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A History of Google Algorithm Changes

Google changes its algorithm a lot more than many digital marketers realize  The algorithm is constantly being changed, amended and updated to fit in with Google’s new standards, so marketers must always be ready for anything.

According to Optima Worldwide the Google algorithm is reworked multiple times a day, which can count for some huge changes by the end of the year. It’s vital that those involved with SEO and online marketing understand what these changes include and how they affect them.

So, here are some of the biggest algorithm changes to date:

Google Panda

Most marketers will have heard of Google Panda because of the massive changes it brought about in the way Google ranks websites. It first emerged in February 2011 and its aim was to reduce the Page Rank of websites that it deemed ‘low quality’.

The Panda update targets websites which:

  • Don’t provide quality information for users.

  • Have duplicated content on multiple pages within the site.

  • Features plagiarized content which appears on other websites.

  • Has spelling or factual mistakes within the copy.

In total, the original Google Panda update is said to have affected 12% of search results.

In August 2011 the Panda update was rolled out globally, having previously been contained to the USA. This change affected between 6 and 9% of global searches.


In June 2011 Google announced plans for a new social network, which would go head-to-head with the likes of Twitter and Facebook. The main aspect of Google+ was on sharing content and people were quick to jump on the bandwagon. It became the fastest growing social network in history, garnering over 25 million users in just two months.

Search+ Your World

The Search+ Your World algorithm change of January 2012 was incredibly controversial. With the Search+ Your World update, both Google+ users and those without a Google+ account would see the following in page results:

  • Personal results (personal photos and posts from Google+)

  • Profiles (Google+ profiles from other users)

  • People and pages (links to Google+ user pages and business pages)

This meant that Google+ pages would rank higher than Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages that had previously out-ranked Google+ pages.

Google Penguin

The Google Penguin update was rolled out in April 2012 and worked to penalised sites that used ‘black hat SEO’ techniques.

These techniques included:

  • Keyword stuffing.

  • Cloaking (providing two versions of a page which increases its rankings but doesn’t give a good user experience. These pages usually link to low-quality sites in reality).

  • Link schemes (buying links, unnatural link exchanges, using automated link programs).

The initial algorithm change affected just over 3% of English language results.


In August 2012 Google announced a new algorithm change that would limit certain SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) to 7 queries rather than 10. This pushed a lot of pages previously ranking on page one onto the second page.

SEOMoz conducted research into the change by spot-checking tracked keywords to see how many results appeared on the SERPs. In the end, 18% of its tracked keywords were limited to just 7 queries on SERPs.  

For those that were previously on page one for their SERPS but have now been pushed to page two, the best way to recover from this is to make positive changes to webpages. This can help users to get their pages back onto page one.

These changes can include:

  • Using branded keywords.

  • Increasing informative content around targeted keywords.

  • Boosting link building to drive traffic to pages.

Google changes its algorithm more times than anyone could keep up with, but it’s vital to stay one step ahead so as not to be taken off guard. The best way to do this is to utilize white hate SEO techniques and to follow Google’s guidelines every step of the way.

This post was provided by Aurora Johnson on behalf of Custard, an SEO company in Preston offering a range of digital marketing services.

About the author

Atish Ranjan

Atish Ranjan is an established and independent voice dedicated to providing you with unique, well-researched and original information from the field of technology, SEO, social media, and blogging. He has in-depth knowledge of computers and tech as he pursued computer science.


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  • Helpful job for bringing this info to us. Since the google algo update, many businesses have been slapped by google, my friend’s site is nowhere to found because he blasted over 15,000 blog comments aside from those spammy links from forum profiles which are unrelated to his niche. Sad to hear such stories..that after spending your time, money and effort.. it will end up to nothing.

  • Hello, Atish – this is the clearest explanation I’ve seen of all the recent updates – thank you.

    As someone fairly new to blogging and not familiar with black-hat tactics I find the new algorithms quite reassuring, in a way – I’m interested in creating original content and like the idea of forming links naturally, by slowly building contacts and a reputation – I know it’s time consuming and labour intensive, but I’m just more comfortable with good old fashioned ways.

    I appreciate that we have to keep up with the latest algorithms, though – apart from anything else, you have to be careful you don’t inadvertently create duplicate content on your site – for example, by putting one post in lots of different categories. It’s good that they’re trying to crack down on bad practices, but a shame that some people might get caught out quite innocently because they don’t understand some of the complexities of how content gets tracked online.

    Many thanks for this informative post,


  • Nice information. I have a query that does putting post in single category has any harm because many times user search posts based on category and this miss some important posts placed in other categories.

  • Thanks for sharing all the history of Google algorithm updates Atish, In 2011 the Panda update emerged and in 2012 the Penguin update. Now I’m worried about what will happen in 2013, I’m sure there will be another update in 2013 which bloggers should be waiting for.

  • Great post and nice topic .recently Google many change …can you please tell me Atish ji how to increase organic traffic without guest posting..


  • I think Google have gone to far now and are trying to fix something that aint broke. Since September 2012 when the EMD update was rolled out alongside some more Panda and Penguin updates, the SERPs have been dancing around and not providing good results at all, like Tuan said its probably to do with them wanting to make more money from ads.
    I think Google need to take a step back and re-look at these algorithms and maybe consider how much damage they are doing to small business.

  • Hey Atish,

    A couple of months back my blog got a penalty due to Penguin. I used an automatic article distribution service and it came back and bit me in the…..:)
    Now, I’m going as natural as I can,

    Great insight!


  • Hi Atish

    This google algorithm is really too much on our brains.At times I believe are we writing for google or for our readers?

    Thanks for sharing the info.


    • I think we focus more on writing for readers but a little optimization is needed in the post. I admit that I never think of any SEO benefit while writing the post.

      thanks for stopping by Sapna.

  • Google updates are meant to make search results better, but for web publishers, there is a lot more to do every time Google makes an update. Content always needs to be original and we are working on it! If you focus on writing great posts, you don’t have to worry.

  • Google is getting strict day by day but don’t have to loose our confidence. There are many blogs and websites got penalized after Panda and Penguin Updates. Great History and thanks for sharing this.

  • Past is past, what’s important now is the present – right now – is the perfect time to stop and look at your online marketing strategy as a whole. If you are currently using any techniques that you know are against Google’s rules, then stop. Create quality content. Perform competitor research. and Watch your anchor text.

  • Wow Great Post on how the history of Google Algorithm. I am slightly disappointed by the new Google’s Changes in search results they are giving high priority to the ads than giving the actual search results!

  • Really amazing, people are really frustrated & cursing Google for their Google Algorithms, I was the victim of Panda. Your post will give them detail information of the changes, now they will curse it more, LOL. Good post, thanks for sharing.

  • Recently I had seen a documentary on google, presented by national geographic channel.., the origin of google is the result of their unbeatable algorithim.., according to this documentary the search engine earlier to Google was based on the keyword density in your blog., but then google launched their algo based on the reputation of the blog., reputation represents the linking of that blog in the cyberworld.., that’s when the importance of backlinks increased for better SEO..,
    to serve the users best google is still working on their algorithms.., result of which can see by their recent updates..

  • A SEO & some SEO those are unaware about algorithm changes, they always wonder to know the change of list of Google algorithm so this article is specially for them. A great work has done by you Atish. Really its amazing article as well as valuable post to know about Google Algorithm Changes.

  • we know that Google algorithm updates are designed to be good for users but, like everything, it’s never going to be perfect. And of course, they will continue making SEO’s job more difficult. Thanks for good post!

  • Google is always changing, SEO is a business that is always changing, many people thing SEO is somthing that once you learn that’s it, you are always learning.

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