Google Algorithm Update: What Is it and How It Works?

Gigi | May 2, 2023

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With all the users who are online at any one time searching for something, it is critical for a search engine to find a way to sift through the web pages. The Google algorithm makes this possible.

What is the Google Algorithm?

You may have heard of a Google algorithm update coming up but don’t fully comprehend what it means. Algorithms refer to the systems that a search engine uses to retrieve data from its index in response to a query. It is because of algorithms that Google can rank websites on SERPs.

How Google Algorithm Works

Google uses spiders to crawl the web collecting pages. Spiders retrieve the code for the pages that it considers relevant then creates an index. Every time you input a query into the search engine, it goes back to the database to find the pages that provide the most accurate response. Google then considers certain elements to rank pages with the best ones appearing first on SERPs.

A Look at the History

Over the years, Google has updated its algorithm to meet the evolving needs of online users. Some of the updates were slight tweaks that didn’t make a big difference while others were so dramatic that they changed how the algorithm functioned. Here’s the Google algorithm change history.

November 2003, Florida Update

Google wiped out platforms that employed dirty tricks to move up the SERPs like invisible text, keyword stuffing and hidden links.

September 2005, Jagger

Google’s Jagger update was in three phases with the first one in September and Jagger 2 being the most significant. It got rid of manipulative link building.

December 2005, Big Daddy

A restructuring of the infrastructure that changed how Google dealt with certain technical aspects like redirects and URL canonicalization.

January 2009, – Vince

The update benefited big brand domains that use competitive keywords.

August 2009, Caffeine

This algorithm increased the indexing efficiency of Google, which improves results.

April 2010, MayDay

The update improved results for long-tail queries.

February 2011, Panda

The update focused on keyword stuffing, thin content and plagiarised/duplicate material.

April 2011, Panda 2.0

Google added more signals.

August 2011, Panda 2.4

International update

October 2011, Panda 3.0

Additional signals to the Panda update.

November 2011, Freshness

Change in the algorithm to provide fresher results.

January 2012 Page Layout

The update focused on pages with too many ads at the top.

February 2012, Venice

Google used IP addresses and physical location to improve searches.

April 2012, Penguin

This update in the Google algorithm change history cracked down on webspam, penalising sites that had irrelevant and spammy links.

May 2012, Penguin 1.1


June 2012, Panda update

Google confirmed a refresh of the Panda algorithm started rolling out on this date, impacting less than 1 percent of U.S. queries and ~1 percent of worldwide queries. Ranking tools suggested it was bigger than more recent Panda updates.

September 2012, Exact Domain Match

It got rid of spammy and low-quality EDMs.

June 2013, Payday Loan

An update targeting spammy searches for industries like payday loans.

August 2013, Hummingbird

The update improved how Google responded to searches by factoring in more complex queries using co-occurring terms, semantic indexing and synonyms.

June 2014, Payday

The Google algorithm update concentrated on spammy queries and negative SEO attacks (read here for more information about SEO).

July 2014, Pigeon

The Pigeon update concentrated on local search. By linking the core and local algorithm, Google could influence search results, depending on the location of the user.

September 2014, Panda update

Additional signals helped Panda detect low-quality content.

October 2014, Penguin 3.0

A refresh of the Penguin update.

April 2015, Mobile

The update improved the ranking of mobile responsive sites on mobile searches.

May 2015, Quality update

An update on the engine’s access to signals.

October 2015, RankBrain

It incorporated machine learning to deliver the most suitable results for search queries.

January 2016, Panda Core Algorithm

Google incorporated Panda into the algorithm; it was no longer just a filter.

May 2016, Mobilegeddon 2

Increased the effect of ranking mobile-friendly sites.

June 2016, Quality update

An unconfirmed update focusing on content was detected.

September 2016, Possum

The Possum update impacted local results by diversifying them and removing spam with the closest local businesses ranking higher on SERPs.

September 2016, Penguin 4.0

The update devalued links.

November 2016, unconfirmed

A flourish of activity on SERPs indicated an unknown update.

January 2017, intrusive interstitials

This update targeted intrusive interstitials that affect mobile devices.

February 2017, Unconfirmed

The update was significant enough to cause sifts in SERP ranking.

March 2017, Fred

The update targeted low-quality content that was made for affiliates and ads.

May 2017, quality update

Tracking tools detected changes in SERPs for pages with aggressive advertising.

July 2017 unconfirmed

A potential quality update was detected.

August 2017, Quality update

Although unconfirmed, a quality update targeted thin content, category pages and aggressive advertising.

September 2017, Unconfirmed

Fluctuations in search visibility and traffic indicated some Google algorithm update.

December 2017, Maccabees

Although some websites reported changes, Google called them minor adjustments.

March 2018, Broad Core

Google rolled out the broad core update to reward previously overlooked pages.

April 2018, Broad Core Update

Another broad core update focusing on content relevance.

August 2018, Broad Core

A broad core update was released as a follow up to the March update.

September 2018, Small Updates

Fluctuations in website ranking hinted at an ongoing update, which Google later confirmed.

October 2018, Unconfirmed

Report from webmasters indicated that Google might have released an update although there was little evidence.

February 2019, Unconfirmed

Although Google did not give the official word, some websites reported evidence of an update just before Valentine’s Day.

March 2019, Core Update

Google confirmed a global update and recommended following the already established guidelines.

April, 2019, Deindexing Bug

Google has confirmed a bug that caused pages to drop from their previous rankings. Google announced this and took about 6 days to fix. Google, however, did not reveal other details.

May 2019, Indexing Bug

Google has confirmed a bug that caused new content or pages to not being indexed. However, Google has resolved it within two days after that.

June 2019, Core Update

Google confirmed a global update. Read more details at the following link.

September 2019, Core Update

Google has announced an update again. This update will affect how Google ranks web sites and how Google determines what is the most relevant web page for a specific query.

Knowing how the Google algorithm works is an added advantage for any website owner and digital marketer.

Written By

Currently living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Gigi is a link builder, aspiring content writer, learner of everything SEO and content marketing and at-night sufferer of her insatiable indulgence in fictions. She’s s also a lover of writing, daydreaming and napping. Connect to Gigi at LinkedIn

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