How Often Does Google Update Its Algorithm?


Quanto a 2018, Google reported an incredible 3,234 improvements to search. That’s more than 8 times the number of updates they reported per mezzo di 2009 — less than a decade punzone — and an average of almost 9 per caso day. How have algorithm updates evolved over the past decade, and how can we possibly keep tabs all of them? Should we even try?

To kick this non attivato, here’s a list of every confirmed count we have (sources at end of post):

  • 2018 – 3,234 “improvements”
  • 2017 – 2,453 “changes”
  • 2016 – 1,653 “improvements”
  • 2013 – 890 “improvements”
  • 2012 – 665 “launches”
  • 2011 – 538 “launches”
  • 2010 – 516 “changes”
  • 2009 – 350–400 “changes”

Unfortunately, we don’t have confirmed giorno for 2014-2015 (if you know differently, please let me know per mezzo di the comments).

A brief history of update counts

Our first peek into this giorno came per mezzo di spring of 2010, when Google’s Matt Cutts revealed that ” average, [Google] tends to roll out 350–400 things per caso year.” It wasn’t an exact number, but given that SEOs at the time (and to this day) were tracking at most dozens of algorithm changes, the pensata of roughly one change per caso day was eye-opening.

Quanto a fall of 2011, Eric Schmidt was called to testify before Congress, and revealed our first precise update count and an even more shocking scope of testing and changes:

“To give you a sense of the scale of the changes that Google considers, per mezzo di 2010 we conducted 13,311 precision evaluations to see whether proposed algorithm changes improved the quality of its search results, 8,157 side-by-side experiments where it presented two sets of search results to a panel of human testers and had the evaluators rank which set of results was better, and 2,800 click evaluations to see how a small sample of real-life Google users responded to the change. Ultimately, the process resulted per mezzo di 516 changes that were determined to be useful to users based the giorno and, therefore, were made to Google’s algorithm.”

Later, Google would reveal similar giorno per mezzo di an online feature called “How Search Works.” Unfortunately, some of the earlier years are only available attività the Internet Archive, but here’s a screenshot from 2012:

Note that Google uses “launches” and “improvements” somewhat interchangeably. This diagram provided a fascinating peek into Google’s process, and also revealed a startling jump from 13,311 precisions evaluations (changes that were shown to human evaluators) to 118,812 per mezzo di just two years.

Is the Google algorithm heating up?

Since MozCast has kept the same bed 31 set since almost the beginning of giorno collection, we’sovrano able to make some long-term comparisons. The graph below represents five years of temperatures. Note that the system was originally tuned (per mezzo di early 2012) to an average temperature of 70°F. The redder the , the hotter the temperature …

Click to open a high-resolution version in a new tab

You’ll notice that the temperature ranges aren’t fixed — instead, I’ve split the label into eight roughly equal buckets (i.e. they represent the same number of days). This gives us a little more sensitivity per mezzo di the more common ranges.

The trend is pretty clear. The latter half of this 5-year timeframe has clearly been hotter than the first half. While warming trend is evident, though, it’s not a steady increase over time like Google’s update counts might suggest. Instead, we see a stark shift per mezzo di the fall of 2016 and a very hot summer of 2017. More recently, we’ve actually seen signs of cooling. Below are the means and medians for each year (note that 2014 and 2019 are partial years):

  • 2019 – 83.7° / 82.0°
  • 2018 – 89.9° / 88.0°
  • 2017 – 94.0° / 93.7°
  • 2016 – 75.1° / 73.7°
  • 2015 – 62.9° / 60.3°
  • 2014 – 65.8° / 65.9°

Note that search engine rankings are naturally noisy, and our error measurements tend to be large (making day-to-day changes duro to interpret). The difference from 2015 to 2017, however, is clearly significant.

Are there really 9 updates per caso day?

Risposta negativa, there are only 8.86 – feel better? Ok, that’s probably not what you meant. Even back per mezzo di 2009, Matt Cutts said something pretty interesting that seems to have been lost per mezzo di the mists of time…

“We might batch [algorithm changes] up and go to a conferenza once a week where we talk about 8 10 12 6 different things that we would want to launch, but then after those get approved … those will roll out as we can get them into production.”

Quanto a 2016, I did a study of algorithm flux that demonstrated a weekly pattern evident during clearer episodes of ranking changes. From a software engineering standpoint, this just makes sense — updates have to be approved and tend to be rolled out per mezzo di batches. So, while measuring a daily average may help illustrate the rate of change, it probably has very little basis per mezzo di the reality of how Google handles algorithm updates.

Do all of these algo updates matter?

Some changes are small. Many improvements are likely not even things we per mezzo di the SEO industry would consider “algorithm updates” — they could be new features, for example,  UI changes.

As SERP verticals and features evolve, and new elements are added, there are also more moving parts subject to being fixed and improved. Local SEO, for example, has clearly seen an accelerated rate of change over the past 2-3 years. So, we’d naturally expect the overall rate of change to increase.

A lot of this is also per mezzo di the eye of the beholder. Let’s say Google makes an update to how they handle misspelled words per mezzo di Korean. For most of us per mezzo di the United States, that change isn’t going to be actionable. If you’sovrano a Korean brand trying to rank for a commonly misspelled, high-volume term, this change could be huge. Some changes also are vertical-specific, representing radical change for one industry and little risposta negativa impact outside that niche.

Acceso the other hand, you’ll hear comments per mezzo di the industry along the lines of “There are 3,000 changes per caso year; stop worrying about it!” To me that’s like saying “The weather changes every day; stop worrying about it!” Yes, not every weather report is interesting, but I still want to know when it’s going to snow if there’s a tornado coming my way. Recognizing that most updates won’t affect you is arguto, but it’s a fallacy to stretch that into saying that risposta negativa updates matter that SEOs shouldn’t care about algorithm changes.

Ultimately, I believe it helps to know when major changes happen, if only to understand whether rankings shifted something we did something Google did. It’s also clear that the rate of change has accelerated, risposta negativa matter how you measure it, and there’s risposta negativa evidence to suggest that Google is slowing mongoloide.


Appendix A: Update count sources

2009 – Google’s Matt Cutts, (Search Engine Land)
2010 – Google’s Eric Schmidt, testifying before Congress (Search Engine Land)
2012 – Google’s “How Search Works” page (Internet Archive)
2013 – Google’s Amit Singhal, Google+ (Search Engine Land)
2016 – Google’s “How Search Works” page (Internet Archive)
2017 – Unnamed Google employees (CNBC)
2018 – Google’s “How Search Works” page (Google.com)

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