Google Algorithm Update History [+ Latest SEO Changes]

Rachel Handley

Apr 28, 202326 min read
Google Algorithm Updates
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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Explore the history of Google algorithm updates (confirmed changes to Google’s ranking system). So you can gain a better understanding of the search engine’s evolution and improve your SEO. 

Alternatively, jump to Google updates by type or Google update FAQs.

2023 to 2020 Updates

Let’s explore the latest Google algorithm updates in reverse chronological order.

April 2023 Reviews Update

The April 2023 reviews update aims to reward reviews “that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products, services or other things.”

It affects reviews of products, services, destinations, games, movies, and more. Previously, Google’s review updates focused on product reviews. 

Announced: April 12, 2023

Started: April 12, 2023

Completed: April 25, 2023

Duration: 13 days

Tip: Looking to earn money from your recommendations? Learn more about affiliate marketing.

March 2023 Core Update

The March 2023 core update was designed to make Google better at identifying quality content. And therefore improve search results for users. (Just like other core updates.)

The update led to “Very High” SERP volatility, according to the Semrush Sensor. This means that Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) changed around much more than normal.

In the U.S., desktop SERP volatility peaked the day after the update began:

desktop SERP volatility in US shown in Semrush Sensor

Almost two weeks later, mobile SERP volatility peaked even higher. Suggesting that the March 2023 core update had a more dramatic impact on mobile rankings. 

(Desktop and mobile SERPs are often different. Because Google wants users to have the best experience on each device.) 

mobile SERP volatility in US shown in Semrush Sensor

Announced: March 15, 2023

Started: March 15, 2023

Completed: March 28, 2023

Duration: 13 days, seven hours

February 2023 Product Reviews Update

The February 2023 product reviews update aimed to reward in-depth, high-quality product reviews. So, it affected sites that publish this type of content.

SERP volatility peaked in the “Very High” range on March 1, 2023.

SERP volatility on March 1 shown in Semrush Sensor

As part of this product reviews update, Google published two new recommendations:

  • Provide evidence of your experience with the product
  • Include links to multiple sellers

Announced: February 21, 2023

Started: February 21, 2023

Completed: March 7, 2023

Duration: 14 days

The December 2022 link spam update enhanced Google’s ability to identify sites that buy and sell links for SEO purposes. It was an improvement to SpamBrain, Google’s AI spam-detection system. 

Google neutralizes the spammy links it finds through this update. Meaning sites previously benefiting from these backlinks may have dropped in the rankings.

Announced: December 14, 2022

Started: December 14, 2022

Completed: January 12, 2023

Duration: 29 days

Tip: Get notified about SERP volatility in your industry with the Semrush Sensor

December 2022 Helpful Content Update

The December 2022 helpful content update aimed to demote sites that create content primarily for SEO purposes—rather than for people.

During the rollout, Google changed its E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) guidelines into E-E-A-T guidelines. Adding in an extra “E” for “Experience.”

The goal was to reward content creators who demonstrate firsthand experience with the topic at hand.

Announced: Dec. 6, 2022

Started: Dec. 5, 2022

Completed: Jan. 12, 2023

Duration: 38 days

October 2022 Spam Update

The October 2022 spam update was designed to make Google better at detecting spam. Sites found to engage in spammy practices (i.e., violate Google’s spam policies) may have seen rankings drop.

SERP volatility nudged into the High range on the day after rollout.

SERP volatility in October shown in Semrush Sensor

Announced: October 19, 2022

Started: October 19, 2022

Completed: October 21, 2022

Duration: Two days

September 2022 Product Reviews Update

The September 2022 product reviews update aimed to reward comprehensive, high-quality product reviews. And applied to English-language content only.

Announced: August 18, 2022

Started: September 20, 2022

Completed: September 26, 2022

Duration: Six days

September 2022 Core Update 

The September 2022 core update overlapped with the September 2022 product reviews update (above). Despite this, SERP volatility remained below 6/10. Lower than we might expect for a core update.

Here’s how volatility compared to the previous core update, in May 2022:

volatility trends comparison chart

Announced: September 12, 2022

Started: September 12, 2022

Completed: September 26, 2022

Duration: 14 days

August 2022 Helpful Content Update

The August 2022 helpful content update was the first Google algorithm update of its kind. It was designed to ensure searchers “see more original, helpful content written by people, for people.”

After a couple of calm weeks, the change led to high volatility in the SERPs.

high volatility in the SERPs on September 9

In a supporting blog post, Google said users should create content primarily for humans—not search engines. But still follow SEO best practices.

Announced: August 18, 2022

Started: August 25, 2022

Completed: September 9, 2022

Duration: 15 days

Tip: Semrush’s SEO Content Template tool helps you create content that’s better for search engines and humans. It recommends a text length, readability score, and more.

July 2022 Product Reviews Update

The July 2022 product reviews update was designed to help high-quality product reviews rank higher. And demote low-quality product review pages that offer little value to the reader.

This Google algorithm update only took six days to roll out, rather than the 14 to 21 days expected. And it was far less volatile than the March 2022 product reviews update.

rank volatility change comparison chart

Announced: July 27, 2022

Started: July 27, 2022

Completed: August 2, 2022

Duration: Six days

May 2022 Core Update

The May 2022 core update followed a volatile few weeks in Google’s SERPs. Many site owners witnessed significant fluctuations in their search rankings.

However, Google reminded users that “there's nothing in a core update that targets specific pages or sites. Instead, the changes are about improving how our systems assess content overall.”

SERP volatility for the last 30 days chart

Announced: May 25, 2022

Started: May 24, 2022

Completed: June 9, 2022

Duration: 15 days

March 2022 Product Reviews Update 

The March 2022 product reviews update enhanced Google’s ability to identify high-quality product review pages. But was less impactful than the December 2021 product reviews update.

peak volatility comparison chart

In a blog post about this algorithm update, Google shared the following information:

  • Product reviews updates also apply to ranked lists and comparison reviews
  • Recommendations for the “best” products should be justified
  • Separate reviews for products in ranked lists can prove beneficial

Announced: March 23, 2022 

Started: March 23, 2022

Completed: April 6, 2022

Duration: 14 days

Page Experience Update for Desktop 

The page experience update for desktop made Core Web Vitals a desktop ranking factor. This meant desktop rankings were affected by the following metrics:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): The time it takes for the main content of the page to appear
  • First Input Delay (FID): The response time to the user’s first interaction
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): A measure of layout movements that occur during loading

Note: Google completed the page experience update for Mobile in September 2021.

Prior to this algorithm update, Google released a Search Console report allowing site owners to review their desktop Core Web Vitals.

Announced: November 4, 2021

Started: February 22, 2022

Completed: March 3, 2022

Duration: Nine days

Tip: Check your Core Web Vitals and get tips for improving them in Semrush’s Site Audit tool.

December 2021 Product Reviews Update

The December 2021 product reviews update aimed to reward sites with rich, in-depth reviews. As opposed to thin, low-quality reviews.

This Google algorithm update took almost three weeks to roll out. SERP volatility remained High to Very High throughout. And for a few days after.

SERP volatility for the last 30 days

Google introduced two best practices in its blog post about the update:

  • Provide evidence of your experience with the product
  • Consider including links to multiple sellers

Announced: December 1, 2021

Started: December 1, 2021

Completed: December 21, 2021

Duration: 20 days

November 2021 Core Update

The November 2021 core update impacted the health industry most. And hit almost every vertical harder than the previous core update.

rank volatility increase comparison chart

Announced: November 17, 2021

Started: November 17, 2021

Completed: November 30, 2021

Duration: 13 days

November 2021 Spam Update

The November 2021 spam update was designed to improve Google’s spam-detection abilities. 

When announcing the update on Twitter, Google Search Liaison referred site owners to the best practices for search.

Google Search Liaison announcement on Twitter

Announced: November 3, 2021

Started: November 3, 2021

Completed: November 11, 2021

Duration: Eight days, one hour

The July 2021 link spam update made Google “more effective at identifying and nullifying link spam more broadly, across multiple languages.”

In a blog post about the algorithm update, Google emphasized the importance of qualifying outbound links. In other words, applying rel attributes to:

  • Affiliate links
  • Sponsored links
  • Guest post links

Read our guide on nofollow links to learn more.

Announced: July 26, 2021

Started: July 26, 2021

Completed: August 24, 2021

Duration: 29 days

July 2021 Core Update

The July 2021 core update was originally intended as part of the June 2021 core update. But Google wasn’t ready to release everything at once.

The Google Search Liaison account tweeted: “Most sites won’t notice either of these updates, as is typical with any core updates.”

Announced: June 2, 2021

Started: July 1, 2021

Completed: July 12, 2021

Duration: 11 days 

June 2021 Spam Update (Part Two)

Google released the second part of the June 2021 spam update on June 28, 2021. (Google released the first part on June 23, 2021.) To further enhance its spam-prevention algorithms.

Announced: June 23, 2021

Started: June 28, 2021

Completed: June 28, 2021

Duration: 23 hours, 59 minutes

June 2021 Spam Update (Part One)

Google released the first part of the June 2021 spam update on June 23, 2021. (Google released the second part on June 28, 2021.) Both updates were efforts to fight web spam.

Announced: June 23, 2021

Started: June 23, 2021

Completed: June 23, 2021

Duration: 23 hours, 59 minutes

Page Experience Update for Mobile

The page experience update for mobile made Core Web Vitals a mobile ranking factor. This meant mobile rankings were affected by the following metrics:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): The time it takes for the main content of the page to appear
  • First Input Delay (FID): The response time to the user’s first interaction
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): A measure of layout movements that occur during loading

In a blog post about this algorithm change, Google explained it would do the following:

  • Add a Page Experience report to Search Console
  • Remove the AMP requirement for the Top Stories carousel on Google Search
  • Retire the AMP badge icon
  • Support signed exchanges (SXG) on Google Search

Announced: May 28, 2020

Started: June 15, 2021

Completed: September 2, 2021

Duration: 79 days

Note: Google completed the page experience update for desktop in March 2022.

June 2021 Core Update

The June 2021 core update was the first core update in 2021. Google couldn’t fit many of the planned improvements in, so the improvements spilled over to the July 2021 core update.

Following this Google algorithm update, Loc8nearme, Foursquare, MoovitApp, and BusinessyAB saw the biggest average position spikes in the U.S. Perhaps as local businesses were beginning to reopen following COVID-19 restrictions.

Loc8nearme overview in Semrush Organic Research tool

Announced: June 2, 2021

Started: June 2, 2021

Completed: June 12, 2021

Duration: 10 days

Tip: Check out our Google Maps marketing guide to learn more about promoting your local business.

April 2021 Product Reviews Update

The April 2021 product reviews update was the first update of its kind. The idea was to reward expert product reviews “rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products,” according to Google.

Google shared these product review recommendations (among others) in a blog post about the update:

  • Provide insightful analysis and original research
  • Have reviews written by topical experts or enthusiasts
  • Explain what sets a product apart from its competitors
  • Discuss product benefits and drawbacks
  • Identify and address key decision-making factors
  • Describe how a product has evolved

Announced: April 8, 2021

Started: April 8, 2021

Completed: April 22, 2021

Duration: 14 days

December 2020 Core Update

The December 2020 core update was released before the holiday season. Which raised some eyebrows in the SEO community.

Dr. Marie Haynes tweet about the December 2020 Google update

However, there are losers and winners with every Google algorithm update. While some sites got less holiday traffic than expected, others benefited from higher rankings.

For example, eBay gained 44 positions after the first day of the update.

Announced: December 3, 2020

Started: December 3, 2020

Completed: December 16, 2020

Duration: 13 days

May 2020 Core Update

Google released the May 2020 core update shortly after the COVID-19 outbreak. Many commenters believed this algorithm update tackled health misinformation in the SERPs.

Health is a YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) topic. This means that E-E-A-T (just E-A-T at the time) is extremely important in search rankings.

Announced: May 4, 2020 

Started: May 4, 2020 

Completed: May 18, 2020

Duration: 14 days

January 2020 Core Update

The January 2020 core update rolled out in just three days. 

Google’s Danny Sullivan pointed users to a previous blog post for guidance. This blog post advises site owners to self-assess their content using the Search Quality Rater Guidelines.

Announced: January 13, 2020

Started: January 13, 2020

Completed: January 16, 2020

Duration: Three days

2019 to 2010 Updates

Let’s explore the history of Google algorithm updates in the 2010s.

BERT Update

BERT is a natural language processing (NLP) algorithm that helps Google understand the nuances of users’ search queries. And therefore deliver more relevant results.

Google’s Pandu Nayak wrote

“Rather than simply searching for content that matches individual words, BERT comprehends how a combination of words expresses a complex idea. ... it ensures we don’t drop important words from your query—no matter how small they are.”

Note: BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.

The BERT update meant Google could better understand 10% of searches in the U.S. in English. And therefore deliver more relevant results.

Let’s look at an example Nayak shared:

Before BERT, Google struggles to recognize the importance of word order in the user’s search query. It delivers a result about traveling from Brazil to the U.S. Rather than from the U.S. to Brazil.

After BERT, Google delivers a more helpful result.

BERT Update example

Google started its worldwide BERT rollout on December 9, 2021. 

Announced: October 25, 2019

November 2019 Local Search Update

The November 2019 Local Search Update introduced neural matching to local search. Neural matching is an AI system that helps Google understand how words relate to concepts. 

This update meant that Google could deliver more relevant results in the Google map pack. It no longer relied on matching words in the query with words in the business’s name or description.

For example, neural matching allows Google to recognise the close relationship between “husky” and “dog.” And therefore rank various dog groomers when people search “husky grooming near me.”

Announced: December 2, 2019

Started: November 2019

Completed: December 1, 2019

Tip: Learn how to improve your local SEO. Or check out Semrush’s local SEO toolkit.

September 2019 Core Update

The September 2019 core update was the third and final core update in 2019. As with the others, it was pre-announced via Twitter. 

Google’s Danny Sullivan tweeted that core updates “typically take a few days to fully roll out … we don't post when it ends because there's typically other updates that are always happening, too.”

Announced: September 24, 2019

Started: September 24, 2019

June 2019 Core Update

The June 2019 core update was again designed to reward high-quality content. 

Google’s Danny Sullivan pointed SEOs to the Search Quality Rater Guidelines. Which human reviewers (called Quality Raters) use to provide feedback on Google algorithm updates.

Danny Sullivan tweet about Google updates

Announced: June 2, 2019

Started: June 3, 2019

Diversity Update

Google’s site diversity update (also known as the Diversity update) made it rarer to see multiple results from the same domain. It followed users’ requests for more variety in the SERP. 

Announced: June 6, 2019

March 2019 Core Update

The March 2019 core update was when Google officially switched to the “[Month YYY] core update” naming convention.

However, Brett Tabke (founder of the Pubcon Conference and Webmaster World forum) dubbed the update “Florida 2.” Because, like the Florida update, it was released shortly after a Pubcon conference in Florida. (Not because the algorithm updates were similar in nature.)

Announced: March 13, 2019

September 2018 Core Update

Google retroactively announced the September 2018 core update around three weeks after rollout began. 

The announcement was part of a Twitter thread from the Search Liaison account. Which stated Google would inform users of broad core algorithm updates (or core updates), so users don’t “mistakenly try to fix things that aren’t issues.”

Google Search Liaison announcement

Google also confirmed it would inform users of “noticeable” updates where “there is actionable information that users might take.”

Google Search Liaison announcement

Started: September 24, 2018

Announced: October 11, 2018 

Medic Update (August 2018 Core Update)

The August 2018 core update was colloquially known as the Medic update, because it seemed to target medical sites. Particularly those that didn’t comply with Google’s E-A-T (now with an extra “E”) guidelines. 

For example, sites making medical claims without substantiating them.

Research conducted by SEO writer Barry Schwartz confirmed that the update affected other verticals. But it hit the health vertical significantly harder. 

This is likely because Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines are particularly strict when it comes to YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) content.

Announced: August 1, 2018

April 2018 Core Update

The April 2018 core update was a routine update that generated little conversation in the SEO community. 

Started: April 16, 2018

Announced: April 20, 2018

March 2018 Core Update

The March 2018 core update was designed to benefit pages “that were previously under-rewarded.” 

SEO influencer Glenn Gabe referred to it as the “Brackets” update (after a term used during March Madness, a basketball event that occurred at the same time). 

Around this time, Google tested a “condensed view” for calculator, unit converter, and local time searches. Which meant users got instant answers but zero web results. The experiment ended after a week or so. 

SEO influencer Glenn Gabe´s tweet

Announced: March 12, 2018

Started: March 7, 2018

Speed Update (Mobile)

The Speed Update made page speed a ranking factor for mobile searches. Previously, load times only impacted desktop results.

Announced: January 17, 2018

Started: July 9, 2018

RankBrain Update

RankBrain was Google’s first AI system and deep learning model. It helps Google identify related words and concepts.

Google began using RankBrain in April 2015 to better understand new queries. Which accounted for around 15% of searches. But the company didn’t announce the algorithm update until months later. 

RankBrain was “involved in every query” by June 2016, according to this Wired article. And cited as the third most useful ranking factor.

Announced: October 26, 2015

Mobilegeddon (Mobile-Friendly Update)

The Mobile-Friendly Update, more commonly known as “mobilegeddon,” boosted the rankings of mobile-friendly pages in mobile search results. 

Google said: “Now searchers can more easily find high-quality and relevant results where text is readable without tapping or zooming, tap targets are spaced appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling.”

Mobilegeddon began rolling out globally in April 2015. But Google announced the update two months earlier to give webmasters time to prepare.

Note: Google began the transition to mobile-first indexing in November 2016. This means Google primarily evaluates the mobile version of a page for ranking purposes.

Announced: February 26, 2015

Started: April 21, 2015

Completed: May 13, 2016

Tip: Check out our guide to learn more about mobile SEO.

Hummingbird Update

Hummingbird was a rewrite of Google’s core algorithm. And so named because it was “quick and precise.”

With this algorithm update, Google moved away from matching all words in a query to words on a page. It began to ignore words that weren’t hugely relevant to the searcher’s meaning.

This meant Google could better deal with natural language (conversational) queries. 

Google’s Matt Cutts said: “[Hummingbird] affected 90% of queries but only to a small degree and we rolled it out for over a month without people even noticing. 

“So it’s a subtle change, it’s not something that you need to worry about. It’s not going to rock your world like Panda or Penguin. It’s just going to make the results a little bit better.”

Announced: September 26, 2013

Penguin Update

Penguin is one of the most famous Google algorithm updates in history. It penalized sites engaging in webspam tactics—i.e., sites attempting to manipulate search rankings with SEO tactics that violate Google’s guidelines.

The Penguin update made it harder to influence rankings through:

  • Keyword stuffing: Unnaturally forcing keywords into content
  • Link schemes: Links placed purely for SEO purposes

Google made Penguin part of its core algorithm on September 23, 2016.

Announced: April 24, 2012

Panda Update

The Google Panda algorithm update was designed to “reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful.”

Panda “noticeably” impacted rankings for 11.8% of queries. It was named after Navneet Panda, who’s listed as one of the inventors on the accompanying patent. (Alongside Vladimir Ofitserov.)

The Panda update launched in the U.S. in February 2011. And rolled out to all English-language users two months later.

Announced: February 24, 2011

Page Layout Algorithm Improvement

The Page Layout Algorithm Improvement encouraged sites to place more original content above the fold (in the section of the page users see before scrolling).

Sites that placed ads above the fold to an “excessive degree” may have seen rankings drop after this Google algorithm update.

Announced: January 19, 2012

Caffeine Update

The Caffeine update made Google quicker at discovering and indexing new content. So searchers could find the latest information more quickly.

Caffeine was a change to Google’s indexing system, rather than its ranking algorithm. Google described it as “a next-generation architecture for Google's web search.” 

Announced: August 10, 2009

Completed: June 9, 2010

Mayday Update

The algorithm change colloquially known as Mayday mainly affected long-tail keywords (i.e., more specific search queries). Google’s goal was to deliver higher-quality, more relevant results.

Following chatter in the SEO community, Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed the Mayday update in a video.

Started: April 28, 2010

Completed: May 3, 2010

Confirmed: May 30, 2010

Duration: Five days

Tip: Find long-tail keywords your target audience uses with Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool

2009 to 2003 Updates

Let’s explore the earliest days of Google algorithm update history.

Vince Update

What later became known as the Vince update triggered chatter in February 2009. When the SEO community saw more big brands dominating SERPs for high-volume keywords.

Google’s Matt Cutts referenced the algorithm update in a video on March 4, 2009. Although he said he “wouldn’t call this an update ... just a change.” 

He explained that Google wasn’t necessarily favoring big brands, but instead favoring sites with good trust, authority, and reputation signals.

Cutts encouraged the community to name this Google algorithm update “Vince,” after the engineer who’d done the most work on it.

Started: January 18, 2009

Confirmed: March 4, 2009

Bigdaddy Update

Google’s Matt Cutts described Bigdaddy (or Big Daddy) as a “software upgrade to Google’s infrastructure.” 

He announced it at the 2005 Pubcon conference in Las Vegas. And named it after one of the attendee’s suggestions.

The SEO community believed Bigdaddy was predominantly a link spam update—i.e., it had a negative impact on sites that engaged in unethical linking practices. 

Announced: November 2005

Jagger Update

The Jagger update negatively affected sites that engaged in cloaking—i.e., sites that used hidden text and delayed redirects to show Google and users different content.

This Google algorithm update also decreased rankings of sites with:

  • Duplicate content across multiple domains
  • A large number of doorway pages
  • Unnatural backlinks

Jagger was named by WebmasterWorld’s Brett Tabke. Because The Rolling Stones were playing in Las Vegas the week of the 2005 Pubcon conference attended by Matt Cutts. And USA Today apparently described Cutts as “the Mick Jagger of search.”

Started: September 2005

Confirmed: October 17, 2005

Florida Update

The Florida update was the first major Google algorithm update. So-called because of the hurricane-like way it took search results by storm.

Florida was designed to prevent simple manipulations of the SEO algorithm, such as:

  • Link spam (placing links purely for SEO purposes)
  • Keyword stuffing (unnaturally forcing keywords into content)

It was released in the 2003 holiday shopping season and wiped out some retailers’ valuable rankings overnight. Many small businesses felt they’d been unfairly impacted. 

Started: November 16, 2003

Confirmed: December 7, 2003

Fritz Update

The Fritz update was when Google switched to incremental index updates. Which meant rankings changed every day (or more)—something that SEOs referred to as “everflux.”

In the three years before the Fritz update, Google pushed an entirely new index to its data centers around once per month. This resulted in ranking fluctuations known as the “Google Dance,” which lasted around six to eight days each time. 

The SERPs would then remain static until the next Google Dance.

Started: July 1, 2003

Boston Update

The Boston update was the first named Google algorithm update. It was named after the SES Boston conference, where it was announced.

Announced: February 2003

Google Algorithm Updates by Type

Since 2020, Google has split algorithm updates into six categories: 

Let’s look at each type of Google algorithm update. 

Core Updates

Google describes core updates as “significant, broad changes” to its search algorithms and systems. Rather than tackling a specific issue, these Google updates are general improvements to the ranking algorithm. Which aim to make results better for users.

If your site is negatively affected by a core update, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve violated any Google guidelines. It could just mean you’ve been beaten by competitors. 

Google advises against trying to “fix” anything if a core update has affected your site. But instead focus on building great content.

Google Search Liaison Twitter announcement

Google announced core updates in March 2018, April 2018, August 2018, September 2018, March 2019, June 2019, September 2019, January 2020, May 2020, December 2020, June 2021, July 2021, November 2021, May 2022, September 2022, and March 2023.

As you can see, these broad SEO updates typically happen every few months.

Tip: Use Semrush’s SEO Writing Assistant to review your content’s originality, SEO, tone of voice, and readability in real time. This helps you create optimized content that deserves to rank highly. 

Google released link spam updates in July 2021 and December 2022. The Bigdaddy update also seemed to focus on link spam.

Link spam updates are designed to make Google better at identifying links intended to manipulate rankings. These include, but are not limited to:

Check out our guide to learn more about backlinks and how they affect SEO. Or learn more about link spam updates on Google Search Central.

Tip: Identify and remove potentially harmful backlinks to your site with Semrush’s Backlink Audit tool.

Spam Updates

Spam updates are designed to make Google better at identifying spammy content and practices. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Cloaking: Presenting different content to Google and users
  • Keyword stuffing: Unnaturally forcing keywords into content
  • Scraping content: Plagiarizing content from other sites

Sites that violate Google’s spam policies may receive a Google penalty. This harms the site’s visibility in search results.

Google released spam updates in June 2021, November 2021, and October 2022

Prior to this naming convention, Google also released the following web spam updates:

Learn more about spam updates on Google Search Central.

Tip: Review your content with Semrush’s On Page SEO Checker. It provides optimization ideas and flags any issues with keyword stuffing.

Reviews and Product Reviews Updates

In April 2023, Google released a reviews update that affected reviews about “products, services, and things.”

The goal was to reward original, well-researched product reviews that help people make decisions.

Best practices include evaluating from the user’s perspective, providing evidence of experience with the review subject, and explaining what sets something apart from its competitors.

Previously, reviews updates were product reviews updates. Released in April 2021, December 2021, March 2022, July 2022, September 2022, and February 2023.

Learn more about these SEO updates on Google Search Central.

Helpful Content Updates

Helpful content updates are “notable” refinements to Google’s helpful content system. This system aims to reward sites that deliver a great experience and leave users feeling satisfied.

Google recommends that sites create original, reliable content for people—not search engines. But confirms that SEO “can be a helpful activity.” 

Google released helpful content updates in December 2022 and August 2022

Find out how to create quality content with our guide.

Tip: Use Semrush’s Topic Research tool to develop content ideas that your audience will find helpful. You can find commonly searched questions, popular headlines, and more.

Page Experience Updates

Google released the page experience update for mobile in June 2021. And a page experience update for desktop in February 2022.

The Page Layout Algorithm Improvement Update (2012), Mobile-Friendly Update (2015), and Speed Update (2018) also related to page experience.

These kinds of Google updates aimed to reward pages that deliver a great user experience. For example, pages that are fast, secure, and mobile-friendly.

In April 2023, Google confirmed that page experience was part of the helpful content system. And updated its page experience recommendations.

Tip: Semrush’s Site Audit tool helps you identify, prioritize, and fix technical issues on your site. Many of which relate to page experience.

Other Notable Google Updates

These Google algorithm updates don’t fit into the categories above. But they played an important role in Google’s evolution.

Google Update FAQs

What Is the Google Algorithm in SEO?

The Google algorithm is a set of complex processes or “ranking systems” Google uses to rank search results. SEO involves optimizing your website for ranking factors that the algorithm considers, which relate to keywords, backlinks, page speed, and more.

Why Does Google Update Its Algorithm?

Google updates its algorithm in an ongoing effort to deliver the best search results to users. As technologies, users, and creators evolve, Google’s ranking systems must adapt. 

For example, Google increasingly favored mobile-friendly content as smartphone adoption grew. 

In addition to rewarding high-quality content with higher rankings, Google algorithm changes may penalize poor-quality pages. Or sites that engage in unethical SEO practices.

Google does not fully disclose the details of its search algorithm. To protect its intellectual property and reduce ranking manipulation. But it shares some insights and best practice guidelines.

When Was the Latest Google Algorithm Update?

The latest Google algorithm update was the April 2023 Reviews Update (at the time of publication). 

However, Google announces multiple updates every year. (And makes hundreds of changes that are never announced.) Use the methods below to keep up with the important algorithm updates.

How Do I Learn About the Latest Google Algorithm Updates?

Google announces major algorithm updates via the Google Search Status Dashboard. Subscribe to the RSS feed to get updates. Or follow the Google Search Central account on Twitter. 

Need more notice? Subscribe to notifications from the Semrush Sensor or embed the widget on your site.

Choose your industry, country, and device, and the tool will tell you when SERP volatility is higher than normal. This is a common sign of an impending Google algorithm update.

how to subscribe to notifications from the Semrush Sensor

Or head to the “Personal Score” tab to track volatility for your target keywords in your state, city, or ZIP code area. You’ll need to set up your project and keywords in Position Tracking first.

Personal Score tab

For additional insights on the latest Google algorithm updates, follow Semrush on Twitter. Or check out our SEO industry news section.

What Is SERP Volatility?

SERP volatility is a measure of the change in search engine results pages (SERPs). The more volatile the SERPs, the more rankings are changing.

Day to day, a low level of volatility is normal. Volatility is usually higher during and after a major Google algorithm update.

The Semrush Sensor measures Google SERP volatility as a score out of 10. With separate scores for different devices, countries, and categories.

Semrush Sensor overview

How Do I Know If a Google Update Affected My Site?

To see whether your site was affected by a Google update, look for correlations between rankings and algorithm changes.

In Semrush’s Position Tracking tool, you can monitor your visibility for target keywords.

Simply plug your website into the tool and get your project set up. Then head to your “Overview” tab to see your visibility chart.

Overview tab in Semrush’s Position Tracking tool

Click on the Google icons to see Notes about Google updates from the same time period. Which may explain dips (or gains) in visibility.

Google icon in Position Tracking tool

You can also view these Notes in other Semrush tools. And add your own annotations. Check out this knowledge base article to learn more. 

How Do I Recover From a Google Algorithm Update?

If your rankings suffered as a result of a Google algorithm update, it’s important to understand what the change entailed. Look at any Google guidance, as well as industry commentary.

Conduct an SEO competitor analysis on rival sites that performed well, too. See whether you can identify factors that contributed to their success.

You can then take corrective action and, if necessary, adjust your SEO strategy

Don’t fall into the trap of taking action too soon. Or making SEO changes based on gut instinct, rather than hard evidence. Otherwise, you can do more harm than good.

Learn more about how to recover from a Google algorithm update.

Tip: Semrush has a variety of SEO competitor analysis tools that allow you to monitor rivals’ performance.

Prepare for the Next Google Update with Semrush

To prepare for the next Google algorithm update, audit your site and look for opportunities to improve. Semrush has all the SEO tools you need, including:

But remember: SEO is an ongoing process. Google constantly updates its algorithm. And your strategy needs to keep up. Monitor our SEO blog for the latest advice.

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Rachel has been a digital marketer for over 11 years. Having worked both in-house and agency-side, she has a wide range of experiences to draw on in her writing. She specializes in creating beginner-friendly articles on topics including keyword research, on-page SEO, and content creation.
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