Most of us have read about Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithms and whether we understand them or not, we know that we must abide by Google’s rules if we want our websites to remain in the organic rankings. In the past there were announcements regarding updates to said algorithms but these days, this no longer happens and it is only when site owners find themselves off the listings do they realise that another update has been initiated and their site has been affected. It would appear that in May 2013, such an update was released but this time it was neither Penguin nor Panda and many in the industry have dubbed this one ‘Google Phantom’. This update has affected sites with not very good content or content that is scraped, repeated or not optimized well. It also affected those with links that go to or from one or two sources repeatedly. So, as with all these algorithms, content and linking must be pertinent to your business and observing the guidelines set out by Google, should help to keep you in the organic rankings.
In early May there was a lot of chatter in the webmaster forums about a major Google update. Google wouldn’t confirm that it occurred (big shock), but the level of chatter was significant. Not long after that, Matt Cutts announced that Penguin 2.0 would be rolling out within the next few weeks, and that it would be big. All signs point to a major update that will be larger and nastier than Penguin 1.0. Now, I’ve done a lot of Penguin work since April 24, 2012 when Penguin 1.0 rolled out, and I can’t imagine a larger, nastier Penguin. But that’s exactly what’s coming.
So what was this “phantom update” that occurred on May 8th? Was it a Panda update, some other type of targeted action, or was it actually Penguin 2.0 being tested in the wild? I’m a firm believer that Google rolls out major updates to a subset of websites prior to the full rollout in order to gauge its impact. If Penguin 2.0 is rolling out soon, then what we just saw (the phantom update) could very well be our new, cute black and white friend. I guess we’ll all know soon enough.
*Update: Penguin 2.0 Launched on 5/22*
Penguin 2.0 launched on May 22nd and I have analyzed a number of sites hit by latest algorithm update. I published a post containing my findings, based on analyzing 13 sites hit by Penguin 2.0. You should check out that post to learn more about our new, icy friend.
The First Emails From Webmasters Arrived on May 9th
The first webmasters to contact me about this phantom update were confused, nervous and seeking help and guidance. They noticed a significant drop in Google organic search traffic starting on the prior day (May 8th), and wanted to find out what was going on. Four websites in particular saw large drops in traffic and were worried that they got hit by another serious Google algorithm update.
So, I began to heavily analyze the sites in question to determine the keywords that dropped, the content that was hit, the possible causes of the drop, etc. I wanted to know more about this phantom update, especially if this could be the beginnings of Penguin 2.0.
Phantom Update Findings
After digging into each of the four sites since 5/9, I have some information that I would like to share about what this phantom update was targeting. Since Penguin 1.0 heavily targeted unnatural links, I wanted to know if this update followed the same pattern, or if there were other webspam factors involved (and being targeted). Now, my analysis covers four sites, and not hundreds (yet), but there were some interesting findings that stood out. Click here to continue