Google core algorithm update history - updated 2020

A core update is a significant change Google makes to its ranking algorithm that affects a large number of indexed web pages. They occur about once every two or three months on average. Core updates are designed to improve the quality and relevance of Google’s search results by shuffling the search rankings of indexed web pages.

Google, it is safe to say that this Search Engine Giant needs to keep things fresh. When it comes to us bloggers and Toronto SEO specialists, Google’s Algorithm updates mean that we constantly need to update our style and strategy to stay in the race. Google keeps us Toronto and Miami Search Engine Optimizers young as one might say.

Our SEO Los Angeles, SEO Malaysia, SEO Miami, SEO New York and SEO Singapore teams are always up to date with google algorithm updates.

To understand and somewhat predict which direction Google might go in with its next update, we need to understand what went down during past years with Google’s infamous core algorithm updates.

Here is a list of all the Google Core Algorithm Updates this King of Search Engines went through to be where it is today.

-Panda 2011

Google’s Panda update was the first step to revolutionize SEO, and it still dramatically influences how we do our Search Engine Optimization today. After 2010 a significant issue regarding content farms arose. This update was to eliminate black hat methods such as content stuffing.  These pages had poor content, but due to the high volume of it, they were able to score a higher ranking. This update was in response to that, to try and eliminate these content farms as much as possible and reward high-quality, compelling pages.

-Venice 2012

The Venice update was a game-changer for most businesses. In this update google updated the local searches to include organic rankings. This means you would have to optimize your business on both a national level as well as on a local level to ensure that your webpage is ranked better. This Google Core Algorithm Update had you adding location into the title page plus the keyword to improve the rankings. This was the birth of the keyword vortex as some might say.

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Penguin 2012

This update was more commonly known as the “webspam update” because the main purpose of this update was targeted against link spam and manipulative link building also called black hat link building. Due to this algorithm, the sheer volume of links to your website from low-quality pages wasn’t enough anymore. To get higher ranks, we SEO toronto team had to work more towards quality content.

Pirate 2012

The pirate update was to end copyright infringement. In this update, Google stopped sites that had multiple copyright infringement reports from ranking higher in the organic search results. This was a breath of fresh air for many creators as they knew their content was not being plagiarized to get ahead. Now Google would not alter the ranking till the reports were resolved, which helped them prevent many content farms from getting high ranks.

-Hummingbird 2013

With the Hummingbird update google intended to completely change up the system and make it easier for the user to find relevant searches.  This Google Core Algorithm Update also focused on long-tail keywords rather than simple ones along with “How to” content as that is how people usually search on google. It did not bring any significant changes to our SEO Toronto clients as long as you were not using black hat techniques.

Pigeon 2013

2 major changes were brought on by the Pigeon update in 2013. One that caused a major blow to business was that local listings were changed from the top 7 to just 3. This created much more competition to get into those 3 listings. The second was narrowing the search results based on distance and location, so a top result for people in each specific area would be different, and some users further away might not even see the webpage listed.


The SSL update was google’s way of making the internet a much safer place to use. They did this by offering a slight ranking advantage to those webpages that included a SSL 2048-bit key certificate on their webpage. While they only offered a slight advantage, many pages suffered who did not have the certificate but were still producing quality content.

Mobile 2015

In 2015 with the rise of smartphones, google took out their mobile-friendly update. In it pages that were mobile-friendly were ranked higher. This was difficult for many websites as they were not all compatible on smartphones yet though they did say that this would only affect the rankings on the smartphone searches and they would still be able to rank higher on the web searches.

-Rankbrain 2015

 This Google Core Algorithm Update update was a part of their core Hummingbird algorithm, and rumour has it they emphasized it as being the 3rd most important signal in determining organic search ranks. The rank brain is an Artificial Intelligence software. It adjusts the rankings based on machine learning. If the response is favourable, it keeps the new rankings, if not it reverts back to the old one. This algorithm emphaisizes on good on page SEO factors. 

Possum 2016

The possum update focuses primarily on the local searches. It filters and decides what listings will show in the search results at what time. So the rankings for 3 different individuals would look completely different. It also filters out similar listings for an industry. So if you have a writing company in a building with another writing company, both the listings may not show up in the same search result.

Fred 2017

The Fred update was another major update that greatly affected SEOs. The main purpose of the update was to weed out those pages that had heavy monetization at the expense of the user experience. So, the pages that were littered with ads suffered in the rankings department. This update was the death of google adsense sites. 

Medic 2018

The medic update is called so, because it largely affects the health-related niche and sites that deal with any personal information. Google stresses heavily on making it safe for the users and wants to make sure that the information is given to the most vetted webpages. The only way to rank higher with those pages is to develop more trust with the users.

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BERT 2019

Google itself called this the most important update in the last 5 years.  This Google Core Algorithm Update – Bert focuses more on the language written. It understands the context of the content that is written so it can better understand and then solve the query and provide related web pages. What that means for SEO is that web pages that are poorly written or translated with bad grammar will suffer in their google ranking.

May 2020 core update

Google announced another major update in May 2020. They call it a core update as it has a significant impact on the rankings. Now that the update has rolled out and the results are in, it mostly affects negatively for SEOs unless you are a big brand or a social media site. Websites like Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have taken the top spots in search rankings with high-quality content creators left behind. They have said they will look into this social media dominance and try to adjust the results. However, for now, its turbulent waters for small scale content creators.

What a long list, huh. This sure was a history lesson, but one that will definitely affect your future SEO strategy.