Google’s Algorithm history 2011 to 2016


Google’s Algorithm changes have been filled with a lot of pain and confusion, and even some Pepto Bismol. So when we saw CJG Digital Marketing make this amazing infographic, we just had to share it with our readers. Enjoy 🙂

Google has a long history of search algorithm updates and changes. Most of the 500 – 600 updates are minor. However, there are major algorithm updates that Google occasionally rolls out every few months, which impacts search results in significant ways.

the-top-google-algorithm-updates-how-they-affect-your-website-Serp-Media-GroupSome of these massive changes include the Panda/Farmer and the Google Penguin.

With so much frequent updates, people sometimes find it difficult to keep up and stay current.

But search marketers and SEO gurus know that keeping their head above the water is critical to SEO and imperative to understanding organic web traffic and rankings fluctuations.

In this light, keeping up with the algorithm changes and how these updates affect the SEO world is integral.

Below are the most notable Google algorithm updates and changes that have had the biggest impact on search since Google Panda.


FEBRUARY – Panda/Farmer

After the Caffeine update in 2010 came another major change: The Panda/Farmer update.

The algorithm update cracked down on content farms, thin content, and websites high ad-to-content ratios, affecting nearly… 12% of Google’s search results.

NOVEMBER – Freshness Update

While it primarily affected time-sensitive search results, the freshness update gave a greater emphasis to more recent content.

This algorithm update was slated to impact about… 35% of the search queries.


JANUARY – Search + Your World

In an effort to enhance personalization, Google began pushing Google+ user profiles and social data into SERPs and added a toggle button to the search engine.

With these features, users are able to find and follow more topics of interest more easily.


At the end of the month, Google has announced 40 updates, one of which is Venice.

In this improvement, more localized organic results turn up in broad search queries, giving new ranking opportunities for local SEO.

APRIL – Penguin

Google rolled out Penguin, an update that penalizes over-optimized websites and rewards high-quality ones.

Originally dubbed as the “Webspam Update”, Penguin started putting a halt on a number of black hat tactics, including link schemes and keyword-stuffing.

MAY – Knowledge Graph

Alongside traditional search results, Google added a new feature found in most of the SERPs.

Called Knowledge Graph, the panel showcases images and facts relevant to the query, wich appeared at the right of the usual results.

SEPTEMBER – Exact Match Domain [EMD]

The “small upcoming Google algo change” that Matt Cutts announced via Twitter turned out to be a large-scale devaluation of EMDs.

The EMD update specifically targeted low-quality sites with domain names encompassing search terms and keyphrases.



AGUST – In-depth Articles

Google launched a new form of result known as “in-depth articles“. Similar to local packs and news results, this Google feature is a rich SERP element.

The difference is the in-depth articles are dedicated to long-form, evergreen content.

AUGUST – Humminbird

To improve the search engine’s ability to sort through information, Google rolled out the Hummingbird update. With an emphasis on high-quality content, the Hummingbird mainly helped Google recognize full-question or conversational searches.

Instead of simply focusing on finding matching words or phrases, the update enabled the search engine to focus on the meaning behind the whole query to give its users more relevant results.


JULY – Pigeon

Not long after launching the Hummingbird, Google released a new search algorithm, called Pigeon, that shocked the local SEO realm.

By modifying how the search engine interpreted and managed location cues, it spelled turmoil in SERPs and dramatically changed the local search results.

Despite the big shake-up, Pigeon was said to build closer ties between the core and local algorithms of Google.

Google's 2012 to 2016 Algorithm Update History #Google | Click To Tweet


Google gave preference to secure websites.

This means those that have a SSL 2048-bit key certificate on their site receives a boost in rankings, which, as Google stressed, would start out small, but would increase once the HTTPS signal showed positive results.

Along with the SSL update, Google also adjusted its Webmaster Tools to better handle any HTTPS-migrated sites.

AUGUST – Authorship Removed

Earlier in 2014, Google completely removed every author photo from global search.

A couple of months later, in August, all the bylines for qualified authorship results vanished from the SERPs, making the end of Google Authorship experiment, a project that goes back to the company’s Agent Rank patent of 2007.


FEBRUARY – Unnamed e-Commerce Update

On February, Multiple trackers reported a major flux in SERPs.

While Google did not make any official announcements pertaining to this granular adjustment, many speculated that the fluctuations were caused by an e-commerce-related algorithm update, which had a massive impact on e-commerce keywords.

APRIL – Mobilegeddon

Mobile-friendliness became a key driving factor in ranking websites.

However, the impact of the mobile-friendly update proved to be small in comparison to other algorithm changes that Google did in the past.

MAY – Quality Update

Dubbed as “Phantom 2“, this secretive algorithm tweak proved to be disastrous for most webpages.

The core update altered how quality is assessed, resulting in a broad impact, particularly in rankings. But while there were significant ranking changes, Google didn’t reveal anything about the nature of the “quality signals” involved.

OCTOBER – RankBrain

Google revealed on October 26 that it turned web search over to RankBrain, a machine-learning artificial intelligence (AI) system, to help deliver and process its search results.

According to a Bloomberg article,

“RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query”.


JANUARY – Unnamed Core Update

On January 8, a Google core search ranking update took place. However, contrary to what many believed, Googler Gary Illyes emphasized that this change isn’t Penguin-related.

Several tracking tools, including Searchmetrics Suite and MozCast, analyzed the core algorithm update and reported massive movement in search rankings.

But although the change is obvious, there are very few observable patterns detected, one of which is that long-form content pieces that typically cover topics in-depth are the winners in many areas, as observed by Searchmetrics.

With Google updates getting more unpredictable as time goes by, it’s imperative for you to become familiar with these changes and learn from them so you can become better at SEO in 2016.


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