Google algorithm updates

Google has a long history of famous algorithm updates, search index changes and refreshes. Here is a timeline of major Google search algorithm updates.

Want to read our latest coverage of algorithm updates and changes? Jump to the latest algorithm update news and guides.

How many times does Google update its search algorithms?

Google search is changing all the time. In 2021, Google made more than 5,000 changes to Search. This number includes changes to its ranking system, user interface and more. Plus, Google ran more than 800,000 experiments. That means Google search is changing, on average, 13 times per day.

The history of Google algorithm updates: 2003-today

Here is a complete history of Google algorithm updates that you need to know about, in reverse chronological order.

2023 Google algorithm updates

November 2023 reviews update

Nov. 8

  • Google said, heading forward, its reviews system would be “improved at a regular and ongoing pace,” so they would no longer announce future updates.
  • Rollout overlapped with November 2023 core update (Nov. 2).

November 2023 core update

Nov. 2

  • Involved “an improvement to a different core system” than the October 2023 core update.
  • Rollout expected to take up to two weeks
  • Rollout overlapped with November 2023 reviews update (Nov. 8).

October 2023 core update

Oct. 5

October 2023 spam update

Oct. 4

  • Improved Google’s “coverage in many languages” (including Turkish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Hindi, Chinese) “and spam types” (cloaking, hacked, auto-generated, and scraped).
  • Rollout completed Oct. 20 (15 days).
  • Rollout overlapped with October 2023 core update (Oct. 5).

September 2023 helpful content system update

Sept. 14

August 2023 core update

Aug. 22

Topic authority system

May 23

  • This system aims to help surface relevant, expert and knowledgeable content in Google Search and Google News.
  • The system looks at several signals to understand the expertise of a publication on a specific topic or location.
  • Google said they have been using this system for “several years,” but this was the first time discussing it.

April 2023 reviews update

April 12

March 2023 core update

March 15

February 2023 product reviews update

Feb. 21

2022 Google Algorithm Updates

December 2022 link spam update

Dec. 14

Google helpful content system update

Dec. 6

  • New signals were added to Google’s classifier.
  • Launched globally, impacted all languages.
  • Rollout overlapped with the link spam update (Dec. 14).
  • Rollout completed: Jan. 12 (38 days, took longer than estimated due to the holidays).

October 2022 spam update

Oct. 19

  • Google did not specifically say whether this update was focused on links, content or other forms of spam.
  • Global update, impacted all languages.
  • Rollout completed: Oct. 21 (less than 48 hours).

September 2022 product reviews update

Sept. 20

September 2022 core update

Sept. 12

August 2022 helpful content update

Aug. 25

  • A sitewide signal meant to reward content that helps or informs people, rather than created primarily to rank well in search results.
  • Google provided a list of 15 questions to ask about your content reviews to ensure you are building human-first content.
  • Google said online education materials, arts and entertainment, shopping and tech-related content would be most impacted. However, the impact was mostly felt in a few categories (e.g., ringtones, coding, lyrics).
  • Announced Aug. 18, it began rolling out Aug. 25.
  • Rollout completed: Sept. 9 (15 days)
  • Its overall impact was relatively small.

July 2022 product reviews update

July 27

  • Google was likely refreshing the algorithm (and possibly making slight adjustments) to better reward high-quality product reviews.
  • Referenced the standard help document on how to write product reviews.
  • Rollout completed: Aug. 4 (6 days)
  • This update was not as widespread and had little ranking volatility compared to prior product review updates.

May 2022 core update

May 25

  • Like past core updates, Google broadly changed how its ranking systems assessed content.
  • This was the first broad core algorithm update of 2022 and the first in more than 6 months.
  • Rollout completed: June 9 (15 days)
  • Its impact seemed significant and more volatile than the November 2021 core update.

March 2022 product reviews update

March 23

  • Meant to help Google better identify high-quality product reviews and reward them with better rankings.
  • Google added new criteria for what matters with the product reviews update (helpful in-depth details, expertise, unique information and covering comparable products).
  • Google added new advice around ranked lists, recommendations of “best” products and creating reviews for multiple vs. individual products.
  • Rollout completed: April 11 (19 days)
  • Impact was not as widespread as prior product reviews updates.

Page experience update (desktop)

Feb. 22

2021 Google Algorithm Updates

December 2021 product reviews update

Dec. 1

  • Designed to reward product reviews that shared insightful analysis and in-depth, original research.
  • Google added new advice for this update on providing more multimedia “evidence” and including links to multiple sellers.
  • Began rolling out a day after the November 2021 core update was completed.
  • Rollout completed: Dec. 21 (20 days)
  • Update was bigger than the April 2021 product reviews update and pretty volatile.

November 2021 local search update

Nov. 30

  • Google said it rebalanced various factors it considered in generating local search results.
  • Google didn’t confirm this update happened until Dec. 16.
  • Overlapped with other ranking updates (product reviews, core update) and a Google map and local pack update design change.
  • Rollout completed: Dec. 8 (9 days).

November 2021 core update

Nov. 17

November 2021 spam update

Nov. 3

  • Google announced an update to its search spam detection systems.
  • Google’s guidance: follow Google’s best practices for search (a.k.a., Google’s Webmaster Guidelines).
  • Rollout completed: Nov. 11 (8 days)

Link spam update

July 26

  • Google said the purpose of this update was to “nullify” spammy links across the web and multiple languages.
  • Websites with spammy links were more likely to see an impact on their rankings.
  • Google’s advice: follow best practices for all incoming and outgoing links.
  • Rollout completed: Aug. 24 (29 days)

July 2021 core update

July 1

Spam update (Part 2)

June 28

  • The promised sequel of its Spam Update.
  • We learned that both parts of the Spam Update were “global” updates targeting web and image results.

Spam update (Part 1)

June 23

  • Google announced the release of a Spam Update to their systems and said a second was coming the following week.
  • There was no additional guidance or details.
  • As part of the Twitter announcement, Google referenced its Webmaster Guidelines.

Page experience update

June 15

  • This new ranking algorithm was announced in May 2020.
  • Google began using a new set of metrics – Core Web Vitals – to understand how users perceive the experience of a specific web page.
  • The three Core Web Vitals metrics were Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) (measured loading performance); First Input Delay (FID) (measured interactivity); Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): (measured visual stability).
  • Part of the Page Experience Update includes existing ranking signals, such as page load speed, mobile-friendliness, HTTPS and lack of intrusive ads.
  • Rollout completed: Sept. 2 (79 days)

Multitask Unified Model (MUM) update


June 2021 Core Update

June 2

  • This was the first of two back-to-back core updates. Google decided to release these updates separately because some of the updates they planned to roll out weren’t ready.
  • Like other Google core updates, the June 2021 update was comprehensive and wide-reaching. It’s likely many sites felt the impact of this update.
  • Rollout completed: June 15 (13 days)
  • A mixed view of the update – when it hit the hardest, who it hit the most and the overall impact.

April 2021 Product Reviews Update

April 8

  • The Product Reviews Update is meant to better reward product reviews that go above and beyond (e.g., by including in-depth and original research, insightful analysis). Google said it will promote these types of product reviews in its search results rankings.
  • Google provided a list of nine questions to ask about your product reviews to make sure they are insightful, include original research and are written by experts or enthusiasts who know the topic well.

Passage Ranking

Feb. 10

  • Google began rolling out a change to how it ranks specific passages from a web page in search results. This update was meant to help searchers find specific “needle-in-a-haystack” information. Google said this update would impact 7% of search queries across all languages.
  • Because this update was more about how Google understands your content, there was no specific advice on things to address or change, according to Google.

2020 Google Algorithm Updates

December 2020 Core Update

Dec. 3

  • The 2020 Core Update was the last major update of 2020 and the first major update since May of that year.
  • Like all of Google’s core updates, the December 2020 core update was wide-reaching, impacting websites across all languages.

BERT Expands

Oct. 15

  • Google announced that BERT was powering nearly all English-based search queries, a big leap from 10% it powered the year prior.
  • You cannot optimize for BERT per se, as BERT is designed to improve the relevancy of search results by better understanding the content on webpages.

May 2020 Core Update

May 4

  • Google rolled out its relatively strong May 2020 broad core algorithm update over a few weeks.
  • This update was broad and comprehensive. Like other core updates, it was not targeted at any specific aspect of the algorithm.

January 2020 Core Update

Jan. 13

  • A relatively weak core update.

2019 Google Algorithm Updates

BERT Natural Language Processing Update

Oct. 25

  • Google announced its Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) update, which impacted 10% of searches. In short, BERT was created to help Google understand queries and webpage content more like how humans do.

September 2019 Core Update

Sept. 24

  • The September 2019 Core Update was another broad core algorithm update of the kind that Google rolls out every few months.

June 2019 Core Update

June 3

  • The June 2019 core update covered broad aspects of Google’s algorithm and was intended to improve user experience in multiple areas.

March 2019 Core Update

March 15

  • The March 2019 Core Update was somewhat confusing, briefly disrupting the usual equilibrium of the SEO world. The March 2019 Core Update was released without a name, giving users all across Twitter to speculate about the update and why it wasn’t named.
  • Google, catching wind of the confusion, quickly jumped on social media to right the wrong. On Twitter, they wrote, “Our name of this update is March 2019 Core Update.”

2018 Google Algorithm Updates

August 2018 Core Update (aka Medic Update)

Aug. 1

  • The August 2018 broad core algorithm update was a core update that shook up the SEO world. In this update, Google made major fixes to their algorithm that rewarded previously under-rewarded pages on the web.
  • Google said there was “no fix” to any observed drop in the rankings. The ranking drops were simply due to other under-rewarded sites finally making gains.
  • Google’s advice to webmasters with a ranking drop? Keep making excellent content, and you may very well see your site rise back in the rankings.

April 2018 Core Update

April 20

  • The April 2018 core update, like other updates, was aimed at improving the end-user experience by delivering the most relevant content for search queries.
  • Google didn’t announce this update and only came out with its announcement after speculation that there may have been a core update.

March 2018 Core Update

March 12

  • The March 2018 Core Update, quickly followed by 2018’s April Core Update, was a broad and far-reaching core update meant to improve Google’s query results.
  • The March 2018 Core Update had a significant impact on some sites, and webmasters who witnessed a drop in rankings were advised to continue to develop excellent content and not to try to game the system. As always, only through excellent content are durable ratings attained.

January 2018 Core Update

Jan. 18

  • The January 2018 Update was a comprehensive core update aimed at all aspects of the site’s SERPs. It was followed by the March and April core updates of that year.

2017 Google Algorithm Updates

Mid-December Updates

~Dec. 14-19

  • Google confirmed releasing several minor changes that were meant to improve relevancy. It seemed to negatively affect sites that were targeting huge numbers of keyword variants.

Local Update

Aug. 22

  • This update made corrections to the Possum update, which had inadvertently unfairly impacted local rankings.
  • The Possum Update of 2016, which we’ll get into a little more detail further down, was intended to improve SERP relevancy by eliminating redundant search results from the SERPs. To summarize, some local business owners were being eliminated by Google’s filters because their businesses were too close to other similar businesses that already ranked on Google’s SERPs.
  • The Hawk Update slightly corrected the Possum update, making local businesses that competed with others that already ranked on the SERPs more likely to be seen in a relevant search query.

Fred Update

March 9

  • An unconfirmed Google ranking update seemed to target more of the link quality aspects of the overall algorithm.
  • The SEO community dubbed this update “Fred” based on a joke by Google’s Gary Illyes, who suggested that all future Google updates be called “Fred.”

2016 Google Algorithm Updates

Penguin Update 4.0

Sept. 23

  • After nearly two years, Google updated its Penguin algorithm – and it was for the last time.
  • Google announced Penguin became part of its core search algorithm, which meant data was refreshed in real-time.
  • It also became more granular, meaning Penguin might impact ranking for individual pages on a site, parts of a site, or the entire site.

Possum Update (Sept. 1)

  • This update affected local listings. In brief, the Possum Update was a change to the way Google’s filters work.
  • What are filters? Filters for local results on Google eliminate websites that seem to be redundant. For local businesses, this can mean, for example, that if you have two websites for your service, only one of them will appear for a given local search term.
  • The Possum update was intended to improve the user experience of Google, but it may have gone too far. Certain businesses that were nearby to other businesses that already ranked on Google’s SERPs saw their website drop off significantly.

Mobile-Friendly Update 2 (April 21)

  • This update was more of a boost to the original Mobile-Friendly Update of 2015, a real-time, page-by-page signal that only impacts mobile search results.
  • This update was meant to “increase the effect of the [mobile-friendly] ranking signal.”

January 2016 Core Update (Jan. 17)

  • Major fluctuations were being observed in the search results.
  • Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed it was a core ranking algorithm update.

January 2016 Core Update (Jan. 10)

  • Following a weekend filled with ranking changes and fluctuations, Google on Jan. 12 confirmed it was due to a core ranking algorithm update.

2015 Google Algorithm Updates

RankBrain (Oct. 25)

  • The RankBrain algorithm is powered by machine learning, processing what people search for and sorting through billions of webpages to rank the ones believed to be best first.
  • Initially used on a “very large fraction” of search results, it was later rolled out and used on all Google searches.

Panda Update 4.2 (July 18)

  • This was a refresh of the existing Panda algorithm.
  • It impacted about 2% to 3% of English language queries.

Quality Update (May)

Mobile-Friendly Update (April 21)

2014 Google Algorithm Updates

Pigeon Expansion (Dec. 22)

Penguin Everflux (Dec. 10)

Penguin Update 3.1 (Nov. 27)

Pirate Update 2 (Oct. 21)

Penguin Update 3.0 (Oct. 17)

Panda Update 4.1 (Sept. 25)

  • Google said this Panda update was supposed to be more precise and allow more high-quality small and medium-sized sites to rank better.
  • It impacted about 3% to 5% of English language queries.

Pigeon Update (July 24)

  • Designed to provide more useful, relevant and accurate local search results that were tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals.
  • Google said that this new algorithm improves their distance and location ranking parameters.

Payday Loan Update 3.0 (June 12)

Panda Update 4.0 (May 20)

  • The 27th update of Panda was supposed to be “gentler” for some websites and lay the groundwork for future changes in that direction.
  • Impacted 7.5% of English queries.

Payday Loan Update 2.0 (May 16)

Page Layout 3 (aka Top Heavy 3) (Feb. 6)

2013 Google Algorithm Updates

Penguin Update 2.1 (Oct. 4)

Hummingbird (Sept. 26)

Panda Update 26 (July 18)

  • New signals were incorporated to make Panda more finely targeted.

Multi-week Update (June 21)

Payday Loan Update (June 11)

Penguin Update 2.0 (May 22)

Panda Update 25 (March 14)

  • On March 11 at SMX, Google’s Matt Cutts said a Panda update was coming. It seemed to roll out on time as promised. However, Google never officially confirmed the rollout happened.

Panda Update 24 (Jan. 22)

This Panda refresh impacted 1.2% of English queries.

2012 Google Algorithm Updates

Panda Update 23 (Dec. 21)

This Panda refresh impacted 1.3% of English queries.

Panda Update 22 (Nov. 21)

Panda Update 21 (Nov. 5)

Page Layout Algorithm 2 (aka Top Heavy 2) (Oct. 9)

Penguin Update 3 (Oct. 5)

Panda Update 20 (Sept. 27)

Exact-Match Domain (EMD) Update (Sept. 27)

  • Google launched this algorithm change to prevent low-quality sites from ranking well simply because they had words that matched search terms in their domain names.

Panda Update 3.9.2 (Sept. 18)

Panda Update 3.9.1 (Aug. 20)

Pirate Update (Aug. 10)

  • This update demoted the rankings of sites that received too many DMCA takedown requests.
  • It wouldn’t be until 2022 that we learned Pirate can cause up to, on average, an 89% drop in search traffic.

Panda Update 3.9 (July 24)

Panda Update 3.8 (June 25)

Panda Update 3.7 (June 8)

Penguin Update 2 (May 25)

Panda Update 3.6 (April 27)

Penguin Update (April 24)

  • The goal of this update was to decrease rankings for sites that Google believed were violating Google’s quality guidelines.
  • In particular, websites that were buying links or obtaining them through link networks that were primarily designed to boost Google rankings.

Panda Update 3.5 (April 19)

Panda Update 3.4 (March 23)

Venice (Feb. 27)

Panda Update 3.3 (Feb. 27)

Page Layout Algorithm (aka Top Heavy) (Jan. 19)

2011 Google Algorithm Updates

Panda Update 3.1 (Nov. 18)

Freshness Update (Nov. 3)

Panda Update 3.0 (Oct. 19)

Panda Update 2.5 (Sept. 28)

Panda Update 2.4 (Aug. 12)

Panda Update 2.3 (July 23)

Panda Update 2.2 (June 21)

Panda Update 2.1 (May 9)

Panda Update 2.0 (April 11)

Panda Update (Feb. 23)

Scraper filter

2010 Google Algorithm Updates

Merchant Reviews (December)

Brand Update (August)

Caffeine (June)

May Day (May)

2009 Google Algorithm Updates

Vince Update

Feb. 20

  • In late February, SEOs and webmasters started noticing big brands gaining more visibility in search results.
  • On March 5, Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed the “minor change,” adding that Google’s ranking algorithm may be factoring trust, quality, PageRank, and other metrics for more generic queries.
  • Cutts said it did not impact long-tail queries.
  • A Googler named Vince created this change, which is how the update got its name.

2008 Google Algorithm Updates

Dewey Update (March 31)

  • Some major shuffling in search results was being reported at the end of March and into early April.
  • Google’s Matt Cutts asked webmasters for feedback on the changes via a form and to include the word “dewey” in their feedback, giving this update a name.

2007 Google Algorithm Updates

PageRank Update (Oct. 7)

  • Google confirmed they were lowering PageRank scores for some sites that were selling links.
  • Google also said that some of those sites could be removed from its search results or be given penalties that prevent them from ranking well.
  • Google’s PageRank Update Goes After Paid Links? (Oct. 24) documented multiple sites that were impacted.

2005 Google Algorithm Updates

Big Daddy






2004 Google Algorithm Updates


~Jan. 23

  • This is considered to be a continuation of the work Google started with Florida, aimed at producing more relevant search results.
  • Websites impacted by this update were using on-page SEO tactics that, at the time, had worked quite well (but today are considered spammy, outdated practices).

2003 Google Algorithm Updates

Florida Update

Nov. 15

  • Florida was the first major Google algorithm update and it caused a huge outcry.
  • Google’s goal was to make it harder for websites to rank well using manipulative SEO techniques.
  • Unfortunately, this update drove many websites out of business (including some “false positives”) right before the lucrative holiday season.
  • After this update, Google promised it would try to avoid rolling out major changes around the holidays (a promise that remained unbroken until 2011).



  • This is the update when Google switched to indexing pages every day (or more often) instead of doing one large monthly algorithmic update (called the “Google Dance “), where everyone’s rankings would increase or decrease over a period of six to eight days.
  • From this point onward, Google made many (typically minor) changes every day, which came to be known as “everflux.”

Google Algorithm Updates: the latest news and guides

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