2021 Updates

2020 Updates

Unnamed Update  —  December 17, 2020


One day after Google announced the end of the December Core Update rollout, it was measured moderately-high rankings flux at 99°F. It was unclear whether this was the last hurrah of that rollout or a separate, medium-sized algorithm update.

May 2020 Core Update  —  May 4, 2020


Google announced another Core Update (the second of 2020), which caused heavy rankings flux from about May 4-6. It is confirmed as the second-highest Core Update after the August 2018 “Medic” update.

COVID-19 Pandemic  —  March 11, 2020


While not an algorithm update, per se, COVID-19 dramatically shifted consumer search behavior. The WHO pandemic declaration on March 11th seemed to be a pivotal turning point.

Featured Snippet De-duping  —  January 22, 2020


Google announced that URLs in Featured Snippets would no longer be appearing as traditional organic results, in line with Google’s philosophy that a Featured Snippet is a promoted organic result. This had significant implications for rank-tracking and organic CTR.

January 2020 Core Update  —  January 13, 2020


Google rolled another core update showing heavy flux across three days and a high temperature of 97°F, in line with the previous three core updates (but smaller than the August 2018 “Medic” core update).

2019 Updates

International BERT Roll-out  —  December 9, 2019


Google confirmed that the BERT natural language processing algorithm was rolling out internationally, in 70 languages. This announcement came after speculation from the SEO community, and the exact timing of the roll-out is unclear.

BERT Update  —  October 22, 2019


Google upgraded their algorithm and underlying hardware to support the BERT natural language processing (NLP) model. BERT helps Google better interpret natural language searches and understand context.

Deindexing Bug  —  April 5, 2019


Google confirmed a bug that dropped pages from the search index around the weekend of April 5th. Most sites recovered soon after.

2018 Updates

“Medic” Core Update  —  August 1, 2018


Google confirmed a “broad core algorithm update,” with wide reports of massive impact. It rolled out over the period of about a week, but peaked on August 1-2. This update seemed to disproportionately affect sites in the health and wellness vertical, although large-scale impact was seen in all verticals.

Mobile-First Index Roll-out  —  March 26, 2018


Google announced that the mobile-first index was finally “rolling out.” Since the index has been in testing for many months, and Google has suggested they are migrating sites gradually, it’s unclear how much impact this specific roll-out had on the overall index. Webmaster should begin to see notifications within Google Search Console.

Zero-result SERP Test  —  March 14, 2018


On a small set of Knowledge Cards, including some time/date queries and unit conversion calculators, Google started displaying zero organic results and a “Show all results” button. A week later, Google stopped this test, but we believe it is an important sign of things to come.

“Brackets” Core Update  —  March 8, 2018


Google confirmed a “core” update on March 7th, but volatility spiked as early as March 4th, with a second spike on March 8th, and continued for almost two weeks. This may have been multiple updates or one prolonged, rolling update. The “Brackets” name was coined by Glenn Gabe; no details were provided by Google.

Unnamed Update  —  February 20, 2018


Rankings showed a spike in volatility (across a number of tools) around February 20th, which quickly settled down, sometimes signalling a targeted algorithm update. Google did not confirm any update in this time period.

2017 Updates

“Maccabees” Update  —  December 14, 2017


Chatter and several tools showed ranking volatility around December 14th. Barry Schwartz named this the “Maccabees” update, but Google would only confirm that several small updates had happened in the general timeline. Pre-holiday updates tend to get more attention (and are generally rarer) due to their disruptive effect on e-commerce.

Snippet Length Increase  —  November 30, 2017


After testing longer search snippets for over two years, Google increased them across a large number of results. This led us to adopt a new Meta Description limit — up to 300 characters from the previous 155 (almost doubling). Google confirmed an update to how snippets are handled, but didn’t provide details.

Featured Snippet Drop  —  October 27, 2017


Over a period of a few days from October 27-31, there was a substantial drop in Featured Snippets. This co-occurred with a jump in Knowledge Panels, as Google seemed to add many panels for broad terms and objects (“travel”, “toilet”, “web design”, etc.). Some of these panels disappeared around December 15.

Unnamed Update  —  September 27, 2017


Algorithm trackers (including MozCast) and webmaster chatter spotted increasing flux starting around September 25th, which seemed to spike on the 27th, after a period of relative calm. No update was officially confirmed.

2016 Updates

Unnamed Update  —  November 10, 2016


 November 10th and another on the 18th. Industry chatter was high during both periods, with some suggesting that the second spike was a reversal of the first update. Google has not confirmed either event. Many people reported bad dates in SERPs during the same time period, but it’s unclear whether this was causal or just a coincidence.