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Google Updates: The Complete List of Updates Up To 2020

Google Updates 2020 to 2003

Would you like to know how Google’s algorithm has changed over the past few years?

Or make sure if your website was or is affected by a Google update?

Then you are at the right place!
This article provides a list of all the major Google updates.

Clear, sortable, and with the exact date, description, and further links.

2020

 

December 03 – December 2020 Core Update


“Confirmed by google.

At the beginning of December, there was a Google Core update.


As the rollout is still ongoing, it is still unclear what effects the update will have.july 15th – FAQGeddon

“Not confirmed by google”.

In mid-July 2020, there was a minor update that has not been confirmed by Google.

It resulted in certain structured data, especially the FAQPage markup, being displayed less frequently in Google search.


JunMay 4th – May 2020 Core Update

“Confirmed by google”.

The Google Core Update from May 2020 was one of the most far-reaching updates in the last two years. It was primarily aimed at domains with a weak backlink profile and reassessed certain keywords’ search intent.

Losers included smaller affiliate websites and forums, among others.

As far as you can tell, it affected all niches (in contrast to, e.g., the Medic update in 2018, which only affected YMYL niches).


I have put together a comprehensive analysis of the update for you here: Google Core Update May 2020: 500+ keywords and 300 websites analyzed 23rd – Untitled update.

“Not confirmed by google”.

At the end of June 2020, there was a minor Google update, but Google did not officially confirm it.

As a result of the update, some May 2020 core changes were most likely withdrawn or adjusted often. Many .org and .edu websites also seem to have gained from the update.


January 13 – January 2020 Core Update

“Confirmed by google”.
The January 2020 Core Update was global and affected all topics and languages.

As with most core updates, major effects were felt primarily in YMYL areas, such as topics like news, finance, online shopping, games, law, or nutrition.

Especially in the top 10, there were big movements. The changes in the top 3 and 5 were not as pronounced.

 

2019

 

October 24 – BERT update

“Confirmed by google”.

With BERT (short for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers ), Google played the biggest update in many years in October 2019. This update impacted every tenth search query.

The update’s main aim was to increase the understanding of the algorithm for complex long-tail search queries. The relevance of the results presented should be significantly improved here.

Unlike previous updates, BERT should not directly improve the ranking and data indexing, but above all, help to understand the context better.

Clear winners and losers of the update were therefore difficult to identify.

As part of this update, Google once again strongly recommended writing for visitors and not for search engines.

September 24 – Google September 2019 Core Update

“Confirmed by google”.

In September, Google rolled out the third core update in 2019 globally. Like the core update in June, it was announced beforehand on Twitter.

While previous core updates tended to affect news and classic YMYL websites, the September update also affected websites with other topics, such as Travel.

More video content was displayed in the SERPs, which increased YouTube’s visibility enormously with the update.

June 03, 2019 – June 2019 Core Update

“Confirmed by google”.

Google also announced another core update in 2019 for the first time a few weeks before execution. An absolute novelty.

After this update, there were more video carousels in the SERPs. Weaker news websites, in particular, lost their visibility, while established websites with strong authority gained significantly.

March 12, 2019 – March 2019 Core Update

“Confirmed by google”.

A core update from Google, which could be understood as a result of the Medic Update from last year, as major changes were found, especially in search queries for medical terms.

The winners included sites that we’re able to demonstrate a high level of expertise on the relevant topics and excellent user signals.

 

2018

 

September 10, 2018 – Untitled update

“Not confirmed by google”.

An update that was probably a readjustment of the Medic Update that was installed on August 01. However, it has not been officially confirmed by Google.


August 01, 2018 – EAT or “Medic” update

“Confirmed by google”.

The EAT update had far-reaching consequences for a large number of websites.

Since the update, Google has emphasized high expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (keyword: EAT, which stands for Expertise-Authority-Trust ) in certain topics, such as Health and Finance.

Since websites with a medical background, in particular, were shaken up properly, the update was given the nickname “Medic Update”. Most of the websites that were lost were those that could not prove the expertise required by Google.


July 09, 2018 – Google Speed ​​Update

“Confirmed by google”.

Since this update, the loading speed has also been rated as a ranking factor for a website’s mobile version.

However, only websites with very poor loading times for mobile devices were affected. Accordingly, there were almost no changes in the SERPs.


June 14, 2018 – Video Carousels Update

“Confirmed by google”.

With this update, Google introduced Video Carousels in the search results for desktop searches. At the same time, “video hits” were no longer displayed in the SERPs for organic hits, which led to an increase in video carousel hits of 60 percent.

The losers were large video platforms like Vimeo, but excitingly also YouTube, Google’s own platform.


March 26, 2018 – Mobile-First Index Roll-Out

“Confirmed by google”.

A path that had been indicated over many months. With this update, Google paid tribute to the fact that the majority of search queries were now carried out on mobile devices and, for the first time, rated the mobile version of a website higher than the desktop version.

At the time of the update, only a few changes were observed in the SERPs.

However, the winners will definitely be those sites that focus on mobile devices in the long run.


March 12, 2018 – March 2018 Core Update

“Confirmed by google”.

Another Google Core Update that has been anticipated by many webmasters. Again violent distortions were observed in the search results.

The winners were the websites that we’re able to hold their own in previous core updates.

In other words, those that provided high-quality user-based content and perfectly matched the search intention for a keyword.

 

2017

 

November 30, 2017 – Snippet length update

“Confirmed by google”.

Great news for everyone who has never been able to brief in the meta descriptions.

With this update, Google extended the maximum number of characters in the meta description from 155 characters to 300 characters.

In May 2018, the number of characters was reduced again.

Namely to the still valid 160 characters.

October 17, 2017 – Chrome Security Update

“Confirmed by google”.

With the in-house Chrome browser update, Google is now actively warned of websites that do not use HTTPS encryption.

March 13, 2017 – Fred Update

“Not confirmed by google”.

Fred is not an official Google name. The update owes its name to a joke by Google employee Gary Illyes.

Above all, pages that concentrated on generating sales and less on the user were punished. For example, pages with a high number of advertising banners lost their visibility.

February 01, 2017 – Phantom V Update

“Not confirmed by google”.

Another phantom update with violent fluctuations in the rankings, but this time there was no comment from Google. The fifth phantom update shows similar patterns as the representatives already installed.

However, winners and losers could not be determined using clear parameters. It was noticeable, however, that numerous comparison portals gained considerable invisibility.


January 10, 2017 – Interstitial Penalty

“Confirmed by google”.

Everyone knows them, and everyone hates them: Annoying pop-ups that reduce the surfing experience considerably. With this update, Google penalized sites that impair user-friendliness due to a high number of such pop-ups.

 

2016

 

September 27, 2016 – Penguin 4.0 update

“Confirmed by google”.

Another very big Penguin update was rolled out over several weeks.

Aim of the update: Google can now evaluate spam on websites in real time using crawlers, which makes the algorithm much more flexible. The new function was clearly visible in the crawl peaks in the Search Console. In addition, Penguin was now part of the Google core algorithm.

The winners of this update were clearly the losers of previous updates, who were able to shake off their penalties in large numbers and gain significant invisibility.

 

May 12, 2016 – Mobile Update 2

“Confirmed by google”.

Another update on the way to the “Mobile First Index”. After the “Mobilegeddon” update, further adjustments followed, which brought friendliness for mobile devices even more into focus.
The losers were clearly sites that still hadn’t optimized for mobile devices.

May 11, 2016 – Phantom IV Update

“Confirmed by google”.

Another Phantom Update, the very existence of which has been confirmed by Google.
However, they kept a low profile regarding the content – similar to the other Phantom updates before. The losers were websites that were also affected by the other Phantom updates.

However, a clear pattern cannot be discerned. The most prominent loser of this update was the price comparison portal billiger.de.

January 08, 2016 – January 2016 Core Update

“Confirmed by google”.

With this core update, the quality rating of a website has been further refined. The winners were sites that we’re able to offer high-quality content for a specific keyword.

It was noticeable that it was not about the amount of content but rather about meeting the user’s intention.

 

2015

 

October 26, 2015 – RankBrain Update

“Confirmed by google”.

With RankBrain, Google introduced the first self-learning system (human hands do not make artificial intelligence, adjustments, but by the system itself), which primarily has the task of closing previously unknown search gaps.

Until the introduction of RankBrain, Google was not able to answer 15 percent of the search queries. That should be changed with this algorithm.
RankBrain uses user signals to evaluate the relevance of a page and quickly became an important ranking factor. The losers included sites that could not exactly cover the search intention for a keyword.

July 17, 2015 – Panda 4.2 update

“Confirmed by google”.

Another of the adjustments to the Panda Update that took many months.

However, as part of this update, no real impact and no clear winners or losers could be identified. About 3 percent of the search queries were affected.

May 03, 2015 – The Quality Update

“Confirmed by google”.

Another update that assessed the quality of a website and made changes to the search results accordingly. However, Google kept a low profile on what really changed.

April 22, 2015 – Mobile Update “Mobilegeddon”

“Confirmed by google”.

Long before “Mobile First” was considered an unwritten law for websites, the first update was installed that made user-friendliness on mobile devices a dominant ranking factor. Another novelty was that Google announced this update several weeks in advance so that site operators could prepare for it.

 

2014

 

October 17, 2014 – Penguin 3.0 update

“Confirmed by google”.

This further optimization of the Penguin Update took several weeks but only affected 1 percent of the search queries. The losers included the sites that had to give up with the first two updates.

09/29/2014 – Panda 4.1 update

“Confirmed by google”.

Another adjustment to the Panda Update, which, according to Google, affected 5 percent of all search queries.

The losers included pages with thin content (very short and/or poor quality content).


August 06, 2014 – HTTPS / SSL update

“Confirmed by google”.

In August 2014, this update laid the foundation for today’s security standard: HTTPS encryption became a ranking signal.

The losers were clear sides that waived the safety standard, even if the spikes were really small.

May 19, 2014 – Panda 4.0 update

“Confirmed by google”.

The fourth stage of the Panda update places even stricter requirements on the quality of a website. A proud 7.5 percent of all English search queries were affected by this update.
Once again, the losers included sites that provided little added value and little topic coverage. Incidentally, eBay was one of the biggest losers from this update.

May 16, 2014, Payday Loan Algorithm Update 2.0

“Confirmed by google”.

This update further decreased the chances of spam-loaded sites appearing in search results. Classic representatives, adult, and credit broker sites.

February 06, 2014 – Page Layout # 3 Update

“Confirmed by google”.

Google adjusted the guideline for pages with ads “Above The Fold” again and punished them even more severely. The aim was to prevent a bad user experience from having too many ads.

 

2013

October 04, 2013 – Penguin 2.1 update

“Confirmed by google”.

Only small optimizations and improvements of the already rolled out Penguin update were made here. There were almost no changes in the SERPs.

August 20, 2013 – Hummingbird Update

“Confirmed by google”.

The Hummingbird Update improved semantic search queries (natural language) and expanded the Google Knowledge Graph at the same time. This update enabled Google to create a relationship between multiple search queries and link the algorithm together.

As a result of this update, it was observed that the diversity of search results decreased. This affected pages that had placed several subpages in the SERPs for a keyword.

June 11, 2013 – Payday Loan Update

“Confirmed by google”.

With this update, spam sites, mainly in the areas of adult entertainment and credit brokerage, have been penalized.

May 22, 2013 – Penguin 2.0 update

“Confirmed by google”.

The main aim of the Penguin Update 2.0 was to combat link spamming and is considered to be one of the largest and most far-reaching updates in the context of quality improvement.

The losers included sites that had built up artificial backlinks (link exchange, link purchase, etc.) over many years.

May 09, 2013 – Phantom I Update

“Not confirmed by google”.

Here the first Phantom update was applied, which was never officially confirmed by Google. So it is still unclear what goals were pursued with this.

What is undisputed, however: The fact that there was an update. Numerous webmasters reported extreme distortions in the SERPs around May 09, 2013.

2012

November 21, 2012 – Panda # 22 Update “Pony”

“Not confirmed by google”.

Probably just a data refresh for the Panda update, in which, however, numerous websites complained of significant ranking losses.

One of the most famous losers was spreadshirt.de. The website lost over 64 percent of its visibility. Gutefrage.net caught it with 33.23 percent.

October 09, 2012 – Page Layout Update No. 2

“Confirmed by google”.

As part of this update, Google made adjustments to the changes from January 19, 2012. However, no significant changes were found in the SERPs.

October 05, 2012 – Penguin # 3 Update

“Confirmed by google”.

A small Penguin update that only affected 0.3% of search queries. The focus was still on improving the quality of search hits.

Aug 10, 2012 – Pirate Update

“Confirmed by google”.

The Pirate Update was dominated by copyright violations, which from then on were excluded from the search results. Presumably, Google used the in-house function of the “DMCA Takedown Request” (4.3 million requests per month in 2009 alone!), With the help of which copied pages and content could be reported to Google.

The losers from this update included sites that used a lot of duplicate content, i.e., “stolen” content. Hence the name Pirate Update.

June 19, 2012 – Ads Above The Fold Update

“Confirmed by google”.

This update penalized sites that showed a lot of advertising in the “Above the Fold” area, i.e., exactly at first glance of the visitor. The aim was to improve the user experience with search results.

April 24, 2012 – Penguin Update

“Confirmed by google”.

In April 2012, the first Google Penguin update was carried out, which was also nicknamed “Webspam Update”. It was aimed specifically against unfair search engine optimization measures, such as keyword stuffing. Although initially only English-language search results were affected, further adjustments were also made for other language regions in the following months.

The Penguin update had far-reaching consequences for sites that first tried to please Google and only then the user – and that through questionable optimization measures. As part of this update and the subsequent adjustments, these pages almost completely lost their visibility. Because of this, the Penguin Update is one of the most famous Google updates of all time.

2011

November 03, 2011 – Freshness Update

“Confirmed by google”.

It is now known recently that Google follows the QDF “Query Deserve Freshness” principle. With this update, the first step in this direction has been taken because from now on, the up-to-dateness of a website was also assessed through the adjustment in the algorithm. An incredible 35% of all searches were affected by this update.

Loser? Clearly old and unkempt pages with outdated information.

August 16, 2011 – Expanded Sitelinks Update

“Confirmed by google”.

The site links update also added important subpages of a website to the search results. This update’s winners were large established sites, mostly large brands, with a large number of thematically relevant sub-sites.

August 12, 2011 – Panda 2.4 update

“Confirmed by google”.

The Panda Update is considered to be one of the largest updates in terms of quality improvement in Google’s history, affecting around 9 percent of all search terms. Search queries in all languages ​​except Korean, Japanese, and Chinese have been affected by this update.

Numerous further adjustments and refinements to this update followed in the following months.

This update’s clear losers were websites that offered little added value and almost no high-quality content for the visitor.

June 02, 2011 – Schema.org update

“Confirmed by google”.

In 2011, Rich Snippets was born in search results. As part of an update, Google announced cooperation with Microsoft (Bing) and Yahoo, which ultimately ended with Schema.org awards being read out and displayed in the Google SERPs.

2010

June 01, 2010 – Caffeine Update

“Confirmed by google”.

This update should improve the indexing speed of news, blog posts, and other articles of this type. The aim was to make changes more quickly visible in the search results by adjusting the indexing structure.

Obviously, the winners of this update were the sites that regularly added new content.

May 01, 2010 – MayDay Update

“Confirmed by google”.

The aim of the MayDay update was to further improve the quality of the search results, especially in the area of ​​long-tail keywords.

The losers included sites that only provided “thin content”. So pages that dealt with a topic only very superficially.

2009

February 01, 2009 – Vince Update

“Not confirmed by google”.

With Vince, Google played an update that mixed up the search results. Although Matt Cutts described the update as “minor changes”, many of Vince’s websites were affected.

This update has not been officially confirmed by Google. The winners were mainly large brands, whose weighting in the SERPs increased significantly.

February 01, 2009 – Canonical Tag Update

“Confirmed by google”.

Rather untypical: On February 01, 2009, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo jointly announced that they would support canonical tags in the future. This finally allowed search engine crawlers to be controlled in a targeted manner without affecting human visitors.

An update that has been celebrated by many webmasters. In particular, online shops that (have to) use many identical descriptions have made life significantly easier with this update.

August 01, 2009 – Google Suggest Update

“Confirmed by google”.

Today it is standard that suitable search terms are suggested to us by Google while we are entering a search query. However, this was not the case until August 01, 2008. This is where Google Suggest was officially introduced.

April 01, 2009 – Dewey Update

“Confirmed by google”.

As part of the Dewey update, which was installed over two months, there were major shifts within the SERPs, but these did not follow any pattern. For this reason, no clear winners and losers could be identified.

It was noticeable that Google’s in-house services, such as Google Books, were to be found significantly more frequently in the search results. However, this thesis was never confirmed by Google itself.

2007

June 01, 2007 – Buffy Update

“Not confirmed by google”.

In 2007 Vanessa Fox, who worked on Google’s Webmaster Central, among other things, left the company. In her honor, the June update was christened “Buffy”, as Vanessa Fox is probably a big fan of the vampire series.

However, what exactly was optimized as part of this update remains hidden. Not even Matt Cutts could (or would not) provide more specific information. There was also no official confirmation of the update.

May 01, 2007 – Universal Search Update

“Confirmed by google”.

With this update, the SERPs have been expanded to include news, images, videos, and local hits. So Google officially said goodbye to “10 search hits per page” and introduced special hits for the first time. Google christened the extension “Universal Search”.

Thispdate’s winners were mainly sites that worked a lot with videos and images and thus appeared much more dominant in the SERPs. But also great news sites.

2006

March 01, 2006 – Big Daddy Update

“Confirmed by google”.

As early as December 2005, Google started installing the Big Daddy Update. Above all, the infrastructure of the algorithm was optimized. Among other things, the handling of canonical URLs or redirects has been improved for the first time. In addition, numerous other minor changes were made.

Clear winners or losers could not be identified as no changes in the SERPs could be determined.

2005

October 01, 2005 – Local Maps Update

“Confirmed by google”.

On October 01, 2005, Google laid the foundation for today’s “Local SEO”, which is becoming increasingly important. Google merged its map data with its in-house Local Business Center and, from now on, also displayed companies graphically on a map. The winners clearly included companies that had submitted current location information to Google.

October 01, 2005 – Jagger Update

“Confirmed by google”.

With the Jagger Update, Google combated unnatural link growth. Low-quality backlinks, i.e., reciprocal links, link farms, or paid links, were given significantly less weight from now on. With this update, numerous websites with a large number of unnatural links lost their visibility.

June 01, 2005 – XML ​​Sitemaps Update

“Confirmed by google”.

For the first time, webmasters were able to send an XML sitemap to Google in Webmaster Tools and thus control a website’s indexing.

June 01, 2005 – Personalized Search Update

“Confirmed by google”.

Even if the effects in 2005 with the personalized search introduction were still very small, the data obtained here are used today within many processes and even represent a ranking factor of their own.

February 01, 2005 – Allegra Update

“Not confirmed by google”.

What exactly was changed with the Allegra update is still not entirely clear. They were probably dealing with LSI keywords and Google sandbox.

In addition, many webmasters suspected that Google was penalizing suspicious backlinks for the first time, and there was no official confirmation from Google, even if significant changes were found in the SERPs.

2004

February 01, 2004 – Brandy Update

“Confirmed by google”.

With Brandy, Google made a variety of changes to the algorithm and significantly expanded the index. The biggest innovations included the evaluation of LSI keywords and the evaluation of anchor texts. In addition, measures against blog spamming were introduced, but these were not specified in more detail.

The winners included pages that we’re able to show a large number of LSI keywords through extensive contributions and were accordingly rated higher.

January 01, 2004 – Austin Update

“Confirmed by google”.

The Austin update was considered an extension of the Florida update installed in the previous year. Google took even tougher action against attempted scams such as invisible texts or META tag spamming.

Some losers could be observed here, which disappeared from the index due to unfair SEO measures.

2003

November 01, 2003 – Florida Update

“Confirmed by google”.

The Florida Update is still considered to be the birth of search engine optimization. As part of this update, many websites suddenly and unexpectedly disappeared from the index, which initiates a series of optimization measures in order to regain visibility. This update was also mainly aimed against SPAM methods.

The timing of the update resulted in significant losses for many companies during the Christmas season. Many insiders suspected that Google deliberately chose this point in time to demonstrate that it would be better to refrain from using SPAM methods in the future.

Losers and winners of this update emerged across all industries. However, there was no clear pattern.

July 01, 2003 – Fritz Update

“Confirmed by google”.

With the Fritz Update, Google began to update data no longer on a monthly, but on a daily basis. This should significantly improve the timeliness of data. Major news websites were among the winners.

May 01, 2003 – Dominic Update

“Not confirmed by google”.

With Dominic, Google changed the way backlinks were rated and counted dramatically, resulting in significant changes in the SERPs.

April 01, 2003 – Cassandra Update

“Not confirmed by google”.

The Cassandra update punished websites that linked massively to other pages of an identical user. The first strike against privately owned link farms.

February 01, 2003 – Boston Update

“Confirmed by google”.

Even if the Boston Update did not have a major impact on individual pages’ ranking, it has historical significance: Boston (Google itself announced the update at the SES conference in Boston) was the first Google update ever.

At the time, Google was planning to update the rankings on a monthly basis and link them to an update, which was known as “Google Dance”. However, the idea quickly died out.

FAQ

Here you can find answers to common questions about Google updates:
  1. What is Google Core Updates?

Google Core Updates are the updates that happen deep inside the search engine’s algorithm. Unlike updates such as Hummingbird, Panda, or Penguin, which should improve certain areas, core updates are a bit of everything and affect a wide variety of positions that Google usually does not reveal.

Core updates are rolled out several times a year and have been officially announced in advance by Google via Twitter since 2019.

  1. How can I find out if I am affected by an update?

There are a few different ways you can tell if a Google update has affected your website. The easiest way to do this is via the Google Search Console, both free tools that Google gives you itself.

If you notice extreme growth in visitors or a drop in visitors within a short period of time, a Google update has probably affected your site directly. A look at the average position of your website can also be helpful.

You can also use tools with a visibility index, such as Use, e.g., ahrefs, Searchmetrics, SEMRush, or Sistrix, to understand general changes invisibility.

A keyword tracker or the SERP comparison from Sistrix is ​​recommended to identify individual keywords’ rankings.

  1. What can I do if I am affected by a Google Update?

First of all:

No panic!

First, you should research what exactly has been changed by an update and why your website may have suffered as a result.

In addition, I recommend always doing a comprehensive on-page audit after severe ranking losses.

First of all, you can never say 100% what a Google update was aiming at. Second, any loss of visibility that occurs during or after a Google update doesn’t always have to be related to the update.

I recommend the following measures:

  • Take a look at the reports on manual measures and security problems in the Google Search Console (sometimes your website is hacked without you noticing).
  • Fix any errors that appear in the Google Search Console
  • Check the absolute loading time and the performance of PageSpeed ​​Insights (also with regard to the new Core Web Vitals)
  • Check if there are any problems with your SSL certificate.
  • Check whether your website is completely or partially unavailable (e.g., due to a faulty WordPress plugin)
  • Remove broken images and links.
  • Remove internal redirects (e.g., caused by changing the permalink structure)
  • Improve your internal linking
  • Optimize your indexing settings (by removing unnecessary pages from the index, such as attachment pages in WordPress).

  1. What does YMYL mean?
The abbreviation stands for “Your Money Your Life” and describes topics that directly impact a person’s health or finances.

Google attaches great importance to authority and expertise on these topics. Significantly more than in other areas.

  1. What is EAT?

EAT is an abbreviation that stands for expertise, authority, and trust. The Google algorithm’s goal is to only display pages for a search query that contains these three components.

This means:

  • The author of the site has enough expertise and is qualified to write on the subject.
  • The website and the author are considered to be the authority on the subject
  • The website is trustworthy (does not spread malware, pays attention to data protection; users are not deceived, etc.)

EAT plays a very important role, especially on YMYL websites.

Ravi Chauhan
Ravi Chauhan
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