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Over the years from the turn of the century, the Google algorithm has been updated a number of times. Below are some major updates from the year 2000 to 2020.

Updates from the early 2000s

On December 1st 2000, Google Inc the developer of Google launched the Google toolbar and the Toolbar PageRank (TBPR) with it – to understand pagerank, read this article. It enabled users to search for information from any web page using Google’s fast search technology for free. This began SEO changes.

In 2003 there was a total of three confirmed and four unconfirmed updates. On February 1st, 2003 Boston was announced at SES Boston, the first-named Google update. The first few updates were the “Google Dance” a combination of algorithm changes and major index refreshes, although Google had originally aimed at a major monthly update. The monthly idea vanished as updates became more frequent. On July 1st 2003 the Fritz update brought an end to “Google Dance” the index was changed daily. The third confirmed update named Florida was announced on November 1st, 2003.

On February 1st, 2004 Google announced the update Brandy. The changes rolled out included Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), major index expansion, increased attention to the relevance of anchor text, and the link “neighborhoods” concept. It increased Google’s synonyms understanding and increased the accuracy of keywords analysis.

Nofollow announced on the 1st of January 2005 that it was for cleaning up links that were not vouched for, this included spam comments. On May 1st, 2005 Bourbon was announced and it involved 3.5 changes in search quality and changed the treatment of non-canonical URLs and duplicate content.

Universal Search was the only confirmed update for 2007 announced on the 1st of May. Google joined search results with News, Images, Videos, and other verticals.

2008 saw two confirmed updates. On April 1st, 2008 Dewy was announced, it was suspected Google was pushing its internal properties down but there wasn’t sufficient evidence. On the 1st of August, 2008 Google Suggest was brought in and it aided in displaying suggested searches as users typed questions in a drop-down menu.

In 2009 the first confirmed update was Rel-canonical Tag on the 1st of February. It allowed canonicalization signals to be sent to search bots by webmasters. The second update was Real-time Search on the 1st of December. Real-time search for different sources was integrated into a feed on SERPs.


Updates from 2011-2020.

Most of Google’s important algorithm updates started in 2011. The Panda update was launched on February 23rd, 2011 and was one of the major updates. The update mainly focused on sites that were specifically made to rank in the search engines. It determined whether sites genuinely offered the information the word a user searched. Affiliate sites and sites with little content were adversely affected by the Panda update. It impacted SEO, as site owners have to create high-quality pages.

In 2012 there three major updates, the Venice, Penguin, and Pirate updates. Venice was launched on February 27th, 2012 and it included search results depending on a users IP address or location. The Penguin update announced on April 24th, 2012 was designed to deal with different spam issues such as keyword stuffing. Pirate was the last major update and was announced on August 10th, 2012. It dealt with penalizing sites with continuous copyright violations.

The Hummingbird was the major update for 2013 announced on August 26th, 2013. This update laid down a foundation for Google’s voice search. It ensures every word in a phrase is paid attention to, hence giving a user a precise answer instead of a list.

In 2014 the Pigeon update was announced on the 24th of July. It impacted results pages and Google maps, giving options to search results related to a user’s location. The other major update for 2014 was the HTTPS/SSL announced on the 6th of August. Google gave a slight boost in ranking for sites that implemented HTTPS correctly, to increase security between the user and a website.

Two major updates were announced in 2015, the Mobile Update and RankBrain. The mobile update, gave a ranking advantage to the mobile-friendly site since almost 50% of search queries were from mobile phones. The RankBrain update features the ability to guess search results even to words it doesn’t know, and give results to words with similar meaning.

In 2016 the Possum update helped improve the local SEO results making them more varied to the physical location. Penguin updates were also confirmed by Google in 2016.

In 2018 there were two major updates, the Speed Update and Medic. The speed update involved ranking sites that delivered information faster.

The BERT update announced in 2019 was one of the biggest updates in the last five years. It is a machine learning algorithm, that can figure out the full context of a word based on the words before and after it. It is a major upgrade in comprehending a search query.

The current updates for 2020 are the Core Update and the Features Snippet De-duping. The Features Snippet De-duping involves, featured snippets no longer appearing as organic results like before.

Google updates have increasingly advanced from the early 2000s. It now gives users exactly what they are looking for.

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