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Google Algorithm Updates:

Google algorithms are formulas used by their search engine to rank domains and to produce search results for Google users. As you might imagine Google algorithms are incredibly complex. Among other things, they seek out and reward domains (better SERP) while also finding and punishing domains that do not comply with Google quality guidelines. A website can be penalized by a Google algorithm at any time because Google runs their algorithms through the search engine at random. A domain can also be penalized when Google fine-tunes the algorithm and then runs the updated version through their search engine. You won't know you've been penalized until your website is nowhere to be found when searching for your top keywords. The impact of Google's algorithm updates cannot not be understated so don't be fooled by the adorable sounding creatures that symbolize these domain purges: Panda, Penguin and, to a lesser extent, Hummingbird.

Google makes many other updates to their search algorithm and not all of them are intended to "police" the web as much as to do routine maintenance and upgrade the Google search engine. Panda, Penguin, and to a lesser extent, the Hummingbird are the ones to guard against.

Google Algorithm Updates - History

2013 Google Algorithm Updates:
Authorship - 12/19/13 Matt Cutts advises attendees at Pubcon Las Vegas of Google's changing view of authorship. By reducing number of authorship related results by 15% Cutts claims quality of search results increased.
Rumored Update - 12/17/13 Industry-wide talk of Google update based on tracking data but no confirmation from Google. Some monitors noted a rise in partial-match-domains.
Rumored Update - 11/14/13 Increase in reports of extensive DNS errors, but Google neither confirms or denies an algorithm update.
Penguin 2.1 Update - 10/4/2013 Google confirms launch of Penguin 2.1, which is said to be slightly improved version of Penguin 2.0. Matt Cutts indicates that Penguin 2.1 will affect less than 1% of searches to any noticeable degree.
Hummingbird Update - 8/20/13 Hummingbird isn't announced until almost one month after Google launches this major update to their algorithm. One of the biggest changes to Google algorithm, making the search engine much more responsive to searches for long tailed search terms and semantic search.
In-Depth Articles Update - 8/6/13 Google introduces new, algorithm-based search results to assist users in finding in-depth articles and content. Google claims update was made in response to high number of users that use Google to search for information to learn more about a broad range of topics.
Rumored Update - 7/26/13 Industry monitors note big change in their tracking data but no confirmation from Google. MozCast Update
Knowledge Graph Extension (KG) Update - 7/19/13 High jump in inquiries that show a knowledge graph (KG), increasing from nearly 18% to almost 27%.
Panda Recovery Update - 7/18/13 Confirmed update of the Goolge Panda, which is said to be more finely targeted, however exact nature of this Panda update was unclear as Google says that it will not confirm Panda updates any longer. Industry monitors note that this update may have softened prior Panda infractions.
Multi-week Algorithm Update - 6/27/13 A number of Google algorithm updates seem to take place between June 12 and July 4, as alluded to by Matt Cutts. Tremendous changes in rankings take place with many industry analysts concluding that Google is testing changes to the algorithm.
Rolling Panda Update - 6/11/13 Matt Cutts announces at SMX Advanced search market expo that Google Panda algorithm continues to be updated slowly on a monthly basis. Update to the algorithm launched early in the month and then pushed out slowly over the next 10 or so days.
Spammy Search Update - The Payday Loan Algorithm - 6/11/13 Also announced at SMX Advanced, Matt Cutts confirms a targeted algorithm update citing spammy websites (payday loans, pornography) in particular for this action.
Penguin 2.0 Update - 5/22/13 This is the 4th update of the Google Penguin algorithm update designed to be a better tool to detect and stop spam. Matt Cutts indicates that 2.3% of English searches will be affected by this Penguin update.
Domain Clustering/Crowding Update - 5/21/13 Tracking results appear to confirm Matt Cutts video message regarding what turned out to be a domain crowding update; changes in the number of search results displayed from a single root domain.
Rumored Update - 5/9/13 Unconfirmed rumors of a Google algorithm update based on widespread reports by domains owners claiming a significant loss of traffic.
Panda 25 Update - 3/14/2013 Matt Cutts advises attendees at SMX West that an update to the Panda algorithm is in the offing. He also notes that this would be the last update of Panda before the update becomes part of the core algorithm.
Panda Update #24 - 1/22/13 Google rolls out its first update of 2013, a new Panda refresh, marking the 24th update to the Panda. The new update impacts on approximately 1.2% of all English searches.

2012 Google Algorithm Updates:
Panda Update #23 - 12/21/2012 Approximately 1.3% of English searches are affected by what is now the 23rd update of the Google Panda.
Knowledge Graph (KG) Update - 12/4/2012 Google expands knowledge graph to more languages - Italian, Russian, Japanese, French. Spanish, German, Portuguese - and also adds improved knowledge graph capabilities.
Panda Update #22 - 11/21/12 Google Panda update #22 appears to be a data-only update, impacting less than 0.8% of English searches.
Panda Update #21 - 11/5/12 Google Panda update #21 is another minor refresher with approximately 1.1% of English searches impacted following launch of this update.
Page Layout Algorithm - 10/9/2012 Google updates the page layout algorithm that they launched earlier this year (Jan 2012), which targets websites with an excessive number of ads above the fold.
Penguin Update #3 - 10/5/2013 Minor update to Google Penguin algorithm has limited impact o approximately 0.3% of searches.
65 Changes for August and September - announced 10/4/2012 Google announces another installment of search quality highlights citing 65 changes to their search algorithm with details of each listed by unique ID numbers. Of particular note are expansion of knowledge graph (KG), calculation of page quality and local results determinants.
Exact Match Domain (EMD) Update - 9/27/2012 Google announces rollout of minor algorithm change targeting low quality exact match domains. Unrelated to either Panda or Penguin, Matt Cutts indicates that the EMD update will affect approximately 0.6% of U.S. English inquiries.
Panda Update #20 - 9/27/2012 Google launches fairly aggressive update to Panda with full effects taking 3-4 days to make it into the index. Approximately 2.4% of English inquiries impacted by this Panda update.
Panda Update #19 - 9/18/2012 Data-only refresh of Google Panda update with less than 0.7% of inquiries impacted.
Panda Update #18 8/20/2012 Minor refresh of Google Panda update with less than 0.1% of inquiries impacted.
SERP 10 to 7 - 8/14/12 Google makes major change to their Top 10, limiting the results to 7 listing for most inquiries. Full impact takes about 4 days. SERPs with 7 results jump from 0.1% to 10.7% and then 18.3% with almost one-fifth of SERP's being tracked showing just 7 results.
DMCA Penalty - 8/10/12 Google announces start of campaign to penalize domains with multiple, valid copyright removal notices, saying that they will be using data on copyright violations as a signal in their search rankings.
86 Changes for June and July - announced 8/10/2012 Lengthy list of 86 changes in Google search quality highlights including Panda refreshers, better rank-ordering functions, trusted sources rank boosting and changes to site clustering.
Panda Update #17 - 7/24/12 Another in series of refreshers to the Google Panda update with less than 0.1% of queries impacted.
Link Warnings - 7/19/2012 Somewhat ambiguous update from Google following earlier warnings re: unnatural links, sent via message to webmasters in their webmaster tools. Google's cryptic update says these new warnings may not be a problem and that a penalty may not follow the unnatural link warning.
Panda Update #16 - 6/25/12 Minor Panda refresher, not an algorithm change only data, with limited impact on most inquiries.
Panda Update #15 - 6/8/2012 Google confirms refresh of their algorithm but does not confirm that it was a Panda update. Industry tracking data links update to Panda, with approximately 1% of searches impacted.
39 Changes for May - announced 6/7/2012 Another in series of monthly search quality highlights with 39 changes listed; the most prominent being the Knowledge Graph (KG), better search for users in China and updated search for iPhone.
Penguin Update #2 - 5/25/12 Google confirms first update to their Penguin algorithm, calling it a "data refresh." Minor impact felt across the board with less than one-tenth of one percent of English inquiries affected.
Knowledge Graph (KG) - 5.16.2012 Google introduces the Knowledge Graph, enabling users to search for things, people or places that are relevant to the search. Considered a big step toward semantic search, KG is a SERP-integrated display that gives users supplemental information, or knowledge panels.
52 Changes for April - announced 5/4/2012 This is the April installment of Google's monthly search quality changes (though these aren't always released monthly and not necessarily on a regular schedule). Some items of note are latest Google algorithm improvement to find more high quality sites, changes to indexing, spelling, sitelinks and sports scores features.
Panda Update #14 - 4/27/2012 Google confirms yet another refresher of their Panda algorithm but impact is limited with few sites impacted.
Penguin Update - 4/24/2012 Google rolls out major update to combat "webspam," eventually to be named the Penguin algorithm update. This update fine tunes many spam issues impacting more than 3.1% of English searches and sites found to be using keyword stuffing, cloaking and a multitude of other techniques that violate Google quality guidelines.
Panda Update #13 - 4/19/2012 Another refresher of the Panda algorithm is released with limited impact.
Google Glitch - Parked Domain Bug - 4/16/2012 A Google error results in devaluing many domains mistakenly taken to be parked domains (websites with little if any content other than ads). Matt Cutts confirms that error was fixed.
50 Changes for March - announced 4/3/2012 New list of Google's monthly search quality highlights with acknowledgement of Panda 3.4, update of anchor-text scoring, image search and better indexing of profile pages.
Panda Update #12 - 3/23/2012 Google uses Twitter to announce this update to the Panda algorithm. Message includes statement saying that 1.6% of queries are affected by this Panda refresh.
Search Quality Meeting Video - 3/12/2012 Google releases video that covers one of their search quality meetings to give viewers an inside look into how search works at Google. The meeting covers their discussion of the Google spell correction system.
Panda Update #11 - 2/27/2012 According to Google, this update of Panda "simply refreshes data in the system making it more accurate and more sensitive to recent changes on the web."
40 Changes for February - announced 2/27/2012 This is a second set of changes in February, with 40 noted in their list of search quality highlights with more coverage for related searches, tweak to categorizer for expanded sitelinks and less duplication in expanded sitelinks topping the list.
Venice Update - 2/27, 2012 Noted in list of monthly changes for Feb, this update improves the triggering of local universal, organic results by relying more on the ranking of Google's main search results as a signal.
17 Changes for February - announced 2/3/2012 Search quality highlights for February include faster auto-complete, better spelling full page replacement and cross-language refinements.
Page Layout Improvement - 1/19/2012 Algorithmic change in Google search engine that takes into account the layout of a webpage and the amount of content on the page when a user clicks on the search results; too many ads above the fold.
Panda Update #10 - 1/18/2012 Not a real change to the algorithm as much as another refresher.
Search Plus Your World Update - 1/10/2012 Google announces change of search engine to include personal results, profiles in search and people and pages making Google + social data and user profiles more important part of SERP.
30 Changes for December 2011 - announced 1/5/2012 Google lists 30 search quality changes using a sampling of code names, which Google feels makes changes easier to talk about and remember. Highlights of changes include better spam detection in image search, more accurate byline dates and more relevant site links.

2011 Google Algorithm Updates:
10 Changes for December - announced 12/1/2011 Google announces another set of search quality changes while also noting that these changes can be expected monthly. This edition of their Inside Search blog highlights more comprehensive indexing, new parked domain classifier, and image result freshness.
Panda Update #9 - 11/18/2011 Minor Panda update affecting less than 1% of all searches.
10 Changes for November - announced 11/14/11 Biggest news here is an apparent shift in how Google communicates changes in the search algorithm. In a move to be more transparent Matt Cutts includes a few relatively minor changes in Google search blog.
Fresh Content Update - 11/3/2011 In an effort to ensure that the most recent, or freshest content, gets priority for time-sensitive results Google announces this major algorithm change. Up to 35% of all searches affected by the freshness update.
Encryption Update - 10/18/2011 Google's official blog alerts the industry that they will be encrypting search queries for privacy reasons.
Panda Update #8 - 10/5/2011 Minor Panda algorithm update. Matt Cutts indicates that less than 2% of searches will be impacted.
Panda Update #7 - 9/28/2011 Google confirms latest update to the Panda algorithm, officially being Panda 2.5. Many webmasters report major losses from this Panda update.
Google Revelations - 9/21/2011 Eric Schmidt, executive chairman at Google testifies before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary saying that among other things, Google made 516 updates to the search engine in 2010 while also testing over 13,000 updates.
Paginated Content - 9/15/2011 Google introduces rel="next" and rel="prev" link attributes and improved automatic consolidation and canonicalization for "View All" pages.
Expanded and Improved Site Links - 8/16/11 Google announces several improvements to their sitelinks, including how they appear and how they are organized in search results.
Panda Update #6 - 8/12/2011 Google blog announces that this Panda update is a rollout of algorithm search improvement in several different languages, which is aimed at improving overall search quality. This Panda update expected to impact 6-9% of queries.
Panda Update #5 - 7/23/2011 Google confirms a minor update to the Panda algorithm.
Google+ Introduced - 6/28/2011 Google introduces their Google+ project, aiming to bring what they call "real life sharing" to their algorithm; content sharing among individual's circles.
Panda Update #4 - 6/21/2011 Google confirms Panda 2.2 is live and part of the algorithm. Matt Cutts explains that Panda 2.2 intended to improve scraper detection. - 6/2/2011 Google, Microsoft and Yahoo announce that they have joined forces in, an common foundation of support for microdata, which is a type of structured mark up that provides semantic meaning to content on the Internet.
Panda Update #3 - 5/9/2011 Rumored to be Panda 3.0 but never officially declared as such by Google. Appears to be another minor update.
Panda Update #2 - 4/11/2011 Google announces that their algorithm update introduced last month aimed at helping users find more high quality sites is being rolled out globally to all English language users. This update also includes new signals especially data about site users blocked by the SERP's or Chrome.
Google +1 Button - 3/30/2011 Google announces introduction of their +1 button, which allows users to rate search results within their social circles for both organic and paid results. Recommendations when you want them
Panda Update - 2/23/2011 Google launches major algorithm update that impacts more than 12% of search results. Called "Panda" after Google engineer working on the algo, this update targets content farms, thin spammy content and other content quality issues.
Attribution Update - 1/28/2011 Google takes additional steps regarding content attribution and to put the brakes on content scraping. Matt Cutts notes that this update will impact 2% of queries and is probably a response from Google to some of the high-profile spam episodes.
The Case - 1/2011 Google takes decisive action in penalizing for their poor SEO practices and makes their decision public, putting other high profile companies on notice regarding their SEO.

2010 Google Algorithm Updates:
Social Signals Update - 12/2010 Search engines Bing and Google acknowledge that they are using social signals in their search algorithms, which Matt Cutts confirms is a relatively new practice for Google.
Negative News/Reviews Update - 12/2010 In response to a high-profile story in the NY Times highlighting the fact that some ecommerce sites were achieving high SERP's based on negative reviews, Google adjusts its algorithm to guard against anyone using this tactic to gain higher rankings. A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web
Instant Preview Update - 11/2010 Google adds a magnifying glass icon, allowing users to preview landing pages directly from search results. The move reinforces Google's emphasis on landing page quality and design.
Google Instant - 9/2010 Google introduces search enhancement that shows users results as they type their query into the Google search bar.
The Brand Update - 8/2010 Google appears to allow the same domain (brand) to appear multiple times on a SERP, from a well-known brand, and thus dominating the first page of some search results. This is a departure from previous policy where domains were limited to 1-2 listings.
Caffeine Update - 6/8/2010 Google announces launch of new web indexing system called "Caffeine," which increases Google's speed and returns "fresher" content to the user.
Mayday Update - 5/2010 Matt Cutts confirms this update to the algorithm, aimed at finding higher quality websites for long tailed searches.
Google Places - 4/2010 Google announces that their Local Business Center is now Google Places, which they feel will better connect their Place Pages, which was launched last September.

2009 Google Algorithm Updates:
Real Time Search Results Update - 12/2009 Google announces launch of real time search results, creating a real time feed from newly indexed content on search results.
Caffeine Update Preview - 8/2009 Google provides a sneak-peak to upcoming Caffeine update, designed to speed up searches and to provide users with the most up-to-date content.
Canonical Link Element - 2/2009 Joint support by Google, Microsoft and Yahoo for the "canonical tag" which cuts down on unnecessary duplicate content results by letting webmasters send these canonical tags through the search engines, telling the them that multiple pages should be considered as one without redirecting users to the new URL.
Vince - 2/2009 Google update that on the surface seemed to give big brands a push in search results, later clarified in a Matt Cutts video in which he claims the Vince update is more about factoring "trust" into the search algorithm for more generic queries.

2008 Google Algorithm Updates:
Google Suggest Update - 8/2008 Google introduces Suggest, which displays suggested search terms in a drop down below their search box when users type their queries.
Dewey - April 2008 A large scale update in late March and early April, though the exact nature is the subject of much speculation. Google's Matt Cutts adds post to thread about Dewey on industry publication asking for feedback on the Dewey update.

2007 Google Algorithm Updates:
Buffy Update - 6/2007 Somewhat suspect update that Matt Cutts eventually suggests is merely an accumulation of smaller changes in the search algorithm.
Universal Search Update - 5/2007 Google integrates its normal search results blending in news, videos, images, local and book search engines among the ones it grabs from crawling web pages. One of most radical changes to Google search results to date.

2006 Google Algorithm Updates:
Supplemental Index Update - 11/2006 On-going changes throughout 2006 to the supplemental index and how these pages are considered and displayed in the search results. Google claims that supplemental tag is not a penalty.

2005 Google Algorithm Updates:
Big Daddy Update - 12/2005 Google confirms that Big Daddy is a software upgrade of their crawling and other technical aspects of the algorithm.
Jagger Update - 10/2005 Series of algorithm updates from Google aimed at low-quality links, link farms and other linking schemes. The Jagger update seems to have taken place from Sept thru November 2005.
Local/ Maps Update - 10/2005 Google merges its maps data and information into their Local Business Center.
Gilligan Update - 9/2005 Not really an update but webmasters claim otherwise at the time. Matt Cutts responds with blog post explaining that Google tweaks the index data daily but most other major metrics once every 3 months.
Personalized Search - 6/28/2005 Google announces launch of Personalized Search, which enables users to use their search history to get better search results.
XML Sitemaps - 6/2005 Google allows submission of XML sitemaps via Webmaster Tools, thereby skipping over traditional HTML sitemaps.
Bourbon Update - 5/2005 Despite not being entirely clear just what the Bourbon update was, industry experts believe that this update changes how duplicate content and non-canonical URLs are treated in search results.
Allegra Update - 2/2005 SEO's and webmaster notice changes in the rankings, leading to speculation that Google had updated the algorithm. Most talk centers on Google becoming more aggressive about poor quality links.
NoFollow Update - 1/2005 Google, Yahoo and Microsoft introduce the "nofollow" link/attribute to help control spammy links and bogus blog comments.

2004 Google Algorithm Updates:
Brandy Update - 2/2004 A number of changes to the Google search algorithm are made leading to extensive index expansion, latent semantic indexing, a more attention given to the relevance of anchor text and link neighbors.
Austin - 1/2004 Google gets tough with poor on-page optimization tactics especially invisible text and meta tag stuffing.

2003 Google Algorithm Updates:
Florida Update - 11/2003 Big update to Google search algorithm putting SEO industry on notice that site using optimization practices that violate Google quality guidelines run the risk of being penalized.
Supplemental Index Update - 9/2003 Google splits some of its search results into a supplemental index so as to index more results without taking away from the performance of the search engine.
Fritz Update - 7/2003 Google changes its approach in making small updates to the algorithm. Instead of monthly "dances" Matt Cutts explains that they will switch to an index that is updated daily.
Esmeralda - 6/2003 Esmeralda is the last monthly "dance" from Google and is said to involve some major changes to the algorithm. The changes will take place over several weeks.
Dominic - 5/2003 Industry watchdogs notice a lot of changes during May 2003, but the exact type of changes to the algorithm weren't clear. Talk is that the way Google looks at backlinks changed considerably.

Understanding Dominic - Part 2
Cassandra - 4/2003 Google algo update targeting backlinks, particularly poor quality backlinks and cloaking techniques used to hide links and text.
Boston - 2/2003 This turns out to be the first named algorithm update, which was announced at the Search Engine Strategies training in Boston.

2002 Google Algorithm Updates:
Fall Update - 9/2002 Major changes in the Google algorithm take place lat in 2002, with most analysts in agreement that this was much more than a monthly dance or PR update.

2000 Google Algorithm Updates:
Google Toolbar - 12/2000 Google announces the launch of the Google Toolbar, which is available free. The Google Toolbar provides fast access to Google search tools from any web page on the Internet; and with it Toolbar PageRank.