Google Updates Overview
Google Updates are important events for webmasters and SEOs everywhere. These algorithm changes, filters, data refreshes or other alterations are often to blame when a website suffers a drop in ranking or SEO Visibility. This page provides an overview of all important Google Updates, going back to 2010.
Short introduction to Google Updates
A Google Update, such as the Mobile Update or Phantom Update, is the term used to describe a change affecting how rankings are calculated by the search engine, Google. Some updates are major algorithm changes and others may be the application of filters of a refresh of the data basis that an algorithm runs on. The general aim of any update is always to improve the relevance and quality of the search results, with most changes focusing on one or more particular features, such as an optimization to fight search engine spam or to combat duplicate content.
Most updates are initiated manually and rolled out for Google’s individual country indexes. Some updates, like the Penguin Update or Panda Update, are already part of Google’s so-called “core algorithm”. They have become so integral to the search engine that they now develop continuously and automatically, and are no longer manually updated.
Each year, Google implements over 600 adaptations and updates to its algorithms. Most of these alterations take place unnoticed and are not announced within the search engine industry.
The most significant Google Updates take place when there is an adjustment to the structure and functionality of the algorithm. These have more of an impact a Data Refresh, which does not add any new features to the core algorithm, and simply updates the data used by the algorithm.
Google Updates since 2010
The table lists all important Google Updates since 2010. These are listed chronologically, starting with the most recent (as of June 2017).
|Update Name||Date first Rolled Out
||Features||Confirmed by Google
|Google December 2020 Core Update||December 3rd 2020||
Google is announcing its third Core Update 2020, and we can see some clear shifts in rankings in typical areas related to E-A-T and content – music, health, news, and ecommerce.
|Google May 2020 Core Update||May 4th 2020||
In the midst of the corona pandemic, Google is announcing its second Core Update 2020, and the changes resulting from this Core Update appear to affect many industries; from prescriptions to health to finance.
|Google Update February 2020||February 7th 2020||
Major changes to the Google search results were observed on 7th and 8th of February 2020. This update was not confirmed as a Core Update by Google, with Google simply repeating its line that algorithm updates happen all the time.
|Yes and no|
|Google January 2020 Core Update||January 13th 2020||
The first official Core Update of 2020 was rolled out on 13th January 2020. There is not yet any information regarding its impact. With this update, Google continues its communication strategy of (pre-)announcing Core Updates on Twitter.
|Google Update November 2019||November 7th 2019||
Webmasters in the USA who run affiliate sites have observed massive changes in the travel, food and health sectors. Google has not commented on the changes, but SEO experts have described the update as “aggressive”.
|Google BERT Update||October 24th 2019||
It’s the biggest change to Google’s algorithm for five years, affecting one in ten search queries. With the Google BERT Update, Google aims to improve the interpretation of complex long-tail search queries and display more relevant search results.
|Google September 2019 Core Update||September 24th 2019||
The September 2019 Core Update was rolled-out globally, starting on the 24th of September. This Google Update focused on improvements in the content quality in the SERPs. For the second time, Google pre-announced a core algorithm update in advance.
|Google Rich Snippet Review Update||September 18th 2019||
Star-ratings for websites, which Google had previously shown in the SERPs, were drastically reduced. With the update, reviews are no longer displayed in the SERPs if generated by the websites themselves. Google called this a “self-serving” mark-up which was not adding value for users.
|Google June 2019 Core Update||June 3rd 2019||Google set a new precedent with its “June 2019 Core Update” by, for the first time in the history of Google Updates, announcing the roll-out of a major core algorithm change in advance. This update was the second major update of 2019 altering the core algorithm, and was rolled out on the 3rd of June, as preannounced.||Yes|
|Google March 2019 Core Update||March 12th 2019||In this global core algorithm update, there were ranking shifts for keywords related to health and other sensitive topics. The algorithm was also adjusted to favor trust and expertise, as well as user signals.||Yes|
|Google Halloween Update||Early November 2018||Fluctuations in the SERPs at the start of November 2018 point to an unofficial quality update. The timing of this update led to the name, “Halloween Update”, although it was not officially confirmed by Google.||No|
|E-A-T-Update #2||Early October 2018||This adjustment of the E-A-T Update saw health sites that had profited from the first E-A-T Update lose visibility. Similarly, some website that had been negatively impacted by the first E-A-T Update experienced a recovery.||No|
|Google Birthday Update||September 2018||Unofficial Google update that affected many domains previously affected by the August 2018 E-A-T Update; often with an inverse trend.||No|
|E-A-T-Update||August 2018||Official Google update that rewards Expertise-Authority-Trust websites, especially for YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) keywords.||Yes|
|Mobile Speed Update||July 2018||Since 9th of July 2018, a website’s load time is an official ranking signal for Google’s mobile search results. According to Google, the Speed Update only impacts websites that provide the slowest user experience.||Yes|
|Video Carousels on Desktop||June 2018||Google has started showing video carousels for desktop searches. At the same time, many organic video rankings disappeared. This has led to Visibility fluctuations for websites with a lot of video content like YouTube or Vimeo.||No|
|Rollout of Mobile-First-Index||26th March 2018||After a year-and-a-half of preparation, Google announced that the mobile version of websites would, for the first time, be used to create its Google Index. This switch to Mobile-first indexing initially only affects a few websites, with Google not revealing how long the rollout is expected to last or when it should be completed.||Yes|
|Core Algorithm Update||12th March 2018||In November 2017, many webmasters suspected that a Google-Update had taken place. These suspicions were confirmed with the official Core Update, which was rolled out on 12th March 2018, leading to major fluctuations in the search results. Winning websites from autumn 2017 received another boost; losers saw further decline.||Yes|
|Update Snippet Length||30th November 2017||This update saw Google increase the length of meta descriptions displayed for many search results. The maximum length used to be 155 characters; with the update it (nearly) doubled to 300.||Yes|
|User Localization Update||27th October 2017||Since October 2017, users are given search results based on their current physical location, regardless of the top-level domain (e.g. Google.com/Google.co.uk) they enter into the address bar.||Yes|
|Chrome HTTPS Warning||17th October 2017||The release of Chrome 62 also includes the display of a warning for websites that request user data but that fail to implement HTTPS encryption correctly or completely.||Yes|
|Dictionary Update||25th June 2017||In June 2017, an update created (more) Visibility improvements for dictionary domains. URLs for dictionaries improved their rankings, mainly for short-tail keywords that could have various different user intents.||No|
|Fred Update||3rd March 2017||The update was not officially confirmed by Google. The name comes from Gary Illyes, who jokingly said that all updates would now be called “Fred.” Pages most affected were those with low-quality content without any real added value for users. The update is thought to have targeted excessive use of advertising banners, meaning it can possibly be considered an iteration of the so-called “Interstitial Penalty.”||Yes and no|
|Phantom V Update||February 2017||The heavy impact observed on rankings suggested that adjustments were again made to the Phantom Update. The update was not confirmed by Google. Nevertheless, the pattern of results pointed to this being a “Phantom.”||No|
|Interstitial Penalty||10th January 2017||This update was supposed to primarily target pages that made aggressive use of interstitials and pop-ups because of their negative impact on user-friendliness.||Yes|
|Penguin Update 4.0||27th September 2016 to 6th October 2016||This large update of the Penguin algorithm was carried out in several steps, lasting around two weeks. In the second phase, websites had the chance to escape the Penguin filter and regain rankings by having penalties removed.||Yes|
|Mobile Update 2||12th May 2016||This update gave increased weight to websites’ mobile-friendliness when evaluating rankings for the mobile Google search. Websites that had not yet been optimized for smartphones at the time of the first Mobile Update had the chance of regaining rankings they had lost in the mobile SERPs.||Yes|
|Phantom Update IV||10th May 2016||The pattern of this unconfirmed update was similar to previous Phantom Updates, with the traffic on a number of the same websites being affected. It is therefore assumed that this was the fourth iteration of this algorithm adjustment.||No|
|Google Core Update||January 2016||Pages with high-quality, holistic content were the big winners for many keywords. But it was not just the amount of content that was decisive in determining rankings. far more, it was the question whether the content was relevant for fulfilling the user intent.||Yes|
|Phantom Update III||December 2015||After a change to Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines, webmasters and SEOs across the world saw changes to their rankings. Various analyses found that the update primarily addressed user intent and content quality.|
|RankBrain||26th October 2015||RankBrain is a self-learning system that is, first and foremost, supposed to deal with search queries that Google is not yet familiar with. Every day, more than 15% of searches made by users are new to Google.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 28
|Mid-July 2015||The latest Google Panda came ten months after the previous one, again focusing on content quality, redundant, irrelevant content and spam. However, with long roll-out times (approx. 8 weeks) of updates, and (near-)simultaneous algorithm changes, it was not always clear for webmasters which updates were affecting their traffic.||No|
|Newswave Update||Mid-June 2015||This update, which Google did not confirm, primarily affected search queries related to trending keywords and information-related keywords. Media websites benefited most from this roll-out.||No|
|Phantom Update II
(a.k.a Quality Update)
|May 2015||While Google confirmed that changes were made to the ranking signals for website quality, no further details were provided. For this reason, this update was dubbed “Phantom.”
This second iteration of the Phantom Update (after the first in May 2013) caused extreme fluctuations in the SERPs, and led to some websites losing half of their traffic. The impact of this algorithm update was felt worldwide.
|Yes and no|
|Mobile Update (#Mobilegeddon)||22nd April 2015||Google used this update to turn websites’ mobile-friendliness into a ranking factor for mobile search. It was the first update that Google explicitly announced before rolling it out.||Yes|
|Brand/eCommerce Update||February 2015||A possible update to Google’s algorithms sent waves through the rankings of brand websites and online shops. The update focused on keywords with a high search volume.||No|
|Pirate Update Version 2 (DMCS Penalty)||21st October 2014||This is an improvement to the Pirate Update. Above all, this is supposed to recognize and penalize copyright infringements better. Google confirmed this iteration.||Yes|
|Penguin 3||October 2014||Google announced another Penguin Update, yet the changes caused by this latest one were neither obvious, nor did they seem to happen all at once. Overall, less than 1% of search queries were affected, over the course of several weeks, making the impact of this Penguin on websites’ traffic much less than other that of other iterations.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 27
|23rd September 2014||In particular, pages lacking in content were affected. Google stated that the update affected up to five percent of all search queries.||Yes|
|HTTPS/SSL Update||6th August 2014||This update saw HTTPS encryption become a ranking signal. For Google, the update was an important step towards increasing security when using websites worldwide. It was not immediately clear how strongly this would actually influence rankings.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 26
|19th May 2014||7.5% of English-language search queries were affected by Google’s Panda Update. The fourth generation of this algorithm again adjusted the quality demands placed on websites.||Yes|
|Payday Loan Algorithm Update 2.0||Estimated around 16th May 2014||This update improved Google’s capability of filtering out pages with spammy search queries from the search results. This was intended to greatly improve the user experience for people searching on Google. At the same time, it became more difficult for spam-heavy domains to achieve good rankings.||Yes|
|Page Layout Update Version 3 (“Ads above the fold”)||6th February 2014||This update saw Google take a stricter approach towards websites with too much advertising “above the fold.” Such ads make for a vastly inferior user experience, so Google penalized the affected websites.||No|
|Penguin Update 2.1||4th October 2013||The Penguin Update was adjusted, with a moderate impact on the search results. The first iteration of the second generation tweaked what was already well-known and did not cause too much havoc in the SERPs.||Yes|
|Hummingbird Update||20th August 2013||The Hummingbird Update improved the semantic search and extended the Google Knowledge Graph. Since Hummingbird, Google to recognize relationships between search queries. This update can be considered the predecessor of RankBrain.||Yes|
|Panda Update „Recovery“||18th July 2013||This update reduced the effect of past Panda Updates e.g. by removing formerly imposed penalties. This Panda was not included in the update numbering.||Yes|
|Pay Day Loan Algorithm||11th June 2013||This Google Update targeted niche websites that are frequently affected by span, like pornography or credit sites. The update was announced on 11.06.2013.||Yes|
|Penguin Update 2.0||22nd May 2013||The algorithm of this update was overworked and greatly improved, in order to advance the fight against link spam.||Yes|
|Phantom I||May 2013||The first version of what would become known the Phantom Update. Google did not confirm the precise nature of the algorithm change but the industry certainly felt the impact of this, and later Phantom Updates.||No|
|Panda Update No. 25||14th March 2013||This was probably the last Panda Update before this algorithm was incorporated into Google’s core algorithm.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 24||22nd January 2013||According to Google, around 1.2% of all search queries were affected by this update.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 23||21st December 2012||This data refresh affected 1.3% of English-language search queries.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 22 and Pony Update||21st November 2012||This update, which was confirmed by Google, seems to have basically been a data refresh. Nevertheless, it led to major drops in rankings for many websites.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 21||5th November 2012||This refresh affected 1,1% of English-language search queries.||Yes|
|Page Layout Update No. 2 (“Ads above the fold”)||9th October 2012||Google did confirm this update but it is not clear whether it was simply a data refresh or something bigger.||Yes|
|Penguin Update 1.2||5th October 2012||Only 0.3% of all search queries were affected by this Penguin Update.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 20 and EMD Update (Exact Match Domain Update)||27th September 2012||The EMD Update considerably lowered the importance of Exact Match Domains. Since then, the relevance of keyword domains is no longer as high as it used to be. Together with the Panda Update, implemented at the same time, this created noticeable changes in the search results.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 19||18th September 2012||As with the update carried out four weeks earlier, this data refresh only had a limited impact on the search results.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 18||20th August 2012||This update of the data basis for the Panda Update only had a small impact.||Yes|
|Pirate Update (DMCA Penalty)||10th August 2012||The introduction of this update saw pages punished that are guilty of copyright infringement and e.g. offer pirated material. The assumption is that websites were affected who had previously been reported to Google via so-called “DMCA Takedown Requests.”||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 17||24th July 2012||This data refresh caused movement in the SERPSs for several days. Google stated that around 1% of search results were affected.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 16||25th June 2012||This data refresh had a limited impact on the SERPs.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 15||8th June 2012||This Panda Update affected about 1% of all search queries.||Yes|
|Penguin 1.1||26th May 12||This update was a data refresh for the Penguin algorithm, with Matt Cutts stating that it affected very few searches (<0.1%).||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 14||27th April 2012||This update to the Panda algorithm was confirmed by Google, yet only had a slight impact on the search results.||Yes|
|Penguin Update No. 1||24th April 2012||This update is also referred to as a “Webspam Update” because it targets webspam measures like keyword stuffing and first affected 3.1% of all English-language search results.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 13||19th April 2012||This update was not officially confirmed and did not have a major impact.||No|
|March 50 Pack Update + Tweaks to handling of anchor text||3rd April 2012||Google used this update to revise the way that anchor texts are evaluated. This update also saw optimization of the image search. The implementation of this update also affected search queries with local character.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 12||23rd March 2012||Google stated that this update affected around 1.6% of all search queries.||Yes|
|Panda Update No.11||27th February 2012||This was a small adjustment to the Panda Update that did not create significant fluctuation.||Yes|
|Page Layout Update (“Ads above the fold”)||19th January 2012||Following this update, websites are punished if they display too much advertising above the fold. This is seen as inhibiting the user experience.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 10||18th January 2012||This update was confirmed by Google, but it was not clear to what extent the algorithms were actually changed.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 9||18th November 2011||This was another in the series of frequent Panda Updates.||Yes|
|Freshness Update||3rd November 2011||Google announced that this update affected 35% of all search queries. The adjustment to the algorithm dealt primarily with how up-to-date websites are.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 8||5th October 2011||According to Google’s Matt Cutts, this update to the Panda Algorithm affected up to 2% of all search queries.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 7||28th September 2011||Google confirmed this iteration of the Panda Update, but gave no further details.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 6||12th August 2011||This Panda Update was rolled out worldwide on the same day, and did not just affect English-language search queries. The only languages not affected were Korean, Japanese and Chinese.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 5||23rd July 2011||This was another Panda Update confirmed by Google.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 4||21st June 2011||The fourth update to Panda (also known as 2.2) was confirmed by Google, continuing the trend of monthly updates.||Yes|
|Panda Update No. 3||9th May 2011||The third Panda Update was more minor, the first to not be given full update status, and was named “Panda 2.1.” To avoid confusion, this article numbers gives each Panda Update a unique number, not distinguishing between major and minor.||Yes and no|
|Panda Update No. 2.0||11th April 2011||The second Panda Update saw the algorithm change rolled out worldwide (for English-language queries), continuing to focus on low-quality content. Its impact also covered a more diverse range of websites, with estimated 2% of search queries affected.||Yes|
|Expanded Sitelinks||16th August 2011||Google tested the roll-out of expanded sitelinks, which greatly increase the size and visibility of a result in the SERP, over a few weeks. Eventually, Google settled on maximum six expanded links for a result, each with the URL and short snippet.||Yes|
|Schema.org Update||2nd June 2011||In an unusual act of cooperation, Google, as well as two other major search providers, Yahoo and Microsoft, made joint steps towards encouraging the use of structured data. Websites that use Schema markup can have more information shown on the SERP in the form of a Rich Snippet.||Yes|
|Panda/Farmer Update||23rd February 2011||Originally dubbed “Farmer” because of its impact on content farms, this update would later become known as “Google Panda.” This was a serious attempt by Google to remove sites with thin or farmed content from the high positions in their search results, and give a boost to reputable, content-heavy sites.||Yes|
|Caffeine||8th June 2010||This was a major change to Google’s indexing structure to include news, blog posts and other updates in its search results faster. Google stated that Caffeine meant that “50% fresher results” were provided thanks to the rollout of Caffeine.||Yes|
|May Day Update||May 2010||This update was intended to improve the quality of search results. Mostly longtail keywords were affected.||Yes|