After a summer hiatus, the June and July Search Quality Highlights were rolled out in one mega-post. Major updates included Panda data and algorithm refreshes, an improved rank-ordering function (?), a ranking boost for “trusted sources”, and changes to site clustering. Google rolled out another Panda refresh, which appears to have been data-only. Ranking flux was moderate but not on par with a large-scale algorithm update.
The timeline spanned months, with the final rollout starting in the US in early 2010 and lasting until the summer. Google and Bing confirmed that they use social signals in determining ranking, including data from Twitter and Facebook. Matt Cutts confirmed that this was a relatively new development for Google, although many SEOs had long suspected it would happen. In response to high-profile spam cases, Google rolled out an update to help better sort out content attribution and stop scrapers. After experimenting for a while, Google officially rolled out expanded site-links, most often for brand queries. At first, these were 12-packs, but Google appeared to limit the expanded site-links to 6 shortly after the roll-out.
After Panda 2.5, Google entered a period of “Panda Flux” where updates started to happen more frequently and were relatively minor. Some industry analysts called the 11/18 update 3.1, even though there was no official 3.0. For the purposes of this history, we will discontinue numbering Panda updates except for very high-impact changes.
While many changes were observed in May, the exact nature of Dominic was unclear. Google bots “Freshbot” and “Deepcrawler” scoured the web, and many sites reported bounces. The way Google counted or reported backlinks seemed to change dramatically. Although obviously not an algorithm update, a major event in Google’s history – Google sold 19M shares, raised $1.67B in capital, and set their market value at over $20B. While not your typical algorithm update, Google integrated traditional search results with News, Video, Images, Local, and other verticals, dramatically changing their format. Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo jointly announced support for the Canonical Tag, allowing webmasters to send canonicalization signals to search bots without impacting human visitors.
This update was highly targeted, causing dramatic drops in ranking to a relatively small group of sites. 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. The second phase of Penguin 4.0 was the reversal of all previous Penguin penalties.
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Google published their monthly (bi-monthly?) list of search highlights. The 65 updates for August and September included 7-result SERPs, Knowledge Graph expansion, updates to how “page quality” is calculated, and changes to how local results are determined. After suggesting the next Penguin update would be major, Google released a minor Penguin data update, impacting “0.3% of queries”.
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. This had significant implications for rank-tracking and organic CTR. After multiple delays, Google started rolling out the Page Experience Update on June 25th, announcing that the rollout would continue through August 2021. This update included Core Web Vitals and impacted both organic results and News results .