A Timeline of Google Algorithm Updates
Google was founded in 1998. From its humble beginnings, it's become the way to find what you need on the Internet.
But Google hasn't always been the reliable source of information that it is today. It took a lot of time, energy, and work to get there. This is a complete list of Google's known updates that have turned it into the best search engine in the world.
Updates are default in chronological order, from oldest to newest. Use the sidebar interface to search, sort, and order (desktop only)!
August 2004 — Google IPO
On August 19, 2004, Google announced that it would go public for $85/share. They sold 19 million shares, raised $1.67 billion in capital, and set their market value at over $20 billion.
June 28, 2011 — Google+ Launched
The search engine officially launched a social platform, which revolved around organizing friends into circles and sharing content. Within 2 weeks, Google+ had 10 million registered users.
September 21, 2011 — 516 Algorithm Updates
Nothing actually changed on this particular date, but Google CEO Eric Schmidt revealed to Congress that Google made 516 algorithm updates in 2010. Even more impressively, they tested more than 13,000 in the same time period.
December 2000 — Google Toolbar
Google's free browser plugin meant that for the first time, Internet users could perform searches without going to the website of a search engine. This made searching easier than ever before, and also introduced Toolbar PageRank, or as it became known to SEOs, TBPR.
September 2003 - Supplemental Index
Google was quickly growing and had to temporarily move some pages into a "supplemental index." Webmasters were unhappy with the change, but the supplemental pages were ultimately brought back to the main index.
June 2005 — Personalized search
For the first time, Google started utilizing users' search histories to provide personalized results. They explained that they would "refine your results based on your searching habits," which was alarming to some users.
October 2005 — Google Local/Maps
Following its launch of the Local Business Center in March, Google officially merged its Local and Maps data. This meant that finding information and detailed directions to local businesses was now a seamless process.
May 2007 — Universal Search
With this update, Google started integrating News, Video, Images, Local, and other verticals into the traditional search results. This was the end of the original 10-listing SERP for many queries.
August 2008 — Google Suggest
This is when Google first started offering suggested searches as visitors began typing in the search box. The feature was launched after four years of development, and provided suggestions based on an aggregate of searches.
August 2009 — Caffeine preview
This was just a preview of the major changes to take place in 2010, which were intended to improve the speed, accuracy, size, and comprehensiveness of Google search. Beta testers were extremely impressed with how much the new infrastructure impacted speed.
December 2009 — Real-time Search
With real-time search, results pages automatically updated with new information including tweets, Google news articles, and new pages. This only affected queries with a "real-time component," and users could stop the refreshes with a pause button.
April 2010 — Google Places
With the launch of Google Places, "Places" pages were no longer only a part of Google Maps. Instead, they were integrated with local search results, and included new local advertising options.
June 2010 — Caffeine
Almost a year after the preview, Google officially completed the Caffeine infrastructure. This boosted their speed, integrated crawling and indexation, and resulted in a fresher index, according to Google.
September 2010 — Google Instant
With Google Instant, search results were displayed and changed as users typed their queries. These predictions made search even faster than before, but the feature's impact on SEO was minimal.
November 2010 — Instant Previews
added a magnifying glass icon next to search results that showed a preview of the landing page when you placed your cursor on a result. This allowed users to compare results and determine relevancy without even leaving the SERPs.
March 30, 2011 — The +1 Button
With the +1 button, users could "vote" for pages that they liked and influence the search results within their social circles. Many people considered this Google's response to the Facebook "like" button.
June 2, 2011 — Schema.org
Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft announced an alliance called schema.org, which was intended to help all three provide richer search results. The alliance provided a "common foundation of support for a set of microdata types," which helped give semantic meaning to site content.
August 16, 2011 — Expanded Sitelinks
With the introduction of expanded sitelinks, links to as many as 12 internal pages within a site now showed up below the main search result. This was a shift from the original sitelink feature, which was just a single row of four links. Google also explained that their algorithm could help predict which sections of the site users wanted and adjust sitelinks accordingly.
January 10, 2012 — Search + Your World
With Search+, Google started aggressively pushing Google+ social data and user profiles into search results. They explained that they were now a search engine "that understands not only content, but also people and relationships." For users who did not want Google+ data included in search results, they also added a button to shut off personalization.
August 14, 2012 — 7-Result SERPs
With this shift, any SERP with expanded sitelinks for the first result would only display seven results on the first page instead of 10. This affected almost all queries that were either brand names or domain matches.
August 6, 2013 — In-depth Articles
With this feature, "in-depth articles" began to show in a sidebar for many queries. These articles were ranked based on quality and depth, and according to Google, were intended to help users who wanted to learn about broad topics instead of simply getting an answer to a quick question.
December 19, 2013 — Authorship Shake-up
Authorship (attribution in the SERPs with a name and photo) started to disappear for about 15% of results. Many site owners initially thought that this was a penalty or an indicator that Google thought their sites were low quality, but it really just foreshadowed the eventual drop of authorship from all results.
June 28, 2014 — Authorship Photo Drop
Google announced that they were dropping authorship photos from all SERPs. At this point, authorship was only denoted by a name and much less prominent.
August 28, 2014 — Authorship Removed
Exactly a month after removing authorship photos, Google announced that they were completely removing authorship from all SERPs. As John Mueller explained, they made this change because authorship wasn't, "as useful to our users as we'd hoped, and can even distract from... results."
October 2014 — "In The News" Box
With the new "In The News" box, Google started to broaden their news sources. Unlike the results delivered with Universal Search, this news box incorporated articles from non-traditional sites, instead of only mainstream media sources.
January 2005 — Nofollow
For the first time, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft introduced the "nofollow" attribute, which denoted that a site couldn't vouch for the quality or appropriateness of the linked site. This attribute was intended to help clean up link spam and control outbound link quality.
June 2005 — XML Sitemaps
This is when Google first allowed webmasters to submit XML sitemaps, which bypassed traditional HTML sitemaps and gave SEOs control over how their sites were crawled and indexed. Google said that this new system would help it better gather pages, and that site owners could indicate how often their pages changed and should be revisited.
February 2009 — Rel=canonical Tag
In a joint announcement, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo introduced the "rel=canonical" tag, which allowed webmasters to canonicalize URLs without affecting site visitors. This meant that site owners could organize content that was accessible from multiple URLs and indicate to search engines which one they preferred, which helped eliminate concerns about duplicate content.
September 15, 2011 — Pagination Elements
Google introduced rel="next" and rel="prev" in order to help fix crawl and duplication problems created by pagination. These tags indicated the relationships between component URLs in paginated series, and allowed Google to send users to the most relevant page. Google also announced that this improved consolidation for "view all" pages.
October 18, 2011 — Query Encryption
Google announced that they would start encrypting search queries for privacy reasons. They said that the shift had to do with "the growing importance of protecting the personalized search results" they delivered, and that the search experience would be different for signed in users. This encryption signaled the start of "(not provided)" for organic keyword referral data, which made SEO much more difficult.
March 12, 2012 — Search Quality Video
Google published uncut footage of a December 2011 meeting on their official blog. The video showed Google employees at their weekly "Quality Launch Review" discussing proposed algorithm changes, and provided more insight into how decisions were made.
April 16, 2012 — Parked Domain Bug
A data error caused some sites to be mistaken for parked domains, which temporarily affected rankings. Google confirmed the error, and reported that it was not an intentional algorithm change.
July 19, 2012 — Link Warnings
Following months of link warnings in Webmaster Tools, Google's Matt Cutts addressed webmasters, saying, "Don't panic." He said that most of them could safely ignore the warnings, which was contradictory to the warnings about unnatural links.
September 2002 — First documented update
For the first time, webmasters noticed sudden changes in their rankings. There are few clear details, but it confused many SEOs and set the stage for future algorithm changes to come.
February 2003 — Boston
This was the first announced update, and the first to receive an official name from WebmasterWorld members, which comes from the fact that it was announced at SES Boston. It was a combination of algorithm changes and major index refreshes known at the "Google Dance." At this point, Google aimed for one major monthly update.
April 2003 — Cassandra
This update was designed to address link-quality issues like linking from co-owned domains. Many WMW users also speculated that it placed more weight on older sites.
May 2003 — Dominic
This algorithm update changed the way that backlinks were weighed so that links from news articles and reputable sites were worth more than those from disreputable sites.
June 2003 — Esmeralda
This was the last regular monthly update. It replaced "Google Dance" with "Everflux" and signaled the start of a more continuous update process.
July 2003 — Fritz
This was the official end of the monthly "Google Dance." Google started taking an incremental approach to updates, and the index started changing on a daily basis.
November 2003 — Florida
This was a major algorithm update and caused an unprecedented outcry from affected site owners as many fell in rankings. They felt that the search engine was damaging their businesses, and some speculated that Google was purposely trying to boost ad sales.
Others speculated that Google was filtering out sites that exceeded an "allowable" threshold of SEO. This is closer to the truth, as the algorithm was intended to crack down on tactics like keyword stuffing.
January 2004 — Austin
This updated tackled deceptive on-page tactics like invisible text and meta tag stuffing. Some webmasters also believe that this is the first algorithm to take page relevance into account.
February 2004 — Brandy
This update was comprised of a few different changes, including a large index expansion and Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), meaning that the search engine now understood synonyms. The update also led to more attention to anchor text relevance, and the concept of "link neighborhoods."
February 2005 — Allegra
The effects of this update were unclear, but some speculated that it affected the Google "sandbox." Others believed that it had to do with LSI or suspicious links.
May 2005 — Bourbon
WMW regular "GoogleGuy" (believed to be Matt Cutts) announced that this update involved "3.5 changes in search quality," but did not say exactly what they were. Many believe that it targeted content scrapers and rogue link wheels, as well as how duplicate content was treated.
September 2005 — Gilligan
Many refer to this as the "false" update since webmasters saw changes but Google claimed that no update occurred.
October 2005 — Jagger
This was actually a series of updates that rolled out in three stages. It targeted low-quality links, including reciprocal links, link farms, and paid links.
December 2005 — "Big Daddy"
This update was actually named by Matt Cutts, not WMW. It changed the way that Google handled URL canonicalization, redirects, and other technical issues.
November 2006 - Supplemental Update
At this point, the supplemental index was still being used, and this update changed how the pages in it were presented. Despite claims that having pages in the supplemental index was a penalty, Google said otherwise.
December 2006 — False Alarm
Webmasters reported major ranking changes in November, which many attributed to a large update, but Google claims that there were no changes.
June 2007 — Buffy
This update was described as "an accumulation of smaller changes," and was named in honor of Vanessa Fox leaving Google.
April 2008 — Dewey
The specifics of this update were unclear, but some suspected that Google was pushing its own internal properties like Google Books.
February 2009 — Vince
This update focused on promoting authority and trust and gave preference in SERPs to big brands. This meant that even though many large companies did not practice SEO, they outranked those who did.
May 2010 — May Day
This algorithm change impacted long-tail traffic, and Matt Cutts explained that it was designed to cause "higher quality sites to surface for long tail queries." Sites with lots of thin content were hit especially hard, as were large sites with "item" pages that didn't have many individual links pointing to them.
August 2010 — Brand Update
Google started allowing the same domain to appear multiple times on results pages, instead of limiting them to 1-2 listings.
December 2010 — Social Signals
Although not technically an algorithm change, Google and Bing both confirmed that they used social signals (like data from Facebook and Twitter) in determining ranking.
December 2010 — Negative Reviews
After ecommerce site DecorMyEyes was caught intentionally treating customers poorly for the sake of getting negative reviews, Google adjusted their algorithm to target sites who were ranking well based on bad publicity.
January 28, 2011 — Attribution Update
This update was made in an attempt to better sort out content attribution and stop scrapers. Matt Cutts explained that as a result, searchers were more likely to see sites that published original content than sites that scraped or copied content.
November 3, 2011 — Freshness Update
Google announced that the "freshness" of pages would impact their rankings for certain queries. This mostly affected time-sensitive results, but it was the first time Google gave preference to recent content.
January 19, 2012 — Page Layout ("Top Heavy") Update
This update devalued sites with too many ads "above the fold" and targeted sites that used huge, distracting banner ads.
February 27, 2012 — Venice Update
This update provided localized results based on the geographic location of each user. As a result, rankings were different for different users, location-based keywords became much more important.
September 27, 2012 — Exact-Match Domain
The Exact-Match Domain (EMD) update devalued EMDs, which, according to Moz, reduced their presence online by over 10%. This was meant to target sites who used keyword-heavy domain names solely for SEO purposes.
October 9, 2012 — Pay Layout Update #2
This was a change to the original page layout update, which targeted pages with ads above the fold. Sites who were initially affected were restored to their original rankings if they made the changes Google suggested, and the algorithm rolled out globally.
May 9, 2013 — Phantom Update
Many webmasters suspected an algorithm update after experiencing significant traffic loss, but Google made no announcement or confirmation of a change.
May 21, 2013 — Domain Crowding Update
This update was intended to control domain crowding beyond the first page of results and rolled out right around the same time as Penguin 2.0. This meant that dominant domains could no longer take over entire pages of results.
June 27, 2013 — Multi-Week Update
Matt Cutts tweeted that a "multi-week update" was about to occur, but did not include any specifics. Some people speculated that it was a spam-related update, similar to Payday Loan.
August 20, 2013 — Hummingbird Update
Although this update was not announced until more than a month later, Google rolled it out in late August. It was a core algorithm update that has been compared to Caffeine and affected semantic search and the Knowledge Graph.
February 6, 2014 — Page Layout #3
This was a "refresh" of the Page Layout algorithm, meaning that sites owners who removed their ads above the fold had a chance to restore their original rankings.
August 6, 2014 — HTTPS/SSL Update
With this update, Google announced that they would start giving preference to secure sites. They said that adding encryption would give a "lightweight" rankings boost, but that it may increase over time.
April 21, 2015 — Mobile Update AKA "Mobilegeddon"
In late February, Google announced that they'd be rolling out a mobile-friendliness update on April 21. For the first time, mobile rankings would differ from desktop rankings, with preference being given to sites with responsive or mobile-friendly design.
May 3, 2015 — The Quality Update
After many webmasters reported large-scale ranking chances, some referred to this update as "Phantom 2." Google later acknowledged an algorithm change, and said that it impacted "quality signals." However, they did not provide any specifics on how quality assessment changed.
July 26, 2013 — Unnamed Update
Webmasters noticed unusual changes in traffic, but Google did not confirm an update.
November 14, 2013 — Unnamed Update
Many webmasters received DNS errors in Google Webmaster Tools, and around the same time, flux trackers picked up unusual activity.
December 17, 2013 — Unnamed Update
Flux trackers around the world noticed activity, but Google did not confirm an update.
March 24, 2014 — Unnamed Update
Many algorithm flux trackers reported shifts around this time, and some referred to it as a "softer Panda," but nothing was confirmed by Google.
February 4, 2015 — Unnamed Update
Many webmasters reported major changes in SERPs, but Google did not confirm an update. There is no consensus on what exactly was affected, and guesses range from ecommerce to mobile usability.
January 9, 2016
Google confirmed that there was a core algorithm update, but that it was not related to Penguin.
November 14, 2011 — 10 algorithm changes
In an unprecedented move, Matt Cutts published a post with the details of 10 recent algorithm changes. Most of them were relatively small, but the post showed a shift towards transparency.
December 2011 — New monthly series announced
For the second time, Google released a blog post with recent algorithm updates. They also announced that these posts would be published on a monthly basis.
January 5, 2012 — 30 search quality highlights
This time, Google announced 30 changes instead of 10, which they referred to as "search quality highlights."
February 3, 2012 — 17 search quality highlights
Shortly after announcing Search+, Google released this post of updates.
February 27, 2012 — 40 search quality highlights
Only a few weeks after the previous post (contrary to their announcement of monthly posts), Google published a second February post — this time with 40 updates.
April 3, 2012 — 50 search quality highlights
This update confirmed Panda 3.4 and also included changes to anchor text, image search, and local intent.
May 4, 2012 — 53 search quality highlights
Many of the changes in this update were related to Penguin, and it also highlighted a 15% larger index, improvements to pagination, and updates to sitelinks.
June 7, 2012 — 39 search quality highlights
This post included Penguin updates, link-scheme detection, and changes to Google News.
August 10, 2012 — 86 search quality highlights
This was the largest list of search highlights Google ever published, and it included Panda and algorithm refreshes, preference to secure sites, and changes to site clustering.
October 4, 2012 — 65 search quality highlights
This was the last list of search highlights Google released. It included seven-result SERPs, the Knowledge Graph expansion, updates to page quality, and changes to local results.
February 23, 2011 — Panda
In this major update, Google cracked down on thin content, content farms, sites with high ad-to-content ratios, and other quality issues. It affected almost 12% of all search results and caused dramatic losses for some companies. However, it also caused companies with high quality content to move up in rankings. Panda showed a big shift towards quality content, and it was only the first part of a long series of Panda updates.
April 11, 2011 — Panda 2.0 (#2)
Google officially rolled out the Panda update to all English queries worldwide and also integrated new signals, including data about sites users blocked.
May 9, 2011 — Panda 2.1 (#3)
Although they did not provide details, Google rolled out a set of relatively minor changes to Panda.
June 21, 2011 — Panda 2.2 (#4)
Google officially confirmed an update to Panda-impacted sites and data. They also confirmed that the updates occurred separately from the main index (and not in real time).
July 23, 2011 — Panda 2.3 (#5)
It is unclear whether this was an algorithm update or a refresh to Panda data, but many webmasters believed that there was a major Panda update.
August 12, 2011 — Panda 2.4 (#6)
Six months after its original launch, Google rolled Panda out internationally. It now affected English and non-English queries (with the exception of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean), and impacted 6-9% of all searches.
September 28, 2011 — Panda 2.5 (#7)
There are few specific details, but Google confirmed an update and some webmasters reported large losses in traffic.
October 5, 2011 — Panda "Flux" (#8)
After Matt Cutts tweeted that there would be "Panda-related flux," a few minor updates occurred. From this point on, there were small, frequent updates to Panda.
November 18, 2011 — Panda 3.1 (#9)
Although Matt Cutts announced the previous month that Panda was entering a period of flux, some industry sources called this minor update 3.1.
January 18, 2012 — Panda 3.2 (#10)
Google confirmed a Panda update, but said that the algorithm itself remained unchanged.
February 27, 2012 — Panda 3.3 (#11)
This update was just over a year after Panda's original launch, and appeared to be relatively minor.
March 23, 2012 — Panda 3.4 (#12)
Google announced this update via Twitter right as it was rolling out. They estimated that the update impacted 1.6% of queries.
April 19, 2012 — Panda 3.5 (#13)
Only four days after the previous Panda update, Google released another mix of changes. They did not specify what changed.
April 27, 2012 — Panda 3.6 (#14)
This data update's impact was relatively small.
June 8, 2012 — Panda 3.7 (#15)
Google claimed that this data updated affected less than 1% of queries, but ranking fluctuations showed that the impact was greater than previous Panda updates.
June 25, 2012 — Panda 3.8 (#16)
This was a data refresh with a small impact.
July 24, 2012 — Panda 3.9 (#17)
This update caused rankings to fluctuate for about a week, and Google said that about 1% of queries were affected.
August 20, 2012 — Panda 3.9.1 (#18)
This was a relatively small data update.
September 18, 2012 — Panda 3.9.2 (#19)
This update was a data refresh, and ranking flux was not huge.
September 27, 2012 — Panda #20
This was a larger Panda update and affected 2.4% of queries. It was also when industry publications stopped referring to Panda updates with their series names, and started simply referring to them with numbers.
November 5, 2012 — Panda #21
This update was relatively small compared to the previous Panda update and affected 1.1% of English queries.
November 21, 2012 — Panda #22
Not long after the previous Panda update, Google confirmed this data-only update.
December 21, 2012 — Panda #23
According to Google, this was a "refresh" of Panda, and it affected 1.3% of English queries.
January 22, 2013 — Panda #24
Google announced this as the first official update of 2013 and claimed that 1.2% of queries were affected.
March 14, 2013 — Panda #25
Matt Cutts announced this update at SMX West and implied that it would be the last update before Panda was integrated into the core algorithm.
June 11, 2013 — Panda Updating on a Monthly Basis
Although this was not an update, Matt Cutts clarified that Panda was still updating on a monthly basis. This was contrary to many webmasters' expectations of a Panda "everflux" after Panda #25.
July 18, 2013 — Panda Recovery
Google confirmed this update, but the details were unclear. Many believe that it was algorithmic and "softened" previous Panda penalties.
May 19, 2014 — Panda 4.0 (#26)
Google confirmed that this update included both an algorithm update and a data refresh, estimating that 7.5% of English queries were affected.
September 23, 2014 — Panda 4.1 (#27)
Google announced a significant Panda update and estimated that it would affect 3-5% of queries.
July 17, 2015 — Panda 4.2 (#28)
Google reported this Panda refresh to Search Engine Land and said that it would affect 2-3% of English language queries. However, the update rolled out very slowly and did not cause any immediate changes in ranking.
April 24, 2012 — Penguin Announced
Originally referred to as the "Webspam Update," Penguin targeted a number of spam factors and impacted 3.1% of English queries. It was designed to target sites that used black hat SEO techniques and help searchers find sites that provided a great user experience. They did not provide many details about specific signals (as black hat SEOs likely would've used them to game the search results), but instead told webmasters to "focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience … instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics."
May 25, 2012 — Penguin 1.1 (#2)
This was the first data update after Penguin's original release and confirmed that much like Panda, Penguin data was processed outside of the main index.
October 5, 2012 — Penguin #3
Contrary to suggestions that this would be a major update, this data update impacted only 0.3% of queries.
May 22, 2013 — Penguin 2.0 (#4)
Although many webmasters expected this to be a major update, its impact was only moderate. Google did not provide many details, but it appears to have been more targeted to the page level of sites.
October 4, 2013 — Penguin 2.1 (#5)
This was primarily a data update, and not a major change to the Penguin algorithm.
October 17, 2014 — Penguin 3.0 (#6)
Over a year after the previous update, Google launched a Penguin refresh. The effects were relatively small, and it is suspected that it was data-only.
December 10, 2014 — Penguin Everflux
At this point, Penguin shifted from infrequent, major updates to continuous updates.
June 11, 2013 — "Payday Loan" Update
Matt Cutts announced this update on Twitter by saying that Google had "just started a new ranking update today for some spammy queries." He later went into more detail at SMX advanced and explained that the algorithm was designed to target notoriously spammy searches, like those for payday loans and pornographic material.
May 16, 2014 — Payday Loan 2.0
Google confirmed that they were updating their Payday Loan algorithm, but it is difficult to determine its effects because it was rolled out in the same time frame as Panda 4.0.
June 12, 2014 — Payday Loan 3.0
Less than a month after 2.0, Google launched Payday Loan 3.0. They announced that this updated targeted specific sites, while the previous ones targeted "spammy queries."
August 10, 2012 — Pirate Update
Google started penalizing sites with repeat copyright violations, like torrent sites. Sites with high numbers of removal notices started appearing lower in results, which Google claimed would "help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily."
October 21, 2014 — Pirate 2.0
Over two years after the original Pirate update, Google launched another update to target piracy. This update was more severe and caused sites with any violation filed through Google's DMCA system to drop in rankings dramatically.
July 24, 2014 — Pigeon Update
With this major update to local SEO, Google altered the way they handled location cues. They explained that it was a merge of the local algorithm and core algorithms, designed to provide a "more useful and relevant experience for searchers seeking local results."
December 22, 2014 — Pigeon Expansion
A few months after its launch in the U.S., Pigeon expanded to the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.
May 16, 2012 — Knowledge Graph
Google introduced the "Knowledge Graph," which added supplemental information to certain queries. For example, SERPs for celebrities and well-known people now included a sidebar with an excerpt from their Wikipedia page.
December 4, 2012 — Knowledge Graph Expansion
Google expanded the Knowledge graph to non-English queries, and it now showed up for searches in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, and Italian.
July 19, 2013 — Knowledge Graph Expansion
Moz refers to this as "the day the Knowledge Graph exploded," since the amount of queries that showed a Knowledge Graph jumped by more than 50%.
October 26, 2015 — RankBrain announced
Google first shared information about their machine-learning artificial intelligence system with Bloomberg on this date, although it had been in use for several months prior. It's one of the signals that plays a role in its algorithm, and helps the search engine interpret searches.
January 2011 — Overstock.com Penalty
In a very public penalty, Google outed Overstock.com for bad SEO practices and the site's rankings were greatly affected. Not long after, JCPenney was hit with a similar penalty.