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Google Algorithm Updates: A Comprehensive List

Google is the most widely used search engine in the world, with over 90% of the search engine market share. The search engine giant has been constantly updating its algorithms since its inception in 1998 to provide users with the most relevant and accurate search results. These updates have a significant impact on search engine optimisation (SEO) strategies and website rankings.

Over the years, Google has released numerous algorithm updates, each with a specific focus and goal. Some updates aimed to improve the quality of search results, while others targeted spammy or low-quality websites. Keeping track of all these updates can be challenging, especially for SEO professionals who need to stay up-to-date with the latest changes to maintain their website’s ranking.

In this article, we will provide a comprehensive list of all Google algorithm updates that have been released to date. We will outline the key features of each update and how they have impacted search results. This list will serve as a valuable resource for anyone looking to understand the evolution of Google’s algorithms and the impact they have had on SEO practices.

Google Algorithm Updates Timeline

Google is known for constantly updating its algorithm to improve search results and user experience. Here’s a timeline of some of the major algorithm updates:

  • Google Panda (February 2011): This update aimed to lower the rank of low-quality sites and improve the rank of high-quality sites with original, valuable content.
  • Google Penguin (April 2012): This update targeted sites that were using black-hat SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing and link schemes.
  • Google Hummingbird (August 2013): This update focused on improving the understanding of user intent and conversational search queries.
  • Google Pigeon (July 2014): This update improved local search results and increased the importance of location in search rankings.
  • Google Mobile-Friendly Update (April 2015): This update ensured that mobile-friendly sites were given priority in mobile search results.
  • Google RankBrain (October 2015): This update introduced machine learning to improve the understanding of complex search queries.
  • Google Fred (March 2017): This update targeted sites with low-quality content and aggressive ad placement.
  • Google Medic (August 2018): This update aimed to improve the accuracy of health-related search results.
  • Google BERT (October 2019): This update improved the understanding of natural language processing and context in search queries.
  • Google May 2020 Core Update (May 2020): This update improved the relevance and quality of search results by prioritising content that meets user intent.

These are just a few of the many algorithm updates that Google has implemented over the years. It’s important for website owners and SEO professionals to stay up-to-date with these changes to ensure their sites remain in good standing with Google and continue to rank well in search results.


Launched in February 2011, Google Panda algorithm update aimed to improve the quality of search results by penalising websites with low-quality content. Panda assigns a quality score to web pages and downgrades the ranking of websites with low-quality content or content duplicated from other websites.

The Panda update was a significant algorithmic change that affected the ranking of approximately 12% of all search results. It was a wake-up call for many website owners and digital marketers who realised that they needed to focus on creating high-quality, original content to avoid being penalised by Google.

The Panda algorithm update is still relevant today, and Google has continued to refine it over the years. In 2016, Google announced that Panda would be integrated into its core algorithm, which means that it is now a part of Google’s overall ranking algorithm. This integration means that Panda is now more effective at identifying low-quality content and penalising websites that violate Google’s guidelines.

Here are some tips to avoid being penalised by Panda:

  • Create high-quality, original content that provides value to your audience
  • Avoid duplicating content from other websites
  • Regularly update your website with fresh, relevant content
  • Remove low-quality or duplicate content from your website
  • Ensure that your website is user-friendly and easy to navigate

By following these tips, you can ensure that your website is not penalised by the Panda algorithm update and that your website ranks well in Google’s search results.


Penguin is a Google algorithm update that was first launched on April 24, 2012. Its primary goal was to decrease the rankings of websites that were using manipulative techniques to increase their search engine rankings. The update specifically targeted websites that were violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using black hat SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, and link schemes.

Penguin was designed to focus on the quality of the links pointing to a website. It was intended to penalise websites that had too many low-quality links or links that were irrelevant to the website’s content. This update was a significant change in the way Google ranked websites, and it affected many websites that had previously been ranking well in search engine results pages.

Since its launch, there have been several updates to the Penguin algorithm. The most recent update, Penguin 4.0, was launched on September 23, 2016. This update was different from previous updates because it was integrated into Google’s core algorithm. This meant that Penguin was now updating in real-time, and websites that had been penalised by previous versions of Penguin could see a quicker recovery if they made the necessary changes to their link profiles.

Overall, the Penguin algorithm update was a significant step forward for Google in its efforts to provide high-quality search results to its users. By penalising websites that were using manipulative techniques to increase their rankings, Google was able to promote websites that were providing valuable content to their users. While the update did cause some disruption in the SEO industry, it ultimately led to a more level playing field for websites that were following Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.


Hummingbird is the name of the Google algorithm update that was released in August 2013. This update was designed to improve the search engine’s ability to understand the meaning behind a user’s search query, rather than just matching keywords.

Hummingbird uses natural language processing and semantic search to better understand the context and intent of a search query. This means that Google can provide more relevant search results, even if the query is phrased in a conversational or complex way.

One of the key features of Hummingbird is the ability to answer complex questions directly in the search results, without the user having to click through to a website. This is known as the “Knowledge Graph,” and it provides users with quick answers to their questions.

Overall, Hummingbird was a major update to the Google algorithm that improved the search engine’s ability to understand natural language and provide more relevant search results. While it did not have as significant an impact on search rankings as some other updates, it did represent a major step forward in the evolution of search technology.

Mobile-Friendly Update

In April 2015, Google launched the Mobile-Friendly Update, also known as Mobilegeddon. This update was aimed at improving the mobile search experience for users by giving priority to mobile-friendly websites in search results.

Mobilegeddon caused a stir among website owners and SEO professionals, as it was the first time that Google explicitly stated that mobile-friendliness was a ranking factor. Websites that were not optimised for mobile devices saw a significant drop in their search engine rankings, while those that were mobile-friendly saw an increase in traffic.

To determine whether a website is mobile-friendly or not, Google uses a set of criteria such as responsive design, font size, and spacing between links. Websites that meet these criteria are labeled as mobile-friendly in search results, while those that do not are labeled as not mobile-friendly.

Since the Mobile-Friendly Update, Google has continued to emphasise the importance of mobile-friendliness, with updates such as the Mobile-First Index, which prioritises mobile content over desktop content in search results. As mobile usage continues to grow, it is essential for website owners to ensure that their sites are optimised for mobile devices to maintain their search engine rankings and provide a positive user experience.


RankBrain is a machine learning algorithm that Google introduced in 2015. It uses artificial intelligence to help process search results and improve the accuracy of its search engine. RankBrain is a part of Google’s core algorithm and is one of the most important ranking factors.

RankBrain uses a unique approach to understand the meaning behind search queries. It can interpret and understand complex long-tail queries that have never been searched before. This helps Google deliver more relevant search results to users.

RankBrain is not a replacement for Google’s traditional ranking factors, but rather an addition to it. It works alongside other ranking factors, such as content relevance, backlinks, and user experience, to improve the quality of search results.

Here are some key points to understand about RankBrain:

  • RankBrain uses machine learning to understand the meaning behind search queries.
  • It can interpret complex long-tail queries that have never been searched before.
  • RankBrain is a part of Google’s core algorithm and is one of the most important ranking factors.
  • It works alongside other ranking factors to improve the quality of search results.

Overall, RankBrain has helped Google improve the quality of its search results and deliver more relevant content to users. As Google continues to refine its algorithms, RankBrain will likely play a key role in shaping the future of search engine optimisation.


In August 2018, Google released a broad core algorithm update that many in the SEO community dubbed the “Medic” update. While Google did not specifically target medical websites, many health-related sites were affected by the update.

The Medic update seemed to place a greater emphasis on the authority and expertise of a website, particularly for sites that provide health and medical advice. This meant that sites with low-quality content, or content that lacked expertise, were more likely to see a drop in rankings.

One of the unique aspects of the Medic update was that it seemed to impact sites in specific industries more than others. In addition to health and medical sites, YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) sites such as finance and legal websites were also impacted.

Overall, the Medic update reinforced the importance of creating high-quality content that is written by experts in the field. It also highlighted the need for websites to have a strong reputation and authority within their industry.


In October 2019, Google announced the release of its most significant algorithm update in the last five years, Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT). BERT is an AI-based natural language processing algorithm that helps Google better understand the contextual meaning of words in search queries.

Unlike previous updates that primarily focused on keyword matching, BERT allows Google to understand the intent of a search query by analysing the relationship between words in a sentence. This update is particularly helpful for long-tail queries and conversational search queries.

With the BERT update, Google has become better at understanding the nuances of human language, including prepositions like “to” and “for,” which can significantly impact the meaning of a search query. Google claims that BERT affects 1 in 10 search queries, making it one of the most significant updates in recent years.

Overall, the BERT update has helped Google better understand the user’s intent and deliver more relevant search results. However, it’s important to note that BERT is not perfect and can still struggle with complex queries. As with all algorithm updates, it’s essential to focus on creating high-quality, relevant content that meets the user’s needs.

Google’s Core Updates

Google’s core algorithm updates are a significant change to the search engine’s ranking factors. These updates are designed to improve search results for users by providing them with more relevant and accurate information. Core updates can affect the ranking of websites significantly, and it is essential for website owners to stay informed about these updates.

Google releases several core updates each year, and each update brings changes to the search engine’s ranking algorithm. Some of the most significant core updates in recent years include the Medic Update, the June 2019 Core Update, and the May 2020 Core Update.

The Medic Update, released in August 2018, focused on improving the quality of health-related content in search results. This update impacted the ranking of many healthcare websites, and some sites experienced significant drops in traffic.

The June 2019 Core Update was a broad update that affected many sectors, including health, finance, and e-commerce. This update aimed to improve the relevance of search results by prioritising high-quality content and authoritative sources.

The May 2020 Core Update was another broad update that impacted many websites across various industries. This update focused on improving the overall quality of search results, and some websites saw significant changes in their rankings.

It is important to note that core updates can take several weeks to roll out fully, and website owners may not see the full impact of an update immediately. However, staying informed about these updates and making necessary changes to website content and structure can help mitigate any negative impact on search rankings.


In conclusion, Google has come a long way in its algorithm updates, and it has been a long journey since the first update in 2000. Over the years, Google has made numerous updates to its algorithms, and each update has brought significant changes to the search engine results page.

Some of the updates have been minor, while others have been major, and they have all had an impact on the way websites are ranked. Some updates have been more focused on improving the quality of search results, while others have been aimed at combating spam and low-quality content.

One thing that is clear is that Google is constantly evolving, and website owners need to keep up with the changes to ensure that their sites remain visible in search results. While some updates may have caused frustration and confusion for website owners, it is important to remember that Google’s goal is to provide the best possible search results for its users.

Overall, it is important for website owners to stay up-to-date with Google’s algorithm updates and to follow best practices for SEO. By doing so, they can ensure that their websites remain relevant and visible in search results, and they can continue to attract organic traffic to their sites. If you have been hit recently with an algorithmic penalty or just need SEO consulting or agency services please contact us and we can see how best to help you.