History of Updates: Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon
2017 Google Algorithm Updates & Changes
Google rolled out what appeared to be a major update, with reports of widespread impacts across the SEO community. Gary Illyes jokingly referred to is as “Fred”, and the name stuck, but he later made it clear that this was not an official confirmation.
Algorithm changes beginning on February 1st continued for a full week, peaking around February 6th (some reported the 7th). Webmaster chatter and industry case studies suggest these were separate events.
There was a period of heavy algorithm flux starting around February 1st and peaking around February 6th. It is unclear whether this was multiple algorithm updates or a single update with an extended roll-out, but anecdotal evidence suggests at least two updates.
Google started rolling out a penalty to punish aggressive interstitials and pop-ups that might damage the mobile user experience. Google also provided a rare warning of this update five months in advance. MozCast showed high temperatures from January 10-11, but many SEOs reported minimal impact on sites that should have been affected.
2016 Google Algorithm Updates & Changes
Multiple Google trackers showed massive flux around December 14-15, including a rare MozCast temperature of 109°F. Webmaster chatter was heavy as well, but Google did not confirm an update.
MozCast detected a major (106°) spike on November 10th and another on the 18th. Industry chatter was high during both periods, with some suggesting that the second spike was a reversal of the first update. Google has not confirmed either event. Many people reported bad dates in SERPs during the same time period, but it’s unclear whether this was causal or just a coincidence.
Penguin 4.0, Phase 2 — October 6, 2016
The second phase of Penguin 4.0 was the reversal of all previous Penguin penalties. This seemed to happen after the new code rolled out, and may have taken as long as two weeks. Post-Penguin activity had one final peak on October 6th (116°), but it is unclear whether this was Penguin or a new update. Algorithm temperatures finally started to drop after October 6th.
The first phase of Penguin 4.0, which probably launched around September 22-23, was the rollout of the new, “gentler” Penguin algorithm, which devalues bad links instead of penalizing sites. The exact timeline is unconfirmed, but we believe this rollout took at least a few days to fully update, and may have corresponded to an algorithm temperature spike (113°) on September 27th.
Penguin 4.0 Announcement — September 23, 2016
After almost two years of waiting, Google finally announced a major Penguin update. They suggested the new Penguin is now real-time and baked into the “core” algorithm. Initial impact assessments were small, but it was later revealed that the Penguin 4.0 rollout was unusually long and multi-phase (see September 27th and October 6th).
MozCast recorded a nearly-record 111° temperature and a 50% drop in SERPs with image (universal/vertical) results. The universal result shake-up opened up an organic position on page 1, causing substantial ranking shifts, but it’s likely that this was part of a much larger update.
“Possum” — September 1, 2016
While unconfirmed by Google, MozCast recorded extreme temperatures of 108° and a drop in local pack prevalence, and the local SEO community noted a major shake-up in pack results. Data suggests this update (or a simultaneous update) also heavily impacted organic results.
Just more than a year after the original “mobile friendly” update, Google rolled out another ranking signal boost to benefit mobile-friendly sites on mobile search. Since the majority of sites we track are already mobile-friendly, it’s likely the impact of the latest update was small.
MozCast and other Google weather trackers showed a historically rare week-long pattern of algorithm activity, including a 97-degree spike. Google would not confirm this update, and no explanation is currently available.
Google made major changes to AdWords, removing right-column ads entirely and rolling out 4-ad top blocks on many commercial searches. While this was a paid search update, it had significant implications for CTR for both paid and organic results, especially on competitive keywords.
Multiple tracking tools (including MozCast) reported historically-large rankings movement, which Google later confirmed as a “core algo update”. Google officially said that this was not a Penguin update, but details remain sketchy.
2015 Google Algorithm Updates
RankBrain — October 26, 2015
Google made a major announcement, revealing that machine learning had been a part of the algorithm for months, contributing to the 3rd most influential ranking factor. This is an announcement date – the actual launch was closer to spring 2015.
Google Panda 4.2
July 17, 2015
Panda data refresh which will roll out over the course of months. Has not had major effects to this point.
The Quality Update
May 3, 2015
Core algorithm shift focusing on “quality signals”. Little more is known.
Mobile Update AKA “Mobilegeddon”
April 22, 2015
Mobile rankings improve for mobile-friendly sites.
February 4, 2015
Major flux in SERPs. Possible e-commerce or mobile usability update.
2014 Algorithm Updates
Pigeon Expands (United Kingdom, Canada & Australia)
December 22, 2014
Major local algorithm update expands to the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.
Google Penguin Everflux
December 10, 2014
Penguin updates will now take the form of continuous updates.
October 21, 2014
Update to fight software and digital piracy. Highly specific change that only impacted a small number of websites – but in a major (negative) manner.
October 17, 2014
Penguin refresh. Less than 1% of US/English search queries impacted.
“In The News” Box
Display change to News-box search results. News links from a far bigger set of potential sites. News results in web SERPs increased substantially.
September 23, 2014
Major Panda update. Estimated impact was 3-5% of all search queries.
August 28, 2014
Google remove authorship markup with near immediate effect.
August 6, 2014
Preference is given to secure websites.
July 24, 2014
Pigeon brought the local algorithm and the core algorithm closer to each other. Some viewed it as a mere extension of principals already brought in by Hummingbird.
Authorship Photo Drop
June 28, 2014
Authorship photos are taken off SERPs.
Payday Loan 3.0
June 12, 2014
Payday Loan 3.0 targets low quality search queries. Should only really impact you if you are involved in the short term financing or online pornography realms.
May 19, 2014
Major Panda update. 7.5% of English-language search queries were impacted.
Google Payday Loan 2.0
May 16, 2014
Targets spammy queries.
March 24, 2014
Many sites see ranking changes, but this update was not confirmed.
Page Layout Update
February 6, 2014
Refresh of January 2012 algorithm that penalizes websites with ads above the fold.
2013 Algorithm Updates
December 19, 2013
Authorship mark-up removed from 15% of search queries.
December 17, 2013
Huge ranking changes across the board. Company did not confirm an update or even a refresh.
Unnamed Irregularities with DNS Errors
November 14, 2013
Wholesale DNS errors picked up on Webmaster Tools.
October 4, 2013
A data update. Allow some to recover from harsher earlier renditions of Penguin.
August 20, 2013
A core algorithm update effecting semantic search and the Knowledge Graph.
August 6, 2013
News result for long-form content. Appeared in 3% of the search queries.
July 26, 2013
Shake up in search results – company offered no confirmation of an update of any sort.
Knowledge Graph Expansion
July 19, 2013
Knowledge Graph entries increase dramatically.
Google Panda Recovery
July 18, 2013
Panda update that lessened previous Panda penalties.
June 27, 2013
Company tested changes that were later reversed.
“Payday Loan” Update
June 11, 2013
Algorithm update which targeted low quality websites especially in payday loans and porn.
June 11, 2013
Matt Cutts said that Panda was updating monthly, with each update taking 10 days to roll out fully.
May 22, 2013
4th Penguin update had a moderate impact. Focused on page level.
Domain Crowding in Deeper SERPs
May 21, 2013
Update to ensure more domain diversity in deeper pages.
May 9, 2013
Many sites report traffic loss although no update is admitted to.
March 14, 2013
Last update before Panda got inculcated into the core algorithm. Google Panda stopped low quality sites from ranking prominently. It is heavily influenced by (human) Google Quality Raters. One of the questions these Raters had to answer was “would I trust this site with my credit card?”
January 22, 2013
Impacts 1.2% of queries affected. Not confirmed at the time.
2012 Algorithm Updates
Panda Update #23
December 21, 2012
Data refresh impacts 1.3% of English search queries.
Knowledge Graph Expansion
December 4, 2012
Knowledge Graph added to non-English versions of the search engine.
Panda Update #22
November 21, 2012
Data refresh only.
Panda Update #21
November 5, 2012
Impacts 1.1% of English search queries.
Page Layout Update #2 aka ‘Top Heavy 2’
October 9, 2012
Targets pages with ads above the fold.
Penguin Update #3
October 5, 2012
Minor Penguin data update impacting just 0.3% of search queries.
October 4, 2012
65 updates include 7-result SERPs, Knowledge Graph expansion & local search changes.
Panda Update #20
September 27, 2012
Major Panda update affecting 2.4% of search queries.
Exact-Match Domain Update
September 27, 2012
Devaluation of exact-match domains. Impacted 0.6% of search queries by volume.
Panda Update 3.9.2
September 18, 2012
Panda refresh. Minor impact on global rankings.
Panda Update 3.9.1
August 20, 2012
Tiny Panda update with very small impact on rankings.
August 14, 2012
Top 10 becomes Top 7 results for many search queries. 18% search queries returned 7-Result SERPs.
7-Results SERPs by Category as of February 2013
Travel & Tourism 36.2%
Retailers & General Merchandise 29.6%
Sports & Fitness 28.6%
Dining & Nightlife 27.2%
Jobs & Education 21.4%
Home & Garden 20.0%
Arts & Entertainment 16.8%
Computers & Consumer Electronics 16.8%
Law & Government 16.2%
Food & Groceries 13.4%
Family & Community 13.2%
Real Estate 13.2%
Beauty & Personal Care 12.6%
Internet & Telecom 12.6%
Hobbies & Leisure 11.0%
Occasions & Gifts 7.8%
August 10, 2012
The June and July Search Quality Highlights were announced simultaneously. There were Panda data and algorithm changes and targeted ranking boosts for certain websites deemed highly trustworthy.
DMCA Penalty (aka Google “Pirate”)
August 10, 2012
Company start penalizing websites with a history of copyright violations via DMCA requests. If you are curious as to whether you have incurred such a penalty the search company offers a page dedicated to transparency outlining the latest reports of DMCA violations.
Panda 3.9 Update
July 24, 2012
1% of queries impacted.
Link Warnings via Webmaster Tools
July 19, 2012
Google send unnatural link warnings via Webmaster Tools.
Panda 3.8 Update
June 25, 2012
Panda data refresh with a very small overall impact.
Panda 3.7 Update
June 8, 2012
Panda data update with a relatively large impact on SERPs.
June 7, 2012
39 updates in May. These include a Penguin update, link-scheme detection and updates to News.
Penguin 1.1 Update
May 25, 2012
First data update after “Penguin”.
May 16, 2012
Company implement “Knowledge Graph”, a SERP display providing supplemental options about certain people, places & events.
May 4, 2012
52 updates in April.
Panda 3.6 Update
April 27, 2012
Panda data update. The impact was small for most but not all…
April 24, 2012
An “Over-optimization penalty” Penguin focused on spam factors like keyword stuffing. 3.1% of English search queries were impacted as a result.
Panda 3.5 Update
April 19, 2012
Panda data update. Small impact.
Parked Domain Bug
April 16, 2012
Company admits a data error had caused some domains to be treated as parked domains by mistake.
April 3, 2012
50 changes in March. These focused on anchor-text, image search, and local search.
Panda Update 3.4
March 23, 2012
Impacted 1.6% of search queries.
Search Quality Video
March 12, 2012
Google publish a video of a search quality meeting.
February 27, 2012
Local search update.
February 27, 2012
40 changes in February.
Panda Update 3.3
February 27, 2012
Panda update that had a small impact.
February 3, 2012
17 updates in February 2012. Focused on freshness & integration of Panda into the main search index.
Ads Above The Fold
January 19, 2012
Devalues sites with excessive ad-space above the “fold”.
Panda Update 3.2
January 18, 2012
Panda data update.
Search + Your World
January 10, 2012
Google+ data suddenly used in SERPs.
January 5, 2012
30 changes in January 2012 focusing on image search, site-links, rich snippets, and related-queries.
2011 Algorithm Updates
10 updates in December. Updates focus on parked domain detection & freshness.
Panda Update 3.1
November 18, 2011
Another Panda update with minor impact on SERPs.
10-Pack of Updates
November 14, 2011
Matt Cutts shares 10 recent algorithm updates. Most updates were small in magnitude.
November 3, 2011
Algorithm change rewards freshness & impacts 35% of search queries. Huge shift toward recency of content.
October 18, 2011
Google start encrypting search queries for privacy. This disrupted data, returning “(not provided)” for organic search traffic at a staggering rate over a short amount of time (see below).
Panda “Flux” Update #8
October 5, 2011
Effected around 2% of search queries.
Panda Update 2.5
September 28, 2011
A handful of websites reported major traffic losses as a result of this Update.
516 Algo Updates Divulged in Congress by Eric Schmidt
September 21, 2011
CEO Eric Schmidt tells the US Congress that the search engine made 516 updates in 2010 alone. Additionally they tested a total of 13,000 updates.
Rel=”next” and Rel=”prev” Pagination Elements
September 15, 2011
Google introduce rel=”next” and rel=”prev” link attributes. Google announced that they had worked on improving consolidation for “View All” pages.
August 16, 2011
Google rolls out expanded site-links focusing on brand related queries.
Panda Update 2.4
August 12, 2011
Google implement Panda near globally. Impacted 6-9% of queries in these countries.
Panda Update 2.3
July 23, 2011
Update to Panda data and ranking factors.
June 28, 2011
Company launches Google+.
Panda Update 2.2
June 21, 2011
Panda updates outside of the main index.
June 2, 2011
Major search engines support structured data.
Panda Update 2.1
May 9, 2011
Relatively minor changes implemented.
Panda Update 2.0
April 11, 2011
Panda update extended to all English search queries globally.
The +1 Button
March 30, 2011
Google rolls out the +1 button on the SERPs themselves.
February 23, 2011
A major algorithm update hit sites hard, impacting 12% of search results. Panda clamped down on low quality content, content/link farms & sites with lots of ads but little content. Panda reached Europe in April 2011.
Content Author Attribution Update
January 28, 2011
Aimed at preventing content scrapers. Impacted 2% of search queries.
Google expose & penalize black hat SEO practices by Overstock.com.
2010 Google Algorithm Updates
Google adjusted the algorithm to target sites using black hat tactics such as those used by e-commerce site DecorMyEyes.
Social Signals in Search
Company admit that they now use social signals in their ranking algorithm.
Search visitors could now preview landing pages whilst still on SERPs.
Instant launches showing results as a search query was being typed in.
Google now let one domain appear several times on the same SERP.
Google finished the role out of Caffeine. This made the index 50% fresher.
May Day Long-Tail Update
May Day was an algorithm shift that impacted long-tail search terms.
“Places” pages was initially rolled out in September 2009, but only on Maps. Places (for Business), infused pages with local search results.
2009 Google Algorithm Updates
Real-time search used Twitter feeds, News & newly indexed content on a real-time feed on certain SERPs.
Google Caffeine (Preview)
Preview what would ultimately lead to faster crawling & larger indexation capacity.
Major update that favored larger brands.
Rel-canonical Tag Gets Support of Search Engines
All of the major search engines announce support for the Canonical Tag.
2008 Algorithm Updates
Google rolls out Suggest, which shows suggested searches in a dropdown in real-time as one searched.
Suspected, but unconfirmed case of the search giant plugging their own wares.
2007 Google Algorithm Updates
Matt Cutts claimed Buffy was a collection of tiny changes.
Integrated standard search results with News, Video, Images, Local, and other verticals, changing the face of search.
2006 Algorithm Updates
Widespread uncertainty over the status of the Supplemental Index & implications of being placed there for search results going forward.
2005 Google Algorithm Updates
Big Daddy was concerned with URL canonicalization, redirects and sundry technical issues.
Google Local & Maps Merge
Local Business Center & Maps merge.
Updates concerned with low-quality links: reciprocal, link farms, and paid links.
Unconfirmed & suspected to have never taken place at all.
XML Sitemaps Allowed Via Webmaster Tools
Webmasters are allowed to submit XML sitemaps via Webmaster Tools.
This version of personalized search used your own search histories to adjust your personalized search results.
Bourbon is thought to have changed how duplicate content and non-canonical URLs were dealt with by Google.
LSI might have been altered with this rather mysterious update.
The “nofollow” attribute is introduced. Blog commenting was never the same again. This change would over time go on to have a significant impact on SEO.
2004 Google Algorithm Updates
Company list with a market capitalization of $20 billion.
Index expansion, Latent Semantic Indexing, anchor text relevance, and link “neighborhoods” are all involved in this update.
Google fights against spammy on-page tactics: invisible text and Meta-tag stuffing.
2003 Algorithm Updates
Major algorithmic update with far reaching impact that ushered in modern SEO.
Google splits index into Main & “supplemental”. The index is later recombined.
Google’s index started changing daily.
Esmerelda saw widespread infrastructure changes.
Changed the way Google counted inbound links to a domain.
Focused on mass linking from domains owned by one person or company. Cassandra penalized hidden text and links.
First named Google update.
2002 Google Updates
1st Known Update
Major shift in late 2002.
2000 Google Updates
The Google Toolbar is Introduced
Google launches a browser toolbar which came with Toolbar PageRank.