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Each year, Google changes its search algorithm around 500–600 times. While most of these changes are minor, Google occasionally rolls out a "major" search algorithm update (such as Google Panda and Google Penguin) that affects search results in significant ways. For search marketers, knowing the dates of these Google algorithm updates can help explain changes in rankings and organic website traffic and ultimately improve search engine optimization. Below, we’ve listed the major algorithmic changes that have had the biggest impact on search.

Fred - (Unconfirmed) - Update - March 8, 2017

Google rolled out what appeared to be a major update, with reports of widespread impacts across the SEO community. Gary Illyes jokingly referred to is as "Fred",

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2017

Major Unnamed Update - February 1 to February 6, 2017

Another major update, that was never named, continued to influence the SERP for almost a week, starting from February 1st and peaking on February 6th.

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Intrusive Interstitial Penalty (The Popup Penalty) – Jan 10 2017

To further improve the user experience on mobile, Google’s latest update rolled out to punish sites with excessive advertisement or pop-ups. Google actually announced this update five months prior.

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Google Penguin 4.0 – September 23 2016

It took two years, but Penguin 4.0 returned as the final update to the algorithm. Google announced that Penguin 4.0 will now run in real time and devalue links instead to penalizing websites.

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2016

Possum — September 1 2016

The Possum update heavily influenced local search rankings as it subjected local information to more filters while highlighting the differences in how local and organic search results are processed.

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RankBrain — October 26 2015

Google revealed the use of AI and machine learning for delivering better search results over the last few months. The ranking signal was valued at third place, behind content and links.

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2015

Mobile Friendly Update (Mobilegeddon) - 21th April 2015

Google took mobile search to a whole new level with this update as it gave preference to mobile friendly websites and demoting sites that were not responsive.

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Penguin 3.0 - 17th October 2014

The latest Penguin update was data-only, affecting less than 1% of English queries. In fact, the update came with recoveries for previously penalized websites during its slow global roll-out.

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2014

Panda 4.1 - 23th September 2014

According to Google, the new update took user and webmaster feedback to identify low-quality content with more precision. The update was estimated to influence 3-5% of search queries.

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Pigeon - 24th July 2014

The Pigeon updated focused on local SEO, including more signals from core search such as knowledge graph, synonyms and more. The algorithm also improved distance and location ranking parameters.

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Panda 4.0 — May 19 2014

This major update to Panda included both an algorithm update and a data refresh, subsequently affecting about 7.5% of English-language search queries.

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Hummingbird - 24th August 2013

Although it was announced on 26th September, Google suggested that the ‘Hummingbird’ was activated a month prior. The update was a major overhaul to the Search algorithm, improving on semantic and long search queries.

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2013

Payday Loan Update — June 11 2013

The update, as the name suggests, targeted payday loan, pornographic and other spammed queries. Matt Cutts suggested that the complete roll out of the update would take 1-2 months.

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Penguin 2.0 — May 22 2013

The 4th update to Penguin, dubbed 2.0 was hyped to have a new generation of tech to better counter spam. The update affected 2.3% of English queries, according to Matt Cutts.

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Exact-Match Domain (EMD) Update — September 27 2012

This update changed the way Google dealt with exact-match domains. It largely reduced the boost EMDs received, while making sure that businesses avoid over optimization of URLs.

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2012

Knowledge Graph — May 16 2012

Intended to improve semantic search, the Knowledge Graph identified and offered information about people, places and things while providing users with answers and summaries directly in the search results.

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Penguin - 24th April 2012

In their attempt to filter out spam, Google rolled out the “Webspam Update” aka “Penguin”. The update aggressively punished sites that used buying links, keyword stuffing among other spam tactics.

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Panda 2.0 — April 11 2011

The quick update to Panda targeted all English queries worldwide while integrating new signals to judge the quality of websites. These signals included data about sites blocked by users via SERPs or Google Chrome.

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2011

Panda - 23th February 2011

The first update of its kind, Panda took on low-quality websites with thin content, high ad to content ratio and on-site over optimization, affecting up to 12% of the search results.

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Social Signals — December 2010

Google confirmed the use of social signals from the likes of Facebook and Twitter for search rankings. Originally used in Google Realtime Search, Matt Cutts announced that Google considered a possible expansion to web search.

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2010

Caffeine (Rollout) — June 2010

Following a preview release in August 2009, Caffeine rolled out as an infrastructure change, causing massive boosts in search speed, along with improved crawling and indexation contributing to a 50% fresher index.

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Real-time Search — December 2009

Integrating freshly indexed content, Google News, Twitter and other sources, Google revealed real-time search to its users. Facebook was soon added to the ever growing list of sources.

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2009

Rel-canonical Tag — February 2009

Google, along with Microsoft and Yahoo added support for the ‘canonical’ tag, simplifying search indexing for webmasters and its bots.

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Google Suggest — August 2008

Google released Suggest as a means to further simplify search for users, displaying suggested (and popular) queries based on what the user typed in the search box.

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2008

Universal Search — May 2007

Google Universal Search combined search results with Local, News, Books, Images and Videos, changing the format of SERPs to offer more value to the users.

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2007

Google Local/Maps — October 2005

Google combined its Map data with Google Local, vastly changing local SEO (for marketers) and local search for its users.

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2005

Personalized Search — June 2005

Google’s latest attempt at personalization of search user data from a user's’ search history to deliver optimal results, while fighting spam tactics from search marketers.

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Austin — January 2004

Targeting websites practicing strategies such as meta-tag stuffing and hidden links, the “Austin” update continued the dirty work of “Florida”.

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2004

Florida — November 2003

The “Florida” update made massive changes to search rankings and in process, made the SEO industry relevant. It criminalized SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing as many websites lost their rankings.

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2003

Fritz — July 2003

“Fritz” brought a change in Google’s monthly algorithm updates policy as Google switched to a more continuous (“everflux”) model of daily changes.

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Cassandra — April 2003

The update affected websites indulging in black hat SEO techniques such as linking from co-owned domains, hidden links and more.

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Boston — February 2003

Google’s first named update to its algorithm was announced at SES Boston (hence the name). Google’s original idea on updates was combining algorithm changes and data refreshes on a monthly basis.

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