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.

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:

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

All Updates

July 26, 2021

Google Link Spam Algorithm Update

Google announced an algorithm update aimed at identifying and nullifying link spam was beginning to roll out. Google warned that any sites taking part in link spam tactics could see ranking changes – with sponsored, guest, and affiliate content most likely to be impacted. Google said the update should be fully rolled out in “at least” two weeks and will impact multiple languages.

Read: Google Link Spam Algorithm Update Rolling Out on July 26

Read: Google’s Link Spam Update Is Complete

July 12, 2021

July 2021 Core Update Completed

Google Search Liaison confirmed via Twitter that the July 2021 Core Update rollout was effectively completed on July 12th. No additional details were provided.

Read: Google July 2021 Update is Over – What Happened?

July 1, 2021

July 2021 Core Update

Google Search Liaison announced via Twitter the July 2021 Core Update is rolling out and will take one to two weeks to complete. Google’s guidance for core updates can be found on the Google Search Central Blog.

Read: Google July 2021 Core Update Begins Rolling Out

June 28, 2021

Spam Update Part 2

Google Search Liaison announced via Twitter that the second part of their spam update has begun on June 28th and will likely be completed on the same day. The original announcement referred to a post on the Google Search Central Blog, updated in April 2021, on how Google fought Search spam in 2020.

Read: Google Announces Spam Update Part 2

June 23, 2021

June 2021 Spam Update

Google’s Danny Sullivan announced via Twitter an algorithm update targeted at fighting spam was rolling out to search results. The rollout of the update was to be completed the same day. He added that a second spam update would follow within a week. Google revealed no specific details on what this update was targeting.

Read: Google Rolls Out New Spam Algorithm Update

June 15, 2021

Page Experience Update

Google confirms its long-awaited Page Experience update has started rolling out. Sites should not expect to see drastic changes as a result of this update, Google says, and any sudden drops or spikes should be mitigated by the gradual rollout process. The rollout will be completed by the end of August 2021.

Read: Google Page Experience Update Begins Rolling Out

Read: Google Page Experience Update Fully Rolled Out – This is Why it Matters

June 10, 2021

Known Victims Protection

On June 10, Pandu Nayak,
Google Fellow and Vice President of Search, published a post on The Keyword blog. In it, he discussed Google’s work towards improving the algorithm to demote sites that “employ exploitative removals practices” and “predatory practices.” He also shared a link people can use to report online harassment.

Read: Google Algorithm Update Targets Slander

June 2, 2021

Broad Core Algorithm Update

Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan announced via Twitter that a broad core algorithm update was about to be released. Sullivan also noted that some planned improvements weren’t quite ready for this update, so the parts that weren’t ready will be rolled out as part of second, related broad core algorithm update, scheduled for July.

Read: Google Broad Core Algorithm Update Rolling Out June 2, 2021

April 8, 2021

Product Reviews Update

This new search ranking algorithm update was designed to reward “product reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products.” In their announcement, Google also shared nine useful questions to consider when creating and publishing product reviews.

Read: Google Product Reviews Update Goes Live in Search Results

Read: Google’s Product Reviews Algorithm Update: Winners & Losers

February 10, 2021

Passage Ranking

Google’s Public Liaison for Search, Danny Sullivan, announced via Twitter that Passage Ranking officially launched for English-language queries in the United States. According to Google: “This change doesn’t mean we’re indexing individual passages independently of pages. We’re still indexing pages and considering info about entire pages for ranking. But now we can also consider passages from pages as an additional ranking factor….”

Read: What Is Google Passage Ranking: 16 Key Points You Should Know

December 3, 2020

December 2020 Core Update

Google confirms a core algorithm update, the December 2020 Core Update, is rolled out on December 3, 2020. This is the third core algorithm update of the calendar year. A fair amount of time has passed since the last core update, compared to the average time between these types of updates.

Read more about this update below.

Read: What Is a Google Broad Core Algorithm Update?

Read: Google on Broad Core Algorithm Update Recovery – 4 Takeaways

Read: Recovering from a Google Core Algorithm Update with Lily Ray [PODCAST]

Read: Google Confirms Rollout of Core Algorithm Update

Read: Google December 2020 Core Update Insights

May 4, 2020

May 2020 Core Update

Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan announced via Twitter that Google would be releasing a broad core algorithm update. About 90 minutes later, he announced the update was underway and would take 1-2 weeks to completely roll out.

Read: Google Confirms May 2020 Core Algorithm Update Rolling Out Today

January 22, 2020

Featured Snippet Deduplication

Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed via Twitter that webpages in a featured snippet position will no longer be repeated in regular Page 1 organic listings. This change affected 100% of all search listings, worldwide.

Read: Google: Webpages with Featured Snippets Won’t Appear Twice on Page 1

Read: Google Offers Guidance on Featured Snippets Update

Read: Google’s Featured Snippet Changes & Impact on Organic Traffic [STUDY]

Read: Unpacking the CausalImpact of Google’s Double-Dipping Featured Snippet Update

January 13, 2020

January 2020 Core Update

Google’s Danny Sullivan announced via a tweet that a broad core algorithm update was about to be released. Google again provided the same guidance as for all other recent broad core algorithm updates.

Read: Google January 2020 Core Update is Rolling Out Imminently

December 9, 2019

BERT (Worldwide)

Google’s Danny Sullivan tweeted that BERT was beginning its worldwide rollout, and included the following languages: Afrikaans, Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Azeri, Basque, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (Simplified & Taiwan), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Farsi, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Javanese, Kannada, Kazakh, Khmer, Korean, Kurdish, Kyrgyz, Lao, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian Malay (Brunei Darussalam & Malaysia), Malayalam, Maltese, Marathi, Mongolian, Nepali, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Sinhalese, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Tajik, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Uzbek, and Vietnamese.

Read: Google’s BERT Rolls Out Worldwide

October 25, 2019

BERT Update

Google announced the BERT Update, calling it the biggest change to Google search in the past 5 years. Google uses BERT models to better understand search queries. Google said this change impacted both search rankings and featured snippets and BERT (which stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) will be used on 10 percent of U.S. English searches.

Read: Google Applies New BERT Model to Search Rankings, Affecting 1-in-10 Queries

Read: Google BERT Update – What it Means

Read: Google BERT Misinformation Challenged

September 24, 2019

Broad Core Algorithm Update

Google’s Danny Sullivan announced via a tweet that a broad core algorithm update would be released within a few hours and it would take a few days to complete rolling out. Google’s guidance was the same as it had been for all other recent core algorithm updates.

Read: Google is Releasing a Broad Core Algorithm Update Today, September 24th

Read: September 2019 Google Update – Winners and Losers

June 2, 2019

June 2019 Core Update

On June 2, Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan tweeted that Google would be releasing a new broad core algorithm update on June 3. The next day, Google confirmed the update was live and would be rolling out to its various data centers over the coming days. As is the case with any broad core algorithm update, Google tells us there is nothing specific to fix because a core update encompasses a broad range of factors.

Read: Google Announces June 2019 Broad Core Algorithm Update

Read: June 2019 Broad Core Algo Update: It’s More than E-A-T

Read: Google Broad Core Updates And Why Some Health Sites Affected

Read: Google’s John Mueller Discusses June 2019 Update Recovery

Read: Google Publishes Core Algorithm Update Guidance

March 12, 2019

March 2019 Core Update (a.k.a. Florida 2)

Google’s Search Liaison Danny Sullivan confirmed via Twitter the release of a global broad core algorithm update. SEJ confirmed this update is particularly important and one of the biggest Google updates in years. Sullivan once again recommended following the guidance it provided following the March 9, 2018 update.

Read: Google Update Florida 2: March 2019 Core Update Is a Big One

Read: March 2019 Core Update: What’s Changed? Early Insights & Reaction

Read: Data Confirms Why Google March 2019 Update Feels Like a Rollback

February 13, 2019

Valentine’s Day Update

Algorithm trackers and industry chatter indicated some sort of unconfirmed update took place on and before this date. However, unlike other updates, mostly positive changes in rankings were being reported.

Read: Evidence of Google Valentine’s Day Algorithm Update

October 31, 2018

Unconfirmed Halloween Update

Some webmasters reported changes starting around Halloween, perhaps indicating an (unconfirmed) Google update. But there was little evidence of a significant update here. The more likely cause of the chatter was spillover from the August broad core algorithm update and Google ramping up its use of neural matching.

Read: Worried About Unconfirmed Halloween Google Algorithm Update?

September 27, 2018

A "Small" Update

On September 27 (Google’s 20th birthday), many within the SEO community began noticing significant spikes and drops in traffic, indicating some sort of update was underway. Some of the sites impacted by the August broad core algorithm update reportedly made a recovery. Google’s Search Liaison Danny Sullivan confirmed via Twitter September 29 that some sort of “smaller” update had taken place (but it wasn’t a broad core algorithm update).

Read: Google Confirms An Algorithm Update Occurred September 27

Read: Google Clarifies a Few Things About Recent Search Algorithm Updates

August 1, 2018

Broad Core Algorithm Update

Google confirmed via Twitter for the third time this year the rollout of a broad core algorithm update. In doing so, Google’s Search Liaison Danny Sullivan recommended following the guidance it provided following the March 9, 2018 update. This update has been referred to as “Medic” by some in the industry, even though Google said it was a general ranking update and wasn’t specifically targeting medical sites.

Read: Google Confirms Broad Core Algorithm Update: The Facts & Advice

Read: Google Says Raters Guidelines is Key to Broad Core Update

Read: Google Offers More Algo Update Details

Read: Social Media Signals and August Core Algo Update

Read: Google: Make Content More Relevant to Recover from August Algorithm Update

Read: Googler on How to Recover from Medic Update

April 16, 2018

Broad Core Algorithm Update

Google confirmed via Twitter the release of another broad core algorithm update, and indicated it was similar to the March 9, 2018 update, which was about content relevance.

Read: Google Confirms Algorithm Update Released on April 16th

March 9, 2018

Broad Core Algorithm Update

On March 12, Google confirmed via Twitter that a “broad core algorithm update” had rolled out the prior week. While Google was light on details, Google said the changes were meant to “benefit pages that were previously under-rewarded,” and advised everyone to “continue building great content.”

Read: Google Confirms Algorithm Update Occurred Last Week

Read: Google’s Broad Core Algorithm Update Examined

Read: Google Confirms March Algorithm Update Was About Relevance, Not Quality

Read: What Is a Google Broad Core Algorithm Update?

December 12, 2017

Maccabees Update

Some in the search community reported their websites being hit by update between December 12 and 14. Google confirmed several minor changes to the core algorithm during the timeframe, but downplayed the significance of the period of flux.

Read: Maccabees Update: Google Confirms New Core Algorithm Changes

Read: Google Maccabees Update Analysis: Sites Targeting Many Keyword Permutations (Search Engine Roundtable)

September 8, 2017

Fall Flux

Industry chatter and SEO tracking tools indicated some sort of (still unconfirmed) Google update may have occurred on this date. Glenn Gabe, president of G-Squared Interactive, also detected several noteworthy Google changes impacting traffic and search visibility starting September 8. This was followed by additional volatility and fluctuations on September 18, 25, and 29, as well as October 4, 8, and 12.

Read: Exploring The Wild Google Algorithm Updates and Volatility In The Fall of 2017 (Glenn Gabe)

August 19, 2017

Quality Update

Webmasters and SEO ranking tools detected some minor volatility on August 19-20, with signs indicating this may have been another (unconfirmed) Google quality update. Among the ranking casualties: category pages, pages with aggressive advertising, lower-quality/thin content, and other negative user experience elements, according to an analysis by Glenn Gabe, president of GSQi. There was some speculation that Google began testing this algorithm on August 14 because pages that were impacted (either positively or negatively) on this date were further impacted on August 19.

Read: Google Algorithm & Ranking Update Chatter (Search Engine Roundtable)

Read: The August 19, 2017 Google Algorithm Update – Analysis and Findings From A Summer-Ending Quality Update (GSQi)

July 9, 2017

Quality Update

SEO ranking tools detected some minor volatility on July 9, potentially another (unconfirmed) Google quality update.

Read: Signs Of A Google Search Algorithm Update Over Weekend (Search Engine Roundtable)

June 25, 2017

June 25 Update

Various SEO tracking tools detected a significant, though unconfirmed, Google update on this date. One analysis found that this update caused the biggest fluctuations for pages ranking in Positions 6-10. While it impacted most niches, the good and beverage industry was reportedly impacted the most.

Read: A Significant Google Algorithm Update Likely Occurred on June 25

Read: The June 25 Google Update: What You Should Do Now

May 17, 2017

Quality Update

Starting May 17 and lasting for about a week, SEO tracking tools reported lots of SERP volatility. While the impact seems limited, those sites impacted by this update tended to have issues with aggressive/deceptive advertising, UX issues, and thin/low-quality content.

Read: The May 17, 2017 Google Algorithm Update – Frequency of Quality Updates, Surfing The Gray Area, and Reversals

Read: Google Search Ranking & Algorithm Shifts Still Underway

March 7, 2017

Fred

Google’s Gary Illyes jokingly referred to this update as “Fred” and the name ended up sticking. But this algorithm was no laughing matter for those impacted. This major algorithm update seemed to mainly target low-value content. On March 24, Illyes officially confirmed the update. But Google has refused to share any more specifics, instead choosing to say that all the answers about Fred can be found in Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines.

Read: Everything You Need to Know About the Google ‘Fred’ Update

Read: Google's John Mueller: "We Make Changes Almost Every Day"

Read: 3 Examples of Impact From the March 7, 2017 Google Algorithm Update (AKA Fred) (GSQi)

February 7, 2017

February 7 Update

This unconfirmed major update resulted in massive rankings shifts in Google’s SERPs, which also meant major increases or decreases for some websites. Overall, it seems higher-quality and more relevant websites gained the most visibility.

Read: Google Search Algorithm Update February 7th

Read: The February 7, 2017 Google Algorithm Update – Analysis and Findings From A Significant Core Ranking Update

February 1, 2017

February 1 Update

This was a minor and unconfirmed Google update. Although all information about this update is more speculation than fact, it seemed to target private blog networks or those doing spammy link building.

Read: Unconfirmed Google algorithm update may be better at discounting links and spam

January 10, 2017

Intrusive Interstitials Update

On August 23, 2016, Google announced an upcoming change that would target intrusive interstitials and pop-ups that hurt the search experience on mobile devices. As promised, this update rolled out January 10, 2017. The impact of this update on rankings was minimal.

Read: Google to Devalue Pages With Intrusive Pop-Ups in Mobile Search

Read: 51% Haven’t Felt the Effects of Google’s Mobile Interstitials Penalty [POLL]

Read: 7 Tips for Using Pop-ups Without Harming Your SEO

November 10, 2016

Unnamed Update

Search industry chatter and data from SEO tracking tools indicated some sort of unconfirmed Google update happened on November 10.

Read: A Google Search Update Appears to Have Occurred on November 10th [DATA]

September 23, 2016

Penguin Update 4.0 & Core Algorithm Integration

The final update to the Penguin algorithm saw it integrated into Google’s core algorithm, meaning Penguin was now evaluating websites and links in real-time. Another big change was Penguin devalued links, rather than downgrading the rankings of pages.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Penguin Algorithm Update

Read: Penguin is Now a Real-Time Component of Google’s Core Algorithm

June 1, 2016

Quality Update

Though unconfirmed by Google, data indicates that another content-related Quality Update to Google’s algorithm began rolling out around June 1, with additional search ranking volatility seen on June 8, 21, and 26.

Read: The Phantom Returns: All About Google’s Quality Updates

Read: Data Suggests A Google Algorithm Update Occurred in June 2016

Read: News Sites Benefitting From June’s Google Quality Update [STUDY]

May 12, 2016

Mobile-Friendly Update (#2)

The second Mobile-Friendly Update (or “Mobilegeddon 2”) was an update to Google’s first mobile-friendly update, meant to “increases the effect of the ranking signal.”

Read: Mobilegeddon: A Complete Guide to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Update

January 11, 2016

Panda Core Algorithm Incorporation

Google confirmed that Panda had been incorporated into the core Google algorithm, evidently as part of the slow Panda 4.2 rollout. In other words, Panda was no longer a filter applied to the Google algorithm after it does its work, but is incorporated as another of its core ranking signals. It has been clarified, however, that this doesn’t mean the Panda classifier acts in real time.

Read: A Complete Guide to the Google Panda Update

Read: Google’s Panda Now Part of Its Core Ranking Algorithm