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The Most Important Google Algorithm Updates From 2019 to the Present

By Bryn Lisser & Samuel Klusmeyer - Last Updated on 05/21/2024
Google has launched many major updates since 2019. We've defined 'major updates' as any update that alters the search engine results page (SERP) in a large way.

Search engine optimization (SEO) experts need to watch Google's search algorithm updates. Constant research helps them stay on page one.

This process starts with researching Google's algorithm update history. More than anything, Google's past work can help us understand where they will go in the future.

Our SEO experts have pulled the most important algorithm updates for our clients from 2019 to the current day. 

This article includes updated information as of May 21, 2024. 

March Core Update (2024)

The March Core Update was the first core update since November 2023 — a nearly seven-month gap. The update rollout took 45 days, beginning on March 5th and ending on April 26th. Like most core updates, Google's release notes were vague. The update's length, size, and timing (it occurred alongside the March Spam update) also make the exact effect hard to see. Still, we can observe several things. The most affected sites ranked in position 6-10 on the SERP, and many businesses saw extreme changes in their visibility.

March Spam Update (2024)

Google states that The March 2024 Spam Update included an updated Spam Brain algorithm and new public policies to combat three specific types of spam — expired domain abuse, scaled content abuse, and site reputation abuse.

Specifically, this algorithm update seems to target affiliate marketers with thin content, mass-generated AI content, and poorly placed guest posts on non-relevant websites. While it is hard to tell what the exact effects of this update were with its proximity to the March core update, it does seem like the March Spam Update's effects on search visibility were relatively minimal. 

November Review Update (2023)

The November Review Update is, by Google's account, the sixth and last review update. Google states that the review system will now be updated at a 'regular and ongoing pace.' If your site uses on-page reviews to promote products or services, we recommend reading their review system documentation to stay fully up to date. 
Google's release notes for the November Review Update
Google's release notes for the November Review Update

November Core Update (2023)

The November Core Update began 14 days after the October Core Update on the 2nd. The November update finished rolling out on the 28th. Like most core updates, Google's release notes were vague but Search Engine Land notes that this update was significantly more volatile. This update overlaps with the November review update, so it's hard to get clear data.  

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October Core Update (2023)

The October Core Update finished rolling out on October 19, 2023. Like most core updates, Google's release notes were vague. The October core update was found to be similar in volatility to the August update by SEMRush. News-focused websites seem to have seen the most dramatic shift in rankings. This update overlaps with the October spam update, so it's hard to get clear data.  

October Spam Update (2023)

The October Spam Update focused on improving the Google search algorithm's ability to identify spam in Turkish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Hindi, Chinese, and other languages. This makes the October update less notable than others. However, a global rollout could indicate that Google believes its English-only algorithm is ready for a global audience.  This update overlaps with the October Core Update, so it's hard to get clear data.  

September Helpful Content Update (2023)

The September Helpful Content Update contained several notable changes. Notably, Google loosened its restrictions on AI content, tightened its restrictions on non-relevant third-party content, and issued warnings about faking page updates. 

Use Our E-E-A-T Guide As a Go-To for Current Helpful Content Advice
Use Our E-E-A-T Guide As a Go-To for Current Helpful Content Advice
Additional Resources: We regularly update our SEO Guide to Google's E-E-A-T Content Guidelines article with recent developments from Google. 

August Core Update (2023)

The August Core Update finished rolling out on September 7, 2023. Like most core updates, Google's release notes were vague. However, Search Engine Journal found increased volatility versus the already volatile March 2023 Core Update. Retail sites seem to have experienced the most ranking volatility.  

April Reviews Update (2023)

Google launched its fifth review update in April. Previous review updates primarily focused on products. According to Google's launch notes, the April 2023 Reviews Update alters its review rating system to encompass 'services' and 'things' in addition to products. 

March Core Update (2023)

The March Core Update was the first core update in six months. Like most core updates, Google's release notes were vague. However, we can see that it was significantly more visibly volatile than most recent updates. SEMRush tracked the largest impact in the Arts & Entertainment and Shopping industries. 

February Product Reviews Update (2023)

Google's February 2023 Review Update is the fourth review-focused update since 2019. This update seems to primarily be a global rollout of the past English-only search review updates. Specifically, searches in specific global languages will see the effect of all past updates. Google's included languages are English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Polish. 

December Link Spam Update (2022)

Google's December 2022 Link Spam update builds on the October changes to their 'Spam Brain' prevention system by updating their on-page link policy. Google's updated link guidance focuses on links with short anchor text that uses a conversational tone. Linking to your own content is also encouraged. 

December Helpful Content Update (2022)

The December Helpful Content update was announced on the 5th and concluded its rollout in January of 2023. This update improved the new helpful content system from Google's August 2022 update and led to several notable changes in their helpful content guidelines. 

Notably, Google temporarily removed mention of their experience, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) criteria. E-E-A-T is still central to helpful content. Instead, this change can be taken as a sign that Google's guidance is constantly evolving. 

Additional Resources: Please refer to our SEO Guide to Google's E-E-A-T Content Guidelines for more information.

October Spam Update (2022)

The October Spam Update refines how Google's 'Spam Brain' executes AI-based spam prevention. You should be safe if your site follows the Google's search essentials guidelines. In fact, many websites will not experience a dip in ranking. 

Still, spam updates give SEO experts important insights. Even if Google gives no guidance, their changes tell us what Google's SpamBrain is thinking. 

September Product Review Algorithm Update (2022)

The September Product Review Algorithm Update corrects issues in previous product review updates. It also works with the Helpful Content Update to define a 'good review' on English-language sites.

So, many eCommerce sites not affected by previous review updates may feel this update. 
A Search Result Following the Product Review Update
A Search Result Following the Product Review Update

September Core Algorithm Update (2022)

The September Core Algorithm Update affected most of Google's algorithm results. The September Core Algorithm Update seems to boost the August Helpful Content Update.

We don't currently know many other specifics of the September Core Update.

August Helpful Content Update (2022)

The Helpful Content Update tries to boost content written 'by people, for people.' Google defines 'helpful content' as anything that speaks to your niche's audience.

The August Helpful Content Update targets sites that scrape their content. Unaffected sites seem to be creating original, optimized content.

July 2022 Product Review Update (2022)

The July Product Review Update promotes detailed product reviews over product summaries and manufacturer opinions. Many sites did not see a change following Google's fourth product review update.

The July Product Review Update is another signal from Google that reviews matter. We recommend using multi-media reviews and links to several sellers.

May Broad Core Update (2022) 

The May Broad Core Update affects all content globally. It seems that several website types have seen the most positive changes.

eCommerce, video hosting, and niche sites using informational keywords saw the most benefits. Generalist news and information databases have taken the most significant hit in rankings. 

Audit your site with the 2011 Panda Update content standards to offset the May Broad Core Update.

The March Product Review Update (2022) 

The March Product Review Update of 2022 comes a year post-launch of the original product review update. Google's team further refined how Google search defines honest, first-hand reviews. This update bumps rankings for sites that adhere to their new review standards. 

Find Google's suggestions for high-quality reviews here

The December Product Review Update (2021)

The December Product Review Updates in 2021 were the first of their kind. These updates targeted sites with product reviews written in English.

Before the Product Review Updates, product reviews didn't affect your rank on the SERP. Now the algorithm favors in-depth, detailed product reviews over summaries and manufacturer opinions.

Page Experience Update (2021)

The Page Experience Update introduced a new key metric called core web vitals. Core web vitals establish a baseline of what Google considers a 'high-quality website.'

The page experience update affects SERP by assessing site quality aspects like:

  • Accessible Web Design
  • Page Load Times 
  • Code Optimization 

If you would like to learn more about your website, reach out to us for a website audit.

November Core Update (2021)

The November Core Update expanded the algorithm's ability to identify quality content. SEM Rush states that this update affects healthcare niches and mobile rankings.

The November Core Update reminds us to keep good mobile design in mind.

June/July Core Update (2021)

The 2021 June and July Core Updates are unofficial parts 1 and 2 of the same core update. Both updates continued to refine the 2020 core updates. The June/July update update helps ensure that top-quality content appears on the SERP.

The June/July Core Updates seem to affect what Google refers to as Your Money Your Life (YMYL) websites. YMYL sites host content on topics like education, health, finance, law, and reviews.

December Core Update (2020)

The December 2020 Core Update continued to refine the SERP based on content quality. This update challenges marketers and website owners to create more relevant content. SEM Rush found that this update boosted business/industrial, internet/telecom, and beauty/fitness sites. Notable losers included online communities, shopping, and news sites.

This update also improved on changes deployed in the COVID-19-influenced May Core Update. 

May Core Update (2020)

The May Core Update was a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Upheaval during the pandemic changed the intent behind user searches. The May 2020 Core update seems to have promoted news sites and demoted in-person event sites. 

The May Core Update made finding good answers easier during emergencies.

January Broad Core Update (2020)

The January Broad Core Update affected worldwide search results. MOZ states that the January 2020 update seems to favor healthcare sites. Still SEO boosts to healthcare sites were very slight. The January update seems to affect most sites an even amount. 

Google recommends SEO that focuses on expertise, relevance to your website's niche, and trustworthiness (E.A.T.). Following their E.A.T. guidelines help you create content that is more helpful.

The more helpful your content, the more likely you are to rank on the SERP. 

Site Diversity (2019)

The Site Diversity update attempted to limit results from the same domain on the SERP. Search Engine Journal found that searches post-update returned a max of three results from the same domain. This update also seems to have improved product searches by giving consumers more choice.

The Site Diversity Update helped smaller sites rank and gave users more information. 

September Core Update (2019)

The September Core Update attempted to lower the ranking of low-quality site content. The September Core Update also seems to alter how the search algorithm values links.

BERT (2019)

'BERT,' or the Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, is one of the most impactful Google updates in the last five years. 

Search Engine Journal states that BERT was a deep learning algorithm for natural language processing. BERT made searching for longer, more conversation-like phrasing more accurate.

Implementing BERT required Google to invest in better processing equipment pre-launch. 

How to Determine Update Importance

Google search has had profound effects on how the world does business. Notably:

Google's search algorithm receives approximately 500-600 updates a year—roughly two daily changes. The vast majority of those updates aren't major. Many often have zero effect on the average website's SEO performance. 

Ask yourself these three questions the next time Google updates its algorithm.

1. Has Google Named Their Update?

Google names updates it views as significant. Our SEO experts recommend paying attention to anything Google finds valuable. This is true even if an algorithm update doesn't target your niche.

Every update affects the digital marketing landscape for many businesses. So, many updates may have an indirect affect on your SEO. 

2. Is it a Core Update?

Google states that a core update is a comprehensive, wide-reaching change to the whole ranking algorithm. Google also places the word 'core' into the name of each core update. They affect global search and can take several weeks to roll out.

Google usually implements 2-4 core updates per year with no set release schedule. Core updates can cause a shift in rankings, changes in traffic, and dips in analytics. Still, your position on the search engine results page (SERP) should level out within days of launch.

3. Does it affect the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)?

The search engine results page (SERP) often is the best way to understand the effects of a Google algorithm update.

An update can change how the SERP ranks sites, causing a shuffle that may push your site down the list. Even dropping one or two spaces on the search engine results page can cause a drop in conversions.

Click-through rates drop from 28.5% to 15.7% between the first and second results. Click-through rates reach 2.5% by the tenth position on the SERP.

Bear in mind that Google is always trying to produce the best results for every query. Most of their updates revolve around minimizing low-quality sites and content. So, you don't have much to worry about if you create an optimized, high-quality website and web content.

If our website development team built your website, you're likely okay. We build our sites around the most recent guidelines we can access from Google. Additionally, we write our copy with Google's current SEO best practices in mind.

Still, a changing algorithm means that all sites will eventually need updates to their code and content. For this reason, the best solution is to treat SEO as a long-term marketing strategy. Our SEO experts would be happy to help you take your next steps.

Let Our SEO Experts Keep Up With Google's Algorithm Changes for You

JTech's Bozeman-based team of search engine optimization (SEO) experts has been adapting to Google for years. We're always looking to find ways to beat an evolving search engine algorithm. 

Our SEO team can help you skip the headache of cracking what Google deems 'high-quality.'

Sign up for a fast, free SEO Audit with our Bozeman-based team of SEO experts.

Our team of experts updates this blog quarterly as new information about algorithm updates becomes available. Our latest update was on January 18, 2024. For a list of algorithm updates, visit Google's Search Status Dashboard for official release notes from the last several years.
Bryn Lisser: Digital Marketer

About Bryn Lisser

Bryndis Lisser is a digital marketer with 2+ years of experience creating holistic SEO, PPC, and social media strategies that help her clients grow. Her in-depth research and thorough strategies have led to lasting success for the businesses that JTech serves. 

Samuel Klusmeyer: Content Specialist

About Samuel Klusmeyer

Samuel Klusmeyer is a content marketing professional with 6+ years of experience writing helpful, search-optimized content that converts. Sam helps clients optimize their website copy or write new copy that speaks directly to their target audience. He leads JTech's internal content marketing efforts — including emails, social media accounts, and E-E-A-T-optimized website articles.