Google Algorithm Updates & Changes

While Google updates its search algorithm around 500 to 600 times each year, some updates are more significant than others. Take Google’s latest broad core algorithm update for example. Appropriately named the March 2019 Broad Core Algorithm Update, this update led to serious fluctuations in the SERPs and largely affected the Autos & Vehicles, Health and Pets & Animals categories.

One of the first major Google algorithm updates, however, was the Florida updated which rolled out on November 16, 2003. As a result of the update, several websites were hit with penalties or revoked from the search engine completely, leaving many business owners at a loose end. Following the Florida Update we saw the Jagger Update 2 years later which was rolled out in three phases: Jagger 1, Jagger 2 and Jagger 3, the Big Daddy Update and the Vince Update in January 2009.

Google Algoirthm 2003-2009

After the Vince Update in January 2009 came the Caffeine Update which aimed to provide “better indexing and fresher search results” which meant that Google would be able to crawl sites more efficiently. While the Caffeine Update wasn’t an algorithm update as such, it was a rebuild of the previous indexing system to enhance the efficiency of the search engine.

However, just two years later in February 2011 Google announced its next major update; the Panda Update. Google’s Panda Update is one that rocked the world of SEO and one that remains relevant to search engine optimisation today.

Google Algoirthm 2011-2012

After the Panda Update which affected websites such as Wisegeek, the Penguin Update came into practice in April 2012. Google stated that: “We look at it something designed to tackle low-quality content. It started out with Panda, and then we noticed that there was still a lot of spam and Penguin was designed to tackle that.” Several newer versions of the update were then released including Google Penguin 2.1, Google Penguin 3.0 and Google Penguin 4.0 in September 2016. Google’s Exact Match Domain Update also rocked the world of SEO in 2012, targeting sites that used spammy tactics and featured low quality content in a bid to improve user experience.

In 2013 Google rolled out a number of updates including the Hummingbird Update, Pigeon Update, Mobile-Friendly Update and Quality Update in May 2015. Unlike Google’s Panda and Penguin Update, the Hummingbird Update was said to be “a complete overhaul of the core algorithm”, largely affecting content. In a blog written after the update was rolled out Neil Patel advised businesses to ensure that their site featured a comprehensive FAQ page, Q&A blog category, ‘ask the expert’ type posts and ‘how to’ posts.

2 years later Google rolled out the Mobile-Friendly Update, which is better known as Mobilegeddon. As the name suggests, the update aimed to boost mobile-friendly pages in the search engines mobile search results. In order to ensure that a site is mobile friendly on-page content should not be wider than the screen, links mustn’t be too close together and the text much be large enough to read without having to zoom in.

Google Algoirthm 2013-2015

Google’s RankBrain was rolled out in October 2015 just like any other update, but what set it apart from the rest was the machine learning aspect of the algorithm. The update, which was rolled out over several weeks, was created to enhance the way the search engine processed search results in order to ensure results remained relevant to users.

Google then rolled out two major updates; the Intrusive Interstitials Update and Fred. While the Intrusive Interstitials Update meant that “pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly”, the Google Fred Penalty focused on targeting content which was low-value.

Google Algoirthm 2017-2019

In August 2018 Your Money Your Life (YMYL) and health-related sites were taken by a storm as a result of the Medic Core Update. In a series of Tweets, Google stated that:

“This week we released a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year…”

As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded…”

“There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.”

The most recent Google Algorithm Update, however, is the March Broad Core Algorithm Update which was announced on 13th March. Two days later, Google SearchLiaison officially named the algorithm update in a Tweet:

“We understand it can be useful to some for updates to have names. Our name for this update is “March 2019 Core Update.” We think this helps avoid confusion; it tells you the type of update it was and when it happened.”

History of Google Algorithm Updates

Following the Core Update, it was confirmed that the Diversity Update was amid being rolled out, with Google stating that:

“A new change now launching in Google Search is designed to provide more site diversity in our results.” “This site diversity change means that you usually won’t see more than two listings from the same site in our top results.”

On May 4thGoogle Search Liaison Danny Sullivan announced that the second core update of the year would begin to roll out across the SERPs.

Whilst it’s too early to say exactly how the core update will affect business, it’s likely that some will notice significant shifts in their rankings.

With Google said to update its algorithm at least 600 times per year, it’s important to identify how you can enhance your site.


For more information or to discuss your own digital marketing requirements, call one of our expert team today on 0800 088 6000.

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