A Complete Timeline of Important Google Algorithm Updates from 2003 – 2022
Google updates its search algorithms almost thousands of times each year. The simplest way to prepare for and benefit from any Google algorithm update is to simply read Google’s search engine optimization documentation. In general, if you can optimize your site from the start to produce high-quality content and provide great experiences for users & robots, you won’t have much to worry about.
What is Google Algorithm?
Google’s algorithms operate in a complex system to provide the best possible results for search queries. Each Google algorithm employs a set of rules along with information from its index to determine which web pages best respond to a given search query. The search engine then uses its programmed ranking signals to hierarchically arrange those pages in search results according to their relevance.
An overview of Google’s most significant search algorithm updates is provided below –
Google Updates in 2022
Helpful Content Update (December 5, 2022)
Google rolled out another helpful content update aimed to help users find ‘useful’ content rather than only SEO-targeted content and rewards sites that provide “high-quality content”. This global update impacts content in all languages.
Spam Update (October 19, 2022)
The latest search ranking algorithm update was rolled out to target the spammy side of search results as well as make notable improvements on the same. Google releases spam updates on a regular basis to ensure the quality of its search engine results.
Product Review Update (September 20, 2022)
Google has not announced any new guidance or major changes in this update. In general, a product review algorithm update is designed to reward high-quality product review pages that share in-depth research exclusively written in English.
Core Update (September 12, 2022)
The recent “core update” may help the “helpful content update” become more observable. In order for a new website to be impacted by a specific algorithm component, a core algorithm update is continuously running.
Helpful Content Update (August 25, 2022)
The primary objective of this update is to enhance user experience. The purpose of this content update is to make original, helpful content more visible in search results. However, it restricts the outcomes of content created solely for search engine optimization purposes.
Core Update (May 25, 2022)
The term “core updates” refers to general updates. Their goal is to improve the utility and accuracy of search results. Because of alterations in current events and how people use the internet, this process is ongoing.
Google confirm core updates because they usually affect search results, and these changes can usually be noticed by few users within 24 hours of an update.
Product Algorithm Update (March 23, 2022)
This was the latest product review update, which makes it easier to find high-quality reviews through search. The update was based on regular feedback from people who preferred detailed reviews with evidence of actual product testing.
Page Experience Update (February 22, 2022)
This is the most recent Google update for page experience on desktop devices.
Google Updates in 2021
Local Search Update (November 30, 2021)
This was an update to how the search engine finds and displays local search results.
Google Spam Update (November 3, 2021)
The spam updates assisted the search engine in identifying & removing websites that have questionable or harmful content, don’t add value, employ black hat SEO tactics, as well as risk endangering users by exposing them to spam and unwanted advertisements.
Page Experience Update (June 15, 2021)
The goal of this update is to enhance user experience. It strives to give preference to web pages with quick load times that remain constant as users scroll.
Known Victims Protection (June 10, 2021)
For years, websites have targeted individuals with several false and misleading, offensive, or harmful content. There are instances of websites that publish obscene pictures, mug shots, and other slanders, which often make money by charging the victims to have this content removed. These websites are frequently the top search results for such people.
Users can inform Google about these malicious websites with this update. The search engine will then give these searches a lower ranking.
Product Reviews Update (April 8, 2021)
This update was the first of several product review updates that focused on finding high-quality product reviews that add value for users. The depth of analysis, actual product use, distinct information, and competitive product analysis were the criteria for product review quality.
Passage Ranking (February 10, 2021)
With the passage ranking update, a web page’s section could now be used as an additional ranking factor. This aids search engines in comprehending the content more fully and providing better search results.
This update hoped to assist users in finding better answers to very specific searches, which can be difficult to find at times. This update highlights sections of web pages that can respond to user queries rather than scanning the entire page.
Google Updates in 2020
Featured Snippet Update (January 22, 2020)
With this update, search results would be far less cluttered, and users would have a better chance of finding the information they’re looking for. Prior to this change, websites that had featured snippets at the top of search results could also show up in the organic listings below those snippets. In contrast, a website could now only show up once per search page after this change.
Google Updates in 2019
BERT Update (October 25, 2019)
In an effort to comprehend the language that people search in better, Google created the Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) search algorithm update. BERT assists Google users in finding relevant and reliable information. The update enables Google to better understand the context & nuance of queries as well as reduces its reliance on prepositions and other phrasing devices to make queries clearer. In addition, BERT was used on featured snippets from more than twenty different nations and languages.
Featured Snippets Update (August 1, 2019)
This update aimed to improve featured snippets such as regularly updated information, time-based information, news, and current events. It was an update that would improve surfaced snippets with frequent refreshes. The outdated snippets were also removed, which was helpful.
Core Update (March 12, 2019)
This was a significant core update. This core update didn’t seem particularly noteworthy to SEO experts, but its timing and scope led to its alternative name.
Google Updates in 2018
Medic Update (August 1, 2018)
The Google Medic update got its nickname due to the disproportionate impact it has on sites in the health and wellness industries. However, it was not limited to those sectors; websites across all other sectors were also significantly impacted.
SEO specialists theorized this update to have targeted quality issues such as thin, duplicate content, slow load times, inaccurate title tags, poor user experience.
Mobile-First Indexing (March 26, 2018)
Google once again acknowledged mobile-friendly websites with the Mobile-First Indexing Update. With this update, Google hopes to improve the user experience for its primarily mobile users by indexing and ranking mobile versions of web pages’ content.
Core Algorithm Update (March 9, 2018)
Google released this core update to enable better evaluation of websites that were pertinent for specific queries. This update aimed to boost the rankings of websites with useful content.
Google Updates in 2017
Fred (March 7, 2017)
The Fred update was designed to combat thin, ad-focused content. It used information from Google quality raters to remove low-quality results from Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Intrusive Interstitials Update (January 10, 2017)
This update by Google lowered the rankings of websites with mobile pages that had intrusive interstitials. As per technical SEO understanding, interstitials are defined as the content that gets between the user and the content they’re looking for. This might include popups that mask other page content, web pages that users need to dismiss to access content, website layouts with interstitials above the fold.
This update, however, did not penalize interstitials for cookies, legal verification, logins, or banners.
Google Updates in 2015
RankBrain (October 26, 2015)
The RankBrain component of Google’s algorithm uses machine learning to better understand searcher intent and present the most precise, relevant SERP results.
According to SEO strategists, they theorized that the update would serve to measure how searchers interact with search results and then ranks the results accordingly. The RankBrain algorithm was also thought to establish query-specific ranking factors and signals by identifying relevance features for the websites that appear in search results.
Mobilegeddon Update (April 21, 2015)
Google’s Mobilegeddon update made mobile friendliness an official ranking signal. As a result of the updates, sites that were not mobile-friendly were either penalized or completely removed from the mobile SERPs, which gave priority to mobile-friendly websites.
Mobilegeddon was yet another attempt to provide users with the best possible search experience. It had previously rewarded mobile-responsive websites and penalized those that weren’t.
Google Updates in 2014
Pigeon Update (July 24, 2014)
Google released the Pigeon Update to align local algorithms with the core algorithm more effectively. This update was made with the intention of giving local companies with strong organic presences better SERP visibility. In addition, it was to respond to user searches with precise local results influenced by established web search ranking signals.
Pigeon update approaches local search similarly to standard organic search, but with a focus on the local market. It enables users to treat Google Search & Google Maps equally and takes the user’s location into account when displaying SERP results.
Google Updates in 2013
Hummingbird Update (September 26, 2013)
The Hummingbird Update was released by Google to offer a more conversational, human search experience. In addition to the specific terms in a search query, Google wanted to better understand the context of what people were looking for.
Hummingbird enhanced the Knowledge Graph, which had been released a year earlier.
Hummingbird interprets queries & generates results using natural language processing, which includes semantic indexing, synonyms, and other features. It eliminates keyword-stuffed, low-quality content to produce a more precise, individualized search process and display SERP results that are relevant to the searcher’s intent.
Payday Loan Update (June 11, 2013)
The Payday Loan update was designed to identify spammy queries & websites and further reduce their impact. It had a greater effect in countries where webspam was more prevalent.
Google Updates in 2012
Page Layout Update (October 9, 2012)
The Page layout update targeted websites that display ads above the fold or show content lower on the page because of ads. This practice has the potential to be distracting and have an impact on the user experience. In response to this concern, this update lowered the rankings for ad-heavy sites.
Penguin Update 1.2 (October 5, 2012)
The Google Penguin Update was launched to counter black-hat link-building strategies like spammy links, link directories, and keyword-stuffed anchor text.
Prior to the Penguin Update, link volume, regardless of quality, had a significant impact on how pages ranked in the SERPs. Penguin seeks to better understand how websites acquire links. In addition, it made sure that only reliable links of the finest quality were rewarding the websites they led to.
This update only affects inbound links to a site, not outbound links. Penguin scans websites for spammy link-building tactics and overly optimized anchor text. This happens when an excessive number of inbound links point to the same website, which can signal to Google that the links aren’t credible or earned.
Exact Match Domain Update (September 28, 2012)
This update was made to websites whose domains precisely matched competitive keywords. Some sites used this tactic to boost their search rankings, but their content was of poor quality or thin. This update significantly reduced the value of these sites.
Venice Update (February 27, 2012)
This update retrieved search results based on the user’s IP address or physical region. In addition, it improved the visibility of Google Maps in organic search results. As a result, users found it simpler to look for local resources online.
Google Updates in 2011
Freshness Update (November 3, 2011)
The Freshness update was designed to provide users with the most recent search results. For this update, Google focused its definition of “freshness” to focus on time-related searches like recent events, whether they be new or trending events; regularly recurring events, like elections or sports scores; and frequent updates, like product searches on retailer websites.
Panda Update (February 23, 2011)
The Panda update was introduced to address issues with low-quality content, keyword stuffing, content farms, websites with high ad-to-content ratios, and other quality issues. The update was also made available to reward original, high – quality content.
With this Google update, each webpage now has an internal quality score that aims to replicate how a person might evaluate and rank a piece of content. This score is then considered when determining how each website is ranked on the SERPs.
Panda was initially developed as a search engine results filter, but in January 2016 it was integrated into the core algorithm.
Google Updates in 2010
Caffeine Update June 8, 2010
Caffeine was a new web indexing system that improved the efficiency of crawling and storing data. The freshness of search results was also enhanced by this update. According to Google, Caffeine’s largest collection of web content offers 50% more recent web search results than their previous index.
Google Updates in 2009
Vince Update (January 18, 2009)
This revision equated trust with well-known brand names. This made it easier for established offline brands to compete with new online-only brands.
Google Updates in 2005
Big Daddy Update (December 15, 2005)
The Big Daddy update coincided with a data center upgrade at Google. It aimed to resolve technical problems and raise quality standards for improved search results. In addition, it eliminated some websites that used spamming techniques such as unnatural link building.
Jagger Update (September 1, 2005)
This update increased the number of search options and added new file & document types. With this update, Googlebot, the company’s primary site-crawler at the time, expanded the range of websites it could crawl.
The update examined link quality as well as penalized sites with paid backlinks, unnatural link building, linking schemes, and scraped content.
Google Updates in 2003
Florida Update (November 16, 2003)
The Florida update changed how Google evaluated the worth of backlinks, among other things. It was significant due to the timing and impact on search results.
This update primarily impacted retail sites that used spammy SEO techniques like keyword stuffing, hidden links, and invisible text.
Due to the launch of this update during the holiday season, it was particularly challenging for these websites. It had a direct influence on annual retail sales.
1. Put Out Quality Content
Google is frequently used by people to find information, and if your content falls short of their expectations, site visitors will quickly click the back button.
Your pages won’t rank if your website is cluttered with unnecessary content or provides a bad user experience. However, you stand a much better chance of ranking if you deliver excellent content and a fantastic user experience.
Start by auditing the content of your website. Go through each page and assign a rating based on the value of the information it contains. Make sure to note any improvements you can make as well.
As an alternative, you can examine the average visit durations for each page. Poor engagement is evident if visitors arrive on a page but leave right away. Enter your Google Analytics account, select Content & Site Content, and sort by All Pages. Here, you can quickly sort your pages using various metrics.
A quality content is something that is written for your audience, unique and engaging, as well as works towards quality over quantity, thus increasing visitor engagement.
2. Build Quality links to your pages
A link can be seen as a vote as when from a relevant source it will carry far more weight than a link from a spammy source. In fact, an excessive amount of the latter is one of the main reasons for ranking penalties, and Google’s Penguin update specifically addresses this issue.
Few effective strategies to build and attract quality links to your pages could be
- Creating engaging content that provides value for your target audience.
- Write guest blogs that involves submitting content to other blogs in your industry with a link back to your site.
- Build local citations about your business consisting of its name, address, and phone number.
- Add a link to your social media profile as they are great places to insert links to your site and to build a following.
3. Create a great mobile experience
Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to verify that your website is mobile-optimized and simultaneously observe how it operates. This tool works wonders for displaying how your website appears on a mobile device and notifying you of any loading or processing issues.
Verify that the content of your mobile page matches that of your desktop site if you have separate URLs for your mobile site.
4. Check your technical SEO
On both your desktop and mobile versions, be sure to use structured data and metadata.
Edit duplicate content as it is particularly risky for e-commerce websites. Use canonical URLs in these situations to inform Google which version of each page to rank in the SERPs.
Ascertain that your technical SEO & off-page SEO are in good shape and that there are no underlying problems.
5. Concentrate on your local regions
Use on-page SEO and other strategies to make sure Google understands the location of your company as well as other local ranking factors.
Consider creating media and content that defines your company with a particular area, like a neighborhood, community, or city. This will enhance your local SEO.
Sign up for Google My Business to control how your company’s information appears in Google search results. Create and maintain profiles on additional significant directories.
Make sure your location information is consistent across all your web properties, like your website, social media, and any other listings.
The most recent Google updates may seem like a lot of work and detail to a business owner and marketer. However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that Google, just like you, wants to create a fantastic user experience. These algorithmic changes eliminate content that is disorganized, low-quality, and illegal. That content competes with your business and marketing content in addition to filling up your search queries.
In conclusion, these Google updates are beneficial, and it is up to you to continue learning and applying what you have learned.