“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 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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
Around 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.
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.
Google’s New Mobile-First Index
December 26, 2016
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.
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.”
June 14, 2016
Snapchat, a popular messaging app, begins to include advertisements between user’s “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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Native Gmail Ads
September 1, 2015
Native Gmail ads arrive in AdWords for all advertisers
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.
October 30, 2014
HTML5 offers great benefits for development and marketing
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.
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).
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.
October 1, 2013
Instagram, a popular image sharing platform, releases its feature of having sponsored posts appear on user’s feeds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
April 13, 2010
Twitter launches Promoted Tweets, which allows advertisers to pay for tweets to be shown in a user’s feed.
Bing and Yahoo partnership begins
December 1, 2009
Google and DoubleClick
September 18, 2009
Google launches its own ad exchange platform with DoubleClick.
Introducing Rich Snippets
May 12, 2009
Rich Snippets give users convenient summary information about their search results at a glance.
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.