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Google Algorithm Update Timeline – Past & Future

Google Algorithm Update Timeline – Past & Future

Google Algorithm Update Timeline

As digital marketers, we often find ourselves at the whim of the Google. With the bulk of any website’s traffic coming from the search engine, SEOs can find fortune or failure when the Google’s sacred algorithm is updated.

As a result, search engine optimization (SEO) is an industry undergoing a rapid culture change over the last five years. “Black hat” tactics designed to trick search engines into overestimating a website’s authority may still work, but now carry the risk of being exiled from search engine results pages (SERPs).

With a steady stream of algorithm updates from Google, the behavior of webmasters have been driven by adherence to past updates and by attempting to predict what’s coming next.

So with that in mind, I recap where we’ve come from and (in a mostly joking capacity) predict what SEOs can look out for in the years to come.

Google Algorithm Updates

February 23, 2011 – Panda

Among the first public moves Google made to punish what it saw as bad website practices. Named pointedly after a black and white animal, Panda punished key black hat practices including thin content, content farms, low quality content.

April 24, 2012 – Penguin

Originally referred to as the “Webspam Update,” Google continued it’s naming convention (another black and white animal that starts with P) and furthered their efforts to dissuade black hat tactics including keyword stuffing, and backlink scams.

July 24, 2014 – Pigeon

Technically unnamed, Pigeon shook up local search results. This update changed how Google interpreted location cues and dramatically changed map pack results for a few fields (including real estate).

April 21, 2015 – Pterodactyl

I wrote about this already, but later this month, Google’s latest (unnamed) algorithm update will officially roll out, making mobile usability a ranking factor in mobile search. Basically, if you’re aren’t mobile friendly, you’re going to lose out on your mobile traffic.

March 29, 2016 – Possum

For Google’s big 2016 algorithm update, I’m predicting Possum, which like it’s eponymous marsupial, is all about playing dead. In the ever-increasing demand for more content, Google will begin penalizing any website that doesn’t make hourly updates. Basically, if you aren’t producing 3,000 words a day, you can kiss any chance at ranking goodbye.

June 17, 2018 – Parrot

Just being mobile friendly was great back in 2015, but in this update, all websites need a click-to-voice option in which a user can instantly hear the text of any page be read by the author because in 2018, content producers are little more than puppets that must dance on command by the Google overlords. All websites that do not comply are penalized by having their fonts change to Comic Sans.

June 24, 2018 – Polar Bear

One demanding update isn’t enough in the summer of 2018. Google slams SEOs unexpectedly with Polar Bear as they struggle to book time in recording studios to read their content aloud. Polar Bear necessitates that every website must have a 2,500 word PSA on stopping global warming and saving the polar bears or they lose access to their Google Analytics profile. Google smugly awaits any complaints by SEOs “not willing to do their part.”

May 2, 2019 – Pygmy Hippopotamus

Dropped on the SEO industry out of nowhere at 11:45 PM on May 2nd, 2019, Pygmy Hippopotamus turns every homepage into a 404 error simultaneously. It is later revealed that Google employees merely did to occupy legions of nerds everywhere so they could watch Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 in an empty theatre during the film’s May 3rd opening weekend.

January 1, 2020 – Puffin

Mobile friendly sites are now a thing of the distant path. With the 2019 virtual reality revolution, Google is migrating all search results into VR format. No longer are SERPs a list of blue links on a screen, but three dimensional worlds populated by advanced AI models designed to answer any and all questions by visiting users. Sites that do comply will be scrubbed from the internet and erased from the minds of users.


Nick Lindauer
Nick is the vice president, client services and operations at Forthea. He’s been working in internet marketing since 2002, when – ironically – he answered an ad in the newspaper. When he’s not at work, he’s off spending time with his family, working on his house, building furniture, cooking on his two Big Green Eggs & brewing hot sauce.

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