Google Algorthm History

The History of SEO
"Fred" (Unconfirmed) — March 8, 2017
Google rolled out what appeared to be a major update, with reports of widespread impacts across the SEO community. Gary Illyes jokingly referred to is as "Fred", and the name stuck, but he later made it clear that this was not an official confirmation.

Unnamed Major Update — February 6, 2017 Algorithm changes beginning on February 1st continued for a full week, peaking around February 6th (some reported the 7th). Webmaster chatter and industry case studies suggest these were separate events.

The February 7, 2017 Google Algorithm Update – Analysis and Findings From A Significant Core Ranking Update (GSQi)

February 7th Google Algorithm Update Was Big (SER)

Unnamed Major Update — February 1, 2017 There was a period of heavy algorithm flux starting around February 1st and peaking around February 6th. It is unclear whether this was multiple algorithm updates or a single update with an extended roll-out, but anecdotal evidence suggests at least two updates.

Intrusive Interstitial Penalty — January 10, 2017 Google started rolling out a penalty to punish aggressive 
interstitials and pop-ups that might damage the mobile user experience. Google also provided a rare warning of this update five months in advance. MozCast showed high temperatures from January 10-11, but many SEOs reported minimal impact on sites that should have been affected.

Google warns it will crack down on “intrusive interstitials” in January (SEL)

Official: Google Intrusive Interstitials Mobile Penalty Now Rolling Out (SER)

2016 Updates
Unnamed Major Update — December 14, 2016
Multiple Google trackers showed massive flux around December 14-15, including a rare MozCast temperature of 109°F. Webmaster chatter was heavy as well, but Google did not confirm an update.

December 15th Google Search Algorithm Update Signals (SER)

Unnamed Major Update — November 10, 2016 MozCast detected a major (106°) spike on November 10th and another on the 18th. Industry chatter was high during both periods, with some suggesting that the second spike was a reversal of the first update. Google has not confirmed either event. Many people reported bad dates in SERPs during the same time period, but it's unclear whether this was causal or just a coincidence.

November 10, 2016 Google Algorithm Update – Was It A Core Ranking Update, The Mobile-first Index Being Tested, or Both? (GSQi)

Penguin 4.0, Phase 2 — October 6, 2016 The second phase of Penguin 4.0 was the reversal of all previous Penguin penalties. This seemed to happen after the new code rolled out, and may have taken as long as two weeks. Post-Penguin activity had one final peak on October 6th (116°), but it is unclear whether this was Penguin or a new update. Algorithm temperatures finally started to drop after October 6th.

Penguin 4.0, Phase 1 — September 27, 2016 The first phase of Penguin 4.0, which probably launched around September 22-23, was the rollout of the new, "gentler" Penguin algorithm, which devalues bad links instead of penalizing sites. The exact timeline is unconfirmed, but we believe this rollout took at least a few days to fully update, and may have corresponded to an algorithm temperature spike (113°) on September 27th.

Penguin 4.0 Announcement — September 23, 2016 After almost two years of waiting, Google finally announced a major Penguin update. They suggested the new Penguin is now real-time and baked into the "core" algorithm. Initial impact assessments were small, but it was later revealed that the Penguin 4.0 rollout was unusually long and multi-phase (see September 27th and October 6th).

Penguin is now part of our core algorithm (Google)

Google updates Penguin, says it now runs in real time within the core search algorithm (SEL)

Image/Universal Drop — September 13, 2016 MozCast recorded a nearly-record 111° temperature and a 50% drop in SERPs with image (universal/vertical) results. The universal result shake-up opened up an organic position on page 1, causing substantial ranking shifts, but it's likely that this was part of a much larger update.

 Penguin 4.0: Was It Worth the Wait? (Moz)

"Possum" — September 1, 2016 While unconfirmed by Google, MozCast recorded extreme temperatures of 108° and a drop in local pack prevalence, and the local SEO community noted a major shake-up in pack results. Data suggests this update (or a simultaneous update) also heavily impacted organic results.

Everything you need to know about Google’s ‘Possum’ algorithm update (SEL)

Is a big Google search update happening? Chatter thinks so. (SEL)

Mobile-friendly 2 — May 12, 2016 Just more than a year after the original "mobile friendly" update, Google rolled out another ranking signal boost to benefit mobile-friendly sites on mobile search. Since the majority of sites we track are already mobile-friendly, it's likely the impact of the latest update was small.

Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm boost has rolled out (SEL)

Continuing to make the web more mobile friendly (Google)

Unnamed Major Update — May 10, 2016 MozCast and other Google weather trackers showed a historically rare week-long pattern of algorithm activity, including a 97-degree spike. Google would not confirm this update, and no explanation is currently available.
Google Dismisses Any Recent Major Algorithm Update (SER)

AdWords Shake-up — February 23, 2016 Google made major changes to AdWords, removing right-column ads entirely and rolling out 4-ad top blocks on many commercial searches. While this was a paid search update, it had significant implications for CTR for both paid and organic results, especially on competitive keywords.

Four Ads on Top: The Wait Is Over (Moz)

Google AdWords Switching to 4 Ads on Top, None on Sidebar (SEM Post)

Unnamed Update — January 8, 2016 Multiple tracking tools (including MozCast) reported historically-large rankings movement, which Google later confirmed as a "core algo update". Google officially said that this was not a Penguin update, but details remain sketchy.

Google Confirms: Core Search Ranking Update Took Place But Not Penguin Related (SER)

2015 Updates
RankBrain* — October 26, 2015 Google made a major announcement, revealing that machine learning had been a part of the algorithm for months, contributing to the 3rd most influential ranking factor. *Note: This is an announcement date - we believe the actual launch was closer to spring 2015.

Google Turning Its Lucrative Web Search Over to AI Machines (Bloomberg)

Panda 4.2 (#28) — July 17, 2015 Google announced what was most likely a Panda data refresh, saying that it could take months to fully roll out. The immediate impact was unclear, and there were no clear signs of a major algorithm update.

Google Panda Update: Everything We Know About Panda 4.2 (The SEM Post)

Google Panda 4.2 Is Here (SEL)

May 27,2015 Twitter announces they now categorize off Tweets examples; NEWS, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT, TECH & SCIENCE, LIFESTYLE, MUSIC etc.

May 1, 2015  Google recognizes all symbols using the shift key when typing number on the keyboard via the algorythum and Google Search.

The Quality Update: May 3, 2015 After many reports of large-scale ranking changes, originally dubbed "Phantom 2", Google acknowledged a core algorithm change impacting "quality signals". This update seems to have had a broad impact, but Google didn't reveal any specifics about the nature of the signals involved. 

The Quality Update: Google Confirms Changing How Quality Is Assessed, Resulting In Rankings Shake-Up (SEL)
Google's 'phantom' algorithm update hits websites (CNBC)

Mobile Update AKA "Mobilegeddon" — April 22, 2015
In a rare move, Google pre-announced an algorithm update, telling us that mobile rankings would differ for mobile-friendly sites starting on April 21st. The impact of this update was, in the short-term, much smaller than expected, and our data showed that algorithm flux peaked on April 22nd. Finding more mobile-friendly search results (Google) 7 Days After Mobilegeddon: How Far Did the Sky Fall? (Moz)

February 21, 2015, Introducing "Periscope" video on Twitter.Capture life's most meaningful moments with video on Twitter, and show the world what's moving in yours. And instantly reach an audience around the world.

February 4, 2015  Multiple SERP-trackers and many webmasters reported major flux in Google SERPs. Speculation ranged from an e-commerce focused update to a mobile usability update. Google did not officially confirm an update.  Significant Google Search Algorithm Update Yesterday (SER) Google Brand-eCommerce “Update” causing fluctuations (Searchmetrics)

February 4, 2015, Google announced search results designated to Twitter searches completed on Google's search engine Twitter to receive power and authority listing on the Google search engine. Resulting in Twitters own search result on Google. 

2014 Updates

Pigeon Expands (UK, CA, AU) — December 22, 2014

Penguin Everflux — December 10, 2014
Pirate 2.0 — October 21, 2014
Penguin 3.0 — October 17, 2014
"In The News" Box — October 2014
Panda 4.1 (#27) — September 23, 2014
Authorship Removed — August 28, 2014
HTTPS/SSL Update — August 6, 2014
Pigeon — July 24, 2014
Authorship Photo Drop — June 28, 2014
Payday Loan 3.0 — June 12, 2014
Panda 4.0 — May 19, 2014
Payday Loan 2.0 — May 16, 2014
Unnamed Update — March 24, 2014
Page Layout #3 — February 6, 2014

2013 Major Updates
Penguin 2.1, October 4, 2013
Hummingbird, August 20th, 2013
   Complete Rewrote the Algorithm
   LUI - Linguistics User Interface
   Video indexed faster than all other material on Google
   App Friendly
   Mobile Friendly
Penguin, May 22, 2013
Panda Refresh, March 14, 2013
Panda January 22, 2013
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