History of Google Algorithm Updates

What is a Google algorithm?

Google algorithms are a set of rules that Google uses to rank web pages in search results. Google uses algorithms and other ranking factors to determine web page rankings according to the quality and relevance of content.

How often does Google update its algorithms?

In its early years, Google only published a handful of updates in a year. Now, algorithm updates happen multiple times a year. 

According to Google, they made 4,500 updates to Google Search in 2020 alone. These updates may include changes in ranking systems, user interface, content, and more. 

Most of the minimal updates go unnoticed. However, major algorithm updates create a significant impact on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), the list of results you get when you type a search term into Google. New algorithm updates can change how Google reviews web pages and thus, how they get ranked in SERPs. 

By regularly monitoring for these Google algorithm updates, you can stay on top of any changes and avoid unexpected impacts to your site rankings.

List of recent Google algorithm updates

Here is a list of the most recent Google algorithm updates in reverse chronological order.

November 2023 Reviews Update

November 8, 2023

In November 2023, Google rolled out the last reviews update, targeting review-based content globally across multiple languages including English, Spanish, German, among others. Going forward, Google will transition to regular and ongoing updates for its reviews system, discontinuing the practice of periodic notifications in favor of a more real-time update process.

November 2023 Core Update

November 2, 2023

In November 2023, Google completed its fourth core update of the year. The rollout of this update, which commenced on November 2, took 26 days in total. During this period, it coincided with the Reviews Update, which started on November 8.

October 2023 Core Update

October 5, 2023

Rolled out from October 5 to October 19, the core update signifies a major adjustment in its ranking algorithm. As the third major core update of the year, following those in March and August, it is designed to refine search quality and promote the visibility of high-quality, relevant content on the search engine.

October 2023 Spam Content Update

October 4, 2023

Launched on October 4 and completed by October 20, the October spam update is a major update aimed at combating spam in search results, including cloaking, hacked content, auto-generated content, and scraped spam. Focusing on languages such as Turkish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Hindi, and Chinese, while also affecting English, the update significantly enhances Google’s spam detection capabilities across multiple languages to improve the overall quality of search results.

September 2023 Helpful Content Update

September 14, 2023

Google’s recent update introduces an enhanced classifier and vital changes to the Helpful Content System, which aims to uplift user-focused content and demote those optimized just for search engines. The rollout began last September 14 and was completed by the 28th. 

The helpful content update involves penalizing low-quality content, repetitive or doesn’t bring unique value to the user. It also marks a notable shift towards accepting AI-generated content, provided it aligns with creating valuable, helpful material.

Moreover, the update brings stringent guidelines for websites hosting third-party content, advising against indexing such content unless it’s relevant and supervised. It also emphasizes a thorough review process for content, warns against deceptive updates, and advises caution in altering content merely to seem “fresh” in search rankings.

August 2023 Core Update

August 22, 2023

Google released the second core update this year last Aug 22, 2023. The rollout finished on September 7, 2023, taking 16 days to complete.

Core updates are designed to enhance Google’s search algorithms, ensuring more accurate and dependable search results. Google emphasized that pages affected by core updates don’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with the content. The updates to the algorithm primarily aim to better evaluate content as a whole. Consistently, Google recommends that website owners prioritize high-quality content to address potential shifts in search rankings.

April 2023 Reviews Update

April 12, 2023

Google has updated its “product reviews system” to “reviews system” in this algorithm update. The reviews update has now focused on evaluating all types of reviews for products, services, and things. The update covers content in languages: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Polish.

The rollout lasted for 13 days, from April 12 to April 25, 2023.

March 2023 Broad Core Update

March 15, 2023

This is the first broad core update this 2023, and it finished rollout within 2 weeks.

The broad core update is not a penalty but rewards excellent pages. Core updates cover all languages and regions. Like any previous core updates, Google didn’t specify what the changes would be in its ranking algorithms.

According to Google, you must assess your content when this update hits your pages. The algorithms seek to reward helpful, reliable, and people-first content. They previously released a set of questions to help you evaluate whether your content qualifies as helpful content.

February 2023 Product Reviews Update

February 21, 2023

In addition to English, the sixth product reviews update expands to several more languages, including Spanish, German, French, Italian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Polish.

According to Google’s tweet, the rollout is expected to complete in two weeks.

Product reviews update rewards “insightful analysis and original research” and is not considered a penalty. Google evaluates product review content on a page-level basis. If your site has many product reviews, any content within site may be subject to evaluation during the update. If the site does not have a lot of product reviews, evaluation is not likely to happen.

December 2022 Link Spam Update 

December 14, 2022

In this update, the credits from unnatural or spammy links are lost. Google uses its AI-based spam-prevention system, SpamBrain, to evaluate and discredit links to your site resulting from buying sites and link farms.

This update results in changes in page rankings. The link spam update affects all languages and is expected to finish two weeks after the rollout.

December 2022 Helpful Content Update

December 5, 2022

Helpful content updates work to promote valuable and original content written for users rather than search engines.

For example, if Google sees that a portion of your content is written to be ‘search engine-first,’ it can lower the rankings of all the content on your site, including high-quality pages.

This update added new system signals, which applied the update to all languages, rather than just English, as it was previously. This took two weeks to roll out, and it improved the August update.

October 2022 Spam Update 

October 19, 2022

This type of algorithm update is aimed at fighting spam. Spam updates help identify phishing scams and other fake sites that try to rank in the SERPs by pretending to be relevant pages. 

This update targeted all languages. However, Google did not specifically say whether this update was focused on links, content, or other forms of spam.

September 2022 Product Reviews Update 

September 20, 2022

The product review update is not a penalty, but rather, rewards valuable content and original research with higher rankings.

Product review updates favor content that demonstrates first-hand knowledge and expertise of the products. This update targeted English-language product reviews.

September 2022 Broad Core Update 

Sep 12, 2022

Core updates involve extensive changes to Google’s algorithm, aiming to improve the results. They’re focused on E-A-T or Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. These updates can cause significant ranking movements. 

This update impacted all regions in all languages and was completed on September 26th.

August 2022 Helpful Content Update 

(Aug 25, 2022)

Google published a list of questions to guide website owners in publishing helpful content. These were designed to help them write content that is helpful for users and not for search engines.

It was said that the update would impact content types such as tech-related, shopping, online education materials, arts, and entertainment the most. But only a few site categories, like lyrics and coding, were affected.

July 2022 Product Reviews Update

July 27, 2022

This is the fourth product review update that rewarded high-quality product reviews. This update was not widespread and had little impact on ranking changes.

May 2022 Core Update

May 25, 2022

Like the previous core updates, Google released broad changes in its ranking systems. This was a part of the core update series that’s updated throughout the year. The rollout took two weeks to complete.

March 2022 Product Reviews Update

March 23, 2022

This update looked for in-depth analysis, product use, unique information, and comparable product coverage. 

Google indirectly punished lower-quality product reviews with thin content that simply summarizes the products, rather than providing in-depth information. 

The initial rollout was only for “English-language product reviews.”

Page Experience Update for Desktop

February 22, 2022

This update promoted pages that provide a good user experience. The page experience metrics sought to measure how users think of the experience of engaging with the web page. 

The desktop page experience update includes the following:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
  • First Input Delay (FID)
  • HTTPS Security
  • Absence of intrusive interstitials

December 2021 Product Reviews Update

December 1, 2021

The goal of this Google product reviews update, like the April product reviews update, was to reward outstanding product reviews in search results. 

Google wanted to show users content with insightful analysis and original content written by topical experts or enthusiasts. 

Google’s new recommendation for this update: add more multimedia “evidence” around your product reviews and provide links to several merchants.

Local Search Update

November 17, 2021

This update focused on changes around proximity and distance. It reportedly involved a “rebalancing” of ranking factors Google considers in local search results.

The ranking factors for the local search update include the following:

  • Relevance
  • Distance
  • Prominence

November 2021 Broad Core Update

November 17, 2021

This broad core update was widespread and affected all websites in all languages. On a Twitter update, Google referred to their webmaster guidelines to prepare for the core updates.

November 2021 Spam Update

November 3, 2021

This targeted the more “spammy” side of the search results. It penalized sites that didn’t follow the webmaster guidelines.

July 2021 Link Spam Update

July 26, 2021

This link spam update targeted spammy links “more broadly” and “across multiple languages.” 

While Google may not penalize your site for spammy links, if Google ignores or nullifies links that may have been helping a site rank well in Google Search, that could still count as a penalty.

July 2021 Core Update

July 1, 2021

This comprehensive update changed the whole algorithm slightly. However, no single function was specifically identified.

June 2021 Spam Update (Part 2)

June 28, 2021

Both parts of this spam update were global updates that targeted both web results and image results. This update was not specific to any region, language, or category of websites.

June 2021 Spam Update (Part 1)

June 23, 2021

Google did not identify what type of spam this update targets. However, Google referred to its Webmaster Guidelines on a Twitter announcement,

Page Experience Update for Mobile

June 15, 2021

Google started using Core Web Vitals to understand how users perceive the web page experience.

The three Core Web Vitals metrics are

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which measures loading performance.
  • First Input Delay (FID), which measures interactivity.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), which measures visual stability.

This update included existing ranking signals, like page load speed, mobile-friendliness, HTTPS, and lack of ads.

June 2021 Core Update

June 2, 2021

This core update was comprehensive and widespread. Many sites likely felt the impact of this update. This was a global update that affected all languages.

April 2021 Product Reviews Update

April 8, 2021

This product reviews update aimed to better reward product reviews that include in-depth and original research and insightful analysis. Google seeks to promote these product reviews in its search results rankings.

December 2020 Core Update

December 3, 2020

Like all of Google’s core updates, the December 2020 core update was wide-reaching, affecting websites and SEO across all languages.

May 2020 Core Update

May 4, 2020

This was a massive update. In this update, almost every niche showed peaking volatility rates.

January 2020 Core Update

January 13, 2020

This was a global update that reassessed content that had been published since the last update or previously overlooked content.


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David E
David E

My SEO Journey: mentee >> freelancer >> top rated on Upwork >> agency owner... I've come a long way over the last 10 years. This blog covers everything I wish I knew when I was younger. Enjoy!

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