Google Algorithm Updates - Latest News & History



Throughout the year Google is constantly making updates to their algorithms, and that causes rank fluctuations in the search results. So far In 2019, Google has already rolled out several confirmed core algorithm updates.

Below you’ll find an up-to-date summary of the confirmed and unconfirmed updates with additional resources and links to help you better understand the nature and impact of these changes.

More resources: Rank Risk Index | Google SERP Features | Visual SERP Feature Guide

2021 - Google Updates

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
June 2021

Google Spam Update - Part Two

Confirmed Update
June 28, 2021

On June 28th, Google announced on Twitter, that they had released part two of the spam update. Google also confirmed that the update took one day to complete.

The Rank Risk Index did not report any unusual ranking fluctuations.

On Jun 29th Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable reported that the update went live. He also reported a low level of industry chatter.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version

June 23rd Spam Update

Confirmed Update
June 23, 2021

Starting on June 23rd, the Rank Risk Index tracked moderate fluctuations on both desktop and mobile.

On the same day, Google announced on Twitter that a spam update had been released and confirmed that it was completed that day.

On June 24th, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable reported a small amount of industry chatter.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version

Google Page Experience Update

Confirmed Update
June 15, 2021

On June 15th, Google announced on Twitter that the Page Experience update begun slowly rolling out. Google stated in the tweet that the update would be completed by the end of August.

In keeping with the slow nature of the update, the Rank Risk Index showed a record low level of fluctuations on the 15th.

On June 16th Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable reported that the update went live.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version

June 2021 Core Update

Confirmed Update
June 04, 2021

On June 3rd, Google announced on Twitter that the June 2021 Core Update was released. A day later, the Rank Risk Index reported dramatic fluctuations which lasted until June 6th.

On June 7th Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable reported on unusually low levels of industry chatter.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
May 2021

May 22nd Unconfirmed Update

Unconfirmed Update
May 22, 2021

On May 20th Rank Risk Index reported a spike in fluctuations. The following day, there was a decrease in fluctuations, but fluctuations resumed on May 22nd. The fluctuations stopped on May 24th.

On May 23rd Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable reported massive fluctuations that occurred on May 22nd and noted that the industry chatter did not match the levels of fluctuations.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
April 2021

April 30th Unconfirmed Update

Unconfirmed Update
April 30, 2021

On April 30th the Rank Risk Index reported a large spike in rank fluctuations. The fluctuations peaked the next day and fluctuations returned to normal on May 2nd.

On May 3rd, while reporting industry chatter, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable speculated that the update had an impact on the Product Reviews Update.

April 23rd Unconfirmed Update

Unconfirmed Update
April 23, 2021

On April 23rd, the Rank Risk Index began tracking a moderate increase in rank fluctuations which carried through to the 24th. The update affected both global web search results and local search results.

On April 26th, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable reported about industry chatter.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version

Product Review Update

Confirmed Update
April 09, 2021

On April 8th Google announced the launching of the Product Review update which is specifically focused on product review content.

Starting on April 9th, the Rank Risk Index reported a massive spike in ranking fluctuations both on mobile and desktop. The volatility carried through to April 11th and settled by April 12th on desktop. On mobile, the fluctuations carried through to April 13th.

Fluctuations resumed on April 15th and died down on April 18th on both Desktop and mobile.

Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable reported on the update on April 9th.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
March 2021

March 10th Unconfirmed Update

Unconfirmed Update
March 10, 2021

On March 10th, the Rank Risk Index reported an increase in Google SERP fluctuations on both mobile and desktop. The fluctuations peaked on March 13th and concluded on March 14th on desktop and March 15th on mobile.

On March 11th, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable reported an increase in industry chatter.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
February 2021

February 17th Unconfirmed Update

Unconfirmed Update
February 17, 2021

On February 17th the Rank Risk Index reported a large spike in rank fluctuations. The spike occurred after a series of minor fluctuations that followed the Passage Ranking update. Due to its proximity to the Passage Ranking update, this could simply be a set of fixes designed to support the findings after the Passage Ranking update.

On February 17th Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable reported about industry chatter.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version

Passage Ranking Update

Confirmed Update
February 10, 2021

Starting on February 9th, the Rank Risk Index began tracking a massive spike in rank fluctuations on both desktop and mobile that carried over to February 10th. Google confirmed on Twitter that Passage Ranking went live on February 10th for queries in the US in English.

On February 12th Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable reported that Passage Ranking went live in the US and that surprisingly chatter was low after February 10th.

2020 - Google Updates

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
December 2020

December 18th Unconfirmed Update

Unconfirmed Update
December 18, 2020

On December 17th, just a day after Google announced on Twitter that the December 2020 Core Update rollout was complete, the Rank Risk Index began tracking a small increase in rank fluctuations which peaked on December the 18th.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version

December 2020 Core Update

Confirmed Update
December 04, 2020

Starting on December 1st the Rank Risk Index began tracking an increase in rank fluctuations on both desktop and mobile. This carried on until December 4th where there was a massive spike in SERP volatility. Fluctuations returned to normal on December 5th.

On December 3rd, Google announced that there would be a core update later that day. The announcement corresponds with the sudden spike in fluctuations that happened on December 4th.

Also on December 4th Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable reported on industry chatter aligned with the updates recorded by the Rank Risk Index.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
September 2020

September 16th 2020 Update

Unconfirmed Update
September 16, 2020

On September 15th, the Rank Risk Index reported an increase of rank fluctuations on both desktop and mobile. The fluctuations peaked on September 16th reaching a risk level of 104. The fluctuations steadily decreased from that time on, reaching normal levels on September 21st.

On September 17th, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable reported on industry chatter.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
August 2020

August 15th 2020 Update

Unconfirmed Update
August 15, 2020

On August 15th, the Rank Risk Index reported a dramatic increase in rank fluctuations on both desktop and mobile. Fluctuations reached an unprecedented risk level of 130 on August 15th and 119 on August 16th. By the time the update was complete, the dramatic rank changes were generally reverted.


On August 15th, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable reported on significant industry chatter.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
June 2020

June 2020 Update

Unconfirmed Update
June 17, 2020

Starting on June 9th, the Rank Risk Index began tracking an increase in rank fluctuations on both desktop and mobile. The fluctuations peaked on June 10th, reaching a risk level of 83. After four days of elevated fluctuations, levels returned to normal on Jun 13th. However, after three days of normal fluctuation levels, the increased movement returned on June 16th. During the update’s second wave, our index recorded two notable spikes in fluctuations. First, on June 20th the index recorded fluctuations hitting 109, and on June 23rd fluctuations reached 103.

On June 10th, and June 23rd Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Round Table reported on significant industry chatter aligned with the updates recorded by the Rank Risk Index.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
May 2020

May 2020 Core Update

Confirmed Update
May 04, 2020

On May 4th, 2020, Google’s Danny Sullivan announced that the search engine had started to roll out its second core algorithm update of the year.

Dubbed the May 2020 Core Update, the bulk of the release spanned just two days with the initial roll-out being tempered. As shown on our Rank Risk Index, the second day of the update’s roll-out produced far more rank volatility than first day of the update.

Per our data analysis, the update was unique in that it produced a rather uniform amount of rank volatility across all niches.


May 2020 Core Update Data


Further, the update was large in scope and size as the levels of rank volatility slightly edged out the January 2020 Core Update which was known for its large impact on the SERP.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
March 2020

COVID-19 Algorithm Update

Unconfirmed Update
March 17, 2020

On March 17th, our Rank Risk Index began recording an unprecedented series of heightened rank fluctuations that lasted into early April. During this time there were 12 days of heightened rank fluctuation levels recorded. Outside of the core algorithm updates, such an extended period of increased fluctuations has not occurred within the past two years, if not more. 

The timing of the increases seems to correlate to COVID-19 becoming an official pandemic. In fact, our research indicates that on March 11th, the day that COVID-19 was labeled a pandemic by the WHO, Google made significant ranking changes to COVID-19-related keywords. Further, there was a clear and noticeable pattern vis-a-vis "COVID-19 keywords" that paralleled the various updates during this period. The same pattern was not evident within other keywords subsets. 

Search Engine Land hosted a panel of experts on the issue of COVID-19's impact on search behavior and potential affect this may have had on Google's algorithm. As our own Mordy Oberstein noted during the panel, "[COVID-19] is a developing story that Google has not really seen before and it keeps spreading in all sorts of directions... and because Google is so good at making connections it (COVID-19) impacts so many different areas.... Google is trying to figure out how far does COVID-19 reach and how accurate are we (i.e., Google) based upon what's going on." 
           
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
February 2020

Rank Reversal Pervasive in February Update

Unconfirmed Update
February 08, 2020

On February 8th, the Rank Risk Index began recording significant increases in rank fluctuations that lasted for a total of six days. At their peak, the fluctuation increases hit a level of 94/120. 

Along with the increases tracked by our SERP weather tool, a significant amount of industry chatter pointing to a powerful update was reported by Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable

An initial investigation into the update showed numerous "reversal patterns." To that, many sites who were hit by the update initially saw a quick return to normal while some sites hit by the January 2020 Core Update underwent a reversal. 


Featured Snippet URL Duplication Removed From Organic Results

Confirmed Update
January 22, 2020

On January 22nd, Google Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, announced a major divergence from Google's longstanding Featured Snippet practices. Traditionally, Google has shown the URL used within a Featured Snippet among the top organic results as well as a part of the Featured Snippet itself. Per Sullivan's announcement, the only time the URL used inside a Featured Snippet will be shown on page one of the SERP is in the Featured Snippet box. Google is no longer duplicating Featured Snippet URLs among the page one organic results. Such URLs, however, may appear on pages beyond page one. 




Along with the change, Google has also announced that the Explore Panel, a hybrid between a Featured Snippet and a Knowledge Panel, will start to appear within the SERP's main column, not to the right of the results as they were placed previously. This change specifically addresses concerns from within the SEO industry that the CTR of Explore Panel links will dwindle with the removal of said links from the organic results. 

These alterations to the SERP have resulted in the industry considering Featured Snippets to be "position 1" and no longer "position 0." Such a construct has far-reaching consequences, among them how to properly track rank for the top position on the Google SERP. 

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version

January 2020 Core Update

Confirmed Update
January 14, 2020

On January 14th, and per Google's advanced notice, the January 2020 Core Update began to roll-out. The initial levels of rank fluctuations caught on the Rank Risk Index presented extreme levels of rank volatility on both desktop and mobile.

As the update continued to roll-out over the coming days, rank slowly began to stabilize before finally returning to normal levels on January 19th.

Per a data analysis, and consistent with almost all other core updates to this point, Your Money Your Life niches were significantly impacted, more so than other industries (as can be seen in the below graph):


Jan 2020 Core Update Data


Read our full analysis for more data on the January 2020 Core Update.

2019 - Google Updates

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
December 2019

The November 2019 Local Update

Confirmed Update
December 02, 2019

On December 2, 2019 Google's Danny Sullivan confirmed what the search community had already suspected, the roll-out of a local algorithm update. Officially named the November 2019 Local Update, Sullivan indicated that the update began rolling out in early November 2019. 

In specific, the November 2019 Local Update introduced neural matching to the local algorithm. As a result, businesses with titles and descriptions that vaguely related to a vertical may now appear within the top organic results as well as within the Local Pack. 

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
October 2019

Google Implements BERT Algorithm

Confirmed Update
October 25, 2019

On October 25th, Google announced that it had begun to implement its BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) algorithm. Per Google, BERT is said to impact 10% of all queries and is the search engine's "biggest leap forward in the past five years."  

The algorithm was birthed out of an open-sourced project aimed at using neural networks to advance contextual understanding of content via natural language processing (NLP).   

In simple terms, BERT is meant to help better interpret a query by using a contextual understanding of the phraseology employed. This is done as the entire phrase is analyzed at once which lets BERT understand a keyword term according to all of the words used within it. This stands in contrast to models that look at language from left-to-right thereby pinning a word's understanding to that which preceded it. 

Practically speaking, BERT helps Google to better understand the use of prepositions within a search query as well as to better comprehend words that have double meanings by using contextual understanding.  

Note, there were not large waves of rank fluctuation increases due to BERT's roll-out.  

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
September 2019

September 2019 Core Update

Confirmed Update
September 25, 2019

On September 25th, Google rolled-out it's third core algorithm update of 2019. Dubbed the September 2019 Core Update by Google's Danny Sullivan, the update was a significant ranking event. 

As shown on the Rank Risk Index the update rolled out over the course of two days with rank fluctuation levels reaching a high of 79 on desktop (78 on mobile). 

Both the length and level of fluctuations recorded by the index were on the "low side" in comparison to previous core updates. This is evidenced when comparing the rank volatility increases of the September update to the June 2019 Core Update


Sept. Core Update vs. June Core Update Data

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version

September 2019 Review Rich Results Update

Confirmed Update
September 16, 2019

On September 16th, 2019, Google made a significant update to its practice of showing reviews within organic results. Per the update, Google no longer allows what it calls "self-serving reviews" to appear on the SERP. This means that sites can no longer use schema markup to place reviews shown on its own website within rich results on the SERP. This applies even to reviews placed on the brand's site via a third-party integration. 

As a result, our SERP Feature Tracker indicates a 5 point drop in the number of page one SERPs that contain a review within the organic results. 

Google also indicated that the 'name' property must be indicated within the structured data. That is, you must name the product being reviewed. 

Lastly, Google released a list of the schema formats that are eligible to produce a review within a rich result.  

[You can use our Schema Markup Generator to easily create the code that produces rich results.] 

Original Reporting Preference

Confirmed Update
September 12, 2019

On September 12th, Google officially announced it had updated its algorithm so that original reporting would receive ranking preference. To this effect, Google has said that it is now better at determining the original source of news reporting. As a consequence of this, the search engine is more proficient at ranking the original source of new reporting more prominently on the SERP. 

Note, the algorithm was not updated on September 12th itself. Google indicated that it had been implementing and improving on the adjustment throughout the months leading up to the official announcement. 

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
July 2019

July 2019 Major Update

Unconfirmed Update
July 18, 2019

On July 18th, the Rank Risk Index tracked extremely high levels of rank fluctuations, recording a peak rank fluctuation level of 113. In doing so, the index presented us with one of the largest ranking shake-ups in years. 

The update began on July 16th with moderate levels of rank fluctuations being recorded. Those levels jumped slightly on the 17th before reaching an extremely unusual high on July 18th. 

The increases shown on the Rank Risk Index coincided with industry chatter that indicated a "massive" amount of rank movement, as was reported by Barry Schwartz on SERoundtable.

An initial look at the data shows that no one niche type was impacted more than another. Unlike some of Google's confirmed core updates, Your Money Your Life sites (YMYL) were not impacted by the update any more than other site types. 



Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
June 2019

The June 2019 Core Update

Confirmed Update
June 04, 2019

On Sunday, June 2nd, 2019, in what was an industry first, Google's Danny Sullivan took to Twitter to announce a pending core algorithm update. As part of his message, Sullivan indicated that on June 3rd a broad core algorithm update would begin its roll-out. 

Notably, Sullivan also announced that the official name of the update would be the 'June 2019 Core Update'. His doing so was most likely a result of the confusion surrounding the naming of the March 2019 Core Update

Accordingly, the Rank Risk Index began displaying significantly high levels of rank fluctuations on June 4th (showing a fluctuation level of 91/100). 

That said, by June 5th the index indicated that the update's roll-out was starting to slow slightly as the level of rank fluctuations dropped to 74.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
March 2019

12 March 2019 Core Update

Confirmed Update
March 14, 2019

Exactly one year after confirming the first of its official "core updates" Google released yet another broad change to its algorithm. 

Initially picked up by Rank Ranger's Rank Risk Index on March 12th, the update was not confirmed by Google until the 13th. That said, the update continued to roll-out even after Google's confirmation. 

Rank changes reached a high on the 13th with the index recording a rank fluctuation level of 89/100 on the desktop SERP. 

It should be noted that while Google confirmed the update, it did not name it. As a result, the update has been referred to by multiple aliases per Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable. The two most common names are the Florida 2 Update and the Google 3/12 Broad Core Update. 

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
March 2019

Major February Rank Fluctuations Spike

Unconfirmed Update
March 02, 2019

Starting on February 21st, the Rank Risk Index began tracking a prolonged series of increased rank fluctuations. The spike in fluctuations was initially on the more moderate side with fluctuation levels reaching 71/100 on February 22nd. 

However, as time progressed, and despite a one day lull in the increased activity (see February 25th), significantly larger fluctuations spikes were observed. Specifically, on February 27th and March 2nd the index recorded unusually elevated fluctuation levels of 91/100 and 86/100 respectively. 

2018 - Google Updates

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
December 2018

December's Intent Recalibration

Unconfirmed Update
December 13, 2018

December 13th saw the Rank Risk Index pick up what became a 6-day increase in rank fluctuations. This prolonged series of heightened rank movement reached a pinnacle on December 16th as the index hit a fluctuation level of 80/100. 

On December 17th, Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable posted that industry chatter indicated that sites were significantly impacted by the update. 

An early investigation, per our various data-sets, would indicate that the update may have represented a recalibration of how Google understands intent for a wide range of keywords.   

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
October 2018

Impactful Mid-October Update

Unconfirmed Update
October 16, 2018

On October 16th the Rank Risk Index reported a surge in rank fluctuations on both desktop and mobile. The algorithmic event lasted for two days before fluctuation levels returned to normal on October 18th. 

The update considerably impacted rank as the tool posted a risk level score of 81/100 on the 16th. 

The SEO community's forum chatter mirrored the fluctuation levels reported by the Rank Risk Index, as noted by Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable.com
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
September 2018

Minor Confirmed Update

Confirmed Update
September 29, 2018

On September 27th there was a small amount of industry chatter indicating that Google was tweaking its algorithm. Uncharacteristically, Google, two days after the aforementioned chatter, confirmed that a "small" algorithm update was undertaken. 

The confirmation took place on Twitter where Googler Danny Sullivan (using his personal Twitter account) indicated to his longtime colleague Barry Schwartz that indeed there was an update, but it was not "major."



Interestingly, the Rank Risk Index did show increased fluctuations relative to the extremely low levels of rank changes seen during the days prior to the 27th. The index did record moderately high levels of rank fluctuations on the 29th, the very day Google made its official announcement.  

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
August 2018

Broad Core Update - August 2018

Confirmed Update
August 02, 2018

Immediately following early industry chatter, Google confirmed yet another broad core update. This is the third such update of 2018. As with both the March and April broad core updates, Google has advised the SEO community that traffic lose does not indicate poor page quality and it may be the case that there is no "fix."


It is possible that Google's explanation points towards the machine learning elements of the algorithm recalibrating their understanding of intent. Such an explanation would explain why there is no fix, why a rank loss is not indicative of poor quality, and why Google has previously said these updates reward previously "under-rewarded" sites. We've reached out to Google regarding this but have yet to hear back. 

In accordance with the update, the Rank Risk Index is showing an increase in rank fluctuations. During the update fluctuations have been particularly high as the index shows a volatility level of 92/100 on August 2nd.  

Speed Update Released (Mobile)

Confirmed Update
July 09, 2018

As of July 9, 2018, and good to their word, Google began releasing what has become known as the Speed Update. The update, which was first announced in January 2018, is meant to urge sites to improve mobile page speed. Until now, speed was only a factor on desktop.

Despite initial concerns surrounding the update, Google has reassured site owners that the Speed Update is applicable only to those sites that are considered to be exceedingly slow. Accordingly, minor tweaks to increase page speed will not produce higher rankings according to Google. 

At the same time, the update is not zero-sum. That is, as a site improves page speed incrementally, Google will be able to discern the difference in speed. This stands in contradistinction to speed as a desktop ranking factor, which more monolithically determined if a site was too slow and was to be impacted in the rankings accordingly. 
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
April 2018

The April 2018 Broad Core Update

Confirmed Update
April 13, 2018

On April 13th, the Rank Risk Index began picking up on what would become a 10-day update to Google’s core algorithm. Ending on April 22nd, the index caught moderate increases in fluctuation levels to the exclusion of April 18th, where a fluctuation level of 75 was recorded.

Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable indicated that chatter among the SEO industry forums had picked up in line with the data being reported by the Rank Risk Index.

For the second consecutive time (see the mid-March core update), Google confirmed the rollout on April 20th, noting that a "broad core algorithm update” was released. Even with the announcement, the specific details surrounding the exact nature of the update remains unclear.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
March 2018

Core Update: March 2018

Confirmed Update
March 09, 2018

On March 3rd, the Rank Risk Index began recording increased rank fluctuations on both desktop and mobile. While the uptick in rank fluctuations was initially moderate, the index caught an unusual and highly significant upsurge on March 9th. According to the index, fluctuations reached a level of 99 (out of 100) on desktop and 92 on mobile. Over the following days the fluctuations, though still high, tapered off to an extent.     

On March 12th, Search Engine Land reported that Google, uncharacteristically, confirmed the update as being related to its core algorithm (thereby explaining the unusually high fluctuations levels of March the 9th).  
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
January 2018

Extended January 2018 Update

Unconfirmed Update
January 21, 2018

On January 10th the Rank Risk Index began showing increased rank fluctuations on both mobile and desktop. Lasting for an excessive period, the index has tracked anything from moderate to extreme fluctuations. To this extent, on January 21st, the desktop index showed a fluctuation level of 83 out of 100, which is abnormally high. 

The mobile index all but paralleled the fluctuations seen on desktop with a few slight variations. In this instance, the fluctuation levels on the 21st reached 85, as opposed to 83 as seen on desktop. 

The uptick in fluctuations was picked up by the industry when on January 16th Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable reported on the update. 

Google has not confirmed any increase in algorithmic activity. 

Page Speed to Become Mobile Ranking Factor

Confirmed Update
January 18, 2018

On January 17th Google announced that page speed will become a mobile ranking factor. Page speed has been a ranking factor on desktop since 2010. However, with this announcement, the ranking factor will now be an official part of a mobile page's placement on the Google SERP come July 2018. 

According to Google's announcement, the pending update will target excessively slow loading pages. As such, the search engine does not predict that an extensive number of pages will be impacted as the ranking factor becomes incorporated into the algorithm this July. 

The "Speed Update," as Google is calling it, has brought up questions as to how a mobile AMP page will be impacted by the pending ranking factor. One concern of note revolved around a site using fast loading AMP URLs with the canonical URLs being considerably slow. In such a case, which URL will Google measure the speed of (i.e., the fast loading AMP URL or the slower mobile URL)? Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable reported that in such a case Google had informed him that page speed will be measured according to the AMP URL. 

Also of note, according to Google, the pending mobile page speed ranking factor exists independently of the mobile-first index, though what that means exactly is still to be determined. 




SearchEngineLand has published a comprehensive mobile page speed as ranking factor FAQ as well. 

2017 - Google Updates

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
December 2017

Maccabee Update

Unconfirmed Update
December 20, 2017

On December 20th, the Rank Risk Index tracked a significant increase in rank fluctuations. The update was a one day algorithmic event on desktop, where fluctuation levels went as high as 71 on the scale. Mobile saw a two day roll-out that began on the 19th with moderate increases in fluctuation levels. However, on the 20th, those levels rose significantly on mobile as a fluctuation level of 75 was recorded on the index.

This came on the heels of industry chatter that there was an update a few days prior to the one tracked on the 20th. Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable dubbed the December update, the Maccabee update. Google confirmed that they did release "several minor improvements during this time frame.”
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
November 2017

Mid-November Significant Google Update

Unconfirmed Update
November 15, 2017

On November 14th the desktop Rank Risk Index started tracking increased rank fluctuations. By November 15th the fluctuations had risen to very high levels with the index indicating a fluctuation level of 76. 

The fluctuations on mobile were of a similar nature. However, as opposed to desktop, the Rank Risk Index for mobile began tracking elevated fluctuation levels a day earlier, on November 13th. By November 15th the mobile risk level reached 71, indicating that the fluctuations had increased significantly. 

Industry chatter also confirms the roll-out of a substantial Google update. On November 15th, Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable reported that webmasters and SEOs were experiencing noticeable changes in their rankings. Schwartz also speculated that the update does not appear to be related to either Penguin or Panda. 

To date, and quite predictably, Google has not commented on the update.  

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
October 2017

Google ccTLDs No Longer Give Access to International Search Results

Confirmed Update
October 27, 2017

On October 27th, 2017 Google announced that utilizing a Google country code top-level domain (ccTLD), i.e., google.co.uk, google.ca, etc., will no longer allow users to access international search results. Google indicated that the change comes as part of an effort to deliver more local and thereby relevant results to users. However, the change in ccTLD policy has precipitated a degree of controversy as it has far-reaching implications in regards to  international search results. 

The Google ccTLD restriction has numerous practical SEO ramifications as user behavior was inherently and universally altered. As such, the traffic and clicks sites received internationally underwent an intrinsic shift, thereby impacting rank itself.   

Google's change in the algorithm that allowed it to restrict access to international SEO results and hyper-localize the SERP was picked up by the Rank Risk Index, which hit risk level of 64 on October 28th. 

The update also impacted SERP features globally, with significant shifts in the frequency of AdWords ads, Local Packs, and Knowledge Panels on the SERP. 
 
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
September 2017

A Series of One-day Algorithm Roll-outs

Unconfirmed Update
September 28, 2017

Throughout the second half of September 2017, the Rank Risk Index caught a series of one-day fluctuation spikes that may constitute a Google algorithm update.

Starting on September the 13th, the index caught four separate one day fluctuation spikes before the month was over. Meaning, that the last three weeks of September each contained at least one significant fluctuation increase, creating a pattern of sorts as each roll-out was a one-day event. In specific, other than the fluctuation caught on the 13th, the index saw fluctuations on September 16th, 20th, and 28th with the fluctuation caught on the 20th being the most significant (as the index reached a risk level of 77).

During each of these fluctuation events, industry chatter also indicated that Google had shifted the rankings. Indeed, the peculiar weekly pattern where one day spikes would occur within a few days of each other was also picked up by the industry. On September 27th, Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable reported on the beginning of the latest one day fluctuation event by starting off his article with, "Yea, yea, yea more of the same. Google is updating their search results…” The implication here being that the fluctuations being reported on existed in a larger context, one where Google has made multiple changes to the rankings within a short period of time that could possibly represent one drawn out update.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
June 2017

Elevated Fluctuations Impact Bottom of the SERP Sites

Confirmed Update
June 28, 2017

On June 23rd a prolonged series of increased rank fluctuations was initially tracked by the Rank Risk Index. The multi-day spike saw the index hit risk levels as high as 85.

Though initial industry chatter was sparse, the industry began reporting on ranking shifts as the algorithm continued to update. By June 27th, Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable had seen enough chatter to describe the update as "legit” despite Google all but refusing to confirm the roll-out.

Upon executing a big data analysis, we determined that the most significant fluctuations were taking place for sites ranked between position 6 and 10 on the SERP. According to our research, while there were increased rank fluctuations occurring within positions 1-5, there was an evident and clearly observable uptick in the fluctuations upon reaching position 6 on the SERP. This data pattern held true across a multitude of niche industries that included Food and Drink, Travel, Retail and Consumer Goods, etc.  
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
May 2017

Google Update Hits Major Sites

Unconfirmed Update
May 23, 2017

On May 18th the Rank Risk index tracked a one day Google rank fluctuation event. Reaching a moderate risk level of 71, the index indicated that Google had released an algorithm update. 

At the onset industry chatter was of a limited nature, as indicated by Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable. As time went on various theories as to what occurred were suggested. One such theory propagated that a test where some URLs corresponding to Featured Snippets were removed from organic results was responsible for the increased fluctuations.

However, our data indicates that this change, while only affecting 4.5% of all Featured Snippets, was not overly impactful and took on a consistent data trajectory that began on May 12th (six days before our index tracked Google's update).

Upon further investigation, our data indicated that Google had shifted the rankings of some of the most notable Ecommerce sites (i.e. Amazon, Best Buy, Overstock, eBay, etc.). Based on the data available to us, a large part of the rank fluctuations seen on May 18th were a result of Google altering its SERP placement of these notable sites. 
 
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
March 2017

Google Link Quality Update - Fred

Confirmed Update
March 09, 2017

On March 8th reports started filtering in that a Google algorithm update was brewing. First reported by SERoundtable, the initial speculation was that the developing update was related to link quality as black hat SEO forums had shown the most chatter.

As of the 8th our Rank Risk Index on desktop had not shown any abnormal rank fluctuations. However, our index monitoring rank on mobile showed initial signs of an update, displaying moderate rank fluctuations. On March 9th the Rank Risk Index on desktop showed a significant spike in rank movement as indicated by a risk level of 79. Similarly, our mobile index spiked to a risk level of 77.

Concurrent with the trends on the Rank Risk Index, industry chatter continued to rise. With chatter increasing, the notion of the update being related to link quality only solidified. As such, Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable reached out to Google for comment. Per usual policy, Google only offered vague comments about constant changes to rank. However, Googler Gary Illyes seemed to imply that indeed an update had occurred, indicating, jokingly, that all such ambiguous updates be called "Fred."

As a result, the industry has adopted the name 'Fred' for the March 9 update. 


After the initial rollout, and a three day respite from elevated rank fluctuations, the Rank Risk Index on desktop saw another fluctuation spike. Taking place over two days (March 13 -14), the index recorded a risk level high of 100 on the 14th.

The second phase of ‘Fred’ brought with it what is perhaps clarification as to its nature. Though Google still did not comment on the algorithm, SearchEngineLand reported that the update targeted sites engaged in over-advertising. That is, sites that engage in excessive advertising to drive revenues while providing poor and inferior content.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
February 2017

Significant Algorithm Update Roll-out

Confirmed Update
February 07, 2017

From February 7th through the 10th the Rank Risk Index reported heightened levels of rank fluctuations on desktop. This series of increased fluctuations reached a substantial risk level high of 97 on February 9th.

Corresponding to the rank fluctuations on desktop, our mobile index similarly showed an increase in mobile rank fluctuations on February 8th that lasted through the 10th. Like desktop, rank fluctuations reached a high on February 9th hitting a risk level of 90.

At the onset, Barry Schwartz reported this algorithm event on SERoundtable, indicating that there had been some, though not extensive chatter within the SEO community regarding changes in rank.

As the algorithm continued its roll-out, it became apparent that this was a major ranking event (as indicated by the significantly high fluctuations seen on February 9th as per the Rank Risk Index). With additional reports of rank changes coming in from the SEO community, SearchEngineLand reported that the update may have been related to the Panda algorithm. 

Google has yet to comment on the matter. 

Possible Update to Google's Penguin Algorithm

Unconfirmed Update
February 03, 2017

According to our rank fluctuation index, there was a Google algorithm event that took place between February 1st and 2nd. On both days, the Rank Risk Index for desktop showed heightened, though not excessive, risk levels that reached 69. 

The Rank Risk Index monitoring mobile rank fluctuations presented an increase on both days as well. However, on February 2nd the index for mobile showed a slightly more elevated risk level of 70. 

SearchEngineLand reported on the algorithm event, indicating that an update may have been made to Google's Penguin algorithm. This theory was supported by an increase in rank change chatter within the "black hat" SEO community, indicating that the update had to do with spammy link practices. This theory was neither confirmed nor denied by Google themselves. 

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
January 2017

Elevated Fluctuations Point Towards Minor Update

Unconfirmed Update
January 24, 2017

On January 24th, our Rank Risk Index, monitoring rank fluctuations on desktop, tracked a one day Google algorithm update event. The index indicated that there were significant changes in rank within Google as a risk level of 77 was indicated. 

Though a one day event on desktop, our mobile index showed the algorithm event taking place over a three day period (from January 22nd through January 24). The algorithm event culminated with a January 24th risk level of 78, up from 67 on the 23rd, and 69 on the 22nd. 

The Google algorithm update event produced increased rank change chatter within the SEO community. Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable indicated that he believed the update to be of a minor nature, though Google has yet to comment on the update. 


Rank Risk Index - Mobile Version

Mobile Penalty

Confirmed Update
January 11, 2017

Per its August 2016 announcement Google has rolled out its intrusive interstitial penalty on mobile. Released on January 10th, the penalty demotes the rank of mobile sites employing overlays that cover all, or part of, page content.

Visual Interstitial Ad Guide


Per Google’s initial August 23rd announcement, the following interstitial formats are considered intrusive:

  • Popups that cover, and as such prevent access to, essential page content. 
  • Standalone overlays that require a user to dismiss them in order to view essential page content. 
  • Layouts, wherein which the above-the-fold appears as if it is an interstitial, but where the page content per se is underneath the fold.


While the most common form of intrusive interstitial on mobile are ads, the penalty would penalize other forms of intrusive interstitials as well. To this extent Google has indicated that mobile country and language selectors that take the form of an interstitial are considered intrusive, and sites employing them could be penalized.




The penalty does not apply to all interstitial overlays. Those interstitials that are of a "responsible” nature, such as age verification interstitial overlays, do not fall under the scope of the penalty. Google has also indicated that should a site be hit by the penalty it will be restored upon reindexing, assuming the intrusive content has been removed.

2016 - Google Updates

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
December 2016

Rank Risk Index Shows Mid-December Google Update

Unconfirmed Update
December 15, 2016

Starting on December 15th and hitting a risk level of 83 on the the 16th, the Rank Risk index picked up what the SEO community considered to be a Google algorithm update. Already on December 15th SearchEngineRoundTable noted that there appeared to be an algorithmic shift taking place. This assessment was corroborated by a heavy flow of chatter which indicated rankings were fluctuating on the Google SERP.

Rank Ranger’s Index that monitors mobile was even more volatile, showing a four day series of heightened fluctuation levels. This series of mobile rank fluctuations started on December 14th and ended on the 17th. During this four day fluctuation event the index hit a risk level high of 81 on December 16th.

To date, Google has not issued a comment, and as such has neither confirmed nor denied that they have rolled out an algorithm update.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
September 2016

Penguin 4.0

Confirmed Update
September 23, 2016

On September 23, 2016 Google announced that they updated the Penguin algorithm aimed at reducing spam in search results (Two examples of spammy practices targeted by this algorithm are keyword stuffing and linking schemes).

Previously, Penguin penalized an entire website that was found to employ "blackhat" SEO practices to advance their ranking.

Website owners penalized by Penguin have been desperately waiting for this update as the penalties remained in force until their websites were to be reevaluated at the next release of the algorithm. The last Penguin update occurred on October 17, 2014, almost two years ago.

Google stated that this update consisted of two major changes. The first is that Penguin has now been incorporated into Google’s core ranking algorithm which evaluates websites as it crawls them. As such, it will constantly be checking websites for their spam score. Websites that correct the issues that got them into trouble should see their rank improve the next time Google recrawls their pages.

The second change to the algorithm is that it no longer penalizes an entire website for spammy practices but analyzes the pages of a site on a more individual basis. This policy change can be seen in the language they chose in their announcement: Google now speaks of "devaluing spam” rather than penalizing websites.

"Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.”

Google’s communique reiterated that their ranking algorithm includes over 200 signals but they did call out several specific ones saying "These signals include things like the specific words that appear on websites, the freshness of content, your region and PageRank.”

Rank Risk Index Points to Another Google Update

Unconfirmed Update
September 16, 2016

Following the spike of rank changes captured by our Google Rank Risk Index this week (see graph above),
there has been a lot of chatter about a Google update that seemingly took place sometime between Sept 9-12. It is not clear whether this was a continuation of the one that took place at the beginning of Sept (around Sept 2) or a separate one, but the rank volatility during both events is undeniable. 

Elevated rank changes were recorded between Sept 8-11 with the index spiking up to 83 on Sept. 10. The event that took place at the beginning of the month started on Sept 2 with the index rising to 78 only to spike up drastically to 114 on Sept 3.

SearchEngineRoundTable documented a lot of the SEO industry chatter regarding these updates. 

Google’s regular spokesmen, John Mueller and Gary Ilyes, have been mostly evasive when asked about the latest changes but John more or less affirmed there were changes that were rolled out. See his tweets:

Core Search Algorithm Update - Reported

Unconfirmed Update
September 05, 2016

On September 2nd, the Rank Risk Index began a two day fluctuation spike, with the index hitting an unusually high Risk Level of 114 on September the 3rd.  As early as September the 2nd, Barry Schwartz reported on Search Engine Land that industry "chatter” indicates that there was a core search algorithm update. Google has neither confirmed nor denied that there was indeed such an update.
 
Part of the "chatter” within the SEO community centered on local rankings, leading some to the conclusion that there were in fact two simultaneous algorithm updates, one to core search, the other to local rankings. Barry Schwartz reported this on his own site, seroundtable.com on September the 2nd. Google has yet to confirm or deny this update as well.
 
Our SERP Feature Tool tracked a dip in the number of Local Packs appearing on Page One of the SERP that occurred in conjunction with the update.



Possum Update

Confirmed Update
September 02, 2016

Rank Ranger's Rank Risk Index, which measures fluctuations in the ranking of a data set 10,000+ domains and keywords, almost went off the scale on September 2nd, spiking up to 114. Several leading SEO analysts concluded decisively that a major algorithm update was rolled out by Google.

Barry Schwartz cited this volatility and chatter in industry forums as evidence of an algorithm update. Joy Hawkins, an expert in local SEO, said that based on her research and the results of her many clients who focus on local SEO, this update included a significant element aimed at reducing the number of duplicate and spammy listings in the local search results.

Possum, the name of the update coined by Phil Rozek and accepted by the local search community, alludes to the fact that many business owners think that they listings on Google My Business have disappeared, but they're really just playing possum – they are still there, but they are being filtered out of the Local Pack and Local Finder. Read our blog "Google’s New Local Algorithm Update Known as Possum" for more information on the update.

The nature of the organic element of this update is not yet known, but we will provide more information as it becomes available. 

Google has yet to officially confirm the roll out, but then of the thousands of updates they make each year, they confirm only a handful. 
Rank Risk Index - Mobile Version
August 2016

Mobile Interstitials Penalty

Unconfirmed Update
August 23, 2016

Google announced that starting January 1, 2017 mobile pages displaying intrusive interstitials may be penalized and their ranking negatively affected. Interstitials are various types of overlays covering all or part of the page the user wishes to view. 

According to the official announcement on the Google's Webmaster Central Blog, this update will target three types of interstitials which negatively affect the user experience:
  • Overlays that cover the content that the user wants to view – either immediately after landing on a page or after scrolling down
  • An interstitial that appears and blocks access to the desired content until the user dismisses it 
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

Google provided the following illustrations of interstitials that will negatively affect a page's rank (note: the illustrations do not correspond to the three categories above that Google listed):



Google also listed three types of interstitials that would not result in a ranking penalty. ​
  • Interstitials that fulfill some legal requirement such as an announcement that the site uses cookies or that verifies the user's age (where age limits apply to site usage)
  • A login form that gives the user access to content not available to anonymous visitors
  • Banners that cover up a relatively small portion of the screen. The example given are the banners offering to install mobile apps which normally appear at the top of the screen.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
May 2016

Mobile Friendly Update

Confirmed Update
May 12, 2016

In their quest to make the web more mobile friendly, Google's John Mueller confirmed the completion of the rollout of the algorithm update (announced in March) that increases the effect of the ranking signal for pages that are relevant to a user's search and are mobile-friendly.



Our Google Mobile SERP Features Tracker has been monitoring the Mobile-Friendly and AMP features (along with all SERP features) as they occur in mobile search. The Insight Graph below tracks the trends in Mobile-Friendly and AMP since May 1st when Google began rolling out their latest Mobile-Friendly update.
 
Google Mobile Friendly Update


Undisclosed Activity

Confirmed Update
May 10, 2016

The Rank Risk Index level spiked at 93 during 7 days of continuous Google SERP Fluctuations from May 6th through May 13th.

Search Engine Roundtable's Barry Schwartz reported that Google's John Mueller indicated that to his knowledge the company had not rolled out a major algorithm update, but they do continue to make changes.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
February 2016

AdWords Update

Confirmed Update
February 23, 2016

Google announced on February 19th plans to remove classic sidebar ads in the side section of search engine results. 

According to Matt McGee's Search Engine Land article, there would be only two exceptions to this rule: Product Listing Ad (PLA) boxes and ads in the Knowledge Panel.

Barry Schwartz predicted in Search Engine Roundtable that the move away from sidebar ads will lead to four ads at the top of search engine results, the news of which triggered a frenzy of comments regarding the impact of such a change on small businesses and Google's income.

Our Google SERP Features Tool reported this paid search update was rolled out on February 23, 2016. This search intelligence tool monitors trends in organic indicators, knowledge graph features, page one extras and organic results count on a 500k dataset and on February 23rd, in addition to zero sidebar ads, it reported an increase in bottom of the SERP ads of 26.79% in Google USA and similar results in other countries.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
January 2016

Core Quality Rank

Confirmed Update
January 09, 2016

Volatile fluctuations in both Desktop and Mobile search caused by a Google Core Quality Rank Algorithm update were reported by our Rank Risk Index, a SERP fluctuation monitoring tool used by SEO experts.

Google remained quiet as webmasters and SEO experts and bloggers buzzed with speculations.  Search marketing expert Barry Schwartz asked Google's John Mueller for confirmation of an algorithm update during the January 12th Webmaster Central Office Hours livestream, and published in Search Engine Land a statement indicating that "Google Panda is now part of Google's Core Ranking Algorithm".

The Panda algorithm is applied to sites as one of Google's core ranking signals. It measures the quality of a site, based on Google's guidelines and adjusts rankings.   

2015 - Google Updates

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
December 2015

HTTPS Update

Confirmed Update
December 17, 2015

Google announced that they're now indexing HTTPS pages by default as user security is top priority. Sites using HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) are being rewarded with improved Google rank.

In situations where two URLs from the same domain seem to be sharing content, Google has a set of criteria it follows to determine whether it will serve the HTTPS or the HTTP page.

RankBrain Related Search Update (undisclosed)

Confirmed Update
December 10, 2015

Rank Ranger's Features Graph analyzes SERP page 1 features data and stability for thousands of keywords per day, and on December 10th its reporting that Google's RankBrain caused a boost in Google’s special SERP Features that resulted in a significant increase in the number of SERPs containing Related Search, as well as a quality improvement in the average word count of Related Search phrases. 

Barry Schwartz mentioned in Search Engine Roundtable articles a December 10th shift and a potential Google Search Update on December 16th

Google has not confirmed a major algorithm update, however, our analysis demonstrates RankBrain is causing search result changes.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
October 2015

Hacked Sites Algorithm

Confirmed Update
October 05, 2015

Google's Hacked Sites Algorithm is expected to aggressively remove hacked sites from search results to improve the quality of search. The Webmaster Central Blog reported that "a huge amount of legitimate sites are hacked by spammers and used to engage in abusive behavior, such as malware download, promotion of traffic to low quality sites, porn, and marketing of counterfeit goods or illegal pharmaceutical drugs, etc."

It is expected that this update will impact roughly 5% of queries across the board in multiple languages.

Our Rank Risk Index reported red zone Google SERP fluctuations on Desktop on October 8th and has continued on Mobile search for several days.

Search Engine Roundtable's Barry Schwartz obtained confirmation from Google's Gary Illyes that this algorithm only impacts spammy queries.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
July 2015

Panda 4.2

Confirmed Update
July 18, 2015

Panda 4.2 is the first refresh of Google's Panda quality content policing of the web since September 2014. Bad news for spammy link farms and sites with low quality content, this refresh should be welcomed by sites that were penalized by Panda 4.1 - if they have corrected the issues that caused them to be penalized by Google. As with previous Panda updates, sites may notice an increase in organic ranking, be mildly affected of suffer a rank penalty depending upon the quality of their content because Google's goal is to provide the best search experience for users of Google's various search engine services.

Our Rank Risk Index reported red zone Google SERP fluctuations on both Desktop and Mobile search on July 18th.

Google has reported to Search Engine Land's Barry Schwartz that Panda 4.2 has impacted 2% to 3% of English language queries.


 
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
May 2015

Google Core Quality Update

Confirmed Update
May 03, 2015

Spikes in Google Desktop SERP fluctuation from the end of April through mid-May were finally verified by Google as a core algorithm change relating to quality signals that they use in determining rank.

For weeks Google did not release a statement, while SEO forums buzzed with complaints and questions. NBC News reported on a Google 'phantom' algorithm update on May 13th after HubPages reported a 22% drop in search traffic.

Search Engine Land's Barry Schwartz received confirmation from a source at Google on May 19th that "there were changes to its core ranking algorithm in terms of how it processes quality signals. It was an update to the overall ranking algorithm itself".



Rank Risk Index - Mobile Version
April 2015

Google Mobile-Friendly

Confirmed Update
April 21, 2015

Mobilegeddon hype swept the web for weeks leading up to Google's mobile-friendly ranking factor algorithm update.  Adding mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal affects mobile searches internationally, across all languages. This can have a significant impact on search results, while providing better and more relevant data for users.

Business Insider's Jillian D'onfro predicted that the mobile-friendly algorithm update "could crush millions of small businesses".

While Computer World's senior report Sharon Gaudin published a helpful guide: "How to prep, in 7 steps, for Google's mobile search change".

Here in the Bat Cave (aka Rank Ranger Development HQ), a new tool was developed to help you monitor Google Mobile SERP Fluctuations.

Google announced that this update would roll out gradually beginning on April 21st, however, our Mobile Search Rank Risk Index caught significant mobile search fluctuations beginning on April 18th, which may have been caused by testing or the beginning of this gradual roll-out that is expected to occur over several weeks.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
February 2015

Undisclosed Activity

Confirmed Update
February 05, 2015

The Rank Risk Index showed a major spike in algorithm volatility, leading to the belief that there was a major Google update, however nothing has been confirmed yet. 

Search Engine Land reported that Google has said this is not related to Penguin or Panda.

2014 - Google Updates

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
December 2014

Google Local Algorithm Expands

Confirmed Update
December 22, 2014

The Local Algorithm was originally launched in July 2014, and has now been expanded to English speaking countries globally. This update is known by the industry-given name of Pigeon and allows Google to provide more accurate and relevant information regarding local searches.

The Local Search Forum was one of the first sites to report major shifts in rankings of local results and later confirmed that this was a Google update.

Rank Ranger's Shiri Berzack discusses Google Pigeon's Flight Plan.

Mike Blumenthal, from blumenthals.com, discusses what to expect from the Local Update for those in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other English speaking countries.

Penguin 3.0 Extended

Confirmed Update
December 11, 2014

The Penguin Algorithm has had significant change since its first appearance in April 2012, and now a Google spokesperson has confirmed that the major, infrequent updates will be replaced by a steady stream of minor updates.

The spokesperson told Search Engine Land:
"That last big update is still rolling out [referring to Penguin 3.0]— though really there won’t be a particularly distinct end-point to the activity, since Penguin is shifting to more continuous updates. The idea is to keep optimizing as we go now."

Our own Shiri Berzack discusses this move towards a steady stream of Penguin updates and the positive effects it could have on businesses moving forward.

On the other side, Jill Kocher, from Practical Ecommerce, discusses the challenges this could place on companies particularly when trying to decipher reasoning behind declines or increases in traffic.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
October 2014

Pirate Update #2

Confirmed Update
October 21, 2014

Pirate Update #2 should not affect a wide variety of sites since it specifically targets only those that have received DMCA takedown requests. In August of 2012 Google pushed out their first Pirate update by filtering down (or completely out in documented cases) pirated content in their attempt to help copyright owners.

Google's Public Policy Blog explains how they are combating piracy across all Google services.

Torrent Freak published an article discussing the update and its effect on various websites. 

Rank Ranger's Shiri Berzack shares her thoughts in Google Pirate Update Fights Piracy 

Penguin 3.0 Update

Confirmed Update
October 18, 2014

Pierre Far, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google UK, has confirmed their roll-out of the Penguin 3.0 algorithm update on Friday, so far affecting fewer than 1% of queries in the US English search results.

This is great news for anyone hit in October 2013 with a Google penalty during the Penguin 2.1 update, as Google's John Mueller confirmed recently in the Google Webmaster Central Help Forum that if you've corrected the situation that caused the penalty "you'd need to wait for the algorithm and/or its data to refresh to see any changes based on the new situation".  Further elaborating on that, Pierre Far posted:

"This refresh helps sites that have already cleaned up the webspam signals discovered in the previous Penguin iteration, and demotes sites with newly-discovered spam.

It’s a slow worldwide rollout, so you may notice it settling down over the next few weeks."
Stephen Kenwright of Branded3 in his Google Penguin 3.0 Damage Report provides an assessment of how Penguin 3.0 is affecting the more than 125,000 keywords they run daily rank tracking on and discusses how to recover from a Penguin update.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
September 2014

Panda 4.1

Confirmed Update
September 23, 2014

Panda 4.1 is a significant update to the Panda algorithm that targets low quality content with greater precision. This update is expected to identify low-quality content and result in greater diversity of higher rankings for small and medium-sized sites containing good quality content. It is a gradual global roll-out expected to affect approximately 3-5% of queries.

Google's official announcement was made by Pierre Far on Google Plus.

Providing interesting insight, Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea walks readers through the logic of a recent Google patent application that may be behind this latest Panda update.

The Webmaster World forum chat has been a mix of positive and negative with most medium size businesses doing well, but some smaller businesses suffering drops in SERPs.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
August 2014

Google Authorship Removed

Confirmed Update
August 28, 2014

For months Google has been analyzing Authorship from a user's perspective and effectiveness for potential clicks. With this update Authors lost their edge as Google decided to stop showing authorship in search results.

Official Announcement from Google's John Mueller

Our very own Barry Schechter's Google Authorship is No More post

Danny Sullivan reports that Google Authorship My Be Dead, But Author Rank Is Not

HTTPS Update

Confirmed Update
August 06, 2014

HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) is the new ranking signal. According to Google, secure sites may be given a ranking boost for the added security.

Google Webmaster Central Official Announcement

Ben Wood's article What is HTTPS/SSL & Will It Boost My Rankings? provides useful explanations and how to implement guidance.

Google's Support documentation on Securing your site with HTTPS
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
July 2014

Google Local Algorithm Update

Confirmed Update
July 24, 2014

Google launched an update to their local search algorithm to help them provide more accurate and relevant local search results.

The chat in the Webmaster World Local Search Forum suggests that the update was causing inconsistent results, with "major flux" still occurring a week after the rollout.

Small Business Trends provides an analysis of how this update affects local businesses.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
June 2014

Payday Loan Algorithm 3.0

Confirmed Update
June 12, 2014

Google rolled out an update to their PayDay Loan Spam Algorithm. Version 3.0 targets the queries for 'payday loans', 'casinos', 'accident claims' and a variety of others that return an excessive number of web spam results.

Google's Matt Cutts announced this algorithm update on Twitter.

Matt Southern reported in Search Engine Journal that "unless you’re running a site in a niche that Google would consider to be ‘very spammy’, there is very little for you to be personally worried about with this update."
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
May 2014

Panda 4.0

Confirmed Update
May 20, 2014

Our Rank Risk Index has been showing sharp fluctuations in recent weeks causing lots of chatter in SEO and webmaster forums. By mid-May we started to see a relative calm, but suddenly the red alert went up again and shortly after that Matt Cutts announced on Twitter that Google had launched Panda 4.0 and plans to be rolling out more updates. 

The goal of Panda has been to penalize poor content quality and scraper sites, while boosting sites with great content up in the SERPs and thereby providing Google users with high quality results.

Google's Matt Cutts announced Panda 4.0 on Twitter.

Tim Worstall shares in Forbes his take on this Evolution In Action; Google's New Panda 4.0 Rollout

Payday Loan Algorithm 2.0

Confirmed Update
May 18, 2014

Google announced the release of an update to their Spam Algorithm that targets the type of queries that return an excessive number of spammy results.  This specific update was an international rollout that is reported to affect different languages to different degrees and noticeably impacts English queries by about 0.2%.

Matt Cutts Tweeted: "This past weekend we started rolling out a ranking update for very spammy queries."

Search Engine Watch reported "Over the weekend we began rolling out a new algorithmic update," a Google spokesperson told SEW.  "The update was neither Panda nor Penguin – it was the next generation of an algorithm that originally rolled out last summer for very spammy queries."

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
April 2014

Algorithm Activity - Undisclosed

Confirmed Update
April 18, 2014

The Rank Risk Index has been indicating volatile activity by Google for much of April.  Lots of chatter in the various webmaster and SEO forums and blogs about dramatic SERP changes, but no official announcement from Google.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
March 2014

Undisclosed Activity

Confirmed Update
March 24, 2014

Webmaster and SEO forum rumors of a Soft Panda update around March 24th match up with the red zone dates displaying in our Rank Risk Index, however, no official announcement has been made by Google.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
February 2014

Top Heavy 3 Update

Confirmed Update
February 06, 2014

Google's Page Layout Algorithm targets pages with disproportionate number of ads above the fold in relation to page content.

Google's Matt Cutts confirmed this algorithm refresh in a Tweet.

Page Layout Algorithm's goal is to make users' search experience more efficient and quick, enabling them to reach the content they're seeking.

2013 - Google Updates

Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
December 2013

Authorship Rich Snippet Update

Confirmed Update
December 18, 2013

In what may be the most dramatic Google update of 2013, Authorship & Rich Snippet results dropped as much as 15% as Google tightened the qualifications for rich snippets. Authors reported problems and were advised to refer to Google's rel="author" FAQs to ensure they're following the rules.

Chatter at the Webmaster World forum indicates significant negative SERP changes.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
November 2013

Undisclosed Activity

Confirmed Update
November 15, 2013

Our Rank Risk Index indicates an update in the algorithm. Lots of chatter in the various webmaster and SEO forums and blogs about SERP changes, but no official announcement from Google.
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
October 2013

Penguin Update 5 (ref 2.1)

Confirmed Update
October 04, 2013

Penguin 2.1 (Penguin 5th edition) was released in Google's continuing battle against web spam. We see a corresponding spike in the Rank Risk Index on October 5th.

Search Engine Journal reports: Penguin 2.1: What Changed Since 2.0, and How to Recover
Rank Risk Index - Desktop Version
August 2013