Google Algorithm Change History 2016

Each year, Google changes its search algorithm around 500–600 times. While most of these changes are minor, Google occasionally rolls out a “major” algorithmic update (such as Google Panda and Google Penguin) that affects search results in significant ways.

For search marketers, knowing the dates of these Google updates can help explain changes in rankings and organic website traffic and ultimately improve search engine optimization. Below, we’ve listed the major algorithmic changes that have had the biggest impact on search.

Unnamed Major Update — November 10, 2016

MozCast detected a major (106°) spike on November 10th and another on the 18th. Industry chatter was high during both periods, with some suggesting that the second spike was a reversal of the first update. Google has not confirmed either event. Many people reported bad dates in SERPs during the same time period, but it’s unclear whether this was causal or just a coincidence.

November 10, 2016, Google Algorithm Update – Was It A Core Ranking Update, The Mobile-first Index Being Tested, or Both? (GSQi)

Was There A Google Search Update On November 10th? (SER)

Penguin 4.0, Phase 2 — October 6, 2016

The second phase of Penguin 4.0 was the reversal of all previous Penguin penalties. This seemed to happen after the new code rolled out, and may have taken as long as two weeks. Post-Penguin activity had one final peak on October 6th (116°), but it is unclear whether this was Penguin or a new update. Algorithm temperatures finally started to drop after October 6th.

Penguin 4.0, Phase 1 — September 27, 2016

The first phase of Penguin 4.0, which probably launched around September 22-23, was the rollout of the new, “gentler” Penguin algorithm, which devalues bad links instead of penalizing sites. The exact timeline is unconfirmed, but we believe this rollout took at least a few days to fully update and may have corresponded to an algorithm temperature spike (113°) on September 27th.

Why Didn’t You Recover from Penguin? (Moz)

Penguin 4.0 Announcement — September 23, 2016

After almost two years of waiting, Google finally announced a major Penguin update. They suggested the new Penguin is now real-time and baked into the “core” algorithm. Initial impact assessments were small, but it was later revealed that the Penguin 4.0 rollout was unusually long and multi-phase (see September 27th and October 6th).

Penguin is now part of our core algorithm (Google)

Google updates Penguin, says it now runs in real time within the core search algorithm (SEL)

Image/Universal Drop — September 13, 2016

MozCast recorded a nearly-record 111° temperature and a 50% drop in SERPs with image (universal/vertical) results. The universal result shake-up opened up an organic position on page 1, causing substantial ranking shifts, but it’s likely that this was part of a much larger update.

Penguin 4.0: Was It Worth the Wait? (Moz)

“Possum” — September 1, 2016

While unconfirmed by Google, MozCast recorded extreme temperatures of 108° and a drop in local pack prevalence, and the local SEO community noted a major shake-up in pack results. Data suggests this update (or a simultaneous update) also heavily impacted organic results.

Everything you need to know about Google’s ‘Possum’ algorithm update (SEL)

Is a big Google search update happening? Chatter thinks so. (SEL)

Mobile-friendly 2 — May 12, 2016

Just more than a year after the original “mobile friendly” update, Google rolled out another ranking signal boost to benefit mobile-friendly sites on mobile search. Since the majority of sites we track are already mobile-friendly, it’s likely the impact of the latest update was small.

Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm boost has rolled out (SEL)

Continuing to make the web more mobile friendly (Google)

Unnamed Major Update — May 10, 2016

MozCast and other Google weather trackers showed a historically rare week-long pattern of algorithm activity, including a 97-degree spike. Google would not confirm this update, and no explanation is currently available.

Google Dismisses Any Recent Major Algorithm Update (SER)

AdWords Shake-up — February 23, 2016

Google made major changes to AdWords, removing right-column ads entirely and rolling out 4-ad top blocks on many commercial searches. While this was a paid search update, it had significant implications for CTR for both paid and organic results, especially on competitive keywords.

Four Ads on Top: The Wait Is Over (Moz)

Google AdWords Switching to 4 Ads on Top, None on Sidebar (SEM Post)

Unnamed Update — January 8, 2016

Multiple tracking tools (including MozCast) reported historically-large rankings movement, which Google later confirmed as a “core also update”. Google officially said that this was not a Penguin update, but details remain sketchy.

Google Confirms: Core Search Ranking Update Took Place But Not Penguin Related (SER)