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A Timeline of Google Algorithm Updates

Google was founded in 1998. From its humble beginnings, it’s become the way to find what you need on the Internet. Google hasn’t always been the reliable source of information that it is today, though. It took a lot of time, energy, work, and algorithm updates to get there.

This is a complete list of Google’s known updates that have turned it into the best search engine in the world. This list is a great way to familiarize yourself with Google’s updates. If you want to learn how the algorithm works or other ways to track Google updates, watch the short video below.

Keep reading to explore Google’s algorithm updates!

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All Google Algorithm Updates

Updates are arranged from newest to oldest.

June 2, 2021  — June 2021 Core Update

Google announced that its next broad core update would be implemented in June 2021.  Danny Sullivan also announced on Twitter that some aspects were not quite ready yet.  He explained that the second part of the update will be rolled out in July.  Another core Google algorithm update!

April 8, 2021  — Product Review Update

This update was created to better reward high-quality content within reviews, allowing better more informational reviews to rank better with Google.

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

In October 2020, Google announced passage indexing and explained it as a new way for Google to rank for passages (rather than just web pages) in search. In February, the updates went live for US Pacific time queries that are in English.

January 13, 2020 — January 2020 Core Update

Google began 2020 with the release of its January 2020 Core Update, which included a new look for desktop search results. Like previous core Google algorithm updates, Google recommended that webmasters follow its usual standards for producing quality content and experiences.

October 25, 2019 — BERT Update

The launch of BERT in 2019 became one of Google’s most significant updates in the past five years. BERT now affects 10% of U.S. English searches and will (hopefully) provide users with more accurate and relevant results.

September 24, 2019 — September 2019 Core Update

In late September, Google launched another core update to its algorithm. Like past core updates, Google advised webmasters to create quality content and experiences for users.

June 6, 2019 — Site Diversity Update

Following its June 2019 Core Update, Google released its Site Diversity Update. This Google search algorithm update focuses on creating diverse search results, meaning most search results won’t feature more than one result from the same website unless deemed relevant.

June 2, 2019 — June 2019 Core Update

At the start of June, Google launched a core update to its search engine algorithm. Like past updates, Google recommended that webmasters review its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines to learn about creating quality experiences and content for users.

March 12, 2019 — March 2019 Core Update

March also featured a core update. Google did not disclose the changes made to its search engine algorithm. It did provide advice that mimics its current and past guidance for search engine algorithm changes: Follow best practices.

September 27, 2018 — Small Update

Near the end of September, Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liaison, confirmed a smaller Google algorithm update.

August 1, 2018 — Medic Update

A broad core update, this Google SEO update quickly earned the title “Medic Update,” due to its noticeable impact on websites in the health industry. Google, however, stated that this update did not target medical sites intentionally.

April 16, 2018 — Broad Core Update

Google confirmed the release of a broad core update to its algorithm in April but did not provide details on the update itself.

March 9, 2018 — Broad Core Update

March featured the release of an unnamed yet confirmed broad core update. This update, according to Google, focused on benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded. The company advised all webmasters to continue creating great content.

December 12, 2017 — Small Core Update

Google confirmed several minor improvements to its algorithm in early December.

March 7, 2017 — Fred

This Google algorithm update, called Fred by the SEO community, focused on low-value content.

January 10, 2017 — Intrusive Interstitials Update

Google updated its algorithm in early January 2017 to target pop-ups and intrusive interstitials that made the user experience on mobile devices terrible. This update coordinated with the company’s increased focus on the mobile user experience.

November 10, 2016 — Unnamed Major Update

Google has yet to confirm anything about this major update, but many industry leaders suggest that ranking changes are due to previous update reversals.

October 6, 2016 — Penguin 4.0, Phase 2

This phase of Penguin signaled the reversal of all previous Penguin penalties.

September 27, 2016 — Penguin 4.0, Phase 1

The goal of phase 1 of Penguin was to look at websites as a whole and not punish them for one mistake.

They wanted to look at each specific post to determine how much to devalue the link instead of penalizing the entire site.

September 23, 2016 — Penguin 4.0 announced

The long-awaited Google algorithm update arrived in September, and Google suggested that this update was real-time and a part of the core algorithm. Penguin had a few different phases and the initial rollout took a substantial amount of time.

September 13, 2016 — Image/ Universal Drop

This update brought with it a 50% drop for image results in search engine results pages. It caused a significant ranking shift, and it was likely a part of another larger update.

September 1, 2016 — “Possum”

Google never confirmed this Google search algorithm change, but data suggests that this update, or this update in conjunction with previous updates, heavily impacted organic results. 

May 12, 2016 — Mobile-friendly 2

This update was a ranking signal boost that helped mobile-friendly sites. However, the impact was likely fairly small.

May 10, 2016 — Unnamed Major Update

Google never confirmed this update nor was there ever an explanation for it.

However, Google weather trackers showed a 97-degree spike in algorithm activity.

February 23, 2016 — AdWords Shake-up

The AdWords shake-up got rid of all right-column ads and replaced them with 4-ad top blocks. It affected click-through rate for paid and organic results.

January 8, 2016 — Unnamed Update

With this update, there was a large change in rankings and Google later confirmed that it was a “core algo update”. There weren’t a lot of details released with this unnamed update.

October 26, 2015 — RankBrain announced

Google first shared information about their machine-learning artificial intelligence system with Bloomberg on this date, although it had been in use for several months prior. It’s one of the signals that plays a role in its algorithm and helps the search engine interpret searches.

July 17, 2015 — Panda 4.2 (#28)

Google reported this Panda refresh to Search Engine Land and said that it would affect 2-3% of English language queries. However, the update rolled out very slowly and did not cause any immediate changes in ranking.

May 3, 2015 — The Quality Update

After many webmasters reported large-scale ranking changes, some referred to this update as “Phantom 2.” Google later acknowledged an algorithm change, and said that it impacted “quality signals.” However, they did not provide any specifics on how quality assessment changed.

April 21, 2015 — Mobile Update AKA “Mobilegeddon”

In late February, Google announced that they’d be rolling out a mobile-friendliness update on April 21. For the first time, mobile rankings would differ from desktop rankings, with preference being given to sites with a responsive or mobile-friendly design.

February 4, 2015 — Unnamed Update

Many webmasters reported major changes in SERPs, but Google did not confirm an update. There is no consensus on what exactly was affected, and guesses range from ecommerce to mobile usability.

December 22, 2014 — Pigeon Expansion

A few months after its launch in the U.S., Pigeon expanded to the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

December 10, 2014 — Penguin Everflux

At this point, Penguin shifted from infrequent, major updates to continuous updates.

October 21, 2014 — Pirate 2.0

Over two years after the original Pirate update, Google launched another update to target piracy.

This update was more severe and caused sites with any violation filed through Google’s DMCA system to drop in rankings dramatically.

October 17, 2014 — Penguin 3.0 (#6)

Over a year after the previous update, Google launched a Penguin refresh. The effects were relatively small, and it is suspected that it was data-only.

October 2014 — “In The News” Box

With the new “In The News” box, Google started to broaden their news sources. Unlike the results delivered with Universal Search, this news box incorporated articles from non-traditional sites, instead of only mainstream media sources.

September 23, 2014 — Panda 4.1 (#27)

Google announced a significant Panda update and estimated that it would affect 3-5% of queries.

August 28, 2014 — Authorship Removed

Exactly a month after removing authorship photos, Google announced that they were completely removing authorship from all SERPs. As John Mueller explained, they made this change because authorship wasn’t, “as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from… results.”

August 6, 2014 — HTTPS/SSL Update

With this update, Google announced that they would start giving preference to secure sites.

They said that adding encryption would give a “lightweight” rankings boost, but that it may increase over time.

July 24, 2014 — Pigeon Update

With this major update to local SEO, Google altered the way they handled location cues. They explained that it was a merge of the local algorithm and core algorithms, designed to provide a “more useful and relevant experience for searchers seeking local results.”

June 28, 2014 — Authorship Photo Drop

Google announced that they were dropping authorship photos from all SERPs.

At this point, authorship was only denoted by a name and much less prominent.

June 12, 2014 — Payday Loan 3.0

Less than a month after 2.0, Google launched Payday Loan 3.0. They announced that this updated targeted specific sites, while the previous ones targeted “spammy queries.”

May 19, 2014 — Panda 4.0 (#26)

Google confirmed that this update included both an algorithm update and a data refresh, estimating that 7.5% of English queries were affected.

May 16, 2014 — Payday Loan 2.0

Google confirmed that they were changing their Payday Loan algorithm, but it is difficult to determine its effects because it was rolled out in the same time frame as Panda 4.0.

March 24, 2014 — Unnamed Update

Many algorithm flux trackers reported shifts around this time, and some referred to it as a “softer Panda,” but nothing was confirmed by Google.

February 6, 2014 — Page Layout #3

This was a “refresh” of the Page Layout algorithm, meaning that site owners who removed their ads above the fold had a chance to restore their original rankings.

December 19, 2013 — Authorship Shake-up

Authorship (attribution in the SERPs with a name and photo) started to disappear for about 15% of results.

Many site owners initially thought that this was a penalty or an indicator that Google thought their sites were low quality, but it really just foreshadowed the eventual drop of authorship from all results.

December 17, 2013 — Unnamed Update

Flux trackers around the world noticed activity, but Google did not confirm an update.

November 14, 2013 — Unnamed Update

Many webmasters received DNS errors in Google Webmaster Tools, and around the same time, flux trackers picked up unusual activity.

October 4, 2013 — Penguin 2.1 (#5)

This was primarily a data update and not a major change to the Penguin algorithm.

August 20, 2013 — Hummingbird Update

Although this update was not announced until more than a month later, Google rolled it out in late August. It was a core algorithm update that has been compared to Caffeine and affected semantic search and the Knowledge Graph.

August 6, 2013 — In-depth Articles

With this feature, “in-depth articles” began to show in a sidebar for many queries. These articles were ranked based on quality and depth, and according to Google, were intended to help users who wanted to learn about broad topics instead of simply getting an answer to a quick question.

July 26, 2013 — Unnamed Update

Webmasters noticed unusual changes in traffic, but Google did not confirm an update.

July 19, 2013 — Knowledge Graph Expansion

Moz refers to this as “the day the Knowledge Graph exploded,” since the amount of queries that showed a Knowledge Graph jumped by more than 50%.

July 18, 2013 — Panda Recovery

Google confirmed this update, but the details were unclear. Many believe that it was algorithmic and “softened” previous Panda penalties.

June 27, 2013 — Multi-Week Update

Matt Cutts tweeted that a “multi-week update” was about to occur, but did not include any specifics. Some people speculated that it was a spam-related update, similar to Payday Loan.

June 11, 2013 — Panda Updating on a Monthly Basis

Although this was not an update, Matt Cutts clarified that Panda was still updating on a monthly basis.

This was contrary to many webmasters’ expectations of a Panda “everflux” after Panda #25.

June 11, 2013 — “Payday Loan” Update

Matt Cutts announced this update on Twitter by saying that Google had “just started a new ranking update today for some spammy queries.” He later went into more detail at SMX advanced and explained that the algorithm was designed to target notoriously spammy searches, like those for payday loans and pornographic material.

May 22, 2013 — Penguin 2.0 (#4)

Although many webmasters expected this to be a major update, its impact was only moderate. Google did not provide many details, but it appears to have been more targeted to the page level of sites.

May 21, 2013 — Domain Crowding Update

This update was intended to control domain crowding beyond the first page of results and rolled out right around the same time as Penguin 2.0. This meant that dominant domains could no longer take over entire pages of results.

May 9, 2013 — Phantom Update

Many webmasters suspected an algorithm update after experiencing significant traffic loss, but Google made no announcement or confirmation of a change.

March 14, 2013 — Panda #25

Matt Cutts announced this update at SMX West and implied that it would be the last update before Panda was integrated into the core algorithm.

January 22, 2013 — Panda #24

Google announced this as the first official update of 2013 and claimed that 1.2% of queries were affected.

December 21, 2012 — Panda #23

According to Google, this was a “refresh” of Panda, and it affected 1.3% of English queries.

December 4, 2012 — Knowledge Graph Expansion

Google expanded the Knowledge graph to non-English queries, and it now showed up for searches in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, and Italian.

November 21, 2012 — Panda #22

Not long after the previous Panda update, Google confirmed this data-only update.

November 5, 2012 — Panda #21

This update was relatively small compared to the previous Panda update and affected 1.1% of English queries.

October 9, 2012 — Pay Layout Update #2

This was a change to the original page layout update, which targeted pages with ads above the fold.

Sites who were initially affected were restored to their original rankings if they made the changes Google suggested, and the algorithm rolled out globally.

October 5, 2012 — Penguin #3

Contrary to suggestions that this would be a major update, this data update impacted only 0.3% of queries.

October 4, 2012 — 65 search quality highlights

This was the last list of search highlights Google released.

It included seven-result SERPs, the Knowledge Graph expansion, updates to page quality, and changes to local results.

September 27, 2012 — Panda #20

This was a larger Panda update and affected 2.4% of queries. It was also when industry publications stopped referring to Panda updates with their series names, and started simply referring to them with numbers.

September 27, 2012 — Exact-Match Domain

The Exact-Match Domain (EMD) update devalued EMDs, which, according to Moz, reduced their presence online by over 10%. This was meant to target sites that used keyword-heavy domain names solely for SEO purposes.

September 18, 2012 — Panda 3.9.2 (#19)

This update was a data refresh, and ranking flux was not huge.

August 20, 2012 — Panda 3.9.1 (#18)

This was a relatively small data update.

August 14, 2012 — 7-Result SERPs

With this shift, any SERP with expanded sitelinks for the first result would only display seven results on the first page instead of 10. This affected almost all queries that were either brand names or domain matches.

August 10, 2012 — Pirate Update

Google started penalizing sites with repeat copyright violations, like torrent sites. Sites with high numbers of removal notices started appearing lower in results, which Google claimed would “help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily.”

August 10, 2012 — 86 search quality highlights

This was the largest list of search highlights Google ever published, and it included Panda and algorithm refreshes, preference to secure sites, and changes to site clustering.

July 24, 2012 — Panda 3.9 (#17)

This update caused rankings to fluctuate for about a week, and Google said that about 1% of queries were affected.

July 19, 2012 — Link Warnings

Following months of link warnings in Webmaster Tools, Google’s Matt Cutts addressed webmasters, saying, “Don’t panic.” He said that most of them could safely ignore the warnings, which was contradictory to the warnings about unnatural links.

June 25, 2012 — Panda 3.8 (#16)

This was a data refresh with a small impact.

June 8, 2012 — Panda 3.7 (#15)

Google claimed that this data updated affected less than 1% of queries, but ranking fluctuations showed that the impact was greater than previous Panda updates.

June 7, 2012 — 39 search quality highlights

This post included Penguin updates, link-scheme detection, and changes to Google News.

May 25, 2012 — Penguin 1.1 (#2)

This was the first data update after Penguin’s original release and confirmed that much like Panda, Penguin data was processed outside of the main index.

May 16, 2012 — Knowledge Graph

Google introduced the “Knowledge Graph,” which added supplemental information to certain queries. For example, SERPs for celebrities and well-known people now included a sidebar with an excerpt from their Wikipedia page.

May 4, 2012 — 53 search quality highlights

Many of the changes in this update were related to Penguin, and it also highlighted a 15% larger index, improvements to pagination, and updates to sitelinks.

April 27, 2012 — Panda 3.6 (#14)

This data update’s impact was relatively small.

April 24, 2012 — Penguin Announced

Originally referred to as the “Webspam Update,” Penguin targeted a number of spam factors and impacted 3.1% of English queries. It was designed to target sites that used black hat SEO techniques and help searchers find sites that provided a great user experience.

They did not provide many details about specific signals (as black hat SEOs likely would’ve used them to game the search results), but instead told webmasters to “focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience … instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.”

April 19, 2012 — Panda 3.5 (#13)

Only four days after the previous Panda update, Google released another mix of changes. They did not specify what changed.

April 16, 2012 — Parked Domain Bug

A data error caused some sites to be mistaken for parked domains, which temporarily affected rankings.

Google confirmed the error, and reported that it was not an intentional algorithm change.

April 3, 2012 — 50 search quality highlights

This update confirmed Panda 3.4 and also included changes to anchor text, image search, and local intent.

March 23, 2012 — Panda 3.4 (#12)

Google announced this update via Twitter right as it was rolling out.

They estimated that the update impacted 1.6% of queries.

March 12, 2012 — Search Quality Video

Google published uncut footage of a December 2011 meeting on their official blog. The video showed Google employees at their weekly “Quality Launch Review” discussing proposed algorithm changes, and provided more insight into how decisions were made.

February 27, 2012 — Panda 3.3 (#11)

This update was just over a year after Panda’s original launch, and appeared to be relatively minor.

February 27, 2012 — Venice Update

This update provided localized results based on the geographic location of each user. As a result, rankings were different for different users, location-based keywords became much more important.

February 27, 2012 — 40 search quality highlights

Only a few weeks after the previous post (contrary to their announcement of monthly posts), Google published a second February post — this time with 40 updates.

February 3, 2012 — 17 search quality highlights

Shortly after announcing Search+, Google released this post of updates.

January 19, 2012 — Page Layout (“Top Heavy”) Update

This update devalued sites with too many ads “above the fold” and targeted sites that used huge, distracting banner ads.

January 18, 2012 — Panda 3.2 (#10)

Google confirmed a Panda update, but said that the algorithm itself remained unchanged.

January 10, 2012 — Search + Your World

With Search+, Google started aggressively pushing Google+ social data and user profiles into search results. They explained that they were now a search engine “that understands not only content, but also people and relationships.” For users who did not want Google+ data included in search results, they also added a button to shut off personalization.

January 5, 2012 — 30 search quality highlights

This time, Google announced 30 changes instead of 10, which they referred to as “search quality highlights.”

December 2011 — New monthly series announced

For the second time, Google released a blog post with recent algorithm updates. They also announced that these posts would be published on a monthly basis.

November 18, 2011 — Panda 3.1 (#9)

Although Matt Cutts announced the previous month that Panda was entering a period of flux, some industry sources called this minor update 3.1.

November 14, 2011 — 10 algorithm changes

In an unprecedented move, Matt Cutts published a post with the details of 10 recent algorithm changes. Most of them were relatively small, but the post showed a shift towards transparency.

November 3, 2011 — Freshness Update

Google announced that the “freshness” of pages would impact their rankings for certain queries.

This mostly affected time-sensitive results, but it was the first time Google gave preference to recent content.

October 18, 2011 — Query Encryption

Google announced that they would start encrypting search queries for privacy reasons. They said that the shift had to do with “the growing importance of protecting the personalized search results” they delivered, and that the search experience would be different for signed in users.

This encryption signaled the start of “(not provided)” for organic keyword referral data, which made SEO much more difficult.

October 5, 2011 — Panda “Flux” (#8)

After Matt Cutts tweeted that there would be “Panda-related flux,” a few minor updates occurred. From this point on, there were small, frequent updates to Panda.

September 28, 2011 — Panda 2.5 (#7)

There are few specific details, but Google confirmed an update and some webmasters reported large losses in traffic.

September 21, 2011 — 516 Algorithm Updates

Nothing actually changed on this particular date, but Google CEO Eric Schmidt revealed to Congress that Google made 516 algorithm updates in 2010. Even more impressively, they tested more than 13,000 in the same time period.

September 15, 2011 — Pagination Elements

Google introduced rel=”next” and rel=”prev” in order to help fix crawl and duplication problems created by pagination. These tags indicated the relationships between component URLs in paginated series, and allowed Google to send users to the most relevant page.

Google also announced that this improved consolidation for “view all” pages.

August 16, 2011 — Expanded Sitelinks

With the introduction of expanded sitelinks, links to as many as 12 internal pages within a site now showed up below the main search result. This was a shift from the original sitelink feature, which was just a single row of four links.

Google also explained that their algorithm could help predict which sections of the site users wanted and adjust sitelinks accordingly.

August 12, 2011 — Panda 2.4 (#6)

Six months after its original launch, Google rolled Panda out internationally. It now affected English and non-English queries (with the exception of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean), and impacted 6-9% of all searches.

July 23, 2011 — Panda 2.3 (#5)

It is unclear whether this was an algorithm update or a refresh to Panda data, but many webmasters believed that there was a major Panda update.

June 28, 2011 — Google+ Launched

The search engine officially launched a social platform, which revolved around organizing friends into circles and sharing content. Within 2 weeks, Google+ had 10 million registered users.

June 21, 2011 — Panda 2.2 (#4)

Google officially confirmed an update to Panda-impacted sites and data. They also confirmed that the updates occurred separately from the main index (and not in real time).

June 2, 2011 —

Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft announced an alliance called, which was intended to help all three provide richer search results.

The alliance provided a “common foundation of support for a set of microdata types,” which helped give semantic meaning to site content.

May 9, 2011 — Panda 2.1 (#3)

Although they did not provide details, Google rolled out a set of relatively minor changes to Panda.

April 11, 2011 — Panda 2.0 (#2)

Google officially rolled out the Panda update to all English queries worldwide and also integrated new signals, including data about sites users blocked.

March 30, 2011 — The +1 Button

With the +1 button, users could “vote” for pages that they liked and influence the search results within their social circles. Many people considered this Google’s response to the Facebook “like” button.

February 23, 2011 — Panda

In this major update, Google cracked down on thin content, content farms, sites with high ad-to-content ratios, and other quality issues.

It affected almost 12% of all search results and caused dramatic losses for some companies. However, it also caused companies with high quality content to move up in rankings. Panda showed a big shift towards quality content, and it was only the first part of a long series of Panda updates.

January 28, 2011 — Attribution Update

This update was made in an attempt to better sort out content attribution and stop scrapers. Matt Cutts explained that as a result, searchers were more likely to see sites that published original content than sites that scraped or copied content.

December 2010 — Negative Reviews

After ecommerce site DecorMyEyes was caught intentionally treating customers poorly for the sake of getting negative reviews, Google adjusted their algorithm to target sites who were ranking well based on bad publicity.

December 2010 — Social Signals

Although not technically an algorithm change, Google and Bing both confirmed that they used social signals (like data from Facebook and Twitter) in determining ranking.

November 2010 — Instant Previews

added a magnifying glass icon next to search results that showed a preview of the landing page when you placed your cursor on a result. This allowed users to compare results and determine relevancy without even leaving the SERPs.

September 2010 — Google Instant

With Google Instant, search results were displayed and changed as users typed their queries. These predictions made search even faster than before, but the feature’s impact on SEO was minimal.

August 2010 — Brand Update

Google started allowing the same domain to appear multiple times on results pages, instead of limiting them to 1-2 listings.

June 2010 — Caffeine

Almost a year after the preview, Google officially completed the Caffeine infrastructure. This boosted their speed, integrated crawling and indexation, and resulted in a fresher index, according to Google.

May 2010 — May Day

This algorithm change impacted long-tail traffic, and Matt Cutts explained that it was designed to cause “higher quality sites to surface for long-tail queries.” Sites with lots of thin content were hit especially hard, as were large sites with “item” pages that didn’t have many individual links pointing to them.

April 2010 — Google Places

With the launch of Google Places, “Places” pages were no longer only a part of Google Maps. Instead, they were integrated with local search results, and included new local advertising options.

December 2009 — Real-time Search

With real-time search, results pages automatically updated with new information including tweets, Google news articles, and new pages.

This only affected queries with a “real-time component,” and users could stop the refreshes with a pause button.

August 2009 — Caffeine preview

This was just a preview of the major changes to take place in 2010, which were intended to improve the speed, accuracy, size, and comprehensiveness of Google search. Beta testers were extremely impressed with how much the new infrastructure impacted speed.

February 2009 — Vince

This update focused on promoting authority and trust and gave preference in SERPs to big brands. This meant that even though many large companies did not practice SEO, they outranked those who did.

February 2009 — Rel=canonical Tag

In a joint announcement, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo introduced the “rel=canonical” tag, which allowed webmasters to canonicalize URLs without affecting site visitors.

This meant that site owners could organize content that was accessible from multiple URLs and indicate to search engines which one they preferred, which helped eliminate concerns about duplicate content. 

August 2008 — Google Suggest

This is when Google first started offering suggested searches as visitors began typing in the search box. The feature was launched after four years of development, and provided suggestions based on an aggregate of searches.

April 2008 — Dewey

The specifics of this update were unclear, but some suspected that Google was pushing its own internal properties like Google Books.

June 2007 — Buffy

This update was described as “an accumulation of smaller changes,” and was named in honor of Vanessa Fox leaving Google.

May 2007 — Universal Search

With this update, Google started integrating News, Video, Images, Local, and other verticals into the traditional search results.

This was the end of the original 10-listing SERP for many queries.

December 2006 — False Alarm

Webmasters reported major ranking changes in November, which many attributed to a large update, but Google claims that there were no changes.

November 2006 – Supplemental Update

At this point, the supplemental index was still being used, and this update changed how the pages in it were presented.

Despite claims that having pages in the supplemental index was a penalty, Google said otherwise.

December 2005 — “Big Daddy”

This update was actually named by Matt Cutts, not WMW. It changed the way that Google handled URL canonicalization, redirects, and other technical issues.

October 2005 — Google Local/Maps

Following its launch of the Local Business Center in March, Google officially merged its Local and Maps data. This meant that finding information and detailed directions to local businesses was now a seamless process.

October 2005 — Jagger

This was actually a series of updates that rolled out in three stages.

It targeted low-quality links, including reciprocal links, link farms, and paid links.

September 2005 — Gilligan

Many refer to this as the “false” update since webmasters saw changes but Google claimed that no update occurred.

June 2005 — Personalized search

For the first time, Google started utilizing users’ search histories to provide personalized results.

They explained that they would “refine your results based on your searching habits,” which was alarming to some users.

June 2005 — XML Sitemaps

This is when Google first allowed webmasters to submit XML sitemaps, which bypassed traditional HTML sitemaps and gave SEOs control over how their sites were crawled and indexed. Google said that this new system would help it better gather pages, and that site owners could indicate how often their pages changed and should be revisited.

May 2005 — Bourbon

WMW regular “GoogleGuy” (believed to be Matt Cutts) announced that this update involved “3.5 changes in search quality,” but did not say exactly what they were. Many believe that it targeted content scrapers and rogue link wheels, as well as how duplicate content was treated.

February 2005 — Allegra

The effects of this update were unclear, but some speculated that it affected the Google “sandbox.” Others believed that it had to do with LSI or suspicious links.

January 2005 — Nofollow

For the first time, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft introduced the “nofollow” attribute, which denoted that a site couldn’t vouch for the quality or appropriateness of the linked site. This attribute was intended to help clean up link spam and control outbound link quality.

August 2004 — Google IPO

On August 19, 2004, Google announced that it would go public for $85/share.

They sold 19 million shares, raised $1.67 billion in capital, and set their market value at over $20 billion.

February 2004 — Brandy

This update was comprised of a few different changes, including a large index expansion and Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), meaning that the search engine now understood synonyms. The update also led to more attention to anchor text relevance, and the concept of “link neighborhoods.”

January 2004 — Austin

This updated tackled deceptive on-page tactics like invisible text and meta tag stuffing.

Some webmasters also believe that this is the first algorithm to take page relevance into account.

November 2003 — Florida

This was a major algorithm update and caused an unprecedented outcry from affected site owners as many fell in rankings. They felt that the search engine was damaging their businesses, and some speculated that Google was purposely trying to boost ad sales.

Others speculated that the update was filtering out sites through a Google SEO update that exceeded an “allowable” threshold of SEO. This is closer to the truth, as the algorithm was intended to crack down on tactics like keyword stuffing.

September 2003 – Supplemental Index

Google was quickly growing and had to temporarily move some pages into a “supplemental index.” Webmasters were unhappy with the change, but the supplemental pages were ultimately brought back to the main index.

July 2003 — Fritz

This was the official end of the monthly “Google Dance.” Google started taking an incremental approach to updates, and the index started changing on a daily basis.

June 2003 — Esmeralda

This was the last regular monthly update. It replaced “Google Dance” with “Everflux” and signaled the start of a more continuous update process.

May 2003 — Dominic

This algorithm update changed the way that backlinks were weighed so that links from news articles and reputable sites were worth more than those from disreputable sites.

April 2003 — Cassandra

This update was designed to address link-quality issues like linking from co-owned domains. Many WMW users also speculated that it placed more weight on older sites.

February 2003 — Boston

This was the first announced update, and the first to receive an official name from WebmasterWorld members, which comes from the fact that it was announced at SES Boston. It was a combination of algorithm changes and major index refreshes known at the “Google Dance.” At this point, Google aimed for one major monthly update. 

September 2002 — First documented update

For the first time, webmasters noticed sudden changes in their rankings. There are few clear details, but it confused many SEOs and set the stage for future algorithm changes to come.

December 2000 — Google Toolbar

Google’s free browser plugin meant that for the first time, Internet users could perform searches without going to the website of a search engine. This made searching easier than ever before, and also introduced Toolbar PageRank, or as it became known to SEOs, TBPR.

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