“SEO is an umbrella term for a large number of tactics and strategies all intended to help your website, video, images and other digital assets rank high in the search engine result pages for the keyword phrases that are the most important to your business for conversions.”

– Jenny Stradling, Eminent SEO CEO

With search engine optimization constantly evolving it can be hard to keep track of all of the changes. Google makes frequent algorithm updates, marketers test their ideas and new SEO strategies are always emerging.

A good SEO has to be prepared to handle these surprises in order to anticipate what happens next and stay ahead of the game. We have created a timeline of the Google algorithm changes and major updates to the digital marketing world to help you get up to speed on the evolution of SEO.

Google Product Reviews Update

March 23, 2022

Google releases March 2022 product reviews update with additional ranking criteria. The new product reviews update looks for in-depth analysis, actual product use, unique information and comparable product coverage.

Google Product Review Update

December 1, 2021

Google releases its newest product review update (the first major one since April). The update was finished rolling-out the week of the 21st.

Google Core Algo Update

November 17, 2021

Google announces a large, core algo update that is estimated to take up to two weeks. Google provides advice on how to recover from core updates.

Google Spam Update

November 3, 2021

Google begins rolling-out a spam update on November 3. Google referenced its own Google Webmaster Guidelines.

Volatility in the SERPs

September 4, 2021

Recent volatility in the SERPs inspired Google specialists to speculate an unannounced algo update. However, there’s some speculation that rather than an official update, it’s just “growing pains” related to Google attempting to provide better results. For example, SERPs may change due to the seasons, day of the week, weather, etc.

Link Spam Update

July 26, 2021

Google posted a blog post about qualifying sponsored links and announced a link spam update. Site owners could get penalized for not being forthright about sponsored and affiliated links on their site. This update is in effect for all languages.

Google Core Update

July 1, 2021

The July Core Update went live as announced via Twitter. Google on core updates: “One way to think of how a core update operates is to imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2015. A few years later in 2019, you refresh the list. It’s going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion. You might also reassess some films and realize they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before.”

Google Core Update

June 2, 2021

June’s core update was announced at the beginning of the month.

Google Page Experience Update

April 19, 2021

Here comes the Page Experience Update, which takes a closer look at Core Web Vitals, mobile UX, and site security. Search experts suggest webmasters use a mixture of free and paid tools to check a site’s CWV.

 

Google on this update: “the page experience update will consider several page experience signals, including the three Core Web Vitals metrics: LCP, FID, and CLS (as well as Chrome’s recent fix to CLS). In addition, the Top Stories carousel feature on Google Search will be updated to include all news content, as long as it meets the Google News policies. This means that using the AMP format is no longer required and that any page, irrespective of its Core Web Vitals score or page experience status, will be eligible to appear in the Top Stories carousel.”

Google’s Product Reviews Update

April 8, 2021

Google announced the product reviews update, better promoting content that does a good job at reviewing goods and services. From Google: “From this, we know people appreciate product reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products. That’s why we’re sharing an improvement to our ranking systems, which we call the product reviews update, that’s designed to better reward such content…”

Google Passage Ranking

February 11, 2021

Google announced news of passage ranking for US/English-based queries. This update features Google’s ability to not only index pages, but parts of pages, in order to serve a user with the very best answer for the context.

Google Core Update

December 3, 2020

Google announced a core update.

Google Core Update

May 4, 2020

Google gave us a second core update of the year, reported to be quite significant.

Google Rearranging Featured Snippets

February 5, 2020

Google announced a rearrangement regarding featured snippets. This raises lots of discussions regarding click-through behavior and branding.

Another Google Core Update

January 6, 2020

Another year’s entry is met with another core update. Happy 2020!

Make Way for Google’s BERT

December 9, 2019

Make way for BERT, the natural language processing algorithm, introduced across 70 languages.

Google’s algorithm is updated to better support BERT

October 25, 2019

Google’s algorithm is updated to better support BERT, which aids in interpreting natural language searches and context.

Another core update from Google

September 24, 2019

Google blessed us with another core update. And, while the update seemed to do a good job at mixing up the SERPs, Google gave us very little information to speculate.

Google rolled-out the Site Diversity Update

June 5, 2019

Google rolled-out the Site Diversity Update, citing that SERPs would change in cases where sites had two more more organic listings.

Google indexing issues

May 26, 2019

Google confirmed another indexing bug but now has it fixed.

Google dropped pages from the search index

April 6, 2019

About 4% of URLs fell from page one and then soon recovered.

Google rolled-out a core update

March 13, 2019

Google rolled-out a core update, the third major one since speaking the updates into existence.

Google Rolled out the “Medic” Core Update

August 8, 2018

Google rolled-out the “Medic” core update. It’s name represents the health and wellness vertical, which is disproportionately affected by the update.

Google Broad Core Algorithm Update

August 1, 2018


“On July 31, 2018, changes to Google’s core algorithm were implemented, and Google confirmed these changes and the possibility of search volatility the very next day. Google also admitted that this algorithm update could be considered a ‘big’ update — meaning search results and rankings could be expected to fluctuate wildly. Many ‘white hat SEOs’ have noted that this update seemed to yield positive results to those websites that follow Google’s quality guidelines, and overall do things ‘the right way.’ Websites that utilized ‘black hat SEO’ cheats and link/SEO schemes seem to have been hit very hard by this update.”

Source: https://www.seroundtable.com/google-seos-algorithm-update-26149.html

Google Updates Guidelines for Search Quality Raters

July 1, 2018


“While much of the indexing and ranking happens automatically through Google’s core algorithm, Google also relies on real people — called ‘Search Quality Raters’ — to review search engine results pages (SERPs). In July of 2018, Google updated the guidelines that these raters follow when reviewing the serps. Not only do these new guidelines reflect what Google considers as ranking factors, but offers insight into what websites must do to be considered ‘quality’ content and service providers.”

Source: http://www.thesempost.com/google-search-quality-rater-guidelines-updated/

GDRP Privacy and Data Regulations for European Union Customers Goes Into Effect

May 25, 2018

“The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set new rules for how websites and businesses use and store private and personal data on citizens of the European Union. Heavy fines are a concern for companies found breaching GDPR, and even though this only applies to privacy data on EU citizens, it forces businesses small and large to take a closer look at how data is used and stored from all customers, regardless of where they are located.”

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/gdpr-an-executive-guide-to-what-you-need-to-know/

Mobile First Update

March 26, 2018

“Google began its mobile-first indexing in March of 2018. Starting at this time, Google began migrating sites that follow the best practices for mobile first indexing. Put simply, those websites that followed the guidelines set by Google have a better chance at ranking well than sites that do not follow Google’s recommended guidelines.”

Source: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2018/03/rolling-out-mobile-first-indexing.html

Google Featured Snippet Drop, Jump in Knowledge Panels

November 29, 2017

Over a period of a few days from October 27-31, there was a substantial drop in Featured Snippets. This co-occurred with a jump in Knowledge Panels, as Google seemed to add many panels for broad terms and objects (“travel”, “toilet”, “web design”, etc.). Some of these panels disappeared around December 15.
Source: Knowledge Graph Eats Featured Snippets, Jumps +30% (Moz) and Is the featured snippet bubble bursting? (SEL) and https://www.eminentseo.com/blog/google-knowledge-panel-rich-snippets-updates/

Google Crack Down on Addiction Treatment Ads

September 1, 2017

Eminent SEO - Google Crushes Addiction Treatment AdWords CampaignsAround September of this year, Google placed new restrictions on advertising keywords related to searches for addiction treatment. This had a tremendous impact on addiction treatment centers around the country that relied on Google AdWords campaigns as their primary digital ad source.

Source: https://www.eminentseo.com/blog/did-google-crush-addiction-treatment-adwords-campaign/

Google Intrusive Interstitial Penalty

January 11, 2017

 

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.

Sources: Google warns it will crack down on “intrusive interstitials” in January (SEL) and Official: Google Intrusive Interstitials Mobile Penalty Now Rolling Out (SER)

Google Possum Update

September 1, 2016

“Possum” is the name given to an unconfirmed but documented update which appeared to most significantly impact Google’s local pack and local finder results. Because the update was never officially confirmed by Google, local SEOs have been left to hypothesize about the potential update’s purpose and concrete effects. One study of 1,307 businesses suggested that Possum affected 64% of Google’s local results.

Sources: https://moz.com/learn/seo/google-possum and https://searchengineland.com/study-shows-googles-possum-update-changed-64-local-serps-261761

Facebook Blocking Ad Blocking Extensions

August 11, 2016

Facebook states that they will start blocking the use of ad blocking extensions, specifically Adblock Plus and Adblock. In response to this, these ad-blockers began to block Facebook’s blocking in a back-and-forth “war.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/aug/11/facebook-advertising-changes-adblockers-strike-back

SnapChat Ads

June 14, 2016

Snapchat, a popular messaging app, begins to include advertisements between user’s “stories”

Source: https://www.theverge.com/2016/6/14/11930386/snapchat-ads-api-stories

Google Expanded Text Ads

May 24, 2016

Following on from February, when right-hand column ads were removed to make mobile and desktop SERPs look the same, Google is now set to expand text ad limits for the first time since their launch. Called expanded text ads, there will soon be 2 headlines, of 30 characters each, 1 description line of 80 characters and an automatically generated domain in the display URL (you can still customize the path). This increases the number of characters in the headline and description fields from 95 to 140 and will roll out in the coming months.
Source: https://adwords.googleblog.com/2016/05/ads-and-analytics-innovations-for-a-mobile-first-world.html

Google AdWords Shake-up

February 19, 2016

Google made major changes to AdWords, removing right-column ads entirely and rolling out 4-ad top blocks on many commercial searches. While this was a paid search update, it had significant implications for CTR for both paid and organic results, especially on competitive keywords.

Sources: Four Ads on Top: The Wait Is Over (Moz) and Google AdWords Switching to 4 Ads on Top, None on Sidebar (SEM Post)

Google AMP

February 1, 2016

In an attempt to speed up pages, Google also introduced Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in 2016. AMP are designed to instantly load content and mostly has been adopted by news media and publishers.
Source: https://beta.techcrunch.com/2015/10/07/accelerated-mobile-pages/

Google Announces RankBrain

October 26, 2015

Google made a major announcement, revealing that machine learning had been a part of the algorithm for months, contributing to the 3rd most influential ranking factor. *Note: This is an announcement date – we believe the actual launch was closer to spring 2015.

Sources: Google Turning Its Lucrative Web Search Over to AI Machines (Bloomberg) and FAQ: All About The New Google RankBrain Algorithm (SEL)

Yahoo Google Search Deal

October 20, 2015

Yahoo reached an agreement with Google that provides Yahoo with additional flexibility to choose among suppliers of search results and ads. Google’s offerings complement the search services provided by Microsoft, which remains a strong partner, as well as Yahoo’s own search technologies and ad products.
Source: https://searchengineland.com/yahoo-google-search-deal-233963

Native Gmail Ads

September 1, 2015

Native Gmail ads arrive in AdWords for all advertisers
Source: https://adwords.googleblog.com/2015/09/native-gmail-ads-arrive-in-adwords.html

The Year of Mobile

January 1, 2015

Finally we had the Year of Mobile – the point at which mobile searches overtook desktop search for the first time on Google. And while this is true in terms of raw search numbers, it’s also true that search intent is quite different and conversion rates remain much lower on mobile devices.

Source: https://searchengineland.com/its-official-google-says-more-searches-now-on-mobile-than-on-desktop-220369

HTML5 Released

October 30, 2014

HTML5 offers great benefits for development and marketing
Source: https://searchengineland.com/seo-best-practices-for-html5-truths-half-truths-outright-lies-99406

Google 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.

Source: HTTPS as a ranking signal (Google)

Google Pigeon Update

July 24, 2014

Google shook the local SEO world with an update that dramatically altered some local results and modified how they handle and interpret location cues. Google claimed that Pigeon created closer ties between the local algorithm and core algorithm(s).

Source: Google “Pigeon” Updates Local Search Algorithm With Stronger Ties To Web Search Signal (SEL)

Pinterest Promoted Pins (Ads) Beta

March 1, 2014

Pinterest, a creative image sharing platform, launches it Promoted Pins service which allows for additional advertising in a user’s feed.
Source: https://business.pinterest.com/en/blog/a-big-year-ahead-for-promoted-pins

Instagram Ads

October 1, 2013

Instagram, a popular image sharing platform, releases its feature of having sponsored posts appear on user’s feeds.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_online_advertising

Google Hummingbird Update

August 30, 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.
Sources: FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm (SEL) and Some Reports Of An August 21/22 Google Update (SER)

Google “Payday Loan” Update

June 11, 2013

Google announced a targeted algorithm update to take on niches with notoriously spammy results, specifically mentioning payday loans and porn. The update was announced on June 11th, but Matt Cutts suggested it would roll out over a 1-2 month period.

Source: Google Payday Loan Algorithm: Google Search Algorithm Update To Target Spammy Queries (SEL)

Google Knowledge Graph

May 16, 2012

In a major step toward semantic search, Google started rolling out “Knowledge Graph”, a SERP-integrated display providing supplemental object about certain people, places, and things. Expect to see “knowledge panels” appear on more and more SERPs over time.

Source: Introducing the Knowledge Graph: things, not strings (Google)

Google Penguin Update

April 24, 2012

After weeks of speculation about an “Over-optimization penalty”, Google finally rolled out the “Webspam Update”, which was soon after dubbed “Penguin.” Penguin adjusted a number of spam factors, including keyword stuffing, and impacted an estimated 3.1% of English queries.

Sources: Another step to reward high-quality sites (Google) and The Penguin Update: Google’s Webspam Algorithm Gets Official Name (SEL)

Google Search Terms Removed

October 1, 2011

When Google moved to secure search it was a blow to publishers, who began losing data about the search terms used to reach their sites.
Source: https://searchengineland.com/google-not-provided-review-186356 

Google+ Launched

June 28, 2011

After a number of social media failures, Google launched a serious attack on Facebook with Google+. Google+ revolved around circles for sharing content, and was tightly integrated into products like Gmail. Early adopters were quick to jump on board, and within 2 weeks Google+ reached 10M users.

Source: Introducing the Google+ project: Real-life sharing, rethought for the web (Google)

Google Panda / Farmer Update

February 1, 2011

A major algorithm update hit sites hard, affecting up to 12% of search results (a number that came directly from Google). Panda seemed to crack down on thin content, content farms, sites with high ad-to-content ratios, and a number of other quality issues. Panda rolled out over at least a couple of months, hitting Europe in April 2011.

Source: Google’s Farmer/Panda Update: Analysis of Winners vs. Losers (Moz)

Social Signals

December 1, 2010

Google and Bing confirmed that they use social signals in determining ranking, including data from Twitter and Facebook. Matt Cutts confirmed that this was a relatively new development for Google, although many SEOs had long suspected it would happen.

Sources: What Social Signals Do Google & Bing Really Count? (SEL) and Google Webmaster Video Reconfirms Use Of Social Signals (SEL)

Facebook overtook Google

July 1, 2010

Facebook overtook Google to clinch the biggest share of consumer attention online. Despite Google’s intent-driven advertising model, Facebook’s ability to grow its active user base (1.94bn monthly active users by 2017) has resulted in it becoming a twin force of online advertising alongside Google.

Source: https://econsultancy.com/blog/69043-the-15-biggest-moments-in-marketing-since-the-launch-of-the-iphone

Google Caffeine Rollout

June 8, 2010

After months of testing, Google finished rolling out the Caffeine infrastructure. Caffeine not only boosted Google’s raw speed, but integrated crawling and indexation much more tightly, resulting in (according to Google) a 50% fresher index.

Sources: Our new search index: Caffeine (Google)

Schema.org

June 2, 2010

Google, Yahoo and Microsoft jointly announced support for a consolidated approach to structured data. They also created a number of new “schemas”, in an apparent bid to move toward even richer search results.
Source: Google, Bing & Yahoo Unite To Make Search Listings Richer Through Structured Data (SEL) What is Schema.org? (Schema.org)

Google Places

April 20, 2010

Although “Places” pages were rolled out in September of 2009, they were originally only a part of Google Maps. The official launch of Google Places re-branded the Local Business Center, integrated Places pages more closely with local search results, and added a number of features, including new local advertising options.

Sources: Introducing Google Places (Google)

Twitter Ads

April 13, 2010

Twitter launches Promoted Tweets, which allows advertisers to pay for tweets to be shown in a user’s feed.

Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/twitter/7586446/Twitter-launches-promoted-tweets-in-a-bid-to-make-money.html

Bing and Yahoo partnership begins

December 1, 2009

Google and DoubleClick

September 18, 2009

Google launches its own ad exchange platform with DoubleClick.

Source: https://searchengineland.com/googles-doubleclick-formally-announces-new-ad-exchange-26042

Introducing Rich Snippets

May 12, 2009

Rich Snippets give users convenient summary information about their search results at a glance.

Source: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2009/05/introducing-rich-snippets.html

Canonical Tags

February 15, 2009

Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo jointly announced support for the Canonical Tag, allowing webmasters to send canonicalization signals to search bots without impacting human visitors.

Sources: Learn about the Canonical Link Element in 5 minutes (MattCutts.com) and Canonical URL Tag – The Most Important Advancement in SEO Practices Since Sitemaps (Moz)