How Often Does Google Change Its Algorithm?

This is a question we hear pretty regularly: How often does Google change its search algorithm? I’ll let Google spokesperson Matt Cutts give you his answer:


In short, Google changes its algorithm more than once a day, on average. Roughly 40 changes were made this past February. Most of these changes relate to the quality of search results (weeding out spam and low quality content), but others relate to display (modifying the 10-pack of local results or adding special markup for recipes) and even social media (+1 buttons, inclusion of authors’ photos, etc.).

Following are a few of the most newsworthy changes to Google’s algorithm and results pages from the past year:

Google panda update affects search qualityGoogle Panda Update – Search Quality

Do you run a site that posts a lot of articles that can be found on other websites? What about an e-commerce site whose products (and their descriptions) can all be found on other websites? If so, you’ve probably experienced Google’s wrath with the Panda updates.

Panda punished sites with large amounts of duplicate or low-quality content. If you write great original content, you’ve got nothing to worry about here!

There have now been at least 8 iterations of the Panda update (version 3.3 was current as of this post). Take a look at this infographic about the Panda update, which describes the various updates and shows a few sites that were hit hard by these changes.

Continued Emphasis on Freshness of Results – Search Quality

Back in 2009, Google implemented the Caffeine update. It became apparent that in most cases, to Google, Newer = Better. They doubled down on this philosophy in November 2011 with another change that favored fresher search results. Google announced that this change would impact 35% of search results (only 12% were impacted by Panda!).

The take-away: blogging more is the best thing you can do for your search rankings! Keep your site fresh.

Google Sitelinks – Display Change

You may have noticed that occasionally when you search for something, the first result has multiple links displayed below it. Take the following search result for “Audi,” for example:

Google Sitelinks search results

In this case, Google decided (correctly) that was the most relevant result for my search, and displayed additional links to multiple sections within the site. In some cases, relevant searches can return 12 links to the same site.

This creates some tremendous value for that site – wouldn’t you like to have 12 links to your site appear before any of your competitors’ sites are listed?

Google+ Shows Up in Search – Social Integration

Take a look at the last part of the Audi image above. Note that it’s a link to Audi’s Google+ page, and includes Audi’s logo. By including a Google+ badge on your site linking to your G+ page, you can expand your results like this as well.

In January, Google took it a step further with what they call Search + Your World. Suddenly, Google+ became a major factor in search results. This made Twitter nervous. Others in the industry complained about sacrifices to relevancy.

The take-away: Google wants to encourage the use of Google products. This means there are major benefits to using Google+ for your business. So, if you haven’t already, set up a profile and start using it!

Want More?

If you’re looking for more information about how Google tests and rolls out algorithm changes, check out this video from Google:


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  1. Mark C. March 13, 2012 at 7:28 am - Reply

    I love the Google Sitelinks, and so do my clients when they see these kinds of results come up. “How’d you do that?” they ask. You pointed out the addition of Google+ on the search results. That’s powerful, now if I can only get my clients to add this to their already busy schedules. Another opportunity to help them manage their web presence for us.

    • Kyle Claypool March 14, 2012 at 7:49 am - Reply

      Yep, G+ is offering a lot of great opportunities (at least for SEO). For instance, in the About section of your personal or business profile, you can link to any site, with any anchor text, and get a sweet link to your site. Check the Recommended Links column on the right side of my page:

  2. A History of Google Algorithm Changes December 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    […] to Optima Worldwide the Google algorithm is reworked multiple times a day, which can count for some huge changes by the […]

  3. Adam February 20, 2013 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    What people don’t realise is that google is always changing as you explain in your post, people think that once you have learnt SEO thats it, but you are always learning!

  4. […] algorithms change all the time, each day in fact. Some changes are minor, and some are massive. You are allowed some leeway to rethink your strategy […]

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