History of Major Google Algorithm Updates

In this blog, we have briefly discussed the major Google Algorithmic updates that have rolled out past the years for SEO beginners.

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Now, Google Makes thousands of updates to its algorithm every year compared to its previous years. Most of these algorithmic updates are inconsiderable. However, Occasionally it rolls out some major algorithmic updates which impact the SERPs.

In this blog, we have briefly discussed the major Google Algorithmic updates that have rolled out past the years for SEO beginners.

Over the years, Google has been consistently updating its algorithm to deliver the best possible results for a query. Google’s search engine uses an aggregation of numerous ranking factors and algorithms to instantly display the best relevant web pages on the first page of SERPs for a search query from its search index.

The main aim of the introduction of these algorithmic updates was to improve the search results by providing the user with the rightful information the user looking for and to reward the web pages and websites with high quality and relevant content by placing them on the first page of search results.

Google Panda Update – 2011

The purpose of the panda update is to combat low-quality sites.

Reasons for the introduction of Google panda Algorithmic updates were to: 

  • To penalize websites with thin, duplicate, and low-quality content and reduce their presence in Google’s Search engine results.
  • websites with a high ad-to-content ratio, low-quality content sites with a lack of authority and trustworthiness pointing to paid affiliate programs are also penalized.


To bar copyright-infringing content from SERPs

Privacy has become questionable these days as any piece of digital content that is visible on the internet is easily pirated and distributed by third parties with or without an allowance and has started to spread rapidly around the globe.

Google has announced its pirate update in 2012 to impose penalties for copyright infringement. 

It brings down the rankings of websites that break the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and it also stops displaying them on the search results.

Penguin update -2012

To discourage the acquiring of unnatural links.

Google announced Penguin Update to bring down the presence of websites that adopt manipulative link methods and keyword stuffing to rank higher in a short period.

Hummingbird – 2013

For a better understanding of search queries

Google’s Hummingbird update was designed to better understand the real intent behind a user’s query and provide them with more accurate and relevant results. 

Google determines the intent of the users and provides answers to their queries with the help of semantic search.

Semantic search provides the users with appropriate results on SERPs taking the broader context into account rather than the individual meanings of keywords used in the search.

Developments like Hummingbird Algorithm update and semantic search are the major steps on Google’s path towards the mastery of the inevitable rise of local search and voice search as they can estimate the intent of local searches and natural conversational searches (voice searches) and provide appropriate results.

Pigeon -2013

The pigeon Algorithm update purpose was to improve local search results.

After the launch of the pigeon algorithm update, Google displayed the local businesses in SERPs that are near to users’ (searchers) location and had a strong web presence in SERPs.


To keep everyone safe on the internet and to encourage site owners to implement SSLs and HTTPS it rewarded websites that had HTTPS/SSL with a ranking boost.

Google’s Mobile-Friendly Update -2015

Google stated that this algorithm would impact rankings of webpages on mobile devices globally that are not mobile-friendly and it applies to only web pages, not the entire site. 

The purpose of this update is to encourage site owners to rework their sites to improve the compatibility of their websites on all kinds of mobile devices to provide the user with a better experience irrespective of the device they are using to access the content.

RankBrain – 2015

To improve the google understanding behind the user queries

Before RankBrain Google used the basic algorithm to display the results in the SERPs based on the keywords used in the query. 

After the RankBrain Algorithmic update, the user’s query now goes through a machine-learning interpretation model that considers all the possible factors like the user’s location, distance, personalization, words used in the query to estimate the user’s search intention. After discovering the user’s intent, Google can show up more relevant results in the SERPs.

As RankBrain Algorithm uses machine learning (the ability of machines to teach themselves from various different data inputs) to deliver the best possible relevant results for a user’s query.

Data from a variety of sources are fed as input to the machine learning model. This ML Algorithm teaches itself over a period of time to match thousand of ranking signals to different kinds of results to organize the rankings of webpages in the SERPs.

Possum 2016

To improve the appearance of local businesses in the local pack and local finder results.

The local pack is a collection of local businesses that are displayed along with organic results when a query has local search intent.

local finder results are the other hidden local results apart from this local pack results. These results appear when the user clicks on the link “more places” at the bottom of local pack results.

Google page speed update – 2018

The main purpose of this Google’s page speed algorithmic update was to improve the overall user experience on mobile searches.

Google recommended tools like Page speed insights and lighthouse to measure webpages speed and make improvements.

Even though Page speed is now a ranking factor for mobile searches still pages with slow speed can rank higher if it has great relevant content for a user’s query.

BERT – 2019

This BERT AI (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) is a deep learning algorithm related to natural language processing designed to understand the relationship of each word with the other words in a phrase.

This BERT update takes to account the broader context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it by masking the remaining words in a phrase or sentence.

Payday update -2012

Google Payday 2.0 The algorithmic update penalized heavily-spammy sites like payday loans, casinos, debt consolidation sites, and financial sectors like mortgages and insurance.

Google Payday 3.0 algorithmic update penalized spammy queries connected to shady industries like interest loans, payday loans, and other spammy queries.

These queries are hit by payday updates because of the high spam associated with them.

EMD Update -2012

Before EMD updates SEOs used to buy domains with exact match keyword phrases and build a website, create pages with less and poor quality content, and used various gray hat SEO techniques like keyword stuffing to rank in SERPs easily.

Exact Match Domain Algorithmic update was designed to penalize websites with poor quality content along with exact match domains.

Websites with high-quality content that had exact match domains are not affected by this update. It only affected sites with low-quality content exact match domains.