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Major Google Algorithm Updates Through the Years


The January Update – 2020

In this update Google is recommending users to put increased emphasis on E.A.T, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Content that aligns with these goals will see an uptick in their ranking. Your Money, your life niches got hit the hardest with this update, but results are showing that almost every category noticed a change. If you were effected by the update, we recommend taking a step back and looking at your your overall website and how you can improve overall.


The “Bert” Update – 2019

Google rolled out Bert and called it the most important update in five years. Bert used network-based technique for natural language processing and is able to understand the full context of your search query, analyzing all the words in your search. This updated ended up being so powerful that Google actually had to buy new and more powerful computers to process the information being crawled.


The Medic Update – 2018

The Medic update was another update which Google did not fully disclose the purpose of. What we do know is that it had a major impact on health, fitness, medical, and financial websites. Google replied with this classic statement: “changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously being under-rewarded”… “[so] remain focused on building great content.”

The “Fred” Update – 2017

The Fred update was aimed at bringing down black-hat SEO tactics tied to aggressive monetization. While the exact parameters of Fred were never confirmed by Google, sites experienced traffic declines from 50-90%.


The AdWords Update – 2016


In this update Google changed the way all paid listings appeared in the SERP. They removed the classic 4 row placement on the right hand side to the top of the main search results.

The RankBrain Update – 2015


RankBrain was a monumental update, it introduced artificial intelligence to Google’s algorithm. It brought the ability to monitor user behavior and learn about the value of certain pages. Google calls RankBrain the third-most important ranking signal.


The Quality Update – 2015


A few weeks after the mobile update release, we got the quality update, also known as Phantom II. This update solely focused on rewarding high-quality content and a good user experience. Many found that user-generated content like HubPages were penalized.

The Mobile Update – 2015


Now we jump ahead two years to the mobile update. This update forced everyone out of the stone age, requiring all sites to have a mobile version.

Cell Phone

The Hummingbird Update – 2013


With this update, Google wanted to hone in on the human search experience. They wanted a better understanding of just what people were searching for. Hummingbird used natural language processing which helped to weed out keyword stuffing and low quality content, and replaced it with more personalized results.

The Penguin Update – 2012


Penguin also believed in good content, but specifically in good backlinks. Penguin punished those with spammy or fake backlinks.


The Panda Update – 2011


Panda was wise, he was first launched in 2011. He believed that you should have to earn your rank though good old fashioned strong, original, and informative content.