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Change History for Google Algorithms

Published date: 3rd August 2015
Last modified: 21st August 2017

Google constantly updates it’s algorithms, the aim is to return more relevant search results for user. We have created a list of the known updates from 2014 to help site owners look at a glance when changes have happened that may have had an impact on their site. We have referenced several external websites as evidence of the updates.  We will keep this page up to date as much as possible.

We would highly recommend that in your Google Analytics account to add comments against these dates so you can see instantly if these updates have had an effect on your site.

2015 Updates

Panda 4.2

July 17, 2015

Saying that it could take months to fully roll out, Google announced what was most likely a Panda data refresh. The effects were unclear what with no clear signs of a major algorithm update.

Google Panda Update: Everything We Know About Panda 4.2 (SEM Post)
Google says a Panda refresh began this weekend but will take months to fully roll out. (Search Engine Land)

The Quality Update

May 3, 2015

Following many reports of large-scale ranking changes, Google acknowledged a core algorithm change impacting “quality signals”. This update seems to have had a broad impact, however, Google didn’t reveal any specifics about the sort of metrics used or ‘signals’ being targeted.

The Quality Update: Google Confirms Changing How Quality Is Assessed, Resulting In Rankings Shake-Up (Search Engine Land)
Googles – ‘Phantom” algorithm update (CNBC)

Mobile Update

April 21, 2015

Google announced this particular algorithm update pre-launch, stating they would be starting to roll out the update globally from the 21st April. Effecting only mobile search and individual page, the update introduces mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor. Studies have shown this is now making a big impact on Desktop searches which Google originally said wouldn’t happen.

Finding more mobile-friendly search results (Google Web masters Central)
We are past the mobile tipping point (Cocoonfxmedia)

Unnamed Update

February 4, 2015

Multiple SERP trackers and webmasters reported major variations in Google SERPs. Speculation on the update ranged from it being an e-commerce update to a mobile usability update. Officially Google did not confirm an update.

Significant Google Search Algorithm Update Yesterday (Search Engine Roundtable)
Google Brand-eCommerce “Update” causing fluctuations (Searchmetrics)

2014 Updates

Pigeon Expands (UK, CA, AU)

December 22, 2014

Google’s major local algorithm update, dubbed “Pigeon”, expanded to the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. The original update back in July 2014 hit the United States. Even though the update was confirmed on the 22nd it believed that it may have rolled out as early as the 19th.

Google Pigeon Update Rolls Out To UK, Canada & Australia (SEL)
Local Search Results (Strategy Digital)

Continuous Penguin

December 10, 2014

A representative from Google said that Penguin had shifted to continuous updates, moving away from infrequent, major updates. This claim seemed to fit the ongoing fluctuations after Penguin 3.0 (including unconfirmed claims of a Penguin 3.1).

Google Says Penguin To Shift To “Continuous Updates”

Pirate 2.0

October 21, 2014

More than two years after the original DMCA/”Pirate” update, Google launched another update to combat software and digital media piracy. After many criticisms that Google is not doing enough against Piracy it updated its filter to help stem piracy. It works similar like Panda or Penguin.  This update was highly targeted, causing dramatic drops in ranking to a relatively small group of sites.

Google Pirate Update Analysis and Loser List (Search Metrics)
Google’s New Search Downranking Hits Torrent Sites Hard (TorrentFreak)

Penguin 3.0

October 17, 2014

A year after the previous Penguin 2.1 update, Google launched a Penguin refresh. This update appeared to be smaller than expected (<1% of US/English queries affected) and was probably data-only and not a new Penguin algorithm. The timing of the update was unclear and Google claimed it was spread out over “weeks”.

Google AutoCorrects: Penguin 3.0 Still Rolling Out & 1% Impact (Search Engine Roundtable)

“In The News” Box

October 2014

A display change to News-box results, but later announced that they had expanded news links to a much larger set of potential sites. The presence of news results in SERPs also spiked, and major news sites reported substantial traffic changes.

Google’s “In The News” Box Now Lists More Than Traditional News Sites (Search Engine Land)
New Publishers Upset With Google’s “In The News” Box (Search Engine Roundtable)

Panda 4.1

September 23, 2014

Panda 4.1 was announced as a significant Panda update, which included an algorithmic component. They estimated the impact at 3-5% of queries affected. Given the “slow roll out,” the exact timing was unclear.

Panda 4.1 Googles 28th Panda Update (Search Engine Land)

Authorship Removed

August 28, 2014

Following up on the June 28th drop of authorship photos, Google announced that they would be completely removing authorship markup. By the next morning, authorship bylines had disappeared from all SERPs.
Official Announcement from John Mueller (Google+)

HTTPS/SSL Update

August 6, 2014

After speculation, Google announced that they would be giving preference to secure sites, and that adding encryption would provide a “lightweight” rankings boost. They stressed that this boost would start out small, but implied it might increase if the changed proved to be positive.

HTTPS as a ranking signal (Google)

Pigeon

July 24, 2014

Google shook the local results with an update that dramatically altered some local SEO results and modified how they handle and interpret location cues. Google claimed that Pigeon created closer ties between the local algorithm and core algorithm(s).

Google “Pigeon” Updates Local Search Algorithm With Stronger Ties To Web Search Signal (Search Engine Land)

Authorship Photo Drop

June 28, 2014

John Mueller made a surprise announcement (on June 25th) that Google would be dropping all authorship photos from SERPs (after heavily promoting authorship as a connection to Google+). The drop was complete around June 28th.

Payday Loan 3.0

June 12, 2014

Multiple SERP-trackers and many webmasters reported major flux in Google SERPs. Speculation ranged from an e-commerce focused update to a mobile usability update. Google did not officially confirm an update. Many in the SEO community hinted on SEO is dead well back linking.

Panda 4.0

May 19, 2014

Google confirmed a major Panda update that likely included both an algorithm update and a data refresh. Officially, about 7.5% of English-language queries were affected. While Matt Cutts said it began rolling out on 5/20, our data strongly suggests it started earlier.

Payday Loan 2.0

May 16, 2014

Prior to Panda 4.0, Google updated it’s “payday loan” algorithm, which targets especially spammy queries. The exact date of the roll-out was unclear (Google said “this past weekend” on 5/20), and the back-to-back updates made the details difficult to sort out.

Unnamed Update

March 24, 2014

Major algorithm flux trackers and webmaster chatter spiked around 3/24-3/25, and some speculated that the new, “softer” Panda update had arrived. Many sites reported ranking changes, but this update was never confirmed by Google.

Page Layout

February 6, 2014

Google “refreshed” their page layout algorithm, also known as “top heavy”. Originally launched in January 2012, the page layout algorithm penalizes sites with too many ads above the fold.

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