Beyond algo changes – a complete list of changes that could have affected your site’s traffic.

https://www.mariehaynes.com/algo-changes-and-more

The following is a complete history of every algorithm change that was either confirmed by Google or suspected by those of us who do a lot of traffic drop analysis work.

When I am doing traffic drop audits I am constantly referencing a number of different sources for the dates of significant changes that may affect traffic drops.  Moz has got a great list of Google Algorithm Changes, but there are many other factors that could affect a site’s traffic such as blog networks being deindexed, changes to the image algorithm, and more.  I created this list so that I would have a good reference when doing traffic drop audits.  If you can think of other changes that happened that may affect a site’s traffic, let me know!

MOST RECENT MAJOR ALGORITHM SHAKEUP – April 30/May 1 Quality Update
MOST RECENT PANDA RERUN – October 24, 2014 – Unconfirmed by Google, but widely accepted as a Panda refresh.
MOST RECENT PENGUIN RERUN – December 6, 2014 – Unconfirmed by Google, but widely accepted as a refresh – part of the ongoing Penguin 3.0 refresh that started October 17, 2014.

2015

  • June 17, 2015 – There was a big change noticed on all of the SERP trackers, but it was not Panda or Penguin. Google confirmed that a change happened but said it was one of the many changes they make on a regular basis. Dr. Pete from Moz speculated that the change had something to do with Wikipedia switching to https but this was denied by Gary Illyes from Google.

 

 

  • Last week of April: Possible changes to the Google news algorithm.
  • April 30, 2015 – May 1, 2015  – The Quality Update, also known asPhantom 2. This was a fairly large update, which was quite similar to Panda. The focus appears to be on on-site quality, but Google has not given much instruction on recovery other than a vague, “Improve your quality”.
  • April 25, 2015 (date approximate) – Possible unannounced algorithm change. Many people saw ranking changes and the tools like Mozcast and Algoroo reported changes that appeared to be unrelated to the mobile friendly algorithm.
  • April 22, 2015 (or possibly starting within the following week) – Themobile friendly algorithm was launched. This algorithm gives a boost to sites that Google deems mobile friendly. It only affects mobile rankings and not desktop.
  • Sometime in April (probably): Google likely launched a change to the doorway page algorithm that punished sites with doorway pages. However, no one in the SEO world really noticed much change so it’s hard to say exactly when this happened.

 

  • March 25, 2015 – Possible unannounced algorithm change. Some people suspected that this was a test of Panda. John Mueller from Googlecommented that these changes and those seen around March 18-20 were likely just normal algorithm fluctuations.
  • March 18-20, 2015 (dates approximate) – Possible unannounced algorithm change. Many people saw ranking changes, but this was not Panda or Penguin.
  • March 10, 2015 – Google know showing drink recipes in the knowledge snippets. This might affect some recipe sites.

 

  • February 19, 2015 – A bug causes “This site may be hacked” messages to appear for a large number of sites, resulting in massive temporary traffic drops.
  • February 4, 2015 – Possible unannounced algorithm update. This was not Panda or Penguin.
  • February 4, 2015 – Google launched a mortgage calculator. This won’t affect traffic for most sites.

 

 

2014

  • December 22, 2014 (+ a few days for rollout) – The Pigeon Algorithm, affecting the local search results rolled out to English speaking countries outside of the US such as Canada, Australia and the UK.
  • December 5-6, 2014Penguin fluctuations.
  • December 2, 2014 – Possible Penguin refresh. This was likely a continuation of Penguin 3.0 that started on October 17. Many sites saw further hits or increases on December 2, but most of these appeared to be short lived.

 

  • November 27, 2014 – Confirmed refresh of Penguin. This was a continuation of Penguin 3.0 that started on October 17. This was also Thanksgiving weekend, so changes in traffic around this time can be difficult to interpret.
  • November 24, 2014 – A large Polish link network was taken down by Google.
  • November 14, 2014Google drops the carousel for local results. This likely didn’t result in much traffic fluctuation, but could possibly have caused some changes for some small businesses.
  • November 13, 2014 – Possible unannounced algo update. There is a possibility that this was a mild refresh of Penguin. However, I did not see much change in sites I monitor.
  • November 10-11, 2014 – Possible unannounced algo update. This likely was not Panda or Penguin, but many people saw ranking changes.

 

  • October 24, 2014 – Unannounced Panda refresh. This was not announced by Google but most of us who do Panda work noticed dramatic changes in some Panda hit sites at this time. 6 months later when we were wondering why Panda was no longer refreshing, John Mueller confirmed that the last refresh was at the end of October.
  • October 22, 2014Possible tweaking of the Penguin algorithm.
  • October 21, 2014Google Pirate Update – Aimed at illegal torrent sites and other sites with large amounts of pirated content.
  • October 17, 2014 – Penguin 3.0 refresh. After waiting for an entire year, Penguin finally refreshed on this date. This was not an Update but rather a refresh which means that nothing changed in how Google makes Penguin calculations, but they just re-ran the algorithm. This was a rolling algorithm refresh that had no fixed end. However, most sites that saw changes saw them on October 17-18, October 22, November 27, December 2, 5 or 6. This was supposed to be a refresh that would allow people who had done cleanup work to recover, but many sites that should have recovered, did not.
  • October 9, 2014Possible testing of the Penguin algorithm. This is not confirmed, but I had many people who had sites previously affected by Penguin contact me to say that rankings were up. In most cases these disappeared within 24 hours. If you saw a short spike in traffic on this day it may be that your rankings were part of Google’s testing on Penguin.
  • October 12, 2014Probable Panda Tremor – Many sites that were previously affected by Panda 4.1 in late September saw an increase or decrease in traffic at this time.
  • October 4-6, 2014 (dates approximate) – Possible unannounced update – Many people saw dramatic changes in rankings at this time. Most likely this was a continuation of the slow rollout of Panda.

 

  • September 29, 2014 – Possible Panda Tremor – People who do a lot of work with Panda sites saw a lot of up and down movement on sites on this day. Some had seen no movement with the initial rollout of Panda 4.1 on September 25.
  • September 25, 2014 (and continuing off and on for 1-2 weeks) – Panda 4.1. This was a slow rollout that apparently took a week or more and may have started a few days prior to September 25.
  • September 21-23, 2014 (dates approximate) – Google gives out many manual penalties to private blog network sites. If you used PBN links to rank, you may have seen a drop at this time.
  • September 16, 2014Google penalizes several Turkish news sites. This is not likely to affect most sites’ traffic.
  • September 5, 2014Probable unannounced Panda refresh. Google did not announce a refresh of Panda on this date, but many people who do work with Panda hit sites noticed significant changes.

 

 

 

  • June 28, 2014 – Possible Unannounced Update – May have been due to adrop in Authorship photos.
  • June 24, 2014Possible Mild Unannounced Update – I debated even including this one as not many sites appeared to be affected but it is possible that Google made some significant algorithmic changes on this date.
  • June 21, 2014Possible Mild Unannounced Update – The tools that track changes in the SERPS all noticed something was going on, but there was not a lot of chatter on search engine forums about changes.
  • June 12, 2014Payday Loans 3 – This update to the Payday Loans algorithm now targets spammy queries as well as spammy sites.

 

  • May 28, 2014 (approx)Possible unannounced update. Many people thought that this was a Penguin refresh, but Google denied it. Personally, I do not think that this was related to Penguin.
  • May 20, 2014Panda 4.0  – This was a large Panda update that affected many sites. Quite a few sites that were previously hit by Panda saw very dramatic increases in traffic. This was a whole new version of Panda with a new architecture that was apparently much more lenient. My note: Many sites that saw changes with Panda 4.0 started to see changes a few days before the official announcement of Panda 4.0.
  • May 16, 2014 (approx)Payday Loans 2 – Google made the announcement on May 20 that they had released a new version of this spam algorithm that targets spam in competitive niches. You don’t have to be a Payday Loans site to be affected. This caused a lot of confusion as Payday Loans was updated a couple of days before a massive Panda update (Panda 4.0).
  • May 2 & May 7, 2014Possible unannounced update. However, this seemed to revert on May 12. Many big brands saw rankings change around this time.

 

 

 

 

 

2013

 

  • November 27-29, 2013 (dates approximate) – Possible unannounced update. Barry Schwartz reported that a lot of sites were reporting traffic losses, but it was possible that this was just low traffic due to the Thanksgiving holiday.
  • November 14, 2013Unannounced update – Google did not announce an update, but a LOT of websites had their traffic adversely affected on this day.
  • November 1-5, 2013 (dates approximate) – Possible unannounced update.

 

  • October 16, 2013 – Possible unannounced update.  It was speculated that this was related to Penguin, but we have no confirmation of this.
  • October 4, 2013Penguin 2.1 update – This Penguin update affected a lot of sites.

 

 

  • August 20, 2013Unannounced update – May have been Hummingbird
  • August 6, 2013 – Google announces In Depth Articles.  This likely did not have a drastic effect on the traffic of most sites.  But, if you notice a change on this date, it may be that some of your articles were either pushed up or down in the SERPS depending on whether Google thought they were worthy of the “In Depth Article” label.
  • August 1, 2013Google Analytics Reporting bug – For many, but not all Google analytics users, GA just stopped reporting traffic.  I’m not sure if this has been corrected or not.  But, if you see a sharp dip on Aug 1, it’s probably just a reporting error.

 

  • July 26-29, 2013 (dates approximate) – Possible Unannounced update.  The general consensus was that this probably was not a Panda or Penguin update.  It is even debatable whether anything actually happened.
  • July 19, 2013 – The Knowledge Graph expanded significantly.
  • July 12-18, 2013 (dates approximate)- Confirmed Panda update. This was the first of the new “softer” Panda updates.

 

  • June 27, 2013 (and surrounding dates) – “Multi-Week” Algorithm update. There were many ranking fluctuations during the last week in June.
  • June 19, 2013 – Possible unannounced update.  However, if you read the comments, many people thought this was a Google Analytics bug.
  • June 14, 2013 – Google changes the image carousel in image search. This *might* affect image search queries.
  • June 11, 2013Payday Loans algorithm rolls out.  This algorithm doesn’t just affect payday loans sites, but any site that has the potential for super spammy SERPS.
  • June 5, 2013Unannounced update
  • June 5, 2013Knowledge Graph adds nutrition info.  This won’t affect most sites, but certainly can cause a drop in rankings for calorie counting/fitness/recipe sites.

 

 

  • April 6, 2013Potential unannounced update – Although, if you read the comments, it sounds like perhaps there was a temporary glitch with Google analytics

 

  • March 27, 2013Google Updates its Quality Guidelines for News – “If a site mixes news content with affiliate, promotional, advertorial, or marketing materials (for your company or another party), we strongly recommend that you separate non-news content on a different host or directory, block it from being crawled with robots.txt, or create a Google News Sitemap for your news articles only. Otherwise, if we learn of promotional content mixed with news content, we may exclude your entire publication from Google News.”
  • March 15, 2013Google announces no more regular Panda updates – From this point on, Google will no longer be announcing Panda updates.  They will gradually roll out with the regular algorithm changes.
  • March 14, 2013 Panda Refresh? – Google said that they would release Panda this weekend.  No official date was given, but most SEO’s believe it was around March 14…possibly March 13.
  • March 7, 2013Google Penalizes SAPE links – A Russian link network, SAPE links is penalized so that links coming from this network are likely worthless.

 

  • February 22, 2013News Websites Penalized – Google reduced the PageRank of many UK news websites to zero because they have been selling links in the form of advertorials

 

 

2012

  • December 21, 2012 Panda Refresh
  • December 13, 2012Safe Search Changes – Google updated the way that Safe Search works so that it is now more strict on explicit content.
  • December 10, 2012Unannounced update? – No official update was announced, but many webmasters were compaining about traffic changes at this time.
  • December 4, 2012 – Google expands the Knowledge graph.

 

 

 

  • September 28, 2012EMD update – This update demoted low quality exact match domains.
  • September 27, 2012Panda update – This was a major update that affected a lot of sites.
  • September 18, 2012Panda refresh
  • September 14, 2012Diversification update – This was a small update intended to diversify search results.