A Brief A History of SEO & Google Update

With the invent of Google by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in the latter half of the 1990’s, it gave marketers a whole new platform to advertise their products, services and ideas with a simple input of alphabets on the search bar and a click.

Old Google Search Bar
Source: Search Engine Roundtable


The term Search Engine Optimisation is skewed in itself due to the fact that the marketers aren’t trying to optimise the search engine instead, they are optimising their own content to make the maximum use of the search engine algorithms to have a higher rank than the competition in the search results.

Search Engine Optimisation has seen a lot of developments since 1990’s to the modern day simply owing to the change in the popularity of different search engines, the changes in algorithms of these search engines and change in the internet usage of the population of the world.

Yahoo was launched as a directory having a bookmark list of different sites on the Internet. Advertisers submitted their websites to Yahoo so as to register on their search engine. Yahoo then maintained these registered websites and produced results when a person searched for those websites.

This practice changed in 1996 with the advent of Google that adopted algorithm-based ranking system based on popularity and their relevancy at that time and to the search query by the user.
Post this development, there was a surge of several websites guiding advertisers of the different ways to leverage and providing updates of the development in the search algorithms of different search engines in return of a monthly subscription fee. Websites like Search Engine Watch and Goto.com provided marketeers updates and guidance to better leverage the algorithms and rank their websites higher.

The Major Updates: A Detailed Timeline

Over the years search engines have transformed themselves immensely. The AI and the algorithms have become more complex and aware to produce the appropriate and relevant results upon a search query. Inclusion of videos, images and audio files to the websites/articles has compelled the search engine companies to further refine their search algorithms and scanning techniques have gotten more complex and accurate over the years. One major outcome of these steps has been the reduction of several unethical ways used by webmasters to make their websites rank higher.
For example, Webmasters try to fool the search engines by including bogus links to increase their rankings. However, search engines recognised this and updated the algorithm to only account for the legitimate and trustworthy links only. This helped increase of uniformity in the algorithm and higher ranking.

Historical Snapshot

Some of the major updates by Google have been:
• November 16: FLORIDA

This one started it all. It single handily changed the realm of SEO. It provided legitimacy to the ranking order by programming the algorithm to detect bogus multiple links, duplicity of the websites under multiple names, keyword stuffing and other malicious techniques used by the webmasters earlier to increase the search ranking.

• September 1: JAGGER

The 3-phase update was rolled out to stop the different spams used by webmasters which included: building unnatural links and paid links of other sources to gain higher search results rankings. Jagger October update was the most important one and brought a lot of these features in the algorithm.

• December 15: Bigdaddy

Bigdaddy Update took about 4 months to be fully implemented and was finally completed in the month of March the following year. It dealt with the URL canonicalization and redirects.

• January 18: THE VINCE

This was a keyword-oriented update. This improved the rankings of the established big brands significantly compared to the lesser-known brands which had previously been able to leverage the shortcomings of the algorithm for a higher ranking.

• August 10: CAFFEINE

This aimed at improving the crawling mechanism of google and provide better and fresher results to the end user. It also helped in faster indexing and hence give zippier results to the user.

• April 28: MayDay

As much as Call of Duty it might sound, this update was focussed on giving the best match for long queries. Google was able to now recognise the sites and assess the best ones upon a long search query by the users.

• February 23: Panda

This was an attack against the low-quality websites which used to copy materials from other websites, made them viral through social software and then use it for advertisement and earn a lot of money. The Panda update put a stop to these techniques used by web masters and hence promote websites having original, richer contents with a deeper research and detailed analysis in them. Several sub-updates followed to further improve the Panda algorithm in a phased-manner.

• November 3: Freshness

Google updated its algorithms to rank the websites higher if they had fresh and relevant content in hem. The Quality Deserved Freshness (QDF) factor was introduced by Google.

• January 19: Page Layout

This update mainly compelled the websites to design better user interface which earlier had a lot of advertisements at the starting of main content and forced the users to scroll down. This stopped above the fold advertisement and hence helped in providing richer content to the end user.

• February 27: Venice

Google added geolocation linked display of information by the user. This enabled it to show results based on the physical/device location using the IP address.

• April 24: Penguin

This update brought a crackdown to the websites that had unnatural links, keyword stuffing etc. among many other activities violating the search engine’s guidelines of SEO. The algorithm automatically reduced the ranking of such websites and put a penalty in the lieu of ‘over optimisation’ by these websites.

• September 28: Exact Match Domain

This made the result pages get rid of the websites having keyword spamming and low-quality content.

• June 11: PayDay Loan

This update put a stop on the queries related to illegitimate industries of porn, casinos, pharma, very high interest loans and payday loans.

• September 26: Hummingbird

This mainly dealt with the voice search query and the algorithm improved its result delivery upon a complex search query by the user.

• July 24: Pigeon

This update aimed at improving the local searches with the use of more traditional ranking signals and improved the ranking parameters based on distance and location.

• April 21: Mobile-Friendly Update

Popularly known as Mobilegeddon, the update rewarded websites which were more mobile friendly than their competitors to higher ranking and hence aimed at providing richer results upon a search query.

• May 3: Quality Update

Also called the Phantom Update, was the definitive website-quality related update as it dealt with the downranking the websites having a spammy content.

• October 26: RankBrain

Recognised as the third most important signal used for ranking, RankBrain dealt with improving the machine learning capabilities of the algorithm to deliver the best result upon a complex search quey by the end user.

• January 10: Intrusive Interstitials

This update put a stop on the pop -ads and interstitials that ruined the mobile search experience of the end user. Although there was no major effect on the ranking of the websites.

• March 7: Fred

This update targeted the low value content available upon a search query. This put a stop to then prevalent websites that used malicious techniques to garner traffic.

• March 9: Broad Core

This update aimed at fixing the previously under rewarded websites and hence employed a level playing field to ultimately promote quality content.

• October 25: BERT

Google called this the biggest update in the past half decade since 2014. BERT which referred to Bidirectional Encoder Representation from Transformers, was aimed to better understand the intuitive search queries by the end user. This update had a direct impact to the search rankings and featured snippets. This effected 1-in-10 search queries.
On December 9, BERT was rolled out for the 70 languages worldwide.

• January 13: Core Update

This update mainly aimed at improving the broad core structure of the algorithms of Google.

• January 22: Featured Snippet Duplication

FSD affected all the searches as it put a stop in the duplication of the webpages on Page 1 of organic listing which already had a featured snippet position.

• December 17: Core Update

Google announced that the Core Update rollout was finally completed.


A more intuitive and thorough scanning technique has achieved the most important thing when it comes to search engines over the years: that is consistency. More trustworthy websites are higher in the search ranking now more than ever. This doesn’t necessarily mean a partiality towards the smaller websites but reflects a more organised system where legitimacy and trustworthiness are rewarded. Hence, its recommended that Webmasters should keep a tab on the latest updates rolled out by Google to leverage all the benefit and come out with more optimised and richer content to enhance the end user experience and generate a higher search ranking.


Author: Dipankar 

Technology, Cars and Dogs are probably the 3 things in the world that matter to him. Dipankar hails from the colourful land of India and has stayed in almost every state there being an Army Brat. An avid John Mayer fan, Dipankar is also a part time guitarist and a lead singer. During the summers, you could find him either trekking in the Himalayas or saving his raft from flipping in the Ganges!

His love for Marketing knows no bounds. He has been an important asset to various organisations for his dexterity and off-beat solutions to mundane problems. An avid fan of Ricky Gervais, humour has to be the constant underline in all of his projects.

Currently he’s final semester student of Bachelors in Business Administration Degree from O.P Jindal Global University, a premier global institution of the country.



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