It’s a well-known fact that Google is regularly tinkering with its infamous search algorithms. Google is always striving to achieve peak usability and search experience for users. Since July, the search behemoth has been slowly rolling out an update to the Panda 4.2 algorithm which, ultimately, has taken months to complete.
Over the past two weeks, the webmaster and SEO communities have been abuzz as numerous signals show that a potential algorithm update has occurred; much more than the average daily adjustments and tweaks. While the signs of change could possibly be related to the Panda update, or even the Penguin revision, many speculate this is not the case.
For those who are unfamiliar with Penguin, the primary objective of this particular update revolves around black hat tactics. Penguins seeks to ostracize sites that have attempted any manner of cheating. While the primary focus of Penguin is on unnatural links, there are many other factors that Penguin is eyeballing as well. The cardinal rule of staying on Penguin’s good side is simple: Don’t attempt any black hat tactics.
Panda, on the other hand, is a search filter that dates back to 2011 and is designed to identify and demote websites that house low-quality content. Penguin is about following the rules, Panda is about nixing horrible and unreadable content.
Signs of an Update
The first suspicious results surfaced on Oct. 14-15 as various automated tools reflected spikes in organic traffic for some and massive drops for others. This fluctuation is believed to be in relation to Panda, however the peaks and valleys are not isolated to these two days alone.
Oct. 20-21, more dramatic rankings changes were reported; this round is believed to not be associated with the slow rollout of Panda and is thought to be something else entirely. Some have taken a liking to calling the theorized update the “Zombie Update” due to the close proximity to Halloween. And if your rankings were gobbled up, it would seem that zombies are indeed responsible — it certainly makes about as much sense as most other theories when the truth is often weeks away from surfacing.
These variations in rankings have been seen in plenty of automated tools.. SERPS.com displays a spike on Oct. 19 that comes to its final crescendo Oct. 21, RankRanger and Advanced Web Ranking show a massive peak on Oct. 20, and Algoroo depicts the same type of activity Oct. 21 as well. These spikes essentially point toward an enormous keyword ranking changeover. And while this data is subject to a variety of variables, all signs still point towards an undisclosed update.
Google Has No Comment
With the two separate incidents taking place within days of each other, the WebmasterWorld forum has exploded with comments and debates on the issue; people are most certainly looking for an explanation to this activity. Unfortunately, however, Google has been unwilling to provide any insight into the matter.
Alex Graves of David Naylor reached out via Twitter to Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, Gary Illyes, for confirmation as to what folks were seeing take place. When he asked Illyes if the changes were related to the Penguin algorithm update, Gary responded, “Penguin is not ready for prime time.” Seeking to probe further, Alex then asked Gary if the updates are associated with Panda in anyway. Gary responded, “Sorry, Alex, we don’t confirm updates to our core ranking algorithms. We make hundreds of changes to it, this could have been one.”
So while nearly no information was divulged here, it would seem that the changes could be a part of a core ranking algorithm modification. If this truly is the case, then now would be a good time for site owners who were adversely affected to comb their websites in search of any factors that may be holding them back, as well as to ensure that only SEO best practices have been implemented; which is something that should be done regularly anyway.
Google will speak out eventually, but the fact still remains that some folks are getting lambasted by some level of algorithm shifts. Don’t waste any further time investigating what Google is up to; place all hands on deck to fortify your own site and guarantee white hat practices and stellar content.
This is the way of the SEO world: If you’re swimming in a reactionary space, you may never feel as though you can get the rankings you deserve. Stay proactive; test your backlinks regularly, constantly improve upon your content creation, overhaul your meta data, and stay on top of Google’s best practices. That way, when unexpected algorithm shifts hit the Web, you won’t notice, unless it’s to celebrate even higher rankings.