During every year, Google alters its search algorithm between 500 and 600 times. Although the majority of these changes are minor revisions and tweaks, Google sometimes launches an algorithm update of major significance, for example, Google Panda and Penguin. These important updates can have primary effects on search engine results. It can be quite helpful to web developers and marketers to know the dates of these major updates by Google since the time sequence of updates reveals reasons for shifts in website rankings as well as organic site traffic volumes. Algorithm changes can greatly improve the effectiveness of search engine optimization for online marketers.
Major Google Algorithm Names, Functions and Chronology
The major different Google Algorithm names, functions and time sequence of occurrences include the following:
• Boston. – February 2003: (Named by users of Webmaster World (WMW) and announced by SES Boston.) As the first announced Google update with a name, Boston was planned to be an important monthly update. Its first few revisions consisted of both algorithm changes and major index refreshing elements (dubbed “Google Dance”). As regular updates occurred often and repeatedly, the need for these monthly dances subsided.
• Cassandra. – April 2003: (Given its name by WMW users.) This influential update limited hidden links and text usage. It also put restraints on certain questionable aspects of link quality like extensive linking from domains that are co-owned.
• Dominic. – May 2003: (Named by WMW users.) In sync with this update, the Google bots named “Deepcrawler” and “Freshbot” scoured the entire web as numerous websites registered bounces. During this time, there appeared to be a significant change in the manner in which Google calculated backlinks.
• Esmerelda. – June 2003: (Also given this name by users of WMW.) With the introduction of this update came the end of the monthly Google updates. Now forming was a more stabilized, continuing stream of updates as “Google Dance” gave way to “Everflux.” The initiation of Esmerelda also most likely coincided with some primary revisions to the Google infrastructure.
• Allegra. – February 2005: (Named by Google.) Although webmasters reported changes in web page ranking, the complete effects of this update were not clear. While some online marketing experts stated that Allegra had effects on the sandbox in general, some saw evidence that LSI had been revised. Still other marketers and SEO pros thought Google was now initiating penalties on questionable links.
• Vince. – February 2009: (Named after a Google engineer.) Big name brands seemed to benefit greatly from a major updating of SEO technology. Many web developers predicted important, lasting effects from this update.
• Caffeine (Rollout). – June 2010: (Named by Google). Following extensive testing, Google finally brought out the entire Caffeine underlying structure. This impressive update not only resulted in a 50 percent index refresher, but also increased Google’s overall speed and combined indexation and web crawling much more securely.
• Panda/Farmer. – February 2011: (Also named for a Google engineer). This primary algorithm change strongly affected at least 12 percent of all web search results, according to Google. This update appeared to place limitations on thin web page content and content farms (websites showing high results of ad-to-web-page-content ratios). Restrictions were also placed on other quality-related issues. After rolling out over a two-month time period, Panda then reached Europe during April of 2011. There have been multiple Panda updates since then, and the last one occurred in July 2015.
• Penguin. – April 2012: (Named by Google). – This helpful webspam algorithm rated good quality websites highly. Penguin regulated multiple spam aspects such as keyword stuffing, affecting over three percent of web queries made in English. Penguin had several subsequent updates, the last one occurring in October 2016.
• Hummingbird. – August 2013: (Named by Google.) Often compared to Caffeine, this update appeared to be a core algorithm revision that might lend strength to changes in semantic searches as well as the Knowledge Graph for future months. (The Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base of semantic search data used by Google to improve results in Google searches.)
• Pigeon. – July 2014: (Given its name by Google). With this update, Google strongly changed some local search results, making revisions in ways that local location cues were translated and handled. According to Google, Pigeon formed stronger bonds between local algorithms and core algorithms. (The last update to Pigeon was in December 2014).
• Mobile Friendly. – March 2015: (Named by Google). When first issued, the effects of this update gave benefits to mobile-friendly websites during mobile searches. Just over a year later, in April 2016, Mobile-Friendly 2 was introduced; however, its overall effect was much less due to the large number of sites that were already designed to be accessed on mobile digital devices.
• Fred. – March 2017: (Given its name by Google). Although not yet confirmed as an algorithm update by Google, Fred was rolled out to appear like a primary update, having extensive impact on many aspects of SEO. Web marketers have reported that Fred affected websites with low ranking content that focused on making money rather than providing user benefits.