With all the press surrounding “Mobilegeddon” and Google’s push to ensure all websites are mobile friendly, an ‘unknown’ or ‘phantom’ update that started on April 29 has ripped through websites, and caused some enormous fluctuations in Google’s search results.
The flow on effect of this update has been significant increases/decreases in organic website traffic coming from Google.
Unlike Penguin and Panda, Google has given no indication that an update has taken place – but there is a tonne of data out there which illustrates that something significant has happened.
Glen Gabe’s excellent analysis of Google ‘Phantom’ Update 2 does an excellent job of illustrating what the update is, and how it has impacted on websites.
What’s In This Google Update?
Well, Google is yet to announce or confirm that an update took place on or around this date – but that does not mean it didn’t happen!
Gabe’s commentary suggests that this update is ‘cleaning up where Panda missed out’:
I don’t know if Phantom is cleaning up where Panda missed out, or if it’s something completely separate, but there’s a lot of crossover for sure.
Our feeling is that the update is focused on content quality problems, namely thin and duplicate content or poor quality landing pages. It doesn’t appear to be related to links or Google’s Penguin algorithm that we can tell.
One of our Panda affected websites experienced some pretty significant movement in rankings across the board around this date, which suggests that it could be some kind of ‘Panda cleanup’ as Gabe suggested.
What Have We Seen?
We only have a small subset of data, as only a few of our clients’ websites have been impacted by the update.
Here is one of our sites that experienced some serious improvement in search traffic around the same time as this update occurred.
You can see a very nice increase in organic traffic for this site. This was mainly as a result of an improvement in rankings for one page across a variety of keywords.
This page had been well optimised with over 500 words of unique information, keyword variations included, as well as lots of images and a very nice call to action (namely the opposite of low quality content that Google’s Panda algorithm likes to penalise).
One of our old Panda impacted websites saw the following ranking changes:
Notice the fluctuations occurring all at the same time across a wide range of competitive keywords.
None of these keywords were on the first page, but they are interesting data points to look at and illustrate pretty clearly that:
- Something happened on that date causing rankings to fluctuate
- A “Panda” affected website experienced the fluctuations
Serpwoo Shows Huge Changes As Well
To really emphasise these results, this screenshot from Serpwoo ranking data tracks the top 20 websites ranking for one of the keywords above.
You can see the massive shakeup in rankings across the board on or around the 2nd May which coincides perfectly with the update. Note: these changes are for Australian websites.
What Does It Mean For You?
If your site wasn’t impacted – then it shouldn’t be a huge deal.
However, if your site was impacted negatively, you need to do a careful analysis of the content of your website – do this as quickly as possible as it’s better to take action fast.
Look at the pages in particular that have dropped in rankings or that traffic has decreased to. This should give a pretty clear indication on where you should focus your efforts.
I would apply similar actions as you would for a Panda affected website, by improving content quality across the site and then hope you can recover like previous ‘Phantom’ victims did.
Unfortunately, these Google updates are no laughing matter and can bring your website to it’s knees if they are not addressed quickly.
It makes the task especially challenging when these updates are not announced publicly, and no reasons provided as to why your website has fallen into Google’s ‘bad books’.
Be sure you always be monitoring your website traffic closely, and perform an analysis on your organic traffic and engagement figures to determine whether your website was impacted.
It’s not all doom and gloom – your website can recover! It just takes some work and careful research to ensure you identify the offending pages, and then take appropriate action to rectify the issues.
What About You?
Has your site been impacted?
We’d love to hear your stories and see whether your data matches up with ours!
Just drop us a comment!