History of the Google Algorithm

Journey back in time along Google’s algorithm updates.

October - Penguin 4.0

Two years since the previous Penguin update, Google release a multi-phase update aimed to devalue bad links rather than penalise sites.

September - Possum Update

Many changes to the filter on local packs, such as being based more on address rather than physical location, but the location of the searcher was proving to be more significant.

May - Mobile-friendly 2

With a year passed since the initial mobile-friendly update, another ranking boost would be given to sites that are mobile-friendly.

February - AdWords: Goodbye Sidebar

Google remove ads from the right-hand sidebar to having 4 ads feature above and 3 below the organic search results.

August - In-depth Articles

An update to help users find in-depth articles, as research suggested that 10% of the daily information needs of users involved learning about a broad topic. The block of in-depth articles returned three results, which included an image thumbnail, title, description, publisher icon and publisher.

In-depth articles


September 27 - Exact-Match Domain (EMD)

Here is an announcement on Twitter by the head of Google’s spam-fighting team about a change they had made to crackdown on exact-match domains (EMDs), which are websites with search terms in their domain name.

Google EMD Update

May 16 - Knowledge Graph

The Knowledge Graph was a massive push towards semantic search. A SERP-integrated display showcasing relevant facts and images about certain people, places and things.

January 10 - Search + Your World

Google announced a major move towards personalisation, by pushing Google+ social data and user profiles into SERPs. Google also added a button to switch off personalisation.


November 2 - Freshness Update

The Freshness update was an algorithm change which primarily affected time-sensitive results, with a greater focus on recent content. This algorithmic improvement was also designed to better understand how to differentiate between the level of freshness users needed in a search query.


June - Caffeine

caffeine web-indexing

A boost to Google’s raw speed and revamp to its indexing infrastructure. Caffeine resulted in a 50% fresher index by integrating crawling and indexation. That meant all content was searchable within seconds after it was crawled, not just real-time content, which benefited both searchers and content owners.

May: May Day

Here Matt Cutts, who leads the web spam team at Google, talks about the May Day algorithm change and how it was impacting on long-tail sites (Long Tail is a way to describe niche marketing). Sites with large-scale thin content were also hit hard – a foreshadow to the Panda update.

April 10 - Google Places

The launch of Google Places re-branded the Local Business Center, offering tighter integration with local search results which included new local advertising options.


December - Real-Time Search

Real-time search for Google News, Twitter feeds and newly indexed content were integrated into a real-time feed on search pages.

February - Vince

A major update boosting big brands in search results. Matt Cutts explains how this change is about factoring trust into the algorithm for generic queries, which may convey the importance and value of a page.


April - Dewey

Dewey was an unspecified update, but there was some shuffling going on within the search tectonics which were suspected as being changes to Google’s internal properties.


June - Buffy

The Buffy update was an accumulation of small algorithm changes and was named in honor of Vanessa Fox who was leaving Google.

May - Universal Search

cambridge map search

Google combined traditional search results with Images, Maps, Books, Video and News, which radically changed their format.


November - Supplemental Update

Google made changes to the supplemental index and claimed that results labelled as “supplemental” was not a penalty, which confused SEOs as these pages weren’t making it to the main index.


December - Big Daddy

The Big Daddy update changed the way in which Google would deal with URL canonicalization and redirects.

October - Google Local

Having launched Local Business Centre earlier in the year to encourage businesses to update their information, Google combined its Maps data into the LBC which also altered local SEO.

October - Jagger

Google rolled out a series of updates to crackdown on low-quality links, paid links and link farms.

June - Personalized Search

Tapping into the search histories of individual users and altering their search results was the goal of the Personalised Search update, which was an upgrade to previous personalization attempts which required custom settings and profiles.

May - Bourbon

Bourbon dealt out improvements on how non-canonical (www vs non-www) URLs and duplicate content were treated.

February - Allegra

The particulars of the Allegra update were undefined, but some webmasters speculated that it geared towards penalising suspicious links.


February - Brandy

Brandy represented a number of changes which included a huge index expansion, more focus on anchor text relevance and the notion of link “neighborhoods.” Google also rolled out Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), which upgraded keyword analysis with the understanding of synonyms.

January - Austin

Austin continued where Florida left off and continued the clampdown on misleading on-page schemes like invisible text and META-tag stuffing. It was speculated that Google introduced the ‘Hilltop’ algorithm and began to take page relevance seriously.


June/July - Esmerelda & Fritz

Esmeralda was the final monthly update, signalling major infrastructure changes at Google. Then Fritz ended the monthly ‘Google Dance’ with an incremental approach, where the index was changing on a daily basis.

May - Dominic

Dominic brought what seemed to be radical changes in the way Google reported backlinks and other changes that were unclear. ‘Freshbot’ and ‘Deepcrawler’ (Google bots) crawled the web and many sites are stated to have bounced.

April - Cassandra

Cassandra clamped down on linking from co-owned domains and hidden text and links.

February - Boston

The first named Google update announced at SES Boston included emphasis on quality backlinks. Google aimed towards large monthly updates which included algorithm updates as well as index refreshes.

2000 - 2002

Google Dance

Before the days of rolling, continual updates, Google made changes in big chunks by calling together its data centers along with its index and cache. These updates could take many days to complete, during which noticeable fluctuations would occur on the Search Results Pages and would appear to dance around.

Google Toolbar

google toolbar


Google launch the Google Toolbar as a free browser plug-in to enable users to search for information. Google CEO and co-founder, Larry Page said, “The Google Toolbar provides fast access to Google’s best search tools from any web page on the Internet. Additionally, the powerful feature set enables users to save time while searching for information.”