Google Algorithm Updates

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2018 Updates

“Medic” Core Update  —  August 1, 2018

Confirmed

Google confirmed a “broad core algorithm update,” with wide reports of massive impact. It rolled out over the period of about a week, but peaked on August 1-2. This update seemed to disproportionately affect sites in the health and wellness vertical, although large-scale impact was seen in all verticals.

Unnamed Update  —  May 23, 2018

Unconfirmed

Algorithm tracking tools and webmaster chatter showed heavy activity, but Google did not confirm an update. MozCast showed very high temperatures over a 3-day period, peaking on May 23.

Mobile-First Index Roll-out  —  March 26, 2018

Confirmed

Google announced that the mobile-first index was finally “rolling out.” Since the index has been in testing for many months, and Google has suggested they are migrating sites gradually, it’s unclear how much impact this specific roll-out had on the overall index. Webmaster should begin to see notifications within Google Search Console.

“Brackets” Core Update  —  March 8, 2018

Confirmed

Google confirmed a “core” update on March 7th, but volatility spiked as early as March 4th, with a second spike on March 8th, and continued for almost two weeks. This may have been multiple updates or one prolonged, rolling update. The “Brackets” name was coined by Glenn Gabe; no details were provided by Google.

Unnamed Update  —  February 20, 2018

Unconfirmed

Rankings showed a spike in volatility (across a number of tools) around February 20th, which quickly settled down, sometimes signalling a targeted algorithm update. Google did not confirm any update in this time period.

2017 Updates

“Maccabees” Update  —  December 14, 2017

Unconfirmed

Chatter and several tools showed ranking volatility around December 14th. Barry Schwartz named this the “Maccabees” update, but Google would only confirm that several small updates had happened in the general timeline. Pre-holiday updates tend to get more attention (and are generally rarer) due to their disruptive effect on e-commerce.

Snippet Length Increase  —  November 30, 2017

Confirmed

After testing longer search snippets for over two years, Google increased them across a large number of results. This led us to adopt a new Meta Description limit — up to 300 characters from the previous 155 (almost doubling). Google confirmed an update to how snippets are handled, but didn’t provide details.

Unnamed Update  —  September 27, 2017

Unconfirmed

Algorithm trackers (including MozCast) and webmaster chatter spotted increasing flux starting around September 25th, which seemed to spike on the 27th, after a period of relative calm. No update was officially confirmed.

Google Tops 50% HTTPS  —  April 16, 2017

Unconfirmed

According to our MozCast 10K tracking set, half of page-1 Google organic results were secure/HTTPs as of mid-April. This increased to close to 75% by the end of 2017.

Intrusive Interstitial Penalty  —  January 10, 2017

Confirmed

Google started rolling out a penalty to punish aggressive interstitials and pop-ups that might damage the mobile user experience. Google also provided a rare warning of this update five months in advance. MozCast showed high temperatures from January 10-11, but many SEOs reported minimal impact on sites that should have been affected.

2016 Updates

Unnamed Update  —  December 14, 2016

Unconfirmed

Multiple Google trackers showed massive flux around December 14-15, including a rare MozCast temperature of 109°F. Webmaster chatter was heavy as well, but Google did not confirm an update.

Unnamed Update  —  November 10, 2016

Unconfirmed

MozCast detected a major (106°) spike on November 10th and another on the 18th. Industry chatter was high during both periods, with some suggesting that the second spike was a reversal of the first update. Google has not confirmed either event. Many people reported bad dates in SERPs during the same time period, but it’s unclear whether this was causal or just a coincidence.

Penguin 4.0, Phase 2  —  October 6, 2016

Unconfirmed

The second phase of Penguin 4.0 was the reversal of all previous Penguin penalties. This seemed to happen after the new code rolled out, and may have taken as long as two weeks. Post-Penguin activity had one final peak on October 6th (116°), but it is unclear whether this was Penguin or a new update. Algorithm temperatures finally started to drop after October 6th.

Penguin 4.0, Phase 1  —  September 27, 2016

Confirmed

The first phase of Penguin 4.0, which probably launched around September 22-23, was the rollout of the new, “gentler” Penguin algorithm, which devalues bad links instead of penalizing sites. The exact timeline is unconfirmed, but we believe this rollout took at least a few days to fully update, and may have corresponded to an algorithm temperature spike (113°) on September 27th.

Penguin 4.0 Announcement  —  September 23, 2016

Confirmed

After almost two years of waiting, Google finally announced a major Penguin update. They suggested the new Penguin is now real-time and baked into the “core” algorithm. Initial impact assessments were small, but it was later revealed that the Penguin 4.0 rollout was unusually long and multi-phase (see September 27th and October 6th).

Image/Universal Drop  —  September 13, 2016

Unconfirmed

MozCast recorded a nearly-record 111° temperature and a 50% drop in SERPs with image (universal/vertical) results. The universal result shake-up opened up an organic position on page 1, causing substantial ranking shifts, but it’s likely that this was part of a much larger update.

Unnamed Update  —  May 10, 2016

Unconfirmed

MozCast and other Google weather trackers showed a historically rare week-long pattern of algorithm activity, including a 97-degree spike. Google would not confirm this update, and no explanation is currently available.

2015 Algorithm Updates





2014 Updates


Penguin Everflux — December 10, 2014

A Google representative said that Penguin had shifted to continuous updates, moving away from infrequent, major updates. While the exact timeline was unclear, this claim seemed to fit ongoing flux after Penguin 3.0 (including unconfirmed claims of a Penguin 3.1).

Google Says Penguin To Shift To “Continuous Updates” (SEL)



Penguin 3.0 — October 17, 2014

More than a year after the previous Penguin update (2.1), Google launched a Penguin refresh. This update appeared to be smaller than expected (<1% of US/English queries affected) and was probably data-only (not a new Penguin algorithm). The timing of the update was unclear, especially internationally, and Google claimed it was spread out over “weeks”.

Google AutoCorrects: Penguin 3.0 Still Rolling Out & 1% Impact (SER)

Penguin 3.0 Analysis – Penguin Tremors, Recoveries, Fresh Hits, and Crossing Algorithms (GSQi)





HTTPS/SSL Update — August 6, 2014

After months of speculation, Google announced that they would be giving preference to secure sites, and that adding encryption would provide a “lightweight” rankings boost. They stressed that this boost would start out small, but implied it might increase if the changed proved to be positive.

HTTPS as a ranking signal (Google)

Google Starts Giving A Ranking Boost To Secure HTTPS/SSL Sites (SEL)




Payday Loan 3.0 — June 12, 2014

Less than a month after the Payday Loan 2.0 anti-spam update, Google launched another major iteration. Official statements suggested that 2.0 targeted specific sites, while 3.0 targeted spammy queries.

Google Spam Algorithm Version 3.0 Launches Today (SER)





2013 Updates





Hummingbird — August 20, 2013

Announced on September 26th, Google suggested that the “Hummingbird” update rolled out about a month earlier. Our best guess ties it to a MozCast spike on August 20th and many reports of flux from August 20-22. Hummingbird has been compared to Caffeine, and seems to be a core algorithm update that may power changes to semantic search and the Knowledge Graph for months to come.

FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm (SEL)

Some Reports Of An August 21/22 Google Update (SER)



Unnamed Update — July 26, 2013

MozCast tracked a large Friday spike (105° F), with other sources showing significant activity over the weekend. Google has not confirmed this update.

Was There A Weekend Google Update? (SER)

MozCast Update (Google+)


Knowledge Graph Expansion — July 19, 2013

Seemingly overnight, queries with Knowledge Graph (KG) entries expanded by more than half (+50.4%) across the MozCast data set, with more than a quarter of all searches showing some kind of KG entry.

The Day the Knowledge Graph Exploded (Moz)


Panda Recovery — July 18, 2013

Google confirmed a Panda update, but it was unclear whether this was one of the 10-day rolling updates or something new. The implication was that this was algorithmic and may have “softened” some previous Panda penalties.

Confirmed: Google Panda Update: The “Softer” Panda Algorithm (SER)


Multi-Week Update — June 27, 2013

Google’s Matt Cutts tweeted a reply suggesting a “multi-week” algorithm update between roughly June 12th and “the week after July 4th”. The nature of the update was unclear, but there was massive rankings volatility during that time period, peaking on June 27th (according to MozCast data). It appears that Google may have been testing some changes that were later rolled back.

Google’s “Multi-Week” Algorithm Update (Moz)

Google’s Matt Cutts: Multi-Week Update Rolling Out (SER)





Domain Crowding — May 21, 2013

Google released an update to control domain crowding/diversity deep in the SERPs (pages 2+). The timing was unclear, but it seemed to roll out just prior to Penguin 2.0 in the US and possibly the same day internationally.

Google Domain Crowding Update: May 2013 (High Position)

Google Domain Clustering Update (Justin Briggs)





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