Major Google Algorithm Updates That Built Google As We Know It

The Google algorithm is a key factor of successful SEO optimization. Oftentimes a developer’s knowledge of the google algorithm can make or break a good website. This is why it is important to keep track of the latest updates and key feature changes in the algorithm. It is also important to know when these updates occurred and the influence they had on the SEO community.  

However, going through an extensive list of updates can be very tedious, which is why we have compiled an article of the major Google algorithm updates that built google as we know it.

Google Toolbar  —  December 1, 2000

Google launched their browser toolbar, along with Toolbar PageRank, ensuring SEO arguments for years to come. This free browser plug-in is what empowers Internet users to search for information from any web page on the Internet using Google’s quick, highly relevant search algorithm. 

The Toolbar PageRank, or TBPR, is essentially what stemmed the need for SEO.

Brandy  —  February 1, 2004

A large index extension, Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), brought attention to anchor text relevance and prompted Google to implement link neighbourhoods. LSI improved Google’s capacity to understand synonyms and conduct an advanced keyword analysis.

Google Local/Maps  —  October 1, 2005

Google combined its Maps data into the Local Business Center in March 2005, after creating the LBC and encouraging businesses to update their information on the platform. This move would later trigger a number of improvements in local SEO.

Jagger  —  October 1, 2005

With Jagger, Google rolled out plenty of adjustments, most of which were aimed at low-quality connections such as reciprocal links, link farms, and paid links. Jagger was implemented in at least three stages, from around September to November 2005, with the largest impact occurring in October when low-quality and sponsored links suffered large impacts.

Personalized Search  —  June 1, 2005

Personalized search, unlike previous attempts at personalisation that needed individual settings and profiles, tapped directly into users’ search histories to automatically modify results in 2005. Although the impact was initially minor, Google would go on to leverage search history in a variety of ways and implement this method on their other platforms.

Nofollow  —  January 1, 2005

The Nofollow feature was introduced by Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft to combat spam and govern the quality of outbound links. Nofollow assists in the removal of unsafe links, such as spam blog comments. While this is not a standard algorithm update, it had a considerable impact on the link graph over time.

Universal Search  —  May 1, 2007

While not an algorithm change, Google combined traditional search results with News, Video, Images, Local, and other verticals, significantly altering their presentation. The old SERP with ten results was declared defunct.

Real-time Search  —  December 1, 2009

The real-time search was for real this time, as Twitter feeds, Google News, newly indexed content, and a variety of other sources were combined into a real-time feed on some SERPs. Social media was added to the list of real-time sources with time. 

Google Instant  —  September 1, 2010

Google Instant was launched as an extension of Google Suggest, displaying search results as a question was input. SEOs all over the world were on the verge of an outbreak, only to discover that the impact was minimal.

Caffeine —  June 1, 2010

Caffeine was a web indexing system that was very new at the time. Google was able to crawl and store data much more efficiently thanks to this new technology. In fact, according to Google, they were able to not only expand their index but also deliver significantly better results (50% to be exact). 

Google Places  —  April 1, 2010

Despite the fact that “Places” pages were first introduced in September 2009, they were originally exclusively available as part of Google Maps. However, Google Places rebranded the Local Business Center, integrated Places pages more closely with local search results, and added a number of new features, including new local advertising choices with the formal introduction of Google Places.

Pagination Elements  —  September 15, 2011

Google implemented the rel=”next” and rel=”prev” link features to help with crawl and duplication issues caused by pagination. Google also revealed that automatic consolidation and canonicalization for “View All” sites had been improved.

Google+  —  June 28, 2011

Following a string of social media failures, Google launched Google+, a major attack against Facebook. Google+ was based on sharing material in circles and was heavily interwoven into products like Gmail. Early adopters were quick to hop on board, and Google+ had surpassed 10 million members in just two weeks.  —  June 2, 2011

Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft indicated their support for a unified structured data approach. In an apparent attempt to advance toward further richer search results, they also generated a variety of additional “schemas.”

The +1 Button  —  March 30, 2011

Google launched the +1 button directly next to results links in response to competition from big social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Users could influence both organic and paid search results within their social network by clicking the +1.

Panda/Farmer  —  February 23, 2011

A huge algorithm update wreaked havoc on websites, affecting up to 12% of search results (a number that came directly from Google). Panda appeared to penalise sites with thin content, content farms, high ad-to-content ratios, and a variety of other quality issues. Panda was released over a period of months, with Europe receiving it as last as April 2011.

This addressed an increasing issue that low-quality content sites (nicknamed “content farms”) were placed higher than higher-quality sites that appeared to be more relevant for users.

Knowledge Graph Expansion  —  December 4, 2012

Google expanded Knowledge Graph capability to search in languages other than English, including Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, and Italian. This release provided better KG capability and was “more than simple translation.”

Penguin  —  April 24, 2012

Google ultimately sent out the Webspam Update, which was quickly called Penguin, after weeks of rumours about an over-optimization penalty.  Penguin tweaked a lot of spam elements, including keyword stuffing, and had a 3.1 percent impact on English inquiries.

Search + Your World  —  January 10, 2012

Google announced a major shift in customization, moving Google+ social data and user profiles into search engine results pages (SERPs). Google also included a new, visible toggle option to turn off personalisation.

The Google+ update added a layer of filtration to Google results, but it was also clearly pushing the Google+ agenda, which many users disliked. However, the search+ also did push SEO optimization to be more concise and clear.

“Payday Loan” Update  —  June 11, 2013

Google announced a targeted algorithm upgrade aimed at niches with a history of spammy results, citing payday lending and porn. The update was announced on June 11th, but Matt Cutts said that it might take 1-2 months to roll out.

Authorship Removed  —  August 28, 2014

Following the removal of authorship photographs on June 28th, Google declared that authorship markup would be completely removed (and would no longer process it). Authorship bylines had vanished from all SERPs by the next morning.

Pigeon  —  July 24, 2014

Google shocked the local SEO sector with an upgrade that significantly impacted some local results and altered how they handle and interpret location cues. Pigeon strengthened linkages between the local and core algorithms.

Snippet Length Increase  —  November 30, 2017

Google extended the length of search snippets across a wide number of results. As a result, we increased the length of the Meta Description from 155 to 300 characters. Google confirmed a change to the way snippets are handled, but didn’t elaborate on the matter.

Chrome Security Warnings (Forms)  —  October 17, 2017

Google began warning visitors to sites with insecure forms with the release of Chrome 62. Despite the fact that this was not an algorithm change, it was an important step in Google’s push toward HTTPS and had a significant impact on site traffic.

Google Jobs  —  June 20, 2017

Google launched its jobs portal, which features a separate 3-pack of job ads in search results. These results pulled information from nearly every major source, including LinkedIn, Monster, Glassdoor, and CareerBuilder.

Video Carousels  —  June 14, 2018

Videos were relocated from organic-like results with thumbnails to a separate video carousel, creating a reshuffle in previously tracked organic results. Simultaneously, the number of SERPs with videos climbed by 60%, according to MozCast.

International BERT Roll-out  —  December 9, 2019

Google confirmed that the BERT natural language processing algorithm was being rolled out in 70 languages around the world. The SEO community had been speculating about this development, but the specific timing of the roll-out is unknown.

BERT helps Google in better understanding and interpreting natural language searches. To accommodate the BERT natural language processing (NLP) model, Google changed their algorithm and underlying hardware. 

Featured Snippet De-duping  —  January 22, 2020

In accordance with Google’s view that a Featured Snippet is a promoted organic result, URLs in Featured Snippets will no longer appear as standard organic results. This had important ramifications for organic CTR and rank-tracking.

Page Experience Update  —  June 25, 2021

Google began bringing out the Page Experience Update on June 25th, after repeated delays and said that the implementation would last through August 2021. This update affected both organic and news results, and it incorporated Core Web Vitals (including Top Stories).

Passage Indexing (US/English)  —  February 10, 2021

For US/English inquiries, Google launched “passage indexing” (which is probably closer to passage ranking). While there was a two-day period of moderate ranking movement, it was unclear how the update affected SERPs. Initially, Google anticipated that this upgrade would affect 7% of inquiries but the exact number is unknown.

Product Reviews Update  —  April 8, 2021

Google announced a change that would favour detailed reviews over short reviews and spamming affiliates (impacting English-language only at launch). While the focus of the upgrade appeared to be on review quality, the specific elements at play appear to be complicated.

June 2021 Core Update  —  June 2, 2021

Google made an unprecedented move by announcing the (presumably linked) June and July 2021 Core Updates at the same time. The June Core Update apparently went live from June 2 to 12, with a high temperature of 107.3°F in MozCast on June 3rd.

Spam Updates  —  June 23, 2021

On June 23rd and June 28th, Google published two spam updates. It was unclear how the two changes were linked or what was affected precisely. While specific sites had a noticeable effect, there was no discernible effect on overall ranking volatility.

July 2021 Core Update  —  July 1, 2021

The July 2021 Core Update was released from July 1 to 12 as a follow-up to the June Core Update. The highest temperature recorded on MozCast was 102.7°F on July 1st, however temperatures in the 90s were recorded on July 5th, 8th, and 11th. Google, like other Core Updates, was short on details.

July 2021 Link Spam Update  —  July 28, 2021

Google apparently handed out a link spam fix over the course of 2-4 weeks. This was a global algorithm upgrade, according to Google, affecting several languages. On July 28, MozCast indicated high flux, peaking at 100.3°F.

Page Title Rewrites  —  August 16, 2021

SEOs began to observe a significant spike in Google rewriting page names in SERPs around August 16. Google later confirmed the change (though not the specific date) and, in September, pulled back some of the adjustments in response to several complaints about result quality issues.

November 2021 Spam Update  —  November 3, 2021

Another large-scale spam update was announced by Google, and it took around 8 days to roll out. On November 2nd, MozCast reached a high of 96.9°F. Unlike the July update, Google did not refer to this as a “link spam” upgrade and provided no information about the sites and strategies targeted.

November 2021 Core Update  —  November 17, 2021

Google announced the release of a core update on November 17th. While the update stopped by the end of November, most tracking sites had a significant single-day rise (with MozCast reaching 101.7°F on November 17). In the SEO world, the overlap with Black Friday caused several debates.

Product Reviews Update  —  December 1, 2021

Google announced another modification on December 1 to reward high-quality product reviews this was also a refresh of the April 2021 update. This upgrade was said to have taken three weeks to spread out, with MozCast reporting many days of extreme SERP fluctuation in December.

Top Stories Redesign  —  December 6, 2021

While not an algorithm change, Google changed the look of Top Stories on desktop, breaking it into two columns and (in many cases) drastically increasing the amount of SERP real estate occupied by news items.

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