History of Google Algorithm Updates

Billie Hillier

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Ever wondered how updates like Panda, Penguin, and more influence your website’s search performance?

Let’s dig into the world of Google algorithms, exploring their release dates, purpose, and the best practices you should follow to maintain your site’s SEO health.

Whether you’re new to SEO or seeking to broaden your knowledge, our guide to Google’s algorithm updates offers insights to keep you ahead of the game.

Please note that the list below does not cover every single Google update (there have been hundreds if not thousands), but it should give you a solid understanding of the most impactful updates.

It’s also important to note that Google doesn’t always confirm or elaborate on its updates, so the SEO community often relies on observed changes and analysis to understand the effects.

Google Algorithm Update

Panda

Release Date: February 24, 2011

Still in Use: Yes, it’s now part of Google’s core algorithm.

Description: The Panda update focused on content quality. It targeted sites with thin, duplicated, or low-quality content.

Important Information: Regularly updating your site with high-quality, unique content can help you perform well under this algorithm.

Penguin

Release Date: April 24, 2012

Still in Use: Yes, it’s also integrated into Google’s core algorithm.

Description: Penguin aimed to down-rank sites with unnatural link profiles, such as those involved in link schemes or with a high amount of exact-match anchor text.

Important Information: Ensure you have a natural link profile with diverse anchor text and avoid participating in link schemes.

Hummingbird

Release Date: August 22, 2013

Still in Use: Yes

Description: Hummingbird was designed to better understand search queries, particularly in relation to conversational or semantic search.

Important Information: This update means that creating content that answers users’ queries directly can be beneficial.

Pigeon

Release Date: July 24, 2014 (US) and December 22, 2014 (UK, Canada, Australia)

Still in Use: Yes

Description: Pigeon impacted local search results, providing more accurate and relevant local search results.

Important Information: This underlines the importance of optimizing your website for local SEO, especially if you’re a local business.

Mobile

Release Date: April 21, 2015

Still in Use: Yes

Description: Known as “Mobilegeddon,” this update rewarded mobile-friendly websites in the search results.

Important Information: In today’s mobile-first world, ensuring your site is mobile-friendly is critical.

Learn more about the importance of Mobile Optimization.

RankBrain

Release Date: October 26, 2015

Still in Use: Yes

Description: Part of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm, RankBrain uses machine learning to better understand user queries.

Important Information: While it’s hard to optimize for RankBrain, creating user-focused content can help.

Possum

Release Date: September 1, 2016

Still in Use: Yes

Description: The Possum update was aimed to improve the user experience in local search results. It led to a boost in rankings for businesses that are outside of the physical city area.

Important Information: Keep your Google My Business listing updated and accurate to benefit from this update.

Fred

Release Date: March 8, 2017

Still in Use: Yes

Description: Fred targeted websites violating Google’s webmaster guidelines, particularly related to aggressive monetization.

Important Information: Ensure that your site’s primary goal is to provide value to users, not to generate excessive ad revenue.

Medic

Release Date: August 1, 2018

Still in Use: Yes

Description: This core update (nicknamed “Medic” by the SEO community) had a significant impact on health and wellness websites, but affected other industries as well.

Important Information: The update emphasizes Google’s focus on Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) for content, particularly in industries that impact a person’s well-being.

BERT

Release Date: October 25, 2019

Still in Use: Yes

Description: BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) aims to better understand the context of words in search queries.

Important Information: This update reinforces the importance of creating content that answers user queries in a detailed and helpful way.

Core Web Vitals

Release Date: May 2021

Still in Use: Yes

Description: This update made page experience an official Google ranking factor. Core Web Vitals focus on three aspects of the user experience—loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability of page content.

Important Information: Pay attention to your website’s load speed, interactivity, and layout shifts to enhance user experience and improve rankings.

Learn more about the importance of Core Web Vitals.

Remember, Google updates its algorithm regularly, sometimes with smaller changes that happen daily.

The most successful SEO strategy is to focus on creating high-quality content and providing a user-friendly experience.

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