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A Breakdown of Google’s Webspam Algorithm Updates

Google has remained extremely busy in wiping out web spam from its search results. The biggest problem that Google still faces is identification and removal of spam. A dedicated team headed by Matt Cutts does this job of tackling spammy tactics used by webmasters in order to influence the search engine results. This is the reason; Google has released several Webspam algorithm updates specifically targeting overly promotional SEO practices. A breakdown of such major Webspam updates are given below:-

Major Webspam Google Updates

Florida, November 2003

The Florida update that happened on November 16th, 2013 is the first web spam oriented algorithm update which targeted those sites that were applying aggressive SEO techniques. For the first time a filter was introduced in the algorithm which filtered sites applying black hat seo tactics like keyword stuffing.

Austin, January 2004

Heavy on page SEO tactics like Meta tag stuffing and invisible text was taken over by this update. Some webmaster called it as “another Florida update”.

Jagger, October 2005

The Jagger update was the first update to take on spammy “off page seo” tactics like low quality links. Tactics which gained huge success before 2005 like reciprocal links and link farms were taken on by this update. Also, Google penalized sites engaged in buying and selling links.               
May Day, May 2010

This update impacted the long tail queries affecting sites that provided thin content to target long tail queries to pass more and more organic traffic to their sites. For the first time, site authority was considered as a factor for ranking sites.

Attribution, January 2011

Attribution update effected sites having “low levels of original content”. Google took on sites having scraped content and less original content in them.

Panda, February 2011

The full fledged content focused update was launched on February 23rd, 2011. This update lowered the rankings of low quality sites or sites having thin content in them. Panda update was also known as “Farmer update” because of its ability to target content farms sites. The content farm sites were those sites that had lots of pages which focused on specific long tail queries and provided a bad user experience. These sites were full of ads and were missing the content quality. Panda lowered the rankings of sites having low quality, duplicate or thin content in them.

Human quality testers were used for the first time for judging sites based on quality, trust, design and speed. It gave Google the power to identify sites that have content “most loved or most preferred by the users”.

Panda 2.0, April 2011

As Panda was a huge algorithm change so Google took measures in rolling out the updates in a slow and regular fashion. These updates continue even today but they have now been integrated into the main ranking algorithm and updates are more frequent and less noticeable. Panda’s second refresh included all English queries and used Chrome data to lower the rankings of sites which users blocked the most.

Panda 2.1, May 2011

Google continued to improve its Panda algorithm in order to return quality sites in search results.

Panda 2.2, June 2011

This update happened on June 21st and focused on the main motto of stopping the low quality sites from ranking higher on the search results.

Panda 2.3, July 2011

Some new signals were introduced with the Panda 2.3 update which was not disclosed openly by Google.

Panda 2.4, July 2011

The Panda update was rolled out internationally with 2.4 update.

Panda 2.5, September 2011

As part of Google’s commitment to return high quality sites, Google continued to roll on more Panda updates.

Panda Flux, October 2011

Some minor updates started happening with Panda flux.

Panda 3.1, November 2011

Panda updates now became a common phenomenon which updates happening every month. As such, these updates were less noticeable.

Panda 3.2, January 2012

The main algorithm remained the same and Google continued to improve its algorithm.

Panda 3.3, February 2012

This update was really minor and less noticeable.

Panda 3.4, March 2012

This update affected around 1.6% of the search queries.

Panda 3.5, April 2012

Another Panda refresh happened on April 19th, 2012.

Penguin, April 2012

Another major Webspam targeted algorithmic change was launched on April 24th, 2012 with the name Penguin. Google decreased the rankings of sites having low quality link profile with the Penguin update. This update impacted 3.1% of English queries. Google suggested creating amazing and compelling sites that provided high value to the user.

Panda 3.6, April 2012

On the other hand, Google continued to update the regular Panda update.

Penguin 1.1, May 2012

The first update of Penguin happened on May 25th 2012.

Panda 3.7 and 3.8, June 2012

Two more updates happened on June. Panda 3.7 had a somewhat bigger effect than the 3.8.

Panda 3.9, July 2012

This update affected around 1% of queries that was less enough to notice.

Panda 3.9.1, August 2012

With each Panda update coming so soon, they became less noticeable.

Panda 20, September 2012

This update was large and affected around 2.4% of search queries.

EMD, September 2012

In order to decrease the rankings of keyword stuffed domains, Google introduced the Exact Match Domain (EMD) update on September 27th, 2012. This update decreased the rankings of less authoritative sites having exact match keyword in their domain name.

Penguin 3, October 2012

This update was minor affecting around 0.3% of search queries.

Panda 21 and 22, November 2012

More Panda updates rolled out affected smaller portion of queries.

Panda 23, December 2012

This update affected around 1.3% of the search queries.

Panda 24, January 2013

Google continued updating the Panda update in 2013 with the first release of 2013 coming on January 22nd.

Panda 25, March 2013

After this update, Panda was incorporated in the main algorithm.

Penguin 2.0, May 2013

This update had a less impact on low quality sites and black hat SEO remained unaffected by this update.

Penguin 2.1, October 2013

As the Penguin 2.0 had a smaller affect on decreasing the rankings of low quality sites so Google started out a major update in the form of Penguin 2.1. This update happened on Oct, 4th 2012 and had a noticeable impact on the search results.

Also See:- 

Why Paid Links Are a Violation of Google's Guidelines
Google Disavow Links Tool
Google Algorithm Change History
Google Reminds of Taking Action Against Sites That Sell Page Rank
How to Design Seo Friendly Web Page
Links from Article Marketing Sites
No Follow Vs Do Follow