the hacked sites from the search results. 5 % of the queries were expected to be affected by this algorithmic change depending on the language.


Google Snack Pack Update (August, 2015)

Google rolled out an important update in august of 2015. The update gave new design to local by removing the normal 7 packs map that shows up in the local business search results and replaced it by 3 packs map.


Unnamed Update (4th February, 2015)

Although Google didn’t give any confirmation about the update, webmasters tracked fluctuation in Google SERPs. However, Google confirmed that the sudden movement in ranking was not related to Google Penguin or Google Panda.


2014 Google Updates

2014 was the year of the famous Google Panda Algorithm Update which hammered a lot of website rankings. Google also refreshed Pigeon and Penguin Updates. This year, Google made a big decision by removing the Google Authorship functionality.

 Major Updates

Google Pigeon Expanded (22nd December, 2014)

Google expanded the Google Pigeon Algoithm update that rolled out on 24th July, 2014. Though the update was confirmed on 22nd December, but, it was rolled out as early as 19th in UK, Canada and Australia. This update brought significant volatility in Maps results in UK, Australia and Canada.


Penguin 3.0 Update (18th October, 2014)

Google released its sixth Penguin refresh update on 18th October, 2014. This update was smaller than expected as it only affected 1 % of US English queries whereas the original Penguin update affected >3% of the queries. Recoveries of sites penalised by previous Penguin updated were reported.


Panda 4.1 (#27) (23rd September, 2014)

Google started a slow roll out of an improved Panda algorithm in early 20th of September. Few signals that helped Panda identify the low quality content more precisely were discovered in this update. This global roll-out affected 3-5% of the queries.


Google Authorship Removed (28th August, 2014)

Google completely removed Authorship functionality from its search results and webmaster tools on 28th August, 2014. This update no longer tracked data from content using rel=author markup.


HTTPS/SSL Update (6th August, 2014)

Google announced that the sites with secure connections will be given higher priority with slight boost in the ranking from 6th August, 2014. Google carried out months of speculations before rolling out this update.


Google Pigeon Update (24th July, 2014)

Google rolled out this local algorithm update with an aim to provide more useful, relevant and accurate local search results. This algorithm update had an impact on local search results rankings with an increase and decrease in website referrals, leads and businesses of some sites.


 Payday Loan Algorithm 3.0 (12th June, 2014)

After less than a month of Payday Loan 2.0 anti-spam update, Google rolled out another major update, Payday Loan Algorithm 3.0 update. Payday Loan 3.0 targeted more spammy queries whereas Payday 2.0 targeted specifically spammy sites.


Panda 4.0 Update (#26) (20th May, 2014)

Panda 4.0 update rolled out with lots of chatter in SEO and webmaster forums causing sharp fluctuations in search result rankings. This major update included both algorithm update and a data refresh update affecting about 7.5% of English language queries.


 Payday Loan Algorithm 2.0 Update (18th May, 2014)

Payday Loan Algorithm 2.0 targeted very spammy queries and was totally unrelated to the Panda and Penguin algorithm. This global roll out had an impact on English queries by about 0.2%.


Page Layout Algorithm Update (#3) (6th February, 2014)

Google updated its Page Layout Algorithm, which is also known as “Top Heavy 3 Update” in the beginning of February month. This algorithm update targeted sites with too many ads above the fold in order to make search experience more efficient and quick.


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