Your Guide to the Latest Google Algorithm Updates - 2003 to 2023

July 20, 2023
Talk Agency
From the game-changing Panda Update to the revolutionary RankBrain one, Google's algorithm updates have shaped the SEO landscape. They’ve propelled some websites to new heights — and left many others scrambling to adapt. Yes. When it comes to search engines and their algorithms, Google has a knack for keeping us on our toes. With their often-dreaded updates to the algorithm and search index, there’s no such thing as a simple ride with them.

To help lift the lid on why these updates are important, let's take a stroll down memory lane to explore the most memorable Google search algorithm updates. For 20 years, they’ve been providing the hoops for us to jump through, but what exactly can we learn from them? 

How often are Google’s search algorithms updated? 

Google search is a constantly evolving beast. In the year 2020 alone, Google made a HUGE 4500 changes to search! These changes include tweaks to its ranking system U.I, and much more. On top of that, Google ran over more than half a million experiments. Can you believe it? That means, on average, Google search changes about 12 times a day. Talk about keeping us on our toes!

The History of Google Algorithm Updates

Now, let's dive into the history of the major algorithm updates Google put out into the world, starting from 2003 and going all the way up to today. 

2023 Algorithm Updates

April 2023: Google rolled out its Reviews Update, affecting its system that evaluates various forms of content. Those impacted might not recover until the next update, but Google offered guidance for high-quality reviews. Concurrently, Google announced the retirement of the mobile usability report, advocating for more robust tools like Chrome's Lighthouse.

March 2023 Core Algorithm Update, launched on the 15th and concluded on the 28th, emphasised quality in all content types, regions, and languages. Initially vague, the update required marketers' vigilance as it affected search rankings and introduced notable ranking volatility, confirmed by Semrush.

2022 Algorithm Updates

In 2022, there were a couple of noteworthy updates. In December, Google rolled out a link spam update to combat those pesky spammy links that try to game the system. They also brought in a helpful content system update that added brand new signals to their classifier and made helpful content available globally for every language.

October 2022: Google focused on improving their systems to detect search spam. Although they didn't specifically mention the exact target of this update, it was a global update affecting all languages. The good news is that the rollout took less than 48 hours to do, which means they acted fast!

September 2022: The release of two significant updates. First, the Product Reviews Update aimed to reward English-language reviews that are genuinely helpful to searchers. Shortly after, Google launched the September 2022 Core Update, which seemed less groundbreaking than prior core updates, but still worth noting.

August 2022: Helpful content update, where Google emphasised the importance of content that informs people instead of content solely focused on ranking well. They even shared a list of fifteen questions to guide you in building human-focused content. This was definitely felt more in specific website categories, but overall, it wasn't a major shake-up.

July 2022: Google treated us to the July 2022 Product Reviews Update, designed to reward product reviews that offered value to the reader. While it wasn't as widespread as prior updates, it certainly made a difference for those in the product review game.

May 2022: The first core algorithm update of the year. Google made significant changes to how content was assessed by the ranking systems, making it a noteworthy update to keep an eye on.

March 2022: Google continued its focus on product reviews with the latest release of the product reviews update. They provided valuable advice on ranking lists, recommendations, and creating reviews for more than one product. It's all about helping Google identify those high-quality product reviews and giving them the recognition they deserve.

February 2022: Google introduced the Page Experience Update(PEU) for desktops. They aimed to improve the user experience by considering factors like page load speed, mobile-friendliness, HTTPS, and lack of intrusive ads. This update took about nine days to roll out, and boy, did it keep us busy!

2021 Algorithm Updates

December 2021: Google rolled out the PRU (Product Reviews Update) to reward value-loaded product reviews in search results. They encouraged website owners to provide more evidence and include links to more than one seller. Google always wants us to go the extra mile!

November 2021: Google introduced the Local Search Update, which rebalanced various factors in local search results generation. It coincided with the Core Update and Product Reviews Update, which both landed in December 2021 making it a busy time for Google's search algorithm team.

July 2021: Google treated us to the July 2021 Core Update — one of two Core Updates that they rolled out, making sure to keep us on our toes. Other than that, July was pretty quiet when compared to the June updates.

June 2021: Google had a two-part extravaganza. They released the Spam Update (Part I) in late June, followed by the sequel, Spam Update (Part II), just a few days later. Google sure knows how to keep us entertained! Google also introduced the Page Experience Update (PEU), where they began using a new set of metrics called Core Web Vitals to evaluate the user experience of web pages. It's all about providing the best possible experience for us users.

And how can we forget about the MUM (Multitask Unified Model)Update? It made its debut in June 2021 after being previewed at Google I/O. MUM is like BERT on steroids, able to multitask and connect information in exciting new ways. It's a real game-changer in the search engine world.

2020 Algorithm Updates

OK. Let's take a leap back to 2020. In December, we saw the last major update of the year: the December 2020 Core Update. This one had a broad impact across websites and SEO, just like the other Core Updates. Google sure likes to end the year with a bang!

October 2020: Google made an announcement that rocked the SEO world: BERT was driving nearly all English search queries. BERT is a machine learning model that helps Google understand queries and web page content more like humans do. It's all about improving search results and giving us more relevant information.

May 2020: Google rolled out the May 2020 Core Update, the first core algorithm update of the year. They made significant changes to how their ranking systems evaluate content, ensuring that we get the most relevant results possible.

January 2020: they treated us to the January 2020 Core Update, a comprehensive update that aimed to improve their search results across the board. It's always exciting to start the year with a fresh update, isn't it?

2019 Algorithm Updates

In October 2019, Google unleashed the BERT Natural Language Processing Update. BERT, short for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, is a powerful tool that helps Google understand queries and web page content better. It's all about making search more human-like, my friend.

September 2019 brought us the September 2019 Core Update, another core algorithm update that aimed to improve the U.E (user experience) by delivering more relevant content. These core updates are always worth paying attention to because they can have a significant impact on your website's rankings.

June 2019: Google graced us with the June 2019 Core Update, which focused on improving the user experience in various areas. It's all about making our search experience more enjoyable and fruitful.

2018 - 2014 Algorithm Updates

Now, let's take a brief look at 2018. In August 2018, we had the August 2018 Update, also known as the Medic Update. This update has a significant impact on the SEO world, as it rewards previously overlooked pages on the web. Google made major fixes to their algorithm to improve the quality and relevancy of search results. So, if you've been diligently creating excellent content, this update might have given your website a well-deserved boost!

April 2018: Google rolled out another Core Update, aimed at delivering content that is more relevant for search queries. This update caught many SEO experts by surprise, but it was all in the name of improving the user experience.

August 2017: Google made a global update to the Possum Update. This update aimed to provide more accurate and relevant local search results. If you own a local business, this update might have affected your rankings, but fear not, my friend! Google was working hard to balance the local search results and give businesses a fair shot.

September 2016: Google bid farewell to the traditional "Google Dance" and introduced the Penguin Update 4.0. This update marked a significant change as Google incorporated Penguin into its CSA (core search algorithm). It meant that Penguin data was updated in real-time, allowing for more precise and granular impacts on individual pages or sections of a website.

Earlier in September 2016, we witnessed the arrival of the "Possum Update." This update aimed to improve the local search results by eliminating redundant listings and ensuring a fair playing field for local businesses. It was all about enhancing the relevance and accuracy of local search results. Good news for local businesses trying to stand out!

February 2016: Google introduced the "Core Update." This update had a notable impact on search results and affected a wide range of websites. It was all part of Google's ongoing efforts to improve the quality and relevancy of search results.

October 2015: Google unveiled the mighty "RankBrain." bringing the age of machine learning to the table, RankBrain revolutionised how Google understands queries and web content. It aimed to deliver even more relevant search results by better grasping the nuances of human language. Talk about bringing the power of AI to search!

November 2014: Google rolled out the "Pirate Update," which focused on combating copyright infringement. This update targeted websites with high volumes of DMCA takedown requests, aiming to prevent them from ranking well. Google took a strong stance against copyright violations and aimed to protect intellectual property.

April 2014: Google introduced the "Panda Update 4.0," which continued their efforts to reward high-quality websites and penalise low-quality ones. This update impacted about 7.5 percent of English queries, making a significant difference in search rankings.

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2013 - 2003 Algorithm Updates

March 2013 is where we find the intriguing "Venice Update." This update aimed to enhance local search results by incorporating more local signals into the algorithm. It meant that businesses with a strong local presence had a better chance of appearing in relevant local search queries. It's all about giving local businesses the visibility they deserve!

February 2011: Google gave us the legendary "Panda Update." The first major algorithm update, it aimed to tackle low-quality and spammy content by rewarding high-quality websites. It was a game-changer for SEO, pushing website owners to focus on creating valuable and engaging content. This update shook the world of SEO, but it was all for the better!

November 2003: "Florida Update." This update targeted websites that were using manipulative SEO techniques to rank higher in search results. It was a wake-up call for website owners to focus on providing value and following Google's guidelines. The Florida Update set the stage for future algorithm updates and marked a shift in how Google approached search rankings.

July 2003: where it all began with the update known as "Fritz," marking a significant shift in how it indexed web pages. Instead of relying on monthly algorithmic updates, famously called the "Google Dance," where rankings would fluctuate over a week or so, Google began making frequent minor changes to its algorithms every day. This new approach, dubbed "Everflux," ensured that search rankings were continuously updated and adjusted, keeping the search results fresh and dynamic.

The Easy Way to Stay Ahead of the Algorithm

Stay a step ahead of Google's ever-evolving algorithms with Talk Agency. Our SEO experts understand the digital landscape, ensuring your website navigates changes seamlessly. We continually monitor algorithm updates, analyze their implications, and refine your SEO strategy. 

With Talk Agency, you'll not only weather the changes but thrive in them, delivering high-quality content that search engines love. Remain competitive and future-proof your online presence with us.

Talk to us.

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