Google Algo Updates and More – A Complete List of Changes that Could Affect Your Site’s Traffic
Important to know right now:
- There is currently a product reviews update rolling out. It now impacts content in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, Polish.
- Many sites are seeing significant declines in traffic starting in December or early January (or in some cases, November 15) with no obvious explanation. I’m sharing my thoughts and observations in newsletter. My thought is that we are seeing the helpful content classifier in action.
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Note: I’ve started a waiting list for when I resume site reviews again.
February 2023 Google updates and dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- February 21, 2023 – ?: Google announced a new product reviews update is live. This one now applies to many more languages globally. I have not yet analyzed sites impacted. If you were, pay close attention to competitors who have started to outrank you and determine where they may be doing a better job than you in terms of Google’s documentation on writing high quality product reviews.
- February 16-17 2023: Increased turbulence on the Semrush sensor (7.6 on US Mobile). I am seeing many sites with declines starting this day, (and a few clients with big increases!) There was no confirmed Google update.
- February 3, 2023: A large number of sites are noticing traffic drops. Search Engine Round Table reported this as a possible unconfirmed Google update. Barry reported many of the SERP “weather” tools showing increases. (The Semrush sensor which I follow most closely, did not.) Glenn Gabe noted significant changes in sites with product reviews. It is interesting to read through the comments on the Search Engine Roundtable post. Many are commenting on how their link report in GSC has changed. I have not been able to investigate this yet.
- Google’s official document on important algorithm update dates.
- Google’s documentation on creating helpful content (including core update, product review and helpful content update questions.)
- My article on what’s new with the December Helpful Content Update
- My podcast episode on Google spam updates
- MHC’s guide to assessing traffic drops
- Hire an SEO professional to review your site or assess a traffic drop
- January 26, 2023: No announced update, but many sites saw dramatic changes starting this day. Many, but not all of these are sites with product review content. However, this was not a confirmed product reviews update. Some thoughts on Search Engine Roundtable. Discussed more in Episode 272 of Newsletter (to be published on Feb 3, 2023).
- January 18, 2023: Increased turbulence on the Semrush sensor (5.7 on US Mobile)
- January 14, 2023: Increased turbulence on the Semrush sensor (7.3 on US Mobile)
- January 12, 2023: This date marks the end of both the link spam update and the December helpful content update.
- January 11, 2023: Increased turbulence on the Semrush sensor (6.9 on US Mobile)
- January 4-6, 2023: There was no announced update on this day but many sites I am reviewing have significant losses starting this day. Search Engine Roundtable discusses a possible update at this time. I do not have a solid idea of what happened. Given this change happened in the midst of the December link spam and December helpful content update rollouts, either system may have affected sites at this time. It could be something completely different as well. I am currently investigating a large group of sites that lost all of their featured snippets at differing points of time last month. Many but not all of them have dramatic losses starting January 6. Increased turbulence on the Semrush sensor, January 4-5 (6.1-6.3 on US Mobile). Discussed more in Episode 272 of Newsletter (to be published on Feb 3, 2023).
- January 12, 2023: The December Helpful Content Update (started Dec 5) and the December Link Spam Update (started Dec 14) have finished rolling out. The Semrush sensor is high. (6.9 on US Mobile).
- December 29, 2022 – Increased turbulence on the Semrush sensor. (5.7 on US Mobile)
- December 24-25, 2022 – Increased turbulence on the Semrush sensor. (6.2 – 6.3 on US Mobile)
- December 14, 2022 – Jan 12, 2023 The December 2022 Link Spam Update
- SpamBrain used for links now
- Can detect both sites receiving unnatural links and those linking out unnaturally
- Will nullify the effect of those links (as opposed to penalizing for them)
- Will take two weeks to roll out.
- Helpful resources: My book on Google Spam Updates and my podcast episode on the October Spam Update and SpamBrain (although I may have incorrectly assumed SpamBrain was being used for links in this update.)
- December 6, 2022 Google announced they will display topics in searches as filter bubbles.
- December 5, 2022 – January 12, 2023 The December 2022 Helpful Content Update.
- December 5, 2022 Google search results are now continuous scroll (no individual pages) on desktop for US searches in English.
- December 4, 2022. This week OpenAI’s ChatGPT opened to the public. I have already used it many times to do searches I normally would turn to Google for. I expect most site’s traffic will be down.
- November 15, 2022 – Not an announced update. However, most sites I am examining are seeing a drop in traffic, but not a drop in rankings at this time. I have a theory that this is connected to Google putting more Explore results into the search results. I am currently investigating this date. There will be more in my newsletter and I may have an article out on this soon. Share thoughts or screenshots with Marie.
- November 3, 2022 – Much discussion online of ranking fluctuations. Many niche site owners are reporting some gains.
- November 1, 2022 – Google added the option to search via Lens from the homepage on desktop. This may impact sites who rely on image search.
- October 28 – No announced update but many of the sites MHC monitors have significant increases or decreases starting this day.
- October 26-? – There is a massive drop in the number of PAA’s and FAQ’s and also local packs shown in many SERPS. This may just be an issue when looking at Google results with 100 results per page. As many of the rank tracking tools look at Google this way, they may no longer be seeing these SERP features. This can result in reported losses of rankings that aren’t accurate. This is still an open investigation though…I will update if more information becomes available.
- October 19-21, 2022 – Google announced the October 2022 spam update. They linked to this document discussing SpamBrain, their AI solution to fighting spam. They tell us that Spam Brain is good at fighting “behaviors that attempt to narrowly avoid violating [their] quality guidelines, but are still manipulative in nature.” One of the examples given is being able to identify whether product reviews are just rewritten product descriptions or genuinely hands on reviews.This update was devastating to many sites. My thoughts now (as of Nov 7) are that this update was SpamBrain getting better at identifying content that breaks Google’s quality guidelines. Disavowing may help remove this filter. More here.
- October 18, 2022 – No announced update but many sites we monitor saw huge gains and we have heard reports of sites with large losses. Some are reporting a large reduction in the number of pages in Google’s index. It is possible Google made changes to how they index content. Or, this could even be Google’s helpful content classifier doing its work.
- October 13, 2022 – No announced update on this day but the Semrush sensor jumped up to 6.0 which is worth noting. Several people reported massive increases in Google traffic on this day. Some commented that medical sites were hit.
- September 27, 2022 – Significant SERP turbulence. The Semrush sensor reports a mobile US turbulence score of 6.1 which is significant. It will be difficult to know whether changes seen here are the result of the ending of the September core update, the ending of the product reviews update or something else.
- September 20-26, 2022 – A Product Reviews Update launched even before the core update finished rolling out. Google tweeted, “If you see a change and wonder if it’s related to the core update or the product reviews update: If you do product reviews, then it’s probably related to that. If not, then it might be related to the core update.
- September 12-26, 2022 – The September 2022 Core update. We have been approached by many sites seeing very large decreases. Several of our clients who have worked on improving E-A-T and content quality saw really big improvements. It does appear that some sites affected by the helpful content update were further affected by this core update. This looks like a big one.
Helpful resources for this update:
- What site owners should know about Google’s core updates (on the Google Search Central Blog)
- An early look at the September Core update (Marie on Youtube)
- 100 Things to know about Google Core Updates
- September 9, 2022 – The helpful content finished rolling out on this day.
- September 8, 2022 – Increased turbulence seen on most of the SERP weather tools. The Helpful content update is still rolling out. This may represent the update starting to be more impactful.
- August 25, 2022: Google’s helpful content update is live! It was preannounced last week. The update finished rolling out on September 9. We anticipated this update was going to be much more impactful. More helpful resources:
- August 8-9, 2022 – There were significant indexing problems. We initially thought it was connected to a fire at a Google datacenter but Google told Cnet it was caused by a “software update“.
- The Semrush sensor and other tools are reporting massive spikes in SERP turbulence. On Aug 9, John Mueller said things seem to be settling down. It was interesting that he commented “We don’t index everything, so I’d focus on the important URLs for things like this.” We mention this because in the past when Google has had outages affected indexing, MHC saw an influx of sites requesting help for sustained traffic drops that started on the day of the outage.
- August 2, 2022 – The July 2022 Product Reviews Update finished rolling out on this day. Semrush sensor showed some turbulence on this day.
- July 27, 2022 – Google announced the July 2022 Product Reviews Update is now live. It finished rolling out Aug 2. Important for Ecommerce and affiliate sites! Here is their list of questions to consider for this type of content.
- July 21, 2022 – Looks like the decrease in PAA results in the SERPS has reversed!
- July 16, 2022 – Increased SERP turbulence. At MHC we have several clients with nice increases. We did not think this was an update given this date was a Saturday and also given that Google had indexing problems, but several of the clients affected have continued to see increases/decreases since then. This may actually have been an unannounced algorithm update.
- July 15-16, 2022 – Google had problems indexing new content.
- July 7, 2022 – Several SEO tools reported a huge drop in SERPS that contained People Also Ask results. (Seems to have resolved July 21).
- July 6, 2022 – Interesting finds disappears from the search results. While not technically an algorithm update, this could impact traffic dramatically for sites that were previously featured here.
June 2022 Google updates and dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- June 21-23, 2022 – Increased SERP turbulence. SERoundtable discussion. At MHC we did have a few clients affected at this time that run alternative medical sites. We do not have enough information at this time to say this was an update that affected alt med sites, but it is worth mentioning.
- June 19, 2022 – Increased SERP turbulence. May be related to Father’s day in the US, but this does look like an unannounced update. SERoundtable discussion.
- June 13-15, 2022 – Increased SERP turbulence.
- June 9, 2022 – The May core update has finished rolling out. Our analysis of the May core update.
- June 6, 2022 – Significant SERP turbulence – likely connected to the ongoing rollout of the May core update.
May 2022 Google updates and dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- May 31, 2022 – Significant SERP turbulence – likely connected to the ongoing rollout of the May core update.
- May 25-June 9, 2022 – The May core update was released and took about two weeks to fully roll out. This update was devastating to many sites. If impacted, pay attention to Google’s guidance re core updates in which they tell us to focus on E-A-T and content quality. Lily Ray and Marie Haynes discuss the early impacts of the May core update.
- May 16, 2022 – The algo weather tools showed some increase on this day, but no update was announced. Large changes were reported for many affiliate and E-Commerce sites. Google did not confirm this was related to previous product reviews updates, but it does seem that pages with product reviews were affected. This update was interesting enough for us to do a full writeup on: The May 16-18 unannounced Google update.
- May 8, 2022 – There was SERP turbulence on this day but no official announcement of an update.
- May 1, 2022 – SERP turbulence. It is worth noting that this weekend was a Bank holiday in the UK and other parts of Europe, which can cause changes as well.
April 2022 Google updates and dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- April 26, 2022 – Google’s knowledge graph appears to have updated on this day. Many people reported losing their knowledge panel following this update.
- April 11, 2022 – The product reviews update that started on March 23 finished rolling out on this day.
March 2022 Google updates and dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- March 23, 2022 – Google released their third product reviews update. Here is their announcement. Marie discusses this update in episode 229 of the SNYCU newsletter. This update finished rolling out on April 11, 2022.
- March 3-4, 2022 – Significant shifts seen in the search results. Some wondered if these changes could be connected to the end of the rollout of the Page Experience update (Feb 22-Mar 3.) We do not think this is the case. SER article on this possible update
February 2022 Google updates and dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- February 24, 2022: Significant shifts seen in the search results. Many site owners suspected losses seen were due to the rollout of the Page Experience update (Feb 22-Mar 3). However, we could not find a connection here. It is worth noting that February 24 was the day on which Russia invaded Ukraine. Many SERPs changed as a result of the war. Also, many people changed their search patterns which could affect your traffic. SER article on this possible update.
- February 22, 2022: Google announced that the page experience update began rolling out on desktop. The page experience algorithm encompasses a number of explicit ranking factors including interstitials, use of https, mobile friendliness, and most importantly – Core Web Vitals. As of March 3rd, the update has finished rolling out.
- February 8, 2022: Not an officially announced update, but we saw several sites with increases or decreases on this date. Barry Schwartz wrote that while the Semrush sensor was high, there was not as much chatter in the search community as expected.
- Google has added another anomaly on its performance report graph. Starting February 1st, performance metrics suffered a logging issue for Search, Discover and Google News. Google noted that the error was solely confined to reporting and did not affect search rankings.
January 2022 Google updates and dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- Google is reporting a logging issue for “Search data for images” in GSC from January 24-27. Search Engine Land shares that you might be seeing a drop in clicks and impressions in your performance report but Google says this does not reflect an actual traffic drop and has no impact on actual rankings.
December 2021 Google updates and dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- December 2021 Product Reviews Update: just weeks after the November core update, Google released the newest product reviews update on December 1st, the first major product reviews update since April. There was significant turbulence in the SERPS in the first two weeks of December since this update. The update finished rolling out on December 21.
November 2021 Google updates and dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- November Core Update, November 17th 2021: Google has just announced a broad core algorithm update has started to roll out. It will take around two weeks to be completed. Their advice for recovery is in Google’s blog post on core updates.
- Spam Update, November 3-8th 2021: Google started rolling out an update to their spam fighting systems on November 3rd which finished rolling out 8 days later. In their announcement Google directed users to their basic webmaster guidelines. Currently we have not seen any major impacts of this update on the SERPs that MHC monitors.
September 2021 Google updates and dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- Since September 4th there has been near weekly chatter in the SEO community regarding increased volatility in the SERPs around the weekends. In particular, the weather tools have been particularly active at these times which has led SEOs such as Barry Schwartz, Glenn Gabe & Lily Ray have noted that these could be small unannounced algorithm updates. As covered in more detail in the MHC paid newsletters, we did not see the same level of volatility for the hundreds of sites that we monitor at MHC. MHC are not convinced, based on the data we have looked at, that these changes have been actual Google updates. Our hunch at this time is that recent developments in search have enabled Google to better adapt SERPs to match shifts in user intent for queries “on the fly”. As a result, the weather tools are perhaps picking up more SERP volatility at the weekend/as the seasons change, and not due to deliberate changes to the algorithm.
July 2021 Google updates and dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- Link Spam Update, July 26th 2021: Google posted a blog post regarding qualifying sponsored links and announced a link spam update. The announcement was largely a reminder to site owners that they could be subject to manual actions or see an algorithmic impact if they were not correctly qualifying sponsored/affiliate links. They recommend using rel=sponsored but did clarify that rel=nofollow is also perfectly fine. The link spam update that was announced is aimed to continue Google’s efforts to identify and then nullify the impact of unnatural/spam links on search algorithms. They noted that this would be effective across multiple languages, and warned that sites who have been taking part in link spam will likely see changes in the SERPs as Google reassesses the links pointed to said sites.
- July Core Update, 1-12th July 2021: This was one of the first core updates that Google gave us forewarning was coming, being announced with the June Core Update a month earlier. This update has had a strong impact on many sites. As Google stated in their announcement on the June core update, some sites that saw changes in June may have those reverse with this July update. While we have seen reported cases of this happening, most of our data shows that sites that improved with June core also improved with July core and the same can be said for sites with losses. We have several clients with nice improvements with both the June and July core update. If you were impacted by this update, we would recommend focusing on Google’s blog post on what site owners need to know about core updates.
June 2021 Google updates and dates of significant SERP turbulence
- Spam Updates Part 1 & 2, June 23rd & 25th 2021: Google released two spam updates in June 2021. Both are described by Google as updates to the systems they use to remove spam from the SERP. In Google’s blog post on fighting spam in 2020, they determine “spam” as hacked content, phishing schemes, auto-generated, and disruptive content. We largely did not see any notable impacts for sites we monitor with these updates. Danny Sullivan shared that spam updates are geared towards sites that break Google’s guidelines as opposed to core updates which assess content overall.
- The Page Experience Update, June 15, 2021: The Page Experience Update (Core Web vitals plus more) started rolling out on this day. It finished rolling out on September 2nd 2021. This update introduces Core Web Vitals (LCP, FID and CLS), mobile usability, and security issues as direct ranking signals. Google says that this update should not cause drastic changes and will be rolled out very gradually. Most SEOs believe that this update will not be significant, with the ranking factors being used as a tie-breaker between content that Google cannot otherwise differentiate between. Still, we do recommend doing all you can to improve your Core Web Vitals to “green” as improvements to page experience is good for users, and in turn can have a knock on effect on your organic rankings. It is important to note that with this update, AMP is no longer required to rank in the mobile Top Stories carousel.
- June Core Update, 2-12th June 2021: The June 2021 core update was announced on the 2nd of the month, however most sites did not start to see movement until between the 5th-7th. The update finished rolling out on June 12. Interestingly, Google announced that a second core update will be coming in July 2021 which will include elements of this update that required more evaluation before being rolled out. A “small sliver” of sites that see changes with the June core will see these reversed in July. If you were affected by this update, Google recommends paying attention to their blog post on what webmasters should know about core updates. With this, and the July 2021 update, we believe that Google got significantly better at matching queries with content that better serves searcher intent. It should be noted that this core update was not connected to the page experience (core web vitals + more) update.
May 2021 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- May 17-22, 2021: Once again, there was significant turbulence in most SERPs. SEMrush sensor and many of the other algo weather tools are reporting this as one of the most turbulent days we have ever seen. We are not convinced at this point that this was a huge update. We do have more sites than usual with significant changes in keyword rankings, but not to a greater degree than with other “mini-updates” we have reported on since January 2021. This is the first time that a potential Google update has coincided with a knowledge graph update. It is possible that what we saw was not a change to Google’s algorithms, but rather, reflecting the introduction of new entity information to help Google determine E-A-T.
- May 13-15, 2021: There was a significant shift in many SERPS we monitor once again. We do not yet know whether this is a small Google update, or just normal ranking changes. When asked, Danny Sullivan said, “We do have small updates that happen all the time. They can produce changes, as any update might. Plus, content itself is always changing, and since ranking is dynamic, that causes changes even if we made no updates at all. There were a large number of sites reporting significant changes in traffic at this time. We do believe that Google updated something important here. It should be noted that a higher number of sites in our profile than usual are seeing losses are sites that had previously had a manual action for unnatural links. If this was a link related update, it is less likely that Google penalized sites further for having unnatural links, and more likely that Google simply got better at determining which links to count as recommendations.
- May 7-9, 2021: This was likely another mini-update reflecting Google getting better at understanding intent and relevancy. It should be noted that May 9, 2021 was Mother’s day which could impact traffic for some sites. There is a little bit more chatter online than usual from site owners reporting very large drops in traffic at this time. If we see more evidence that this change was more significant than the regular mini-updates we have been seeing, we may do further investigation.
April 2021 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- April 30/May 1, 2021: Likely another quality tweak. At MHC we had a few clients with minor changes at this time. SERoundtable reported significant chatter about wild fluctuations in traffic. Barry Schwartz speculated this update could be connected to the Product Reviews update as many sites affected were also strongly impacted during its rollout. However, as we have mentioned a few times, we feel that many sites that thought they were impacted by the Product Reviews update had nothing to do with Product Reviews. Most likely Google made other quality changes at this time as well. Discussed in newsletter episode #182 and podcast as well.
- April 22/23, 2021 – April 22 marks the end of the Product Reviews update rollout. Many people noted movement on this day. While many affiliate sites appear to have been affected, many of the sites affected have nothing to do with reviews. This likely was another quality tweak on Google’s side.
- April 18, 2021 – This was likely another quality tweak. We had several clients with organic traffic changes on this day that are typical of what we have seen with each of the “mini-updates” we have called update tweaks over the last few months.
- April 15, 2021 – This may have been another quality tweak in Google’s algorithms. As the product review update is still rolling out, it is possible that much of the movement we are seeing is related to this. Our early analysis shows that most sites affected did not have review content.
- April 8, 2021 (and rolling out to complete on April 22, 2021) – Google announced the product reviews update went live. This update is meant to promote content that reviews either products or services. Google’s goal is to promote “product reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products.” If you were affected at this time, keep in mind that there appear to be many other Google updates happening throughout February and March. We have found that most sites that have approached us thinking that they have been affected by the product reviews update, actually had been seeing declines that started previous to the release of this change. Marie has discussed this at length in recent podcast episodes.
- Apr 3-4, 2021 – It is debatable whether this was a significant update or not. There has been some chatter on Twitter from site owners who were seeing large changes in traffic. However, in our client base, most of the changes we see can be explained by seasonality as this was Easter weekend.
March 2021 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- March 29, 2021 – This was likely another unannounced but significant update like those we have been seeing for several months now. Barry Schwartz has coverage here. Marie briefly discusses this in podcast episode 177. Note: Now that some time has passed, we can see that March 29 does appear to be a more significant update than others we have seen recently.
- March 19-20, 2021 – This was another date on which many of our clients saw changes typical of what we see during a significant Google update. John Mueller stated that he was not aware of anything new launching from Google. Barry Schwartz noted that he has seen a number of complaints of site owners having indexing issues at this time as well.
- March 11-13, 2021 – This appears to be another unannounced significant update. Many sites with traffic changes at this time were affected by Google reducing the number of featured snippets (see March 11 and Feb 19 entries). But, we also have clients with increases or decreases at this time that we cannot connect to featured snippet rankings. Discussed briefly in Episode 175 of Search News You Can Use.
- March 11, 2021 – Many sites that saw a big drop in Featured Snippets on February 19, 2021 had their snippets return.
- March 5-6, 2021 – It is early to say much, but this appears to be a rather significant unannounced update. Discussed in episode 174 of Search News You Can Use and also in Marie’s podcast episode published March 11, 2021.
- March 1-3, 2021 – Our data shows several sites with sharp changes in traffic that start March 1, although Barry Schwartz reports March 2 as the date on which he started seeing more chatter about an update. Quite a few of our clients saw these changes reverse March 5-6.
February 2021 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- February 24-25, 2021 – Possible significant local update.
- February 23, 2021 – Another possible unannounced update.
- February 20, 2021 – Many sites were affected by this unannounced update. Marie discusses this update (and the few preceding it in this podcast episode.)
- February 19, 2021 – Huge reduction in the number of featured snippets Google is showing for many sites, especially in YMYL verticals. This change appears to have reversed for many sites as the number of featured snippets increased to normal levels on March 11, 2021.
February 16, 2021 – Another unannounced update. This one appears to have had a drastic effect on quite a few sites.
- February 10, 2021 – Passage Based Ranking is now live. We have included a very early analysis in our newsletter. If you are seeing changes in your traffic in early February, be sure not to confuse the launch of Passage Based Ranking with the unannounced February 6 update as many sites saw declines that were unrelated to PBR.
- February 6, 2021 – It looks like a significant update happened on this day. Many of the sites in our profile that are seeing changes had those changes start on January 27, 2021. Marie shared her early thoughts in her podcast episode that week.
January 2021 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- Jan 31, 2021 and on random days in the first week of Feb –Many sites in our profile had huge spikes in Google organic in their analytics today. However, all of these were the result of referral spam and not actually real traffic.
- January 27, 2021 – There was likely an unannounced, but significant update starting on this day. Analysis is challenging as many sites had their GA profiles affected by bot traffic during this week. Many of the sites that saw changes in traffic patterns on February 6, 2021 had those changes start January 27.
- January 7-9 – There was probably some kind of minor update at this time. Many of the sites we monitor saw increases or decreases in organic traffic. Most of MHC’s observations showed traffic changes around January 9. However, Search Engine Roundtable reported that there was a lot of chatter in Search forums about an update starting as early as January 7. We have not as of yet analyzed this update, but will come back to it if it seems to be significant for many sites. It is also possible that there was no update at this time, but we are simply seeing unusual changes due to people paying attention to the US riots and insurrection attempts.
- January 6, 2021 – This was the day on which riots happened at the US capitol. Any time there is a significant, catastrophic event that captures the world’s attention, you will likely notice a change in search patterns.
December 2020 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- December 18 – Google may have made tweaks to the Dec 3 core update at this time. Many sites that declined or gained with the core update saw further movement.
- December 10 – Many site owners that were originally affected by the update on December 3 saw additional significant movement in traffic patterns on December 10. In our experience, this is quite normal activity following a significant Google update. We do not think that Google pushed anything new out on December 10, although it is possible they made some minor adjustments to the new core algorithm. Some of our clients saw further improvements at this time after gains on December 3/4.
- December 3/4 – This Google-announced core update is showing massive impacts. Early data suggests it is likely much bigger than the May 4 core update. The biggest changes were seen across the industry on December 4, 2020, but Google did not announce this update had finished rolling out until December 16, 2020. We do not feel that this was an update that was geared towards a particular type of site. We have seen great improvements for several of our alternative medical clients and also many of our clients with good user generated content. There is some speculation that excessive ads could be a component to this update. We are currently investigating whether Google has paid more attention to appropriate heading use with this update. We saw similar changes in financial sites, legal sites and most sites that are to be considered YMYL. Based on our early analysis, we had speculated that the December core update represented Google’s use of more and more sophisticated natural language processing to accomplish their ultimate goal of providing people with content that does the best job at answering their question. However, Danny Sullivan said that this update was not about BERT.
November 2020 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- November 2020 – Google shared with us in February of 2021 that at some point in November of 2020 they made changes to image search to reduce duplication.
- November 26-29 – This was American Thanksgiving. On Black Friday (November 27), many eCommerce sites saw bigger gains in traffic than usual for Thanksgiving as more people are likely shopping online due to the pandemic. Many of the medical sites we monitor saw a one day drop in traffic on Friday as well. We think this is most likely due to changes in search patterns and not due to a Google update.
- November 16-18, 2020 – This was possibly a small quality update. We had several clients with small increases and several with small decreases in organic traffic that did not appear to be seasonal. SERoundtable has several site owners commenting about significant traffic drops.
- November 8, 2020: Possible small quality update. We saw several sites with gains on this day, but very few with losses. Most likely what we are seeing is connected to the US election which was on November 3.
- November 2-4, 2020: This was suspected to be an update by many people. However, November 3, 2020 was the date of a very tumultuous US election. We saw great improvements in financial sites, with posts that discussed interest rate changes. This was probably not connected to a Google update, but rather just changes in search patterns.
October 2020 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- October 26-28, 2020: This may have been a small update in which Google turned up the dial to prefer authoritative websites. Several of our clients saw declines at this time – many of which were alternative medical or nutritional sites. This change happened just days before the US election on November 3 which means that it is also possible that we are just seeing the results of altered search patterns.
- October 20, 2020: This was possibly a small quality update. We saw improvements in many of our clients across law, health and financial sites. Given that the impact of this update appears to be relatively small, and that it follows on the heels of Google restoring widespread indexing issues, we have not analyzed this date as of yet.
- October 13, 2020: We had a larger number of sites than usual see changes in traffic on this day. Given that Google shared that they had fixed the vast majority of the indexing issues that started mid-September by October 14, we are assuming that most of the changes we saw were connected to resolution of Google indexing bugs.
- October 5, 2020: This likely was not a Google update, but we did notice changes in rankings for several of our clients that are typical of what we often see with a minor Google update. Our assumption is that these changes are related to the indexing issues Google suffered in late September.
September 2020 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- September 28: Google had a temporary issue with indexing Google News content.
- September 21-24: Google confirmed they had two different issues this week. One was connected to mobile indexing and the other was due to canonicalization (or in other words, “how [they] detect and handle duplicate content). The supposed fix started rolling out October 1, and was supposedly fixed by October 14, but at MHC we have several clients that did not see a reversal of the gains/losses experienced September 21.
- September 14, 2020: This may have been an unannounced update. We had quite a few clients see nice improvements on this day and a small handful see losses. For several of our clients who saw improvements, we can attribute those to the fact that the site won some important featured snippets rankings. There is also talk amongst the SEO community that Google made changes to which sites and pages get sitelinks at this time.
August 2020 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- August 24, 2020: There appears to be a significant change in many sites’ traffic patterns on this day. We noted in Episode 148 of our newsletter that many of the pages that saw big increases or decreases had changes in whether they ranked for the featured snippet, PAA or other SERP features. If your traffic changed at this time, take note to see if these changes are seasonal or not as many sites often see traffic changes as much of the world transitions to school and fall activities.
- August 15-16, 2020: There was another glitch on Google’s side that caused temporary but wild ranking shifts. The algo tools like MozCast and SEMrush sensor showed very high levels of turbulence. Our analysis at MHC did not reveal any patterns with this glitch. You can read more about this on Search Engine Round Table, or, if you are a premium Search News You Can Use subscriber, in episode 146 we talked about the August 15-16 Google Glitch.
- Aug 10, 2020: Massive Google “glitch”. From approximately 1pm EST until 11:30pm on this day, many sites saw significant changes in rankings. Many people noticed that low quality websites were suddenly ranking well. Many others suffered significant ranking drops. Google spokesperson Gary Illyes told us that something went wrong with one of the parts of Google’s complicated ranking system, saying, that the algo contains “thousands of interconnected systems working together to provide users high quality and relevant results. Throw a grain of sand in the machinery and we have an outage like yesterday.” If your traffic was affected for a few hours this afternoon, this could be why. This may be insignificant, but we do believe that this outage can give webmasters some clues as to which parts of their site are currently seen as low quality by Google. You can read more here on the August 10 Google glitch.
July 2020 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- July 5-6, 2020: We had several clients with nice gains starting at this time that seemed typical of what we often see with a Google update. We do feel that Google made some sort of change to their algorithms, but there were not enough sites affected to warrant a full investigation.
June 2020 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- June 22-23, 2020: Many .gov and .org sites saw ranking boosts across the board on this date. We do feel that Google possibly changed something in their algorithms to better reward authoritative sites at this time. However, at MHC, we saw changes in rankings for some clients that could not be explained by Google simply boosting how they value authority. You can read more here on our thoughts on the June 22/23, 2020 update.
- June 23, 2020 – Google became more consistent with indexing Disqus comments on this day. While this wasn’t an algorithm update, if you have a site with great or horrible comments, the content in those comments can count towards the content of your site. We do believe that this can lead to improvements or declines in search. What we don’t know is whether those changes will be evaluated as Google crawls your site, or with the next core update.
May 2020 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- Last week of May, 2020: Google may have made tweaks to the May core update as many sites that saw changes with this update, saw changes again during this week. However, this was a turbulent week around the world with protests sparked by racial injustice and continuing problems with COVID-19. We will investigate further if it does look like Google changed something significant at this time.
- May 4, 2020: Announced Core Update. Google has told us that this update is connected to E-A-T, linking to their post on core updates. This update has affected a large number of websites strongly. Our early analysis shows that Google appears to be rewarding truly valuable content, especially content that is written by someone with firsthand experience. Many of our clients who have been working on improving E-A-T saw nice improvements with this update. Many sites with link issues saw drops. We think that this is similar to the unannounced November 8 update. It is possible that Google is putting less emphasis on links, and more on the actual quality of the content. It is also possible that Google is getting better at determining which links are truly recommendations for your content and which are self made for SEO reasons. Here is our full article on the May 2020 core update.
March 2020 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- March 23, 2020: Many sites saw traffic changes starting on this date. We had initially suspected this was due to a Google update. While it is still a possibility, most of our clients who saw drastic Google organic traffic changes also saw similar changes in Bing which makes a Google update less likely to be the cause. March 23 was a Monday, the start of a week of much devastating news in the world. On this date, Britain closed all of their non-essential shops and a day later, the entire country of India was placed on lockdown.
- March 10-11, 2020: At this time Donald Trump announced a travel ban to those travelling to the US from Europe. Also, the NBA made the decision to shut down their season. While there was some suspicion in the SEO community that this was a Google update, we believe the changes seen were more likely due to worldwide changes in search patterns. The travel ban, combined with the loss of the NBA season made the whole Coronavirus situation much more real to most people and greatly affected how they live their lives.
- March 3-7: We had quite a few sites in our profile that saw significant increases or decreases starting at this time. However, due to the rising worldwide concerns over Coronavirus, it is challenging to determine whether the changes were due to a Google update or not.
February 2020 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- February 29: There may have been a drastic decrease in the number of People Also Ask Boxes that Google displays. If this has happened in your SERPS, you may see a change in how many people click through to your site. If you used to be featured in the PAA, you’ll likely see a reduction. If you were not featured, you may see an increase now that your organic ranking is higher up on the page.
- February 7-9: (with some sites seeing changes a few days before or after): This was a significant update, but was not confirmed by Google as a core update. We believe that Google has worked to remove a lot of low quality / spammy content from the web. Many sites with decent E-A-T had a lot of pages added to the index at this time. We are not completely confident in this assessment, but at this time feel that Google made changes to how they understand content. They may have started putting less emphasis on links as well. We feel it is possible that Google got better at understanding which links truly are recommendations of your content and which are self made or could be ignored.
January 2020 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- January 22, 2020: Google announced changes to how they display featured snippets in search. Prior to this date, the url that held the featured snippet was generally also shown in the organic results. Now, if you own the featured snippet, you will not get another listing on the first page for that url. This could result in less traffic for sites that hold a featured snippet as some non-web savvy searchers may skip past the featured snippet thinking it is an ad. This may impact CTR for sites that used to have the featured snippet along with a high organic position.
- January 13, 2020: Google announced that a core update has launched today. Our initial analysis shows many of our health clients are up. Several of these sites have been working on improving how they are seen in terms of being in line with scientific consensus. We have clients in many non-health verticals that have improved as well. You can read our preliminary thoughts in our newsletter. We will have more information coming out in the following weeks as we dig in deeper.
Note: From August 2019 and moving forward we will be classifying updates as either confirmed by Google, or suspected. We will no longer be reporting in great detail on each tweak to the algorithm as our conclusions are almost always to improve overall quality.
December 2019 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- December 26, 2019: This was possibly a minor quality update. We saw many of our clients who have e-commerce or travel websites see a greater increase than usual starting on this date. However, in many cases, these increases may be seasonal.
- December 3-5, 2019 – It is possible that Google made changes to their quality algorithms at this time as we had several clients see increases or decreases. However, at this point we feel that these changes were connected to seasonality.
- December 4, 2019 (date approximate) – If your recipe or nutrition site has seen a change in traffic at this time, it could be connected to the fact that Google assistant is now allowing users to set filters so that they only see certain types of recipes in the Google search app such as gluten free, vegan or vegetarian.
November 2019 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- November 24-25, 2019 – Possible mild quality tweak. We had several sites that saw changes in traffic at this time. However, seasonality plays a role here. At this point we do not think this was a significant update.
- November 11, 2019 – We had a number of clients seeing nice improvements on this day (and a few seeing drops). We initially thought this was a tweak to the November 8 update, but most of the sites affected did not see changes November 8. Most of our clients who saw changes in traffic trends were sites that we had flagged trust issues (as described in the Quality Raters’ Guidelines.) We also have noticed that many of the pages that increased in rankings were ones that had “best of their kind” content. It is possible that Google made some changes, using BERT, in how they recognize truly good content.
- November 8, 2019 – Unconfirmed, but significant update. Google did not officially confirm this update but tweeted, saying that they run several updates in any given week. At MHC we feel strongly that this update (or at least a component of it) was strongly connected to link quality. Many sites seeing drops had made heavy use of reciprocal linking schemes (like recipe bloggers in a link party), footer links (like web design companies often use), and in-article links published for SEO. You can read our full thoughts on our blog post on the November 8, 2019 Google update.
- November 4-5, 2019 –There was a significant local update at this time. Joy Hawkins coined this the Bedlam Update. Most local map rankings have shifted significantly. Danny Sullivan from Google told us that this update was the result of Google introducing neural matching into their local ranking systems. For more information on this, see our newsletter episode.
- November 3, 2019 – We had several clients with minor increases in Google organic traffic on this date. Each had been working hard at improving the overall quality of their site. As such, we feel this is likely a minor quality update.
October 2019 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- October 21, 2019 – We had several clients that saw slight gains in Google organic traffic on this day and a few with losses. While there has been some speculation that this change is connected to BERT, our initial analysis leads us to think this is more likely to be a change that Google has made to better understand quality in websites.
- October 14-19 – There were some changes seen in a number of our clients’ traffic at this time. In hindsight, Google announced they have made some changes to how they understand queries. BERT is now an important part of their algorithms. You can find our thoughts on BERT and whether it will affect your rankings in this newsletter episode.
- October 4-21, 2019 – Google appears to have been experimenting with publishing more image thumbnails in the SERPS. This could potentially result in a page or query seeing changes in CTR depending on the value of the thumbnail to the user.
- October 16, 2019 – Google Webmasters tweeted that they had a delay in indexing fresh content. While this should not be considered a Google update, it may have temporarily impacted traffic on this day, especially for news sites.
September 2019 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- September 24-30 (end date approximate) – Google announced a core update will start rolling out on this day. Danny Sullivan advised people to read Google’s Blog Post on core updates. This blog post contains a lot of information on E-A-T. You can find information in our newsletter on our most recent thoughts. We had several clients see nice recoveries. Some had worked hard to improve quality based on our recommendations. For a few we feel that Google relaxed their interpretation of which type of content contradicts scientific consensus. We hope to have a full article about this out within the next couple of weeks.
- September 17, 2019 (date approximate) – This appears to be a quality tweak. At MHC, we have had several clients that appear to be seeing some recovery after being negatively affected by the June 3 core update. There could possibly be a link component to this update as well.
- September 9 and September 13, 2019 – We feel these were minor core updates, likely having to do with Google’s assessment of trust. There is a strong possibility that either or both of these updates has a link component to it.
- September 5, 2019 (approximate date) – It is possible that the leased subdomain update went live on this day. Sites that leased subdomains from authoritative sites, such as coupon subdomains may have seen traffic drops on or around this day.
- September 4th, 2019 – Possible quality update on this day. Some of our clients saw mild increases. This could possibly be related to the link update the week prior.
August 2019 dates of significant SERP turbulence:
- August 22-29 – Possible link related update. We have several clients that saw increases in the last week. We believe this could be related to disavow work we did as the increase happened after they filed their disavow.
- August 19-21: We had several clients with moderate increases or decreases at this time. One of our clients for whom we had filed a thorough disavow a few weeks previously, saw growth in Google organic traffic of over 100%. As such, there is a possibility that this update has a link component to it. It is also possible that disavowing this client’s links helped increase Google’s trust in the site overall.
- August 18 –At this point, this may be a significant update. We will report back in our newsletter next week.
- August 12
- August 3 – (possibly starting as early as July 12)
- July 22 – Several sites that we monitor saw significant traffic jumps. It is possible that this was an update affecting eCommerce sites more strongly than others although there is not enough data to support this just yet.
- Mid July (likely July 15-16, 2019) – Google made changes to their algorithm to make it so that adult search terms were less likely to surface porn when searching for some queries that could be construed as either adult or non-adult. While Google didn’t give us an exact date for this update, from our data, we can see that this likely happened around July 15-16. If your site saw a drop or increase in traffic around that time, it may be worth looking at whether or not rankings changed for keywords that could be construed as adult in nature.
- July 13-20, 2019 – There has been a lot of reported turbulence on July 13, 17 and 20. So much so they named it Maverick. Our initial thoughts are that Google is making tweaks to how they measure trust. While some niches are seeing effects more than others, we don’t think this is targeted to specific types of sites.
- July 11-13, 2019 – This is likely to represent an unannounced update as there have been several reported changes. So far we are seeing that it is mostly YMYL sites that are being affected within our clients. A good number of these are health sites. We will publish more on this to come.
- July 1-2, 8-9, 2019 – Possible tweaks to the June 3 update. Several of our clients saw changes during these dates, with some being relatively big increases. Read our thoughts in Episode 91.
- June 29, 2019 – Many of our medical clients saw nice gains on this date. Our guess is that Google made more tweaks to their June 3 update. See our theory on this update in Episode 90 of our newsletter.
- June 17-18, 23-24, 2019 – We believe Google made tweaks to the June 3 update and this time period does not signify a major update. There were reported changes to algo weather tools, many of our eCommerce clients saw nice gains, and some of our natural medicine sites saw small gains as well. See more detailed information in Episode 89 of our newsletter.
- June 11, 2019 – There was a bug this morning affecting traffic to AMP pages.
- June 4-6, 2019 – Diversity update. This update is designed to make it so that one site will rarely have more than two listings on the first page of the organic search results. If you lost traffic at this time, it could be due to this or due to the June core update which started June 3. This update should only affect organic listings. You can still have multiple PAA’s, Featured Snippets, etc. It should not cause a ranking drop, but could cause drops in overall traffic from Google organic search if you previously were getting multiple results on the first page for some queries. You can find more information on this update in our post on the June 3 core update.
- June 3, 2019 – Announced Core Quality Update. Google actually preannounced this update. Danny Sullivan tweeted on the Search Liaison account saying, “We are releasing a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year. It is called the June 2019 Core Update.” Please note! If you think you were negatively affected by this update, the diversity update (see above) should be considered as well. But, in most cases, sites that were hit had issues with trust. Note: Many sites strongly affected by this update had alternative medical content. As the Quality Raters’ Guidelines specifically point out that medical content that contradicts scientific consensus is to be considered low quality, we suspect that many sites affected on June 3, 2019 had content that contradicts scientific consensus.
- June 2, 2019 – Google outage. This was not a Google update. However, many Google cloud services went down this weekend. This could impact traffic, but only for a few hours.
- May 20-24, 2019 – Unannounced update. Many of our clients saw changes in organic traffic at this time. However given that this was around the time of the Memorial Day weekend, it is hard to say whether this was a big update or not. There is a possibility that there is a link component to this update.
- May 14, 2019 – Possibly a small quality update. We had a few clients see small increases or decreases on this day.
- May 9, 2019 – Possibly a minor quality update. Many of our clients who have been working on E-A-T related changes saw slight increases on May 9. However a few saw slight decreases. We think that this was potentially a refresh of some sort in which Google re-assessed E-A-T signals for many sites.
- April 27-May 1, 2019 – Likely a mild quality update. There may have been changes to how Google assesses link quality as well at this time.
- April 26, 2019 – This was possibly a small quality update. Several sites that were previously affected by the deindexing bug that happened April 5-8 saw further drops at this time. It is unclear whether the drops are due to the bug, or an algo update.
- April 12-19, 2019 – Google started showing more images in search on this day. According to a study done by seoClarity, there was a 10% increase in how many images Google shows for many searches starting at this time.
- April 5-8, 2019 – This was not an algorithm update, but Google experienced a bug that caused many sites to have large number of pages drop out of the index. If traffic dropped at this time, this may be why.
- March 18 and March 20-24, 2019 – It looks like Google is tweaking the changes made with the March 12 Core algorithm update. This is not a reversal of March 12 however. Some of our clients that saw increases on March 12 saw further increases on either March 18 or between the 20th to 24th. Some saw increases Mar 12 and a slight decrease during this turbulence.
- March 12, 2019 – Significant Core Quality Update. Danny Sullivan announced that a “broad core algorithm update” was released and suggested that the answers to what were changed can be found in the Quality Raters’ Guidelines. Some have suggested “Florida 2” as a name for this update as it happened shortly after Pubcon Florida. However, this update has nothing to do with the original Florida update. Google has asked us to call this the “March Core Quality Update” rather than naming it. Early analysis shows that it has strongly affected YMYL sites. Many sites making E-A-T improvements saw beautiful changes. (Note: I wrote an article for Search Engine Land that showed several examples of sites that improved with this update, along with the types of changes that they made.)
- February 27, 2019 – Possible small quality update. Dr. Pete from Moz noted that there was a one day increase in how many results Google was displaying on page one with some SERPS having 19 organic results. However, as that change only lasted for a day, this probably isn’t the cause. Clients of ours that saw improvements were working on E-A-T related changes. This was likely a general quality update.
- February 23-24, 2019 – Possible small quality update. Several of our clients who have been improving their site quality saw improvements at this time. A couple of our clients who had done disavow work saw improvement. This update may have a link component to it.
- February 16, 2019 – Possible small quality update. Several of our clients who have been working on quality improvements saw small positive changes at this point. We feel that this was likely a re-assessment of E-A-T for many sites.
- February 4-7, 2019 – Possible small quality update. We had a couple of clients see increases after working on quality improvements, but most of our clients saw no change at this time.
- January 31, 2019 – While this was not a suspected update date, a couple of large sites saw major drops on this date. Irs.com (not .gov), and DMV.org (not the official site of the DMV) saw big hits. While these could have been manual actions, as suspected by Sistrix, we think that this could reflect Google’s assessment of the “T” in E-A-T, Trust.
- January 27, 2019 – Possible small update. This update was likely a quality update and we think there was a link component to it.
- January 22, 2019 – Possible small update, quite similar to January 27. This update was likely a quality update and we think there was a link component to it.
- January 15, 2019 – Barry Schwartz reported on a possible small update on this date. However, at MHC, we did not see much evidence of a significant update happening at this time. A few people reported that they had recovered from Medic at this time.
- January 13, 2019 (approx) – If you are noticing a dramatic drop in impressions in GSC on or around this date, you are not alone. This is believed to be caused by the fact that GSC is now reporting data under the canonical url version. In other words, if you use utm tracking to determine when clicks are coming from Google posts, etc., those individual urls will show big drops in impressions as the data is recorded under the canonical version now.
- January 7-9, 2019 – Unconfirmed update. This was probably a tweak to Google’s quality algorithms. We think that there was possibly a link component to this update as some sites that had previously had link audits done saw nice increases.
- January 5-6, 2019 – This may have been a mild quality update. If your site saw changes in traffic at this time, be sure to note whether the changes are potentially seasonal. A lot of sites traditionally see changes at the beginning of the year. The SEMRush sensor was quite high at this time.
- December 14-17, 2018 – This looks like a moderately significant quality update. We saw increases in a number of sites for which we had previously done site quality reviews.
- December 4-6, 2018 – This was likely a mild quality update. We saw that several sites with previous E-A-T related hits saw further drops on this day. A few of our clients who have been working on improving quality saw slight improvements on this day. There is no obvious pattern as to what was addressed in this update. However, as some of our clients for whom we had recently filed disavows saw improvements, this could have a link component to it.
- November 30, 2018 – The algo weather checkers all noted significant movement on this day. However, we did not see much change in our clients’ sites. Some have speculated that this was a reversal of the quality update that was seen on November 16. There seems to be more chatter in blackhat circles which means this could be either a link related update or one related to reducing the effectiveness of spam tactics.
- November 23-26, 2018 – We saw a number of sites that had been making improvements in E-A-T that saw nice gains on this day. Although most of the algo weather checkers did not note changes, this likely was a core quality update.
- November 16, 2018 – This was likely a mild quality update. We did see several clients have gains at this time. One had made E-A-T related improvements. Another had worked on trimming out thin quality. There is likely not one singular reason for this update, but rather, Google was likely making tweaks on their quality algorithm.
- November 10-12, 2018 – This appears to be a significant quality update. We saw a lot of our clients that had been working on overall site quality make improvements. This update may have possibly had a link component as well.
- November 7, 2018 – Dr. Pete noticed an increase in People Also Ask boxes in the search results. If your traffic dropped at this time, you may want to investigate whether you are possibly losing traffic due to people clicking on these results.
- November 4-5, 2018 – This was likely a small core quality update. While we do think that it is related to the August 1/September 27 changes, most of the sites that we saw make improvements or declines on this day were not medical in nature.
- October 31, 2018 – This appears to be a significant core quality update. Many sites that saw drops on August 1, 2018 or September 27, 2018 saw further drops on this day. We saw a couple of clients who have worked hard to improve “trust” (the “T” in E-A-T) make nice improvements.
- October 21-24, 2018 – There was a lot of algorithmic turbulence on this day, but it is tough to pin down what changed. As most sites that were affected were also sites that saw changes Aug 1 or Sep 27, this likely was a tweak to the quality algorithms that look at trust. If you were affected, this post on the September 27 update is a good place to get recovery information. We also think that this update between October 21 and 24 could be related to links as many sites that saw changes had previous link issues. It is possible that Google is refining the way in which they determine which links to count.
- October 15, 2018 – This date was another date on which a lot of sites saw significant changes in traffic. It does appear that there is a link component to this update. However, some sites in industries that don’t typically have link spam saw changes as well. At this point we think that this is an update in how Google assesses trust. Unnatural links can be a sign of low trust, but there are many other possible trust issues that Google looks at as well.
- October 1-8, 2018 – There has been a lot of algorithmic turbulence this week. At this point, it looks like these may be link related changes. Almost all of the sites that we saw significant changes in were sites with link quality issues. However, this still could be further tweaks to “Medic”. Added: Danny Sullivan confirmed that they started a core algorithm update September 24 and that it would take a while to roll out. I truly believe that this update was all about trust. I think that links are one component of this update, but overall trust is important.
- September 24-27, 2018 (and continuing into October) – Danny Sullivan from Google confirmed that this was indeed an update, but called it “small”. We saw some really significant changes in sites we monitor. Many sites who saw big gains August 1 had those gains completely clawed back. This wasn’t a complete reversal though as some sites continued to see gains/losses. This really looks like Google tweaked the Medic Update that we saw on August 1. Added: Danny Sullivan did confirm that this was a broad core quality update and that it would roll out into October. We saw most sites that were affected saw changes September 27. See MHC’s article on this update: The September 27 – early October algorithm update was likely about Google’s ability to assess trust.
- September 17, 2018 – This appears to be a significant quality update. It is possible that this update has a link component as well. We saw nice gains for a client for whom all we had done was a link audit. But, we also saw really nice gains for clients that did not have link related issues.
- September 8-11, 2018 – There was possibly a small update on this date. It might have been a local update. The local search forum has a good thread on it. I did not notice a whole lot of change other than a slight increase for one of our local clients. Dr. Pete from Moz originally posted that Mozcast was showing huge changes, but later said that it was a glitch. It is debatable whether there is a quality component to this update or not.
- September 4, 2018 – Stat reported seeing more image carousels in the SERPS. This could possibly impact traffic for some sites, especially if the presence of an image carousel causes your organic positions to be pushed down the page.
- August 22, 2018 – Barry Schwartz picked up some chatter about a possible quality update, but we did not see many changes in sites we monitor.
- August 17/18, 2018 – This was possibly a tweak to the August 1 medic update.
- August 7, 2018 – A large number of sites were moved over to mobile first indexing at this time. Note: John Mueller has said that when you get the message saying you’ve been moved to MFI, the move likely happened a few days before.
- August 1, 2018 – This was a massive update likely related to E-A-T. A large number of sites selling diet or nutrition products or medical devices were hit hard. There was likely also a local component to this update as many local pack rankings changed. There are also reports of non-YMYL sites being affected as well. In my opinion, this is the biggest update we have had in a long time.
- July 21-22, 2018 – This was a significant update. There is some speculation that this was an update to just mobile rankings. But, we also saw sites with nice gains in desktop rankings as well. This was probably a general quality update.
- July 16, 2018 – There was possibly a mild quality update on this day. We had several clients that saw significant gains on this day. All of them had been working hard on improving overall site quality.
- July 9, 2018 – The Speed Update started rolling out on this day. This update is designed to demote very slow pages. Slow pages can still rank well if they are by far the best result. The effect can be incremental, meaning that extremely slow pages may be demoted more strongly than moderately slow pages.
- July 3, 2018 – A large wave of emails went out from Google to inform site owners that they had been moved to mobile first indexing. Most sites that got these emails were unsophisticated plain HTML sites. Some responsive sites got these as well. While Google is working to make it so that rankings are not hurt by MFI, it is definitely possible, especially if you have a responsive site that has different navigation on mobile vs. desktop. Note: John Mueller has said that when you get the message saying you’ve been moved to MFI, the move likely happened a few days before.
- June 17-18, 2018 – I saw a number of sites that saw big ranking changes at this time. Many of these sites had previous link related issues. While this may have been a quality update, I think that this is more likely to be a Penguin tweak.
- June 16, 2018 – Possible small quality update. Barry Schwartz reported on increased chatter. However, I did not notice much change in sites that I monitor. (However, I did notice changes on June 17 and 18 – see above.) It is possible that these changes are connected to the wave of manual actions Google recently sent out. (See the next entry.)
- June 15, 2018 – Google sent out a wave of manual actions. It appears that these actions targeted sites using PBN’s and blackhat paid links. If your site saw changes at this time, it could be that Google devalued part of your link profile, or that competitors were affected.
- June 8, 2018 – I did not notice a big change in any sites that I monitor, but Barry Schwartz noticed an uptick in forum chatter around this day. Also, there are quite a few comments on his blog post from people who saw significant losses. This was likely a mild quality update.
- June 4, 2018 – There was possibly a mild quality update on this day.
- May 25, 2018 – GDPR went into effect on this day. If you are working with a site that has shut off traffic from European citizens this may affect traffic values starting on this day.
- May 22-24, 2018 – This looks like a significant update. Many sites that were affected had seen changes with previous quality updates. There was significant chatter in the blackhat forums on this update. Also, we have one client with big drops. As this site had been involved in link buying (not on our advice!) for a while, we are suspicious that this update may have a link component to it.
- May 17-18, 2018 – Quite a few sites were affected by this quality update. Most sites that I saw affected by this update were previously affected by a significant quality update, such as the one on April 30, 2018.
- May 14, 2018 – This looks like a mild quality update.
- May 7-8, 2018 – This is shaping up to be a significant overall site quality update.
- April 30, 2018 – Significant core quality update. Many sites that saw increases or decreases were ones that were affected by either the April 16, 2018 update or the March 9, 2018 update.
- April 29, 2018 (approx) – There was a bug in Google image search which caused many images to appear as blank rectangles. Although this is not technically an algorithm update, it’s something that could cause changes in search traffic for sites that receive a lot of traffic from image search.
- April 23, 2018 – This was not an announced update, but we saw a lot of sites have either positive or negative movement on this day. Some of our clients who have been working a lot on improving site quality saw gains at this time.
- April 16, 2018 – Announced core algorithm update. A lot of sites that saw movement on this day were sites that also were affected in the March 7-9 update. We also saw clients of ours that have been working on improving E-A-T see nice improvements as well.
- March 28, 2018 – Possible mild quality update.
- March 23, 2018 – This is shaping up to be a big update. It is confusing as well because SEMRush.com also did updates to their database at this time. The SEMRush update was one in which they cleared out a lot of “old” or unrelated keywords. As such, many sites that see a drop in SEMRush are not seeing a corresponding drop in analytics. BUT…there are quite a few sites that I have seen that did indeed see drops or gains at this time. This looks like a general quality update, but I will report more on this in my next newsletter.
- March 14, 2018 – There was more algorithmic turbulence on this day. Most sites that saw increases or decreases on this day were previously affected on either March 3 or 9.
- March 7-9, 2018 – This update was a big quality update, that was confirmed by Google. The March 9, 2018 Google update was one that benefitted sites that had been working on overall site quality. We saw many clients that saw beautiful improvements. If you were negatively affected by this update, it is not because you have been demoted, but rather, competitors have been promoted above you. Google confirmed that this update started rolling out on March 7, 2018. While a few sites saw changes March 8, the majority of sites that were affected saw their big changes on March 9.
- March 3/4, 2018 – This may have been a mild quality update. This is the start of a bunch of algorithmic turbulence in March.
- February 20, 2018 – This looks like a moderately significant quality update.
- February 15, 2018 – Changes to Google image pages. Google made changes to their image pages so that it is harder for people to view an image from the search results. This could result in more clicks to a website as Google’s new interface is encouraging people to visit the site on which the image is hosted.
- February 3, 2018 – There was a reduction in the number of featured snippets that Google is showing. If your site lost traffic starting on this day, it may be worthwhile to check and see if the number of featured snippets have dropped. (Note: If you are a SEMRush or Ahrefs subscriber, these counts should be available to you there.)
- January 28/29, 2018 – Possible mild quality update. I have not seen any obvious changes on sites I monitor. In the comments section of this article you’ll see that one user thinks that big pharma sites were hit. If I get more updates on this, I’ll let you know.
- January 15, 2018 – Possible mild quality update.
- December 26, 2017 – This appears to be a significant quality update. However, it is hard to judge this as many sites naturally see seasonal increases or decreases at this time. In my newsletter, I give some examples of clients of ours that saw nice gains in conjunction with this December 26 update. They were all clients that have been working hard on improving site quality.
- December 25, 2017 – A large number of manual actions were given out on this day. Many of the sites that were hit relied heavily on PBN links or scholarship links.
- December 18, 2017 – Possible quality update.
- December 15, 2017 – Many celebrity websites were hit algorithmically on this day so that they no longer ranked well for their name. Really though, in most cases the site did not deserve to rank well. This may have been a tweak to the effectiveness of exact match domains.
- December 12, 2017 – This appears to be a significant algorithm update. Barry Schwartz dubbed it the “Maccabees update” as it happened during Hanukkah. We have noticed that many sites that were hit were sites that were hit with quality updates. I do think that a big part of this update dealt with analysis of E-A-T (Experience, Authoritativeness and Trust.)
- December 5, 2017 – Possible quality update.
- November 27, 2017 – This change was not written about much or discussed much in the search community, but several of our clients saw increases or decreases that started this day. This was likely a mild quality update.
- November 15, 2017 – Possible quality update. I did not see much change in the sites that I monitor, but most of the algo flux tools showed a big increase. Algoroo noted this as the most fluctuation in the SERPS since December of 2016. I do not think that this is related to the Firefox default search engine change (see below) as the algo flux tools check rankings, not traffic.
- November 14, 2017 – Firefox changed their default search engine back from Yahoo to Google. If your site performs better on Yahoo than Google, you may see a drop that coincides with this date. Keep in mind that as users update their Firefox version, this could cause changes on other dates as well.
- October 28-30, 2017 – This appears to be a significant quality update. I saw several sites affected either positively or negatively that were previously affected on the dates of other significant quality updates.
- October 12, 2017 – Although I didn’t notice significant changes on this date, Glenn Gabe did. This was likely a small quality update.
- October 8, 2017 (and possibly Oct 6-9) – This was a relatively big algo change. I saw several sites that saw improvements after making changes in their E-A-T (Experience, Authority and Trust) which is something that is prominent in the Quality Raters Guidelines.
- October 4, 2017 – While I didn’t notice significant changes on this date, Glenn Gabe did. This may have been a quality update.
- September 27, 2017 – There was significant chatter about an update at this time. More info to follow as we get more information to review. I’m wondering if this is related to Apple’s switch to Google from Bing (see the next entry).
- September 25, 2017 – Apple started using Google rather than Bing as their default engine for Siri. This could potentially cause an increase or decrease depending on how Bing/Google dependant your site is. For example, sites that rank well on Bing, but not on Google likely will see a decrease.
- September 19, 2017 (Approx) – This seems to be a significant quality update. I saw a number of sites that saw improvements at this time after working hard to clean up quality issues.
- September 6 & September 8, 2017 – Small unannounced quality update. I had one client who previously saw nice improvements on March 8 (Fred) who saw further improvements on September 8. There are examples of a few more recoveries here.
- Early September 2017 – Google made a change in that they appear to be preferring AMP results in featured snippets on mobile. If you have lost traffic from featured snippets, this could explain why.
- August 19-22, 2017 – Moderately large quality update – . This was an unannounced update. I saw several sites on this day that saw drops. Each of them were sites that look dated, have technical issues and are not kept up to date. While there could be other issues, I feel that this change has to do with technical quality and freshness.
- August 7, 2017 – There was some kind of significant update on this day. So far, it looks like this is a link related algorithm. I saw a couple of clients who saw nice Penguin recoveries in the fall of 2016 who had further improvements on Aug 7. See screenshots here.
- July 26, 2017 – There was a significant change in rankings on this day that was noticed by most of the SERP tracking tools. I personally saw increases in some sites that previously had Penguin recoveries. As such, I think this may have been a tweak to the Penguin algorithm. But, it could have also been core quality as well. I’ll update this if I get more info.
- July 9, 2017 – There appears to be a core quality update on this day. A few people said that they saw reversals of changes that happened on June 26, 2017. Others who saw increases on June 26 saw no change on July 9. It sounds to me like this is a tweak to the way in which Google assesses site quality. It’s hard to point out any specifics though.
- June 26, 2017 – There was a significant algorithm update on this day. It appears to be related to overall site quality.
- June 19, 2017 – This change wasn’t talked about much, but I saw several spammy sites that saw big drops on this day.
- June 14, 2017 – Barry Schwartz reported a small update that seemed significant enough to report on. However, not many changes were seen around the web.
- June 13, 2017 – (Date approximate). There was a big change in the local search algorithm. According to local search expert, Joy Hawkins, several changes happened around this time. Some businesses without websites started to appear in the 3-pack, the proximity to the searcher was given more relevance, and also, it is possible that reviews were given less weight in the algorithm.
- May 17, 2017 – Unannounced significant algorithm change. It’s unclear whether this was an actual ranking shift, or whether changes in featured snippets are responsible for these changes. Glenn Gabe is seeing reversals of sites that were affected by recent quality updates and also sites that were affected that did not have featured snippet changes. This looks like another core quality algorithm update. There are good thoughts by Glenn Gabe on this update here and there is more followup from Barry Schwartz here.
- May 4, 2017 – Lots of sites with previous changes on quality update days saw changes on this day as well.
- April 26, 2017 – This was not written about widely, but I saw a number of sites with previous Panda issues have ups or downs on this day.
- April 17/18, 2017 – Unannounced core algorithm update. This change appears to have affected a lot of sites.
- April 4, 2017 – Mild algorithm turbulence.
- March 14, 2017 – Owl Update. This update is geared towards removing offensive results from autosuggest and featured snippets.
- March 7-8, 2017 – Fred update. This was a major quality update. It appears to have affected sites that existed primarily for SEO reasons. I also think that at this time Google tweaked the algorithm to reward sites with good E-A-T (Experience, Authority and Trust).
- February 7, 2017 – Large core algorithm update . This update affected a lot of sites. I saw several sites that I think dropped in rankings because of a lack of E-A-T (Experience, Authority and Trust).
- February 3, 2017 – New algorithm to devalue spammy sites in Japan.
- February 1, 2017 – Large algorithm update that appears to be related to links. This may have been a tweak to the Penguin algorithm. Some suspected that Google became better able to find and devalue links from PBNs (private blog networks) at this time.
- January 23, 2017 – Unannounced significant algorithm update.
- January 16, 2017 – Unannounced significant algorithm update. However, this was also Martin Luther King day, so temporary traffic dips could be due to the holiday.
- December 15, 2016 – All of the online algo checkers showed an increase on this day, but it’s hard to say whether it was an actual significant algorithm update.
- November 18, 2016 – Significant core algorithm update. May have been a reversal of the Nov 10 update.
- November 10, 2016 – Significant core algorithm update. Glenn Gabe was suspicious that this could have been a test of the mobile first index. However, I have seen a number of sites that were hit on this day that had on-site quality issues.
- October 5, 2016 – This was probably a tweak to the Penguin algorithm. Some sites that I monitor that saw improvements with Penguin 4.0 saw further improvements on this date. Also, many sites with link issues lost traffic starting this day. I think that this is probably not because Penguin penalized the sites, but rather, because Penguin devalued links that were previously helping.
- September 23, 2016 – Penguin 4.0. This was a huge update to Penguin. Now, Penguin no longer demotes sites, but rather, the algorithm simply devalues unnatural links that are pointing to your site.
- September 15, 2016 – Significant unannounced update. Some thought this might be a test of Penguin, but it appears to be quality related.
- September 2, 2016 – Significant core algorithm update.
- August 2, 2016 – All of the weather tracking tools showed something big going on on this day.
- July 27, 2016 – Significant unannounced update.
- June 28, 2016 – Significant unannounced update. Likely related to quality.
- June 14, 2016 – Possible unannounced update.
- April 12, 2016 (approx) – Many site owners notice an increase in zombie traffic. If you had an increase in traffic at this time, with no increase in conversions, this may be why. More info on this here.
- April 9, 2016 – Google drops in-depth articles from the SERPS.
- April 9-10, 2016 – Google gave out a lot of outbound unnatural links notices. An outbound unnatural links notice often doesn’t affect the traffic of the site that received the notice. However, if your site was the recipient of links from a penalized site, then you would have lost the PageRank that you once received from those links. Most of the outbound link notices were likely for sites that offered a link for a product review.
- April 1, 2016 – Featured snippets start appearing in European countries.
- March 29, 2016 – Unannounced algorithm update. – Looks like this one may have been about quality, but it’s hard to say.
- March 11-15 (approx) – Possible unnanounced mild algorithm update. Some people suspected that this change had to do with an increase in the amount of Knowledge Graph results and Featured snippets. Dr. Pete from Moz noticed an increase in People also ask results in the search results starting March 11, 2016.
- March 1, 2016 – Possible unannounced mild algorithm update. I didn’t personally see any obvious changes on this date, but quite a few webmasters reported seeing ranking changes. It is possible that these changes were a result of a temporary increase in feature snippets in the SERPS.
- February 18, 2016 – Google changed the SERP layout to now include four paid ads at the top of the results for many searches and none on the side. This could possibly result in a lower click through rate for some sites that have high organic rankings.
- February 9, 2016 – Possible changes in the mobile algorithm. Accuranker noted huge fluctuations in mobile rankings. However, not much was reported amongst site owners. Dr. Pete from Moz noted that these changes may be due to more deep linking for Android Apps in the SERPS.
- February 5, 2016 – Possible changes in the mobile algorithm. Dr. Pete from Moz noticed a big jump in the number of sites that had the “mobile friendly” tag appearing on the first page of mobile results. Other ranking tools picked this up as well. However, there was not much chatter amongst webmasters. Plus, it appears that this change reverted the next day. This may have been some type of test of a new mobile algorithm change. Dr. Pete from Moz noted that these changes may be due to more deep linking for Android Apps in the SERPS.
- February 5, 2016 – Google has penalized a large Japanese link network. If you had backlinks coming from this network then you likely saw a drop in rankings.
- January 17, 2016 – SEOs reported seeing a LOT of changes in the SERPS once again. Google confirmed that this was not Penguin, but rather, more changes to Google’s core algorithm.
- January 8-10, 2016 (approx) – Changes to Google’s core algorithm. There was no name for this update as Google said it was just one of the many changes they make to their core algorithm all year. However, many webmasters noticed significant changes in rankings at this time. There were quite a few who were convinced this was a Penguin update, but I personally was not seeing any changes on Penguin hit sites that I monitor. Others were thinking this could be Panda. But ultimately it was an overall change to the core algorithm. At this point there is no specific advice for recovery other than to continue to improve the overall quality of your site.
- December 17, 2015 – Google announced that they will be indexing https by default from now on.
- December 16, 2015 – Possible Quality/Phantom tremor. (Note – These “algo changes” are hard to pinpoint. These dates are ones on which a lot of people reported significant changes in rankings. Glenn Gabe noted that many sites that saw ranking changes were ones that were also affected by Google’s Quality (Phantom) Update. Instead of naming these “Possible Quality/Phantom tremors” I could also call them, “unknown algorithm changes”.
- December 14, 2015 – You may notice an “update” label in Google Search Console Analytics data. This does not actually represent a Google update, but rather a change in the way that Google displays impressions and clicks for websites and apps.
- December 12, 2015 – Possible Quality/Phantom tremor.
- December 10, 2015 – Possible Quality/Phantom tremor.
- December 4, 2015 – Possible Quality/Phantom tremor.
- November 28, 2015 – Possible Quality/Phantom tremor.
- November 19, 2015 – Possibly an update to the Quality/Phantom algorithm. Many webmasters noticed ranking changes at this time although it is not obvious whether this was a Panda related change. Glenn Gabe noticed that many sites with quality issues were affected.
- November 2, 2015 – Possible Panda tremor. I personally saw several sites with Panda issues either increase or decrease on this date. However, other SEOs who do Panda work did not notice changes. This “new Panda” may make it difficult to determine when Panda related changes are happening.
- November 1, 2015 – Google’s app interstitial penalty goes live. Mobile friendly pages that show a large interstitial app will no longer get the mobile friendly label. This could cause a drop in mobile traffic.
- October 14/15, 2015 – Possible Panda movement – Some wondered if they were seeing more “zombie” traffic being reported. (Zombie traffic is useless non-legitimate traffic that Google can occasionally send). However, several sites reported Panda improvements or hits on this date. Still, many sites that are awaiting Panda recovery have not seen any movement at all.
- October 7, 2015 (approx) – Possible unannounced algo shift. While nothing official was announced on this day, many webmasters saw a change in rankings. Some speculated that this was Google testing Penguin. Others thought it was a continuation of the long rollout of Panda that started in July. Personally, I saw some small increases in a couple of sites that had both Penguin and Panda issues.
- October 5, 2015 (approx) – Google announced that they have released a new algorithm to deal with how they display hacked sites in the search engine results. This change affects 5% of queries, which is a fairly big thing. If you noticed a drop on or around this date, you may want to investigate for evidence of hacking. (Quick tip…try doing Google searches like this – site:yoursite.com viagra | cialis | ugg | kors to see if there are pages on your site that are hosting hacked content.
- October 1-14 (approx) – Do you run a Wix website? For some reason Google has had trouble crawling these and they have been dropping out of Google’s index. Google became aware of the problem around October 13 and is working to fix it. This change also affected other websites that use AJAX crawling with an escaped fragment.
- September 16, 2015 – Possible Panda tremor. Glenn Gabe noticed several sites seeing significant Panda hits/recoveries on this date. Still, most sites awaiting Panda recovery saw nothing.
- September 16, 2015 (approx) – iOS 9 was released along with a feature to allow users to block ads. It appears that this feature also blocks scripts that track analytics. If you see a drop in Google Analytics traffic around this time, compare your mobile traffic to desktop to see if there is a big difference. It may be that you’re not actually seeing a traffic drop, but that visits from iPhones and iPads are no longer being tracked.
- September 15, 2015 – Google image referral bug – This bug affected images outside of the US. Sites that see a lot of referrals from Google images may have a temporary drop on this day. It was fixed as of September 16.
- September 9, 2015 – Possible Panda tremor. I didn’t personally see much Panda action on this day, but Glenn Gabe noticed some sites seeing Panda related movement.
- September 2, 2015 – Possible Panda tremor.
- August 31, 2015 – Possible Panda action – Panda 4.2 started rolling out in mid July but very few people reported changes. Around August 31, a few sites noticed some Panda related movement. For example, seroundtable.com which had seen an increase in July saw a slight decrease on August 31. Still, most SEOs who work with Panda hit sites saw very little movement on either of these dates.
- August 6, 2015 – There were big changes in how Google displays local listings. It appears that in most places where Google would previously display 7 local listings, they are now only displaying 3. This is not just a US change, but appears to be international. While some sites will see a drop in traffic because they were previously in the lower half of the 7-pack, others may see an increase in traffic because Google is no longer displaying the full address which may cause more people to click through to the website.
- August 1, 2015 (approximate date) – Unannounced algo update. Many people saw dramatic changes in rankings. I had several Penguin hit clients who saw significant improvements at this time, but Gary Illyes from Google told me that this was not Penguin related. It appears that most people who saw changes at this time had those changes revert a few days later.
- July 28, 2015 – Google shuts down unverified Google My Business Listings.
- Late July 2015 – Many webmasters are reporting that their images are not being seen on Google searches and that the number of images indexed is decreasing. If this happened to you, check to see if you have a manual action in Google Search Console. It appears that there was a large number of image mismatch manual actions sent out recently.
- Starting July 17, 2015 and continuing to roll..possibly for months – Panda 4.2. Google announced that they started a slow rollout of Panda, after a 10 month wait. They stated that this rollout could take months to complete. As of July 27, there have been a couple of reported cases of slight upticks, but no big recoveries reported.
- July 14, 2015 – Possible Phantom / Quality Update tremor.
- June 28, 2015 – Possible Phantom / Quality Update tremor.
- June 17, 2015 – There was a big change noticed on all of the SERP trackers, but it was not Panda or Penguin. Google confirmed that a change happened but said it was one of the many changes they make on a regular basis. Dr. Pete from Moz speculated that the change had something to do with Wikipedia switching to https but this was denied by Gary Illyes from Google. There is a good chance that this was a Possible Phantom / Quality Update tremor.
- June 8, 2015 – Possible Phantom / Quality Update tremor.
- Sometime in June, 2015 – Google app indexing is available to all app publishers now. This can change the rankings somewhat. For example, app indexing has caused some Etsy sellers to rank higher.
- May 27, 2015 – Possible Phantom / Quality Update tremor.
- May 9, 2015 – Many sites given manual actions for thin content.
- Last week of April: Possible changes to the Google news algorithm.
- April 29, 2015 – May 1, 2015 – The Quality Update, also known as Phantom 2. This was a fairly large update, which was quite similar to Panda. The focus appears to be on on-site quality, but Google has not given much instruction on recovery other than a vague, “Improve your quality”.
- April 25, 2015 (date approximate) – Possible unannounced algorithm change. Many people saw ranking changes and the tools like Mozcast and Algoroo reported changes that appeared to be unrelated to the mobile friendly algorithm.
- April 22, 2015 (or possibly starting within the following week) – The mobile friendly algorithm was launched. This algorithm gives a boost to sites that Google deems mobile friendly. It only affects mobile rankings and not desktop.
- Sometime in April (probably): Google likely launched a change to the doorway page algorithm that punished sites with doorway pages. However, no one in the SEO world really noticed much change so it’s hard to say exactly when this happened.
- March 25, 2015 – Possible unannounced algorithm change. Some people suspected that this was a test of Panda. John Mueller from Google commented that these changes and those seen around March 18-20 were likely just normal algorithm fluctuations.
- March 18-20, 2015 (dates approximate) – Possible unannounced algorithm change. Many people saw ranking changes, but this was not Panda or Penguin.
- March 10, 2015 – Google know showing drink recipes in the knowledge snippets. This might affect some recipe sites.
- February 19, 2015 – A bug causes “This site may be hacked” messages to appear for a large number of sites, resulting in massive temporary traffic drops.
- February 4, 2015 – Possible unannounced algorithm update. This was not Panda or Penguin. Glenn Gabe noticed that many of the sites that were affected by this change had quality issues, however.
- February 4, 2015 – Google launched a mortgage calculator. This won’t affect traffic for most sites.
- January 26, 2015 – Possible unannounced algorithm change. This likely was not Panda or Penguin.
- January 16, 2015 – The Knowledge Graph displays ticket links. This won’t affect most people’s traffic, but could have big changes if you are a site selling show tickets.
- December 22, 2014 (+ a few days for rollout) – The Pigeon Algorithm, affecting the local search results rolled out to English speaking countries outside of the US such as Canada, Australia and the UK.
- December 5-6, 2014 – Penguin fluctuations.
- December 2, 2014 – Possible Penguin refresh. This was likely a continuation of Penguin 3.0 that started on October 17. Many sites saw further hits or increases on December 2, but most of these appeared to be short lived.
- November 27, 2014 – Confirmed refresh of Penguin. This was a continuation of Penguin 3.0 that started on October 17. This was also Thanksgiving weekend, so changes in traffic around this time can be difficult to interpret.
- November 24, 2014 – A large Polish link network was taken down by Google.
- November 14, 2014 – Google drops the carousel for local results. This likely didn’t result in much traffic fluctuation, but could possibly have caused some changes for some small businesses.
- November 13, 2014 – Possible unannounced algo update. There is a possibility that this was a mild refresh of Penguin. However, I did not see much change in sites I monitor.
- November 10-11, 2014 – Possible unannounced algo update. This likely was not Panda or Penguin, but many people saw ranking changes.
- October 24, 2014 – Unannounced Panda refresh. This was not announced by Google but most of us who do Panda work noticed dramatic changes in some Panda hit sites at this time. 6 months later when we were wondering why Panda was no longer refreshing, John Mueller confirmed that the last refresh was at the end of October.
- October 22, 2014 – Possible tweaking of the Penguin algorithm.
- October 21, 2014 – Google Pirate Update – Aimed at illegal torrent sites and other sites with large amounts of pirated content.
- October 17, 2014 – Penguin 3.0 refresh. After waiting for an entire year, Penguin finally refreshed on this date. This was not an Update but rather a refresh which means that nothing changed in how Google makes Penguin calculations, but they just re-ran the algorithm. This was a rolling algorithm refresh that had no fixed end. However, most sites that saw changes saw them on October 17-18, October 22, November 27, December 2, 5 or 6. This was supposed to be a refresh that would allow people who had done cleanup work to recover, but many sites that should have recovered, did not.
- October 9, 2014 – Possible testing of the Penguin algorithm. This is not confirmed, but I had many people who had sites previously affected by Penguin contact me to say that rankings were up. In most cases these disappeared within 24 hours. If you saw a short spike in traffic on this day it may be that your rankings were part of Google’s testing on Penguin.
- October 12, 2014 – Probable Panda Tremor – Many sites that were previously affected by Panda 4.1 in late September saw an increase or decrease in traffic at this time.
- October 4-6, 2014 (dates approximate) – Possible unannounced update – Many people saw dramatic changes in rankings at this time. Most likely this was a continuation of the slow rollout of Panda.
- September 29, 2014 – Possible Panda Tremor – People who do a lot of work with Panda sites saw a lot of up and down movement on sites on this day. Some had seen no movement with the initial rollout of Panda 4.1 on September 25.
- September 25, 2014 (and continuing off and on for 1-2 weeks) – Panda 4.1. This was a slow rollout that apparently took a week or more and may have started a few days prior to September 25.
- September 21-23, 2014 (dates approximate) – Google gives out many manual penalties to private blog network sites. If you used PBN links to rank, you may have seen a drop at this time.
- September 16, 2014 – Google penalizes several Turkish news sites. This is not likely to affect most sites’ traffic.
- September 5, 2014 – Probable unannounced Panda refresh. Google did not announce a refresh of Panda on this date, but many people who do work with Panda hit sites noticed significant changes.
- August 28, 2014 – Authorship completely removed.
- August 18, 2014 – Google took action against a European and a German link network.
- August 6, 2014 – Google announces that HTTPS is possibly a ranking signal. (It turned out to be an extremely small signal, if anything.) If you migrated to HTTPS and did not do things properly you could see a drop in rankings around the time of your migration.
- July 24, 2014 – The Pigeon Algorithm rolls out affecting local search results in the US only.
- July 16, 2014 – Google disables discussion search. This is not likely to affect many sites, but if you run a forum you could possibly see a decrease in traffic at this time.
- July 5, 2014 – Possible Unannounced Update
- June 28, 2014 – Possible Unannounced Update – May have been due to a drop in Authorship photos.
- June 24, 2014 – Possible Mild Unannounced Update – I debated even including this one as not many sites appeared to be affected but it is possible that Google made some significant algorithmic changes on this date.
- June 21, 2014 – Possible Mild Unannounced Update – The tools that track changes in the SERPS all noticed something was going on, but there was not a lot of chatter on search engine forums about changes.
- June 12, 2014 – Payday Loans 3 – This update to the Payday Loans algorithm now targets spammy queries as well as spammy sites.
- May 28, 2014 (approx) – Possible unannounced update. Many people thought that this was a Penguin refresh, but Google denied it. Personally, I do not think that this was related to Penguin.
- May 20, 2014 – Panda 4.0 – This was a large Panda update that affected many sites. Quite a few sites that were previously hit by Panda saw very dramatic increases in traffic. This was a whole new version of Panda with a new architecture that was apparently much more lenient. My note: Many sites that saw changes with Panda 4.0 started to see changes a few days before the official announcement of Panda 4.0.
- May 16, 2014 (approx) – Payday Loans 2 – Google made the announcement on May 20 that they had released a new version of this spam algorithm that targets spam in competitive niches. You don’t have to be a Payday Loans site to be affected. This caused a lot of confusion as Payday Loans was updated a couple of days before a massive Panda update (Panda 4.0).
- May 2 & May 7, 2014 – Possible unannounced update. However, this seemed to revert on May 12. Many big brands saw rankings change around this time.
- April 20-23, 2014 (approx) – Poss Panda refresh.
- April 18, 2014 – Google penalizes blog network, Post Joint.
- April 18. 2014 – Many song lyrics sites affected again.
- April 14, 2014 – Possible unannounced update. May have been a mild Panda refresh.
- April 8, 2014 (and previously) – Google took action on seven Japanese link networks.
- April 5, 2014 – Many song lyrics sites demoted.
- March 24, 2014 – Possible unannounced update – could be a Panda refresh.
- March 20, 2014 (approx) – Google took action on a Greek link network.
- March 19, 2014 – My Blog Guest gets penalized. This is a network that many used to find sites on which to post guest posts. Many sites received inbound and outbound unnatural link penalties at this time.
- March 14, 2014 – Google penalizes link networks in Germany, Italy and Spain.
- March 5, 2014 (approx) – Google started publishing sponsored knowledge graph posts. This is not an algo update, but could affect your traffic if a competitor starts appearing above you because they’ve paid for inclusion.
- February 13-16, 2014 (approx) – Unannounced update. There is a good chance this was a Panda refresh.
- February 6, 2014 – The Page Layout Algorithm refreshes. This refresh did not seem to affect many sites.
- February 6, 2014 – Google penalizes several German link networks
- January 29, 2014 – Google takes action against the Buzzea, a French link network.
- January 21, 2014 (date approximate) – Google drops discussion filter from search – This may affect traffic to a small degree for forum sites.
- January 11, 2014 – Possible Panda refresh
- January 8-9, 2014 – Unannounced update
- December 19, 2013 – Authorship removed.
- December 17, 2013 – Possible unannounced algorithm change. All of the SERP trackers showed lots of change on this date but this was not Panda or Penguin.
- December 13, 2013 – Google takes down link network Backlinks.com
- December 6, 2013 – Google takes down a large link network, Anglo rank as well as some other unnamed link networks.
- December 4, 2013 – Google adds car info to the knowledge graph. This can definitely affect search traffic for sites in the automobile industry.
- November 27-29, 2013 (dates approximate) – Possible unannounced update. Barry Schwartz reported that a lot of sites were reporting traffic losses, but it was possible that this was just low traffic due to the Thanksgiving holiday.
- November 14, 2013 – Unannounced update – Google did not announce an update, but a LOT of websites had their traffic adversely affected on this day.
- November 1-5, 2013 (dates approximate) – Possible unannounced update.
- October 16, 2013 – Possible unannounced update. It was speculated that this was related to Penguin, but we have no confirmation of this.
- October 4, 2013 – Penguin 2.1 update – This Penguin update affected a lot of sites.
- September 30, 2013 – Knowledge graph adds musician carousel – This probably doesn’t affect most sites, but certainly could affect the traffic to music sites.
- September 29, 2013 – The knowledge graph gets filters – This probably didn’t have a big impact on most sites, but could possibly affect traffic for some.
- September 26, 2013 – Google annouced the launch of Hummingbird. HOWEVER, they announced that Hummingbird had actually launched about a month previously. Most SEO’s were not aware of a major change although there were some unexplained updates (see below) that could explain this launch.
- September 20, 2013 – Large Russian link network, Ghost Rank (and possibly others) shut down.
- September 12, 2013 – Unannounced update – May have been Hummingbird
- September 4, 2013 – Unannounced update – May have been Hummingbird
- August 20, 2013 – Unannounced update – May have been Hummingbird
- August 6, 2013 – Google announces In Depth Articles. This likely did not have a drastic effect on the traffic of most sites. But, if you notice a change on this date, it may be that some of your articles were either pushed up or down in the SERPS depending on whether Google thought they were worthy of the “In Depth Article” label.
- August 1, 2013 – Google Analytics Reporting bug – For many, but not all Google analytics users, GA just stopped reporting traffic. I’m not sure if this has been corrected or not. But, if you see a sharp dip on Aug 1, it’s probably just a reporting error.
- July 26-29, 2013 (dates approximate) – Possible Unannounced update. The general consensus was that this probably was not a Panda or Penguin update. It is even debatable whether anything actually happened.
- July 19, 2013 – The Knowledge Graph expanded significantly.
- July 12-18, 2013 (dates approximate)- Confirmed Panda update. This was the first of the new “softer” Panda updates.
- June 27, 2013 (and surrounding dates) – “Multi-Week” Algorithm update. There were many ranking fluctuations during the last week in June.
- June 19, 2013 – Possible unannounced update. However, if you read the comments, many people thought this was a Google Analytics bug.
- June 14, 2013 – Google changes the image carousel in image search. This *might* affect image search queries.
- June 11, 2013 – Payday Loans algorithm rolls out. This algorithm doesn’t just affect payday loans sites, but any site that has the potential for super spammy SERPS.
- June 5, 2013 – Unannounced update
- June 5, 2013 – Knowledge Graph adds nutrition info. This won’t affect most sites, but certainly can cause a drop in rankings for calorie counting/fitness/recipe sites.
- May 22, 2013 – Penguin 2.0
- May 21, 2013 – Domain Crowding update – designed to create diversity in the SERPS.
- May 15, 2013 – Ghost link network deindexed and Text Link Ads (TLA) targeted.
- May 4-May 9, 2013– Widespread unknown update. Matt Cutts confirmed it wasn’t Penguin. Could be Panda? Could be something else? Glenn Gabe dubbed this the Phantom update.
- April 6, 2013 – Potential unannounced update – Although, if you read the comments, it sounds like perhaps there was a temporary glitch with Google analytics
- March 27, 2013 – Google Updates its Quality Guidelines for News – “If a site mixes news content with affiliate, promotional, advertorial, or marketing materials (for your company or another party), we strongly recommend that you separate non-news content on a different host or directory, block it from being crawled with robots.txt, or create a Google News Sitemap for your news articles only. Otherwise, if we learn of promotional content mixed with news content, we may exclude your entire publication from Google News.”
- March 15, 2013 – Google announces no more regular Panda updates – From this point on, Google will no longer be announcing Panda updates. They will gradually roll out with the regular algorithm changes.
- March 14, 2013 – Panda Refresh? – Google said that they would release Panda this weekend. No official date was given, but most SEO’s believe it was around March 14…possibly March 13.
- March 7, 2013 – Google Penalizes SAPE links – A Russian link network, SAPE links is penalized so that links coming from this network are likely worthless.
- February 22, 2013 – News Websites Penalized – Google reduced the PageRank of many UK news websites to zero because they have been selling links in the form of advertorials
- January 31, 2013 – Google changes Google+ (Maps) algorithm with respect to false reviews. – It is debatable whether this will cause a loss in rankings, but Google did say that they would be removing reviews that they felt were fake.
- January 23, 2013 – Google changes how they present images in image search – While this was not an algorithm change, it could result in fewer visitors to a site. Now, image search shows images directly on Google. A user needs to click a link to go directly to your site.
- January 22, 2013 – Panda Refresh
- January 17, 2013 – Unofficial update? – Although no update was announced, many webmasters noticed significant changes in traffic around this date.
- December 21, 2012 – Panda Refresh
- December 13, 2012 – Safe Search Changes – Google updated the way that Safe Search works so that it is now more strict on explicit content.
- December 10, 2012 – Unannounced update? – No official update was announced, but many webmasters were compaining about traffic changes at this time.
- December 4, 2012 – Google expands the Knowledge graph.
- November 21, 2012 – Panda Refresh
- November 15, 2012 (approx) – Google image update? – Many webmasters noticed that they were seeing fewer referrals from Google images.
- November 5, 2012 – Panda Refresh
- October 23, 2012 – Scraper update in Japan – Google Japan makes changes to its algorithm to combat scraper sites.
- October 9, 2012 – Page Layout Update #2 – Google made changes to the page layout update which penalizes sites that have poor content above the fold.
- October 5, 2012 – Penguin update.
- October 1, 2012 – Possible Image Search Update.
- September 28, 2012 – EMD update – This update demoted low quality exact match domains.
- September 27, 2012 – Panda update – This was a major update that affected a lot of sites.
- September 18, 2012 – Panda refresh
- September 14, 2012 – Diversification update – This was a small update intended to diversify search results.
- August 28, 2012 – Unknown possible update – Many webmasters complained of traffic losses but no update was announced.
- August 20, 2012 – Minor Panda Refresh
- August 14-20, 2012 (approximately) – Google began occasionally only showing users 7 search results on the first page.
- August 16, 2012 – Possible unknown update. Many webmasters were noticing traffic drops.
- August 10, 2012 – DMCA takedown update. Sites can be penalized for having too many DMCA takedown requests.
- July 24, 2012 – Panda Refresh
- July 19, 2012 – A Large number of unnatural link manual actions were sent out.
- July 3, 2012 – Image search stopped working for Internet Explorer users. (Fixed July 16)
- June 25, 2012 – Panda Refresh
- June 8, 2012 – Panda Refresh
- June 1, 2012 – Google shopping changes to a paid model with more prominent results for sites that pay for inclusion.
- May 25, 2012 – Penguin Update
- May 16, 2012 – Knowledge Graph rolls out
- May 15, 2012 (or previous to this) – Google deindexes many free directories.
- May 4, 2012 – Google announces changes to the news real time updates.
- April 27, 2012 – Panda update (minor)
- April 24, 2012 – First Penguin Update
- April 19, 2012 – Panda update
- April 16, 2012 – Parked Domain bug – A mistake caused Google to treat some sites as parked domains.
- March 23, 2012 – Panda refresh
- March 19, 2012 – BMR blog network deindexed
Earlier Panda refreshes/updates
- February 27, 2012
- January 18, 2012
- November 18, 2011
- September 28, 2011
- August 12, 2011
- July 23, 2011
- June 21, 2011
- May 9, 2011
- April 11, 2011
- February 23, 2011(initial rollout of Panda)
Dr. Marie Haynes is recognized as a leader in the SEO industry and has 10+ years of experience helping businesses of all sizes improve their site quality. She is a frequent contributor to Moz.com and Search Engine Watch and a regular speaker at Pubcon and SMX. Marie was named one of the top five industry influencers by Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, and constantly stays up to date with changes to Google’s algorithms to the benefit of her clients. To contact Marie, visit the contact page. For media Inquiries, click here.