Google algorithm update

Google’s algorithm updates are algorithm changes from Google made to serve the best result possible to users. For a particular query, Google wants to provide the best possible data to the user to increase the user experience. 

In this possess to show the best possible results Google comes up with a big algorithm change every year. According to Google, they made 3234 updates in Google algorithm update in 2018, like on average 9 per day. But these updates are not “core updates”. These updates never impact on the ranking of your websites that much. But when core update comes it changes the ranking most of the time upside down.

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Some of the core updates help some websites whereas some down the ranking of some of the websites. Google’s core updates usually about the user experience, it changes the algorithm related to website speed, website content, mainly how is the user experience on your website.

For any new SEO person, it is better to know about all the previous core updates so that they can do all the required changes from the beginning so that it will not harm their website ranking in any way. And also when a new core update comes you should know all the things about the update and how it will impact your website ranking.

Table of Contents

Google Algorithm Update

Here we will discuss all the core updates Google came up with and their effects on the website and how you can stay safe from all the previous and future core updates.

Let’s start from the latest ones first,

May 2020 Core Update May 4, 2020

This was the second confirmed core update from Google in 2020. The first one came in the month of January. This came during the Corona Virus pandemic and it is about the pandemic only.

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COVOD-19 has changed the Google search terms or keywords. For example, people now tend to search more about the virus, what is the preventions, how they can cure the virus. People also search for all the essential services online more and more. Keeping an eye on all the changes in Google, Google came up with the core update which certainly changed the ranking of websites.

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Here is the SEMrush sensor result which shows the changes in SERP.

There are some industries that lost thor ranking whereas there are many industries that got a boost after this Google algorithm update was rolled out. Check the below image for clarity.

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Featured Snippet Deduplication January 22, 2020

This update was all about featured snippets in Google SERP. This update was very helpful to small websites. According to this Featured Snippet Deduplication update, if one URL in getting placed in the featured snippet. Featured Snippet which we also know as place zero.

Before this update, some URLs from big websites used to show in the SERP first page more than once like once in the featured snippet and again in organic search. If any website or particular URL is getting placed in featured snippet or zero places then CTR will increase for that URL.

January 2020 Core Update January 13, 2020

On January 13, 2020, Google announced on twitter that they are rolling out a broad core algorithm update. 

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According to MozCast also there was a significant algorithm flux. Check the below image for better understanding the MozCast temperature is showing 97 degrees, that means there was a big change in all the ranking.

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Google Algorithm Update

According to the MozCast report, 7 verticals got hit the hardest in this core update. 

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BERT Roll-Out (Worldwide) December 9, 2020

Google confirms the worldwide rollout of the BERT update. This natural language processing Google algorithm update rolled out in 7o languages which includes Afrikaans, Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Azeri, Basque, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (Simplified & Taiwan), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Farsi, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Javanese, Kannada, Kazakh, Khmer, Korean, Kurdish, Kyrgyz, Lao, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian Malay (Brunei Darussalam & Malaysia), Malayalam, Maltese, Marathi, Mongolian, Nepali, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Sinhalese, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Tajik, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Uzbek, and Vietnamese.

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BERT Update       October 22, 2019

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, this update was all about natural language processing. According to Google, it was the biggest update in the last 5 years. 

When we used to search anything in Google with 1-3 words, Google can understand the context of the query very easily but when it is about 8-10 words queries Google used to face difficulty to understand the context of the query.

In simple words for example we are using the word Apple in our query, then how Google will come to know that we are talking about apple the fruit or Apple the technology brand. Here in this case the BERT algorithm will compare all the words you are using with the query and it will try to understand the query properly.


September 2019 Core Update September 24, 2019

Google announced on Twitter about the update. But they didn’t share more insights about the core update. In MozCast it was showing 97°F, fairly high. 

Site Diversity Update    June 6, 2019

Google announced this site diversity update, it was related to all the website which used to rank 3-4 times on page one. But the good thing was the impact was very small.

June 2019 Core Update    June 3, 2019

Google pre-announced the Google algorithm core update. According to MozCast, the impact was very less

But some of the UK based publishers suffered heavily. 

March 2019 Core Update  March 12, 2019

Google confirmed a core update. MozCast was measured at 101.2°F which is a big change in the SERP. Google didn’t provide more details about the core update.

“Medic” Core Update  August 1, 2018

Google announced the broad core algorithm update, that mainly impacted on medical/healthcare websites. But according to Google, it was not specific to the only medical field, it is for general ranking updates. 

After this update a term got really famous, most of the digital marketer started talking about it, which is E-A-T. E-A-T stands for expertise, authority, trustworthiness. According to this update if you want to rank for any niche like health, fitness, finance then you just can’t start a website and start ranking. For ranking on the above niches, you should have the expertise in the niche to write about that topic. You should have an authoritative website. And most important Google should trust you as an expert in the same niche.

Chrome Security Warnings (Full Site)   July 24, 2018

This Google Algorithm update was all about secure websites. Google one month earlier warned about using HTTPS. After this update completely rolled out Chrome 68 began marking website without an SSL certificate as not secure.

When it comes to SSL, for ranking on Google it is one of the most important factors.

Mobile Speed Update   July 9, 2018

Google rolled out Mobile Speed Update, in this update Google made Mobile loading speed a ranking factor for the mobile search results. If your mobile loading speed is not optimal then after the update Google down your previous ranking.

As you always focus on website loading speed on the desktop now onwards you have to give more focus to mobile loading speed.


Video Carousels June 14, 2018

Google came up with Video carousel update, this update is all about the videos showing on the search result. Previously Google used to show any video on the SERP in the format of a thumbnail but after the update, it shows videos in a dedicated carousel.

Snippet Length Drop  May 13, 2018

This Google Algorithm Update was all about the snippet on the SERP. In this update, Google rolled back to the 150-160 character limit for snippets from 300+ characters.

Unnamed Core Update  April 17, 2018

Google didn’t give any name to the Core update and also there was no name given in the SEO community, but Google confirmed a core update but didn’t give any details about the update. But in MozCast there was a heavy algorithm flux that topped on April 17.

Mobile-First Index Roll-out           March 26, 2018

After testing the indexing for many months, Google finally announced the rolled out of mobile-first indexing. This update was all about the mobile version of your website. After this update, Google will check the mobile version of your website and if it is responsive and loads very fast then Google will rank your website better.

Zero-result SERP Test  March 14, 2018

This update is about the knowledge card we see on top of the SERP before rank number 1. Here you can get direct answers fro your queries, conversions, and many more things. 

“Brackets” Core Update  March 8, 2018

Google announced the confirmation of a core update on March 7th. According to MozCast, there was a spike for almost two weeks. Google’s John Mueller confirmed that it was all about relevancy.

Snippet Length Increase   November 30, 2017

Google tested the longer search snippet for two years, where it can show more content in the snippet. So eventually the meta description limit increased from 155 characters to almost 300 characters.

Chrome Security Warnings (Forms)   October 17, 2017

This was not an algorithm update but it was about the use of HTTPS. Google launched Chrome 62 and started warning visitors to unsecured websites. The website that is not using https there was a change in traffic.

“Fred”  March 8, 2017

Google came up with a new major algorithm update which was all about the low-quality content. Google’s Gary Illyes jokingly told the name is Fred, then Google made it clear that it was not an official confirmation.

Unnamed Update  February 6, 2017

This update was not confirmed by Google. But there was a massive ranking shift in Google’s SERP. In this update, many websites got hit, but the websites with high quality and more relevant content were gained the most benefit.

Intrusive Interstitial Penalty   January 10, 2017

First Google came up with the warning about the intrusive interstitials and pop-ups that hurts user experience on mobile devices. If you are on the mobile devices and surfing the web any website and you’re getting too many intrusive interstitials and pop-ups, then your experience will be definitely bad. 

So, Google rolled out the update on January 10, 2017. According to MozCast, there was a temperature change on January 10-11 but there was no significant impact of the update.

Penguin 4.0 Announcement September 23, 2016

After two years of long gaps Google announced a major Penguin update. They rolled out this update completely in multiple phases. According to Google now evaluate backlinks in real time and instead of downgrading your URL for bad back linkinks, it started devaluing all those backlinks.

Mobile-friendly 2  May 12, 2016

This was the second update to the first “mobile friendly”. It came after more than one  of the first updates. This is a ranking signal which boosts the ranking of all those websites which are mobile friendly.

AdWords Shake-up  February 23, 2016

This update was for Google Adwords. After this update rolled out Google removed right-column ads entirely for commercial searches.

RankBrain*  October 26, 2015

Google announced a major update “RankBrain”, this was a machine learning algorithm that helps the user in searching the best possible answer or result for their query. Initially RankBrain was used for 15% of search terms which are new to Google, but after this roll out RankBrain is involved in almost all the queries entered in Google.

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Panda 4.2 (#28)   July 17, 2015

Google announced the Panda refresh Google Algorithm Update, which would take months to fully roll out according to Google. As it took so long to roll out there was no sign of a particular algorithm update which impacted on search results.

The Quality Update    May 3, 2015

The Quality Update confirmed by Google that is also known as Phantom Update. This Quality update is all about the quality of the content and the number of ads on a website. The websites with poor quality of content and too many ads got hit hard in this update.

Mobile Update AKA “Mobilegeddon”   April 21, 2015

The Mobile-Friendly Update also known as Mobilegeddon, is the update about mobile-friendliness of the website. Google pre-announced this update which rewards better results for all those websites that are mobile-friendly. 

Pigeon Expands (UK, CA, AU)    December 22, 2014

This update was the local algorithm update of the “Pigeon”. The main Pigeon update rolled out in the US in July 2014, but this was the roll out in places like the UK, Canada, Australia. 

Pirate 2.0    October 21, 2014

This update came after more than two years of the original update “Pirate”. This update was to combat the software and digital piracy. This update mainly targeted the small group of websites.

Penguin 3.0    October 17, 2014

Google rolled out the Penguin data refresh. This update was not any big update as it only affected less than 1% of the english queries. This update gave a chance to all those websites to recover which got hit very hard in the previous update. And also penalised all those websites which escaped in first algorithm update and continuing the spam backlinking practise.

Panda 4.1 (#27)  September 23, 2014

In this update Google added a few more signals to help the Panda identify the low quality content more precisely. This update impacted 3-5 percent of the queries.

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HTTPS/SSL Update  August 6, 2014

This update came after months of speculations. Google said they would give more preference to those websites having Https or SSL certificates. All the websites with the encryption will get a slight ranking boost. This roll out of Google started small but in the long term has more effect.

Pigeon  July 24, 2014

Google rolled out “Pigeon” update, that was all about the local SEO. Google also claimed that this Pigeon update is developed with closer ties with local algorithm and core algorithm. After this algorithm update Google started using more traditional signals to influence the local search.

Payday Loan 3.0  June 12, 2014

Google rolled out the Payday Loan 3.0 after less than a month of the Payday Loan 2.0. Payday Loan 2.0 was for websites while the Payday Loan 3.0 was for spammy queries. And in this update Google gave more protection against negative SEO.

Panda 4.0 (#26)  May 19, 2014

Google’s Matt Cutts announced the Panda 4.0 update, this was an algorithm update as well as a data refresh. It impacted 7.5% of english queries.

Payday Loan 2.0  May 16, 2014

This update was the “next generation” of Google’s Payday Loan update, this update was for the spammy websites.

Page Layout #3  February 6, 2014

Matt Cutts announced the update, that is only the refresh of the page layout algorithm. Originally the page layout algorithm was about controlling too many ads on fold.

Penguin 2.1 (#5)  October 4, 2013

Google’s Matt Cutts announced the Google Algorithm Update, this was not any major change to the Penguin algorithm but it was only a data refresh of the update.

Hummingbird  August 20, 2013

Hummingbird algorithm was announced on September 26, 2013 and they said it was rolled out a month before. According to MozCast there was a spike on August 20th, so we believe that the day. This core algorithm update was about how to return the most relevant result for the most complex conversational search that is voice search. According to Google this core algorithm update impacted 90% of the searches worldwide.

“Payday Loan” Update  June 11, 2013

This Google Algorithm Update was announced on June 11th but according to Google’s Matt Cutts, it would take 1-2 months to completely roll out. This update targeted all those niches with spammy results like payday loans and porn.

Penguin 2.0 (#4)  May 22, 2013

After months of speculations Google rolled out the next generation of Penguin algorithm update. This update goes deeper inside the website rather than only the home page. This Penguin 2.0 impacted 2.3 percentage of the english queries.

Panda #24  January 22, 2013

Google rolled out the Panda data refresh update that is the first update in 2013, which affected 1.2% of english queries. 

Panda #23  December 21, 2012

Google rolled out another Panda refresh update affecting 1.3% of english queries.

Knowledge Graph Expansion  December 4, 2012

Google started adding knowledge graphs to many non-english queries like Spanish, French, German, Portugese, Japanese, Russian, and Italian.

Panda #22  November 21, 2012

Google confirmed a data refresh for the Panda update. This Google Algorithm Update impacted 0.8% of English queries.

Panda #21  November 5, 2012

Google rolled out a Panda data refresh update which impacted 0.4% of world wide queries and impacted 1.1% of US queries.

Page Layout #2  October 9, 2012

According to Google’s Matt Cutts, Google rolled out Page Layout data refresh. It gave a chance to all those websites to recover which all got hit by the main update in January. It impacted 0.7% of english queries.

Penguin #3  October 5, 2012

Google rolled out the Penguin data refresh according to Matt Cutts. This update impacted 0.3% of english queries.

Panda #20  September 27, 2012

Google rolled out a Panda update(algo + data). It affected 2.4% of queries.

Exact-Match Domain (EMD) Update   September 27, 2012

Google announced EMD Update which will change the way it used to handle EMD websites. In this update Google tried to get rid of all those low quality websites with exact match domain. According to Google it impacted 0.6% of queries.

Panda 3.9.2 (#19) September 18, 2012

Google rolled out Panda data refresh impacting less than 0.7% of queries.

Panda 3.9.1 (#18)  August 20, 2012

Google rolled out Panda data refresh, which impacted nearly 1% of search.


Each and every year there will be some core algorithm updates from Google and there will be so many small updates every day. So the best way to stay safe from any of the Google algorithm updates is to create content for users not for search engines. Follow the rules but focus more on user experience and user intent. That is the best way to go forward.

Let me know what are you thinking about the Google algorithm updates.

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