Every year, Google changes its search algorithm (The way it calculates, interprets and ranks websites). Over the course of any year, these changes can be in excess of 400 or 500 hundred! Whilst most of these changes are minor, Google occasionally rolls out a “major” algorithm update (such as Google Panda and Google Penguin) that affects search results and website rankings in significant ways. In nearly all cases Google keeps the details to themselves, rarely announcing and always being vague or forthcoming with information relating to these changes.

2016 was no exception for Google, in fact in many SEO circles; experts agree it has been one of the most active, intense even for on-going changes and shifts!

Here’s a very brief list, and overview of just some of the major algorithm changes by Google in 2016 and what we know.

November 2016, Unnamed Update
Google did not confirm any information, but there was widespread speculation that this was the mobile-first index being tested.

October 2016, Penguin 4.0, continued
The second phase of Penguin 4.0 was rolled out early-mid October. (See announcement September below)

September 2016, Penguin 4.0
The first rollout of Penguin 4.0, started late in September and focused on specific web pages with ‘toxic links.’ (See announcement September below)

September 2016, Penguin 4.0 Announcement
After almost two years from its original rollout, Google finally announced a major Penguin update. The announcement focused on web pages with ‘toxic links.
They indicated that the new Penguin is now real-time and part of their “core” algorithm.

September 2106, Possum
A massive local search algorithm update kicked in on September 1, 2016.
Google didn’t release any official details however the SEO community named it
‘Possum’. Evidence seems to indicate that this update only impacted ranking in the 3-pack and Local Finder (AKA the local results or Google Maps results), however, some data also suggested it also heavily impacted organic results.

May 2016, Mobile-friendly 2
Just more than a year after the original “mobile friendly” update (April 21st, 2015), Google rolled out another ranking signal boost that benefited mobile-friendly sites on mobile search.
May 2016, Unnamed Update

Activity indicated an update to its core algorithm, but Google would not confirm this update

February 2016, AdWords Changes
Significant changes were announced by Google in relation to Google AdWords in late February. Google announced it will stop showing ads on the right side of desktop search results worldwide. Instead, an additional fourth advert (PPC) may show above the organic search results and may appear for some highly commercial and large volume queries.

January 2016, Unnamed Update
Google confirmed the unnamed update (john Doe?) simply stating it is a “Core Algorithms Update.”