History of Google Algorithm Updates

What are Google Algorithms?

Google’s algorithms are a complex system used to retrieve data from its search index and instantly deliver the best possible results for a query. The search engine uses a combination of algorithms and numerous ranking factors to deliver webpages ranked by relevance on its search engine results pages (SERPs).

In its early years, Google only made a handful of updates to its algorithms. Now, Google makes thousands of changes every year.

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Most of these updates are so slight that they go completely unnoticed. However, on occasion, the search engine rolls out major algorithmic updates that significantly impact the SERPs such as:

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Below we have compiled a full list of Google algorithm launches, updates, and refreshes that have rolled out over the years, as well as links to resources for SEO professionals who want to understand each of these changes.

Google Algorithm Updates & Changes: A Complete History
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All 2012 Updates

December 21, 2012

Panda Update (#23)

Google announced a Panda data refresh impacting ~1.3% of English queries.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update

November 21, 2012

Panda Update (#22)

Google confirmed a Panda data refresh impacting 0.8 percent of English queries.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update

November 5, 2012

Panda Update (#21)

Google confirmed a Panda data refresh impacting ~0.4 percent of worldwide queries worldwide and ~1.1 percent of U.S. queries.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update

October 9, 2012

Page Layout Update #2

Google’s Matt Cutts announced that the page layout algorithm had been updated, impacting 0.7 percent of English queries. This update gave an opportunity to websites hit by the first Google algorithm rollout to potentially recover.

Read: Google Page Layout Algorithm: Everything You Need to Know

October 5, 2012

Penguin Update 1.2

Google’s Matt Cutts announced the second Penguin algorithm data refresh. It impacted 0.3 percent of English queries.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Penguin Algorithm Update

September 28, 2012

Exact Match Domain Update

Google’s Exact Match Domain (or EMD) algorithm update focused on ridding the SERPs of spammy or low-quality exact match domains.

Read: Your Guide to Google’s Exact Match Domain Algorithm Update

September 27, 2012

Panda Update (#20)

This was a significant update of the Panda algorithm that took more than a week to completely rollout and impacted 2.4 percent of English search queries.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update

September 18, 2012

Panda Update 3.9.2 (#19)

Google announced the rollout of a Panda data refresh impacting less than 0.7 percent of queries, adding “expect some flux over the next few days.”

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update

August 20, 2012

Panda Update 3.9.1 (#18)

Google confirmed a Panda data refresh impacting ~1 percent of queries.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update

July 24, 2012

Panda Update 3.9 (#17)

Google announced a Panda refresh impacting ~1 percent of search results.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update

June 25, 2012

Panda Update 3.8 (#16)

Google announced a Panda data refresh impacting ~1 percent of queries worldwide.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update

June 8, 2012

Panda update 3.7 (#15)

Google confirmed a refresh of the Panda algorithm started rolling out on this date, impacting less than 1 percent of U.S. queries and ~1 percent of worldwide queries. Ranking tools suggested it was bigger than more recent Panda updates.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update

May 26, 2012

Penguin Update 1.1

Google’s Matt Cutts announced a data refresh of the Penguin algorithm, impacting less than 0.1 percent of English searches. Websites that saw their rankings downgraded by the initial Penguin launch, and had been proactive in clearing up their link profiles, saw some recovery. Other websites that hadn’t been caught by Penguin the first time around took a hit.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Penguin Algorithm Update

Read: Google Penguin 1.1 Pushed Out As Some Sites Report Recovery (Search Engine Watch)

April 27, 2012

Panda Update 3.6 (#14)

Google confirmed a refresh of the Panda algorithm occurred on this date.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update

April 24, 2012

Penguin Update

A long-anticipated “over-optimization” penalty finally arrived on this day. Google announced the launch of a (then unnamed) algorithm change meant to downrank websites engaging in aggressive webspam (e.g., keyword stuffing, unnatural linking) that violated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Google said this update would impact 3.1 percent of English queries. Just two days later, we learned the name of the algorithm: Penguin.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Penguin Algorithm Update

Read: Another step to reward high-quality sites (Google)

April 19, 2012

Panda Update 3.5 (#13)

Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed a Panda data refresh happened on this date.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update

March 23, 2012

Panda Update 3.4 (#12)

Googled announced a Panda refresh, impacting ~1.6 percent of queries.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update

February 27, 2012

Panda Update 3.3 (#11)

Google announced a data refresh of Panda that made it more “accurate and sensitive” to recent changes on the web.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update

February 27, 2012

Venice Update

After the Venice Update, Google began including search results based either on the searcher’s physical location or IP address. Also, Google could better detect whether a query or webpage had local intent or relevance.

Read: How the Google Venice Update Changed Local Search & SEO

January 19, 2012

Page Layout Update

Google’s page layout algorithm update (or Above the Fold) targeted websites with too many ads above the fold. In other words, a user would have to scroll down the page to see any actual content. Google said this algorithm impacted less than 1 percent of websites.

Read: Google Page Layout Algorithm: Everything You Need to Know

January 18, 2012

Panda Update 3.2 (#10)

Google confirmed a data refresh of Panda took place on this date.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update