The SEO industry estimates that Google changes it’s algorithm around 500-600 times a year. With many of these changes being quite minor, often they hardly have any reasonable affect, but there are occasional major changes that can affect the search results significantly.
Knowing the dates of these changes can help to explain any changes in rankings and organic search traffic.
November 10th 2016 – Unnamed major update
MozCast detected a major (106°) spike on 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.
It is thought that this update might have been the testing for the Mobile-first index change (due in January 2017). Read here for more thoughts about this one.
October 6th 2016 – Penguin 4.0, Phase 2
The second phase of Penguin 4.0 was the reversal of all previous Penguin penalties. This seemed to happen after the new code rolled out, and may have taken as long as two weeks. Post-Penguin activity had one final peak on October 6th (116°), but it is unclear whether this was Penguin or a new update. Algorithm temperatures finally started to drop after October 6th.
September 7th 2016 – Penguin 4.0, Phase 1
The first phase of Penguin 4.0, which probably launched around September 22-23, was the roll-out of the new, “gentler” Penguin algorithm, which devalues bad links instead of penalising sites. The exact timeline is unconfirmed, but we believe this roll-out took at least a few days to fully update, and may have corresponded to an algorithm temperature spike (113°) on September 27th.
Read more about penguin and it’s “real-time” updating.
September 23rd 2016 – Penguin 4.0, Announcement
After almost two years of waiting, Google finally announced a major Penguin update. They suggested the new Penguin is now real-time and baked into the “core” algorithm. Initial impact assessments were small, but it was later revealed that the Penguin 4.0 roll-out was unusually long and multi-phase (see September 27th and October 6th).
September 13th 2016 – Image/Universal Drop (design change of the SERPS)
MozCast recorded a nearly-record 111° temperature and a 50% drop in SERPs with image (universal/vertical) results. The universal result shake-up opened up an organic position on page 1, causing substantial ranking shifts, but it’s likely that this was part of a much larger update.
September 1st 2016 – “Possum”
While unconfirmed by Google, MozCast recorded extreme temperatures of 108° and a drop in local pack prevalence, and the local SEO community noted a major shake-up in pack results. Data suggests this update (or a simultaneous update) also heavily impacted organic results.
May 2012 2016 – Mobile-Friendly 2
Just more than a year after the original “mobile friendly” update, Google rolled out another ranking signal boost to benefit mobile-friendly sites on mobile search. Since the majority of sites we track are already mobile-friendly, it’s likely the impact of the latest update was small.
May 10 2016 – Unnamed Major Update
MozCast and other Google weather trackers showed a historically rare week-long pattern of algorithm activity, including a 97-degree spike. Google would not confirm this update, and no explanation is currently available.
February 23rd 2016 – Adwords Shakeup
Google made major changes to AdWords, removing right-column ads entirely and rolling out 4-ad top blocks on many commercial searches. While this was a paid search update, it had significant implications for CTR for both paid and organic results, especially on competitive keywords.
You’ll have noticed the four adverts on the top of the results at times! Read more about it here.
January 8th 2016 – Unnamed Update
Multiple tracking tools (including MozCast) reported historically-large rankings movement, which Google later confirmed as a “core algo update”. Google officially said that this was not a Penguin update, but details remain sketchy.
As ever Moz.com and the excellent tracking tool, MozCast, provide our SEO team with much sort after answers to the fluctuations often seen in the SERPS. With continued SEO work our accounts that have been with us for a long period of time are less affected, as these updates mostly shake up sites with poor quality links and poor quality content.
Contact Dental Design if you think your website might have been impacted by the algorithm changes in 2016.