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The Google Algorithm Story

History of Google's algorithm updates. Courtesy of SEOMoz & Storify and special thanks to Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Roundtable and Webmaster World.

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  1. It all began one dreary night back in December 2000...

  2. Google Toolbar - December 2000

    Guaranteeing SEO arguments for years to come, Google launched their browser toolbar, and with it, Toolbar PageRank (TBPR). As soon as webmasters started watching TBPR, the Google Dance began.
  3. 1st Documented Update - September 2002

    Before "Boston" (the first named update), there was a major shuffle in the Fall of 2002. The details are unclear, but this appeared to be more than the monthly Google Dance and PageRank update. As one webmaster said of Google: "they move the toilet mid stream".

  4. Boston Update - February 2003

    Announced at SES Boston, this was the first named Google update. Originally, Google aimed at a major monthly update, so the first few updates were a combination of algorithm changes and major index refreshes (the so-called "Google Dance"). As updates became more frequent, the monthly idea quickly died.

  5. Cassandra Update - April 2003

    Google cracked down on some basic link-quality issues, such as massive linking from co-owned domains. Cassandra also came down hard on hidden text and hidden links.

  6. Dominic Update - May 2003

    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.

  7. Esmerelda Update - June 2003

    This marked the last of the regular monthly Google updates, as a more continuous update process began to emerge. The "Google Dance" was replaced with "Everflux". Esmerelda probably heralded some major infrastructure changes at Google.

  8. Fritz Update - July 2003

    The monthly "Google Dance" finally came to an end with the "Fritz" update. Instead of completely overhauling the index on a roughly monthly basis, Google switched to an incremental approach. The index was now changing daily.

  9. Supplemental Index - September 2003

    In order to index more documents without sacrificing performance, Google split off some results into the "supplemental" index. The perils of having results go supplemental became a hotly debated SEO topic, until the index was later reintegrated.

  10. Florida Update - November 2003

    This was the update that put updates (and probably the SEO industry) on the map. Many sites lost ranking, and business owners were furious. Florida sounded the death knell for low-value late 90s SEO tactics, like keyword stuffing, and made the game a whole lot more interesting.

  11. Austin Update - January 2004

    What Florida missed, Austin came in to clean up. Google continued to crack-down on deceptive on-page tactics, including invisible text and META-tag stuffing. Some speculated that Google put the "Hilltop" algorithm into play and began to take page relevance seriously.

  12. Brandy Update - February 2004

    Google rolled out a variety of changes, including a massive index expansion, Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), increased attention to anchor text relevance, and the concept of link "neighborhoods." LSI expanded Google's ability to understand synonyms and took keyword analysis to the next level.

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