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Google Algorithm Change History

Google algorithm updates and data refreshes

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Google Algorithm Updates of 2013

Up to date list of updates and changes to Google's search result algorithms for 2013.

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# Date Update Update type Noticeable effect
12 Dec 6, 2013 Toolbar PR #23 Toolbar PR Update -
11 Oct 4, 2013 Penguin 2.1 — (#5) Data Refresh 1% of searches
10 Aug 20, 2013 Hummingbird Infrastructure 90%
9 Jul 18, 2013 Panda Recovery Ranking Signals No estimate given
8 Jun 27, 2013 Multi-week Ranking Signals No estimate given
7 Jun 11, 2013 "Payday Loan" Ranking Signals 0.3% of En-US, 4% Turk
6 May 22, 2013 Penguin — 2.0 (#4) Ranking Signals 2.3% of En-US searches
5 May 21, 2013 Domain Crowding Ranking Signals No estimate given
4 May 9, 2013 "Phantom" Ranking Signals No estimate given
3 Mar 14, 2013 Panda — #25 Data refresh No estimate given
2 Feb 4, 2013 Toolbar PR #22 Toolbar PR Update -
1 Jan 22, 2013 Panda — #24 Data refresh 1.2% of English searches

TBPR #23: December 6, 2013

Toolbar PageRank Update

Although Matt Cutts had stated at Pubcon on October 23rd 2013 that Google's method of sending PageRank updates to the toolbar was broken, and not to expect another Toolbar PageRank update before 2014, TBPR was updated December 5th or 6th—the first in a whopping 10 months.

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Penguin 2.1 (#5): October 4, 2013

Data Refresh

Just another minor Penguin update announce by Matt Cutts via Twitter. Some lost rankings, others gained. All the signs of just another average Penguin data refresh.

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Hummingbird: August 20, 2013

Infrastructure

At Google's 15th birthday event on September 26th, a massive change to Google's algorithms was announced. Later described by Google's head of search Amit Singhal as the biggest change to Google's search algorithms since he joined the company in 2001, Hummingbird had already been running for a month prior to the announcement.

Similar to the Caffeine Update of 2010, Hummingbird represented a complete overhaul of Google's infrastructure, bringing it up to date to help better deal with the changing face of the Web.

Hummingbird is another step towards the Semantic Web, in that it goes beyond simple keywords to understand the intent of search queries, and focuses on returning results based on contextual meaning of search terms as well.

The future of search is headed towards going beyond simple keywords to understanding entities—the context of persons, places, things, etc, and how they relate to each other as information—as well as into a more conversational, verbose approach to finding information on the World Wide Web, in part due to the rise of mobile search. 90% of all searches are now said to be interpretted by Google somewhere along these more contextually interpretted lines, to at least some degree.

How Hummingbird affects web publishers is simple:

  • Develop web content primarily for your target audiences, and less for specific keyword goals
  • Incorporate semantic, structured markup into your web pages when/where appropriate
  • Continue paying equal attention to other known signals of trust, authority, and relevance

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Panda Recovery: July 18, 2013

Ranking Signals

Although Google decided to put an end to confirming Panda updates after March's Panda 25, a new, "more finely targeted" Panda update was finally confirmed. This latest update reversed the punishment some borderline spammy websites suffered (sites with enough quality signals to be deemed of some value).

This update backed up what Matt Cutts said in May on YouTube, regarding Panda lessening its impact on gray area sites. A sigh of relief for many.

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Multi-Week Update: June 27, 2013

Ranking Signals (Probably temporary)

Between mid-June and the beginning of July, many reported wildly fluctuating rankings. Matt Cutts made reference on Twitter to a "multi-week update"; however its purpose was unclear, and its effects appeared to be temporary, possibly due to Google testing algorithms.

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"Payday Loan" Update: June 11, 2013

Ranking Signals

On June 11, Google's Matt Cutts announced via Twitter that a new algorithm update had just begin to roll out to specifically target spammy websites in notoriously abusive industries such as payday loans and pornography. At SMX Advanced, Cutts said the new update would be going after black hat SEO tactics such as "illegal" link schemes

  • Percentage of searches affected were relatively low to the extend that the average US Googler would notice (0.3% of US searches), but as high as 4% for Turkish search queries

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Penguin 2.0 — (#4): May 22, 2013

New Ranking signals added to the Webspam filter

Penguin 2.0, a new generation of the Penguin webspam filter, was rolled out in May 2012. This fourth update to the Penguin algorithm, according to Google spokesman Matt Cutts, was meant to go a little bit deeper and have a little bit more impact than the original version of Penguin, but didn't seem to be as big as many people expected.

According to Cutts, Penguin 2.0 evaluates websites for web spam for internal pages beyond to just the homepage of websites. This statement revealed the likelihood that the first generation of the Penguin algorithm analyzed backlinks of homepages only.

Penguin 2.0 affected 2.3% of English US searches, and impacted other languages internationally to various degrees.

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Domain Crowding: May 21, 2013

Ranking Signals

The Domain Crowding Update was launched to tackle sequential results from the same domain from appearing in the search results. Google first made steps towards domain diversity back in in 2012, which successfully minimized domain clusters on first page of search results. This latest update focused of eliminating domain clusters deeper into the SERPs

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Phantom: May 9, 2013

Ranking Signals

Phantom was a content-focused update that resembled Panda, seemingly hitting sites with thin, affiliate, scraped, or low-quality content.

Many webmasters began reporting a drop in Google organic search traffic on May 8th. At first, the Penguin algorithm was the primary suspect responsible for the widespread fluctuations in the search results; however, on May 10th Google spokesman Matt Cutts denied via Twitter any Penguin activity that week.

The initial confusion surrounding the nature of this update earned it the name of Phantom, (coined by Glenn Gabe of hmtweb.com).

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Panda — #25: March 14, 2013

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

At a Search Marketing Expo (SMX) panel on March 11th, Google engineer and head of search spam Matt Cutts announced an upcoming Panda algorithm update due the following Friday the 15th or Monday the 18th.

On March 13th, Cutts disclosed that this would be the last manual Panda update before it would be integrated into Google's core algorithm.

Rather than having some huge change that happens on a given day, you're more likely in the future to see Panda deployed gradually as we're rebuilding the index, and so you're less likely to see these large scale sorts of changes.

After this last update, and Cutts's statement, it was expected that Panda would be integrated into the core algorithm as part of the continuously updating index, or Everflux; however, later in June at SMX Advanced, Cutts divulged that Panda was still being refreshed on a monthly basis, over a period of 10 days out of every 30.

  • Was announced as the last manually updated Panda refresh; however, ended out not being the case

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TBPR #22: February 4, 2013

Toolbar PageRank Update

The first Toolbar PageRank of 2013, 3 months since the last—about average for 2011-2012 TBPR updates.

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Panda — #24: January 22, 2013

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

The first official algorithm update of 2013 resulted in relatively little discussion within the search community—unlike an apparent change on January 17, which Google denied.

  • Affected 1.2% of English results to a noticeable degree

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See More Google Algorithm Updates by Year

As Google's algorithms improve, search-friendly website rankings do as well. Learn about how search engine optimization works.

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