• Toll-free: 1-800-514-5796
  • In Montreal: 514-400-0852

Google Algorithm Change History

Google algorithm updates and data refreshes

Get a Quote Call today :1-800-514-5796

Google Algorithm Updates of 2012

Complete list of Panda and Penguin updates, and all other notable changes to Google's search result algorithms in 2012.

Need help with any terminology? Check our SEO Glossary

# Date Update Update type Noticeable effect
36 Dec 21, 2012 Panda — #23 Data refresh 1.3% of English searches
35 Dec 4, 2012 Knowledge Graph #2 Expansion No estimate given
34 Nov 21, 2012 Panda — #22 Data refresh 0.8% of English searches
33 Nov 5, 2012 Panda — #21 Data refresh 1.1% of English searches
32 Oct 9, 2012 Page Layout #2 Data refresh 0.7% of English searches
31 Oct 5, 2012 Penguin 1.2 (#3) Data refresh 0.3% of English searches
30 Oct 4, 2012 Aug/Sep 65-Pack Ranking signals No estimate given
29 Sep 28, 2012 Exact Match Domains First launch 0.6% of En-US searches
28 Sep 27, 2012 Panda — #20 Ranking signals 2.4% of English searches
27 Sep 18, 2012 Panda — 3.9.2 (#19) Data refresh 0.7% of searches
26 Sep 14, 2012 Domain Diversity Data refresh No estimate given
25 Aug 19, 2012 Panda — 3.9.1 (#18) Data refresh 1% of searches
24 Aug 14, 2012 7 Search Results New feature No estimate given
23 Aug 10, 2012 DMCA (Pirate) Filter Ranking signals No estimate given
22 Aug 10, 2012 June/July 86-Pack Ranking signals No estimate given
21 Jul 24, 2012 Panda — 3.9 (#17) Data refresh 1% of searches
20 Jun 25, 2012 Panda — 3.8 (#16) Data refresh 1% of global searches
19 Jun 9, 2012 Panda — 3.7 (#15) Data refresh 1% US & 1% global
18 Jun 7, 2012 May 39-Pack Ranking signals No estimate given
17 May 25, 2012 Penguin — 1.1 (#2) Data refresh 0.1 % of English searches
16 May 16, 2012 Knowledge Graph (#1) New Feature No estimate given
15 May 4, 2012 April 52-Pack Ranking signals No estimate given
14 Apr 27, 2012 Panda — 3.6 (#14) Data refresh No estimate given
13 Apr 24, 2012 Penguin — 1.0 (#1) First launch 3.1% of English searches
12 Apr 19, 2012 Panda — 3.5 (#13) Data refresh No estimate given
11 Apr 16, 2012 Parked Domain Bug Algorithm error No estimate given
10 Apr 3, 2012 March 50-Pack Ranking signals No estimate given
9 Mar 23, 2012 Panda — 3.4 (#12) Data refresh 1.6% of searches
8 Feb 27, 2012 Venice First launch No estimate given
7 Feb 27, 2012 Panda — 3.3 (#11) Data refresh No estimate given
6 Feb 27, 2012 February 40-Pack Algorithm change No estimate given
5 Feb 3, 2012 February 17-Pack Algorithm change No estimate given
4 Jan 19, 2012 Page Layout #1 First launch 1% of searches globally
3 Jan 18, 2012 Panda — 3.2 (#10) Data refresh No estimate given
2 Jan 10, 2012 Search + Your World New feature No estimate given
1 Jan 5, 2012 January 30-Pack Algorithm change No estimate given

Panda — #23: December 21, 2012

Data refresh of the Panda Algorithm (High-quality Sites Filter)

Rolled out right before the holidays, Panda update #23 affected substantially more searches than most data refreshes.

  • Affected approximately 1.3% of English results

Further Reading

Top

Knowledge Graph Expansion - #2: December 4, 2012

Google's Knowledge Graph now functional in a number of new languages other than English, including Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, or Italian.

Further Reading

Top

Panda — #22: November 21, 2012

Data refresh of the Panda Algorithm (High-quality Sites Filter)

  • Affected approximately 0.8% of English results
  • Affected approximately 0.4% searches worldwide

Further Reading

Top

Panda — #21: November 5, 2012

Data refresh of the Panda Algorithm (High-quality Sites Filter)

On November 6 2012, Google confirmed a data refresh from the day before. No major changes with this one.

  • Affected 1.1% of U.S. English results
  • Affected approximately 0.4% searches worldwide

Further Reading

Top

Page Layout — #2: October 9, 2012

Data refresh of the Page Layout Filter

Announced by Google engineer Matt Cutts via Twitter, this was the first confirmed update to the Page Layout Algorithm since its launch in January.

This latest change to the Page Layout Algorithm was likely not only the second update. There is some speculation that other Page Layout-related updates or data refreshes were made between the January launch and this latest change.

  • Only 0.7% of English searches were noticeably affected
  • Update was made live globally on the same day as the launch

Further Reading

Top

Penguin — 1.2 (#3): October 5, 2012

Data refresh of the Webspam Filter

Announced by Google engineer Matt Cutts via Twitter—and fully rolled out the same day—Penguin's third update was a minor data refresh only.

  • 0.3% of English queries were noticeably affected
  • 0.4% of Spanish queries were noticeably affected
  • 0.3% of Italian queries were noticeably affected
  • 0.4% of French queries were noticeably affected

Further Reading

Top

August/September 65-Pack: October 4, 2012

Monthly Google Search Quality Highlights

With this new list of 65 recent updates, Google listed new some more new search features and algorithm improvements, notably:

  • Search results sitelinks data was refreshed
  • Extension of the Knowledge Graph to English search results beyond the U.S, as well as the adoption of lists and collections components
  • Safesearch improvements

Further Reading

Top

Exact Match Domains: September 28, 2012

Change to Ranking Signal

New algorithm addition to reduce low-quality exact-match domains in search results was announced by Matt Cutts via Twitter. Not all exact-match domains were affected; only low quality sites suffered drops in rankings for their domains' exact-match keywords.

  • Unrelated to Panda or Penguin
  • Only affects low quality exact-match sites
  • Affected 0.6% of U.S. English searches

Further Reading

Top

Panda — #20: September 27, 2012

Algorithm update to the Panda High-quality Sites filter

Panda's update #20 was a substantial change to the algorithm, not just a data refresh. The update began rolling out September 27, and it took 3-4 days to reflect all changes in the search results. Because this was a major update to Panda's algorithm, it put an end to the 3.x series, and the search industry shifted over unanimously to #20, instead of starting a 4.x series.

  • Affected 2.4% of English searches
  • Smaller impact in other languages, e.g., 0.5% in French and Spanish

Further Reading

Top

Panda — 3.9.2 (#19): September 18, 2012

Data refresh of the Panda High-quality Sites filter

This Panda refresh impacted fewer than 0.7% of searches.

Further Reading

Top

Domain Diversity: September 14, 2012

New Ranking Signals

The Domain Diversity update was released to help prevent sequential results in the search results from the same domain, known as domain clustering. This effort was relatively successful for first page search results; however, it wasn't until Google's Domain Crowding Update of 2013 that domain clusters passed first page results were successfully addressed.

Further Reading

Top

Panda — 3.9.1 (#18): August 19, 2012

Data refresh of the Panda High-quality Sites filter

Another minor Panda refresh that impacted approximately 1% of searches—typical of data-only updates. Since the Panda filter 3.0 series ran out of numbers, the new update version was labeled 3.9.1.

Further Reading

Top

7 Search Results: August 14, 2012

New Feature

Certain Google searches began displaying 7 first page results, instead of the default 10. We now know that 7-pack results are more commonly returned for navigational queries (a search for a brand as a means of navigating to its website).

Top

DMCA (Pirate) Filter: August 10, 2012

New Copyright Violation Filter

Google announced on their Official Search Blog that they would soon be downgrading rankings for sites that receive repeated, valid, copyright removal notices, or DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown requests. Originally coined Update Emanuel, after Hollywood media mogul Ari Emanuel, the DMCA Update is also known as the Pirate Update, referring to copyright piracy.

Google's DMCA update is similar to the Panda and Penguin filters, in that a downranked website must wait until the next data refresh in order to be regain its previous place in the SERPs.

Further Reading

Top

July/July 85-Pack: August 10, 2012

Monthly Google Search Quality Highlights

With this huge list of 85 recent updates, Google listed many new changes and improvements to their algorithms, including to projects name Page Quality, Answers, Mobile, and Other Ranking Components, as well as to their Panda filter:

  • Page Quality: Changes that include codenames such as "Bamse" and "Bamse-17L" were launched to help users find more high-quality content from trusted sources. Additionally, GreenLandII incorporated improvements to the Panda algorithm in June, and 3 refreshes were made to Panda's data, codenamed #82353 and "PandaMay" in June, and "JnBamboo" in July
  • Mobile: Better HTML5 resource caching for mobile, dramatically reducing latency in a number of cases
  • Answers: Improved display of local business information in certain mobile use cases, such as highlighted information relevant to performed searches, including phone numbers, addresses, and hours

Further Reading

Top

Panda — 3.9 (#17): July 24, 2012

Data refresh of the Panda High-quality Sites filter

Another data refresh to the Panda filter, which impacted about 1% of the search results.

Further Reading

Top

Panda — 3.8 (#16): June 25, 2012

Data refresh of the Panda High-quality Sites filter

Another data refresh to the Panda filter was confirmed, which had a much smaller impact than Panda 3.7.

  • About 1% of searches worldwide affected

Further Reading

Top

Panda — 3.7 (#15): June 8, 2012

Data refresh of the Panda High-quality Sites filter

Following reports of significant search engine ranking fluctuations, Google announced that the latest version of Panda was rolled out.

  • Less than 1% of searches noticeably affected in the U.S., and 1% worldwide.

Further Reading

Top

May 39-Pack: June 7, 2012

Monthly Google Search Quality Highlights

With this new list of 39 recent updates, Google described algorithm improvements that include changes to the Penguin Webspam Filter. Other notable changes:

  • Improvements to news results to help users discover news content quicker than ever before
  • Improved link scheme detection to further minimize affects of manipulative backlink techniques
  • Updates to the Penguin filter, including some minor tweaks to the algorithm, and a data-refresh
  • Alternate HTML title generation: When an HTML title is too long for search results without being truncated, a more succinct, equally accurate title will be presented in its place

Further Reading

Top

Penguin — 1.1 (#2): May 25, 2012

Data refresh of the Webspam filter

Google's first data refresh of the month-old Penguin Webspam filter.

  • Less than 0.1% of English language searches were affected

Further Reading

Top

Knowledge Graph - #1: May 16, 2012

In a significant step of merging the Semantic Web with search results, Google launched it's Knowledge Graph, which integrates a new section in a box at the top right of results pages. For some searches, The Knowledge Graph offers basic facts and figures about the searched term, usually a person, place, or thing. The information offered in the Knowledge Graph is a summary that Google is confident it "knows" about a given subject, instead of merely returning search results based on words.

The nature of The Semantic Web is that it adds context to information, and this helps machines differentiate between people, places, and things that have the same name, such as The Taj Mahal the monument, the musical group, and the casino.

Google's Knowledge Graph is a major step towards the next generation of search engine, which, according to Google, taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do.

Further Reading

Top

April 52-Pack: May 4, 2012

Monthly Google Search Quality Highlights

With this new list of 52 recent updates, Google described . Other notable changes:

  • Keyword stuffing classifier improvement (project codename "Spam") designed to detect when a website is keyword stuffing
  • Increased domain diversity (launch codename "Horde", project codename "Domain Crowding") to help prevent too many results from the same domain
  • Improvements to how search terms are scored in ranking (launch codename "Bi02sw41") One of the most fundamental signals used in search is whether and how your search terms appear on the pages you’re searching. This change improves the way those terms are scored.
  • Better HTML5 resource caching for mobile, which dramatically improves mobile web performance in some cases

Further Reading

Top

Panda — 3.6 (#14): April 27, 2012

Data refresh of the Panda High-quality Sites filter

While people were still adjusting to the Penguin update, Google refreshed the Panda filter, which had little impact on searches. This was the first time that the Panda filter was run within days of a previous Panda update (April 19, 2012) .

Further Reading

Top

Penguin — 1.0: April 24, 2012

New Webspam Filter

In an effort to serve up better, more relevant search results, Google announced the launch of an algorithm to improve their efforts at reducing webspam—namely manipulative link schemes.

As with the previous year's Panda Algorithm, the Penguin update is not constantly running; instead, it's a spam filter that is periodically refreshed in order to reduce unworthy websites from Google's search results.

With this announcement, Google maintained that as long as quality guidelines are adhered to, SEO "...can make a site more crawlable and make individual pages more accessible and easier to find".

Key points from Google's announcement

  • Changes to affect approximately 3.1% of English queries and 3% of others, such as German, Chinese, and Arabic to a degree that a regular user might notice.
  • Will have a higher impact on more heavily-spammed languages, such as Polish.

Google's advice on avoiding a Penguin penalty

  • Avoid keyword stuffed content
  • Avoid manipulative link-schemes such as poor quality reciprocal linking, and linking networks.
  • Prioritize user-friendly content
  • Whitehat SEO techniques only, such as increasing page speed, and proper keyword research
  • Stay within Google's quality guidelines

Aftermath and recovering from Penguin

Google considered the results of Penguin to be successful. Matt Cutts explained that the Penguin algorithm was designed to act against pages that signal an extremely high likelihood of spam being involved. According to Cutts, the downside to Penguin is that some spam might still get through to search results, but the upside is that you have fewer false positives.

  1. Remove any on-page spam from your site that you're aware of
  2. Clean up any hidden/paid/nefarious links you can, to or from your site
  3. Wait for another Penguin update to see if your site rankings recover
  4. If your site doesn't recover, clean it up some more, or consider starting a new website from scratch

If you've been hit by Penguin, reconsideration requests with Google won't help. Remove the spam, and your site will recover naturally with the next Penguin update. If, however, your site was affected by the Penguin update, and you don't think it should have been affected, you can file a report here.

Further reading

Top

Panda — 3.5 (#13): April 19, 2012

Data refresh to the Panda High-quality Sites filter

Another data refresh to the Panda filter was confirmed.

Further reading

Top

Parked domain bug: April 16, 2012

Algorithm Error

Due to a temporary bug, Google mistakenly classified some websites as being parked when they weren't. The issue was resolved within a couple of days.

Further reading

Top

March 50-Pack: April 3, 2012

Monthly Google Search Quality Highlights

This release of monthly search quality highlights was widely criticized as being even more vague than usual. Of the 50 changes, some of the more notable included:

  • Sitelinks: Refresh to Sitelinks data
  • Symbols indexed: An end to ignoring heavily used symbols in searches. Symbols now indexed: "%", "$", "\", ".", "@", "#", and "+".
  • Better indexing of profile pages from over 200 social media websites
  • Anchor text: One component of processing anchor text was retired in favour of other, improved anchor text signals
  • Improvements to freshness rolled out for all searches, beyond only for news-related results
  • Improvements in date detection for blog posts and forum pages
  • Expanded sitelinks on mobile

Further reading

Top

Panda — 3.4 (#12): March 23, 2012

Data refresh of the Panda High-quality Sites filter

On March 23rd, Google used Twitter for the first time to announce an update; a data refresh to the Panda algorithm

  • Approximately 1.6% of queries were noticeably affected

Further reading

Top

Venice — #1 February 27, 2012

New Ranking Signals

As part of February's 40-pack, the Venice Update helped find results from searchers' cities more reliably. The result is better local results for queries that don't specify a location.

Further reading

Top

Panda — 3.3 (#11): February 27, 2012

Data refresh of the Panda High-quality Sites filter

Data was refreshed on the Panda algorithm, three days after the one year anniversary of Panda's first launch.

Further reading

Top

February 40-Pack: February 27, 2012

Monthly Google Search Quality Highlights

On February 3, 2012, Google announced 40 new algorithm improvements, including those related to:

  • Links : One (undisclosed) method used to score backlinks, used for several years, was turned off
  • Website quality : A data refresh was run on the Panda filter, bringing it it to Panda 3.3
  • Local search : A launch codenamed "Venice", helped find results from a user’s city more reliably. Now we’re better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user. "improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal". In other words, queries for broad search terms, e.g., "plumber", will produce better localized results
  • Freshness: New signals were added to the Freshness algorithm update, which was first launched in November, and two old signal related to query freshness were disabled

Further reading

Top

February 17-Pack: February 3, 2012

Monthly Google Search Quality Highlights

On February 3, 2012, Google announced 17 new algorithm improvements made in January, including :

  • Improvements to the Panda algorithm: The High Quality Sites Algorithm was said to be more integrated into Google's indexing and ranking systems.
  • Freshness: Minor updates to the Freshness algorithm update, which was first launched in November
  • Spelling corrections:
    • Improvements were made to some of the more minor spelling corrections made by Google in autocomplete, making them "more consistent with those used in search"
    • Changes to improve the accuracy of automatically shown spelling corrections in search results
    • More accurate spelling corrections for rare queries

Further reading

Top

Page Layout - #1: January 19, 2012

New Ranking Signals

Due to lowered user-experience on websites when main content is buried under a ton of ads, Google released its Page Layout, aka Top Heavy, aka Ads Above the Fold algorithm, to penalize sites with high ad-to-content ratios at the top of pages.

Key points from Google on the new Page Layout algorithm

  • Google's Page Layout algorithm impacted less than 1% of searches at the time of its release
  • Web pages using pop-ups or pop-under ads weren't impacted by the Page Layout algorithm. Only pages with an abnormally large number of ads—or a small amount of visible content—positioned above the fold within the active window were affected.
  • Similar to the Panda and Penguin updates, the Page Layout Algorithm can impact the search results of an entire website, not just its individual pages

Recovering from Google's Page Layout algorithm

If you noticed a sudden drop in traffic around the time of Google's Page Layout algorithm, and your web pages are top-heavy with ads, you were likely hit by this update.

If your site has been penalized, recovery can take several weeks, as Googlebot will need to crawl and process the pages of your site before it's re-indexed.

  1. Reduce the number of ads above-the-fold on your web pages
  2. Redesign your pages to prioritize relevant content that your visitors will want to see without having to scroll and find.
  3. Wait for Google to see the changes you've made to you web pages, and wait. Google will need time to re-crawl your website, and assess the changes. The length of time this takes will vary according to several factors, including the number of pages on your site.

With the announcement of the Page Layout Algorithm, Google suggested using their Browser Size Tool, to help see how websites looks in various common screen resolutions, when determining ad placement.

Further reading

Top

Panda — 3.2 (#10): January 18, 2012

Refresh to the High-quality Sites Filter

On January 25th, Google confirmed a data refresh to its Panda algorithm which was rolled out about one week earlier. This would place the Google Panda 3.2 update as happening somewhere around January 18, 2012.

Top

Further reading

Search + Your World: January 10, 2012

New feature

Search + Your World is an optional feature (enabled by default) that pulls results from content shared with your through your Google+ profile into regular search results. Integrating users' social graphs into search results is another step towards Google's trend towards increasingly personalized search results.

Top

Further reading

January 30-Pack: January 5, 2012

Monthly Google Search Quality Highlights

With this new list of 30 recent updates, Google began assigning codenames on a more granular level to describe minor algorithm improvements. Notable changes announced include:

  • More relevant sitelinks: Launch codename "Concepts", project codename "Megasitelinks", improved algorithms that select sitelinks that are sometimes displayed with a website's search results. Sitelinks could now potentially represent your metropolitan region, which is controllable from your search location settings, which can be found at the top of results pages under Search tools.
  • Image Search Improvement:
    • Better spam detection: Launch codename "Leaf", extended webspam algorithms already used for Google's main search results
    • Landing page quality signals: Launch codename "Simple", this improvement went beyond image relevance to also take into consideration source page quality
    • Image size signals : Launch codename "Matter", improved how image size was used as a ranking signal in Google Image Search. As a result, images with larger full-size versions were to be seen in search results
  • SSL version of Google Search—which was made default for Google.com in Oct 2011—now offered to signed-in users for UK (https://www.google.co.uk), Germany (https://www.google.de) and France (https://www.google.fr) regional search domains
  • Faster mobile browsing: Launch codename "old possum", project codename "Skip Redirect". For websites with separate pages optimized for smartphone browsers, mobile search results would now list appropriate URLs to prevent redirects, and speed load times of mobile sites

Further Reading

Top

See More Google Algorithm Updates by Year

As Google's algorithms improve, search-friendly website rankings do as well. Learn the basics of SEO.

Share this:
Like this:
Get a QuoteOr call us: 1-800-514-5796