The History of Google Algorithm Updates

What are the Google Algorithm Updates?

Every year Google updates its search algorithms hundreds of times. 90% of these updates are so small that they only get noticed by those who are actively looking for them, and hold little relevance to the wider online community.

Every now and then however, Google will roll out a major algorithm update that affects how your site ranks in the search engines in such a way that webmasters all over the world sit up and take note… and you should too.

For search engine marketers, knowing the dates of these updates can help explain any fluctuations that occur in ranking positions and organic traffic, and in the rare occasions when Google releases the date of the update in advance, can help prevent a website dropping out of the search engines altogether.

Why are there different animal named updates?

Google’s different algorithm updates are named after different animals. Here is the low down of what each one refers to:


Introduced: February 2011.

Panda is a search filter aimed at preventing sites with poor quality content from ranking in the search engine results pages. In Google’s eyes, poor quality content is content created for SEO purposes and not the user. Things like keyword stuffing and duplicate content are examples of this. Read more about the specific Panda updates here (


Introduced: April 2012.

Penguin is another search filter, this time designed to catch websites that are cheating the system by obtaining links unnaturally, through either paid or spammy means. Sites using link farms or networks that are designed primarily to boost Google rankings are targeted, however once penalised, should action be taken to remove these links rankings can be regained. Find out about the latest Penguin update here (


Introduced: September 2013.

Hummingbird is the name of a new search platform implemented by Google, focused on increasing the speed and precision in the search results. This update ensure that every word in a search term is taken into account, rather than just picking out the highest ranking ones, search engine results should be more accurate and closer to what the user is expecting to find. This update is all about relevance and finding the best match website against the search term users are looking for.


Introduced: July 2014.

Pigeon is the latest update to be released by Google. It is a major local search engine update, aimed at providing more useful, relevant and accurate search results by improving their distance and location ranking parameters. Google uses geo-tags to fins the closest match website to your search query that is nearest to your location.

Other Google Algorithm Updates

There are other updates that Google have also released that do not have an animal related name. These include: 

Payday Update

Introduced: June 2013.

An algorithm update aimed at cleaning up search results often associated with spam and fraud, for instance payday loans, accident claims and other insurance related sites.


Introduced: August 2012.

Pirate is a filter designed to prevent sites with many copyright infringement reports, as filed through Google’s DMCA system, from ranking well in the search engines. This is updated periodically; allowing penalised sites the chance of escaping further punishment should the right improvements be made.

Exact Match Domain

Introduced: September 2012.

This is a filter aimed at preventing sites from ranking well solely because they have words in their domain that match the words being searched for in the search engine, increasing results relevance. Google looks for words and phrases that are a variation of your exact keywords.

Top Heavy

Introduced: January 2012.

This update is aimed at preventing sites that are ‘top heavy’ with adverts from ranking highly, again improving user experience.


Download the PDF version here: The History of Google Algorithm Updates