Google Denies A Major Update On December 17th

google-logo-glow-featuredYesterday, most of the Google search results tracking tools showed major changes in rankings within Google’s search results; but, during my analysis of webmaster communication within the discussion forums and social space, I saw very little discussion around changes in rankings at Google. Then, Google’s Matt Cutts implied there was no update on Twitter saying Google tries to minimize doing major updates right before the holidays.

Here is Matt Cutts tweet in response to being blamed for doing a major Penguin update yesterday:

 

The tracking tools disagree and show signs of major changes in the search results. I personally believe that something tripped up the tools, like user interface changes or something, but not ranking changes. Here are screen shots of the tools, including MozCast, SERPs.com, SERP Metrics and Algoroo, statistics for December 17th:

mozcast-dec17 serps-dec17 algoroo-dec17 serpmetrics-dec17

And from what I see in the webmaster discussion areas, very few are complaining about traffic or ranking shifts around December 17th.

Finally, Matt Cutts and Google has said time after time, they try not to do major updates during or before the holiday season.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: SEO | Top News

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • Cynexis Media

    Just an FYI for your design, when I’m using facebook as Cynexis and not my personal account, the facebook share button at the top of your page screws up the text so I can’t read any of it. This has happened to me multiple times in the last week, on different articles. In order to read your articles, I have to go to facebook and switch how I’m using it, then come back to your website and refresh.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    Didn’t Google update the Webmaster Guidelines on July 3rd? :) Maybe that doesn’t count as an update but it was a pretty big change in my book!

  • http://babypickel.com/vincenzo.html Chenzo

    Barry – I noticed that as well – the mozcast was really hot!

  • Isaac

    That isn’t really a denial that just saying they try to minimize them…… SCROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOGES BAH HUMBUG!

  • Hich.

    I just had a webpage drop from 5th position to… NOWHERE TO BE FOUND! On that specific day!

  • troy redington

    there was no denial in Matt’s statement.

  • troy redington

    there was no denial in Matt’s statement.

  • J_Boch

    Well I’m not complaining about traffic or ranking shifts around the 17th because the few I’ve seen have benefited me, but we have noticed some volatility in certain verticals.

  • Durant Imboden

    A Panda data refresh (to use one example) wouldn’t necessarily count as a “major update” in Google’s eyes.

  • Jeff Loquist

    Yeah, I agree. Nowhere in his statement did he actually deny any update. Not saying they did one (I didn’t notice any major shifts), but he definitely did not deny it if they did. Maybe he learned his lesson with the PageRank update fiasco, and the (not provided) catastrophes…better to say ambiguous nothings than direct statements.

  • http://www.LawInfo.com/ Chris Blankinship

    Great point! If anything Matt’s response is an admission Google has and will make major updates right before holidays.

  • Amit Ghare

    I lost my ranking again on 17th Dec. And its from 1st page to 10 Page. There are lots of keywords are dropped. Its Minimizing the update,, Now Analyzing for reasons. Penguin, Panda or New Animal…

  • seowhitehat

    what if the change was to fool the tools? the tools used to report the data?

  • seowhitehat
  • http://www.imarketsolutions.com/ Matt Dimock

    @durantimboden:disqus: I’m not 100% sure, obviously, but I’m confident in thinking that the Panda algorithm no longer just “attacks” all websites at once. From what I understand, this was gradually integrated into Google’s core algorithm and it takes appropriate actions as soon as pages are crawled by Googlebot; not just on a specific date. I won’t be able to make a confident prediction until I see about a weeks worth of data following the 12/18 date, but if I had to decode the infamous evasiveness of Matt Cutts’ statement, I would say we’re most likely dealing with an algorithm refresh here.

  • Chris Koszo

    @troy_redington:disqus Right? :)

  • http://www.parallelprojecttraining.com/ Paul Naybour

    Hi

    I also say big changes over the last few days in all the websites I track in our project and programme management sector. I would say the big sites went down while the specialist niche sites with good focus and sector specific links and content went up.

  • John Vlasakakis

    i saw fluctuations Barry and rankings going up and down about 3-8 positions on the 17th so i think there was a tweak in the algorithm

  • http://www.googlingsocial.com/ Chris Lang

    Matt Cutts says they try not to do major updates at Christmas time? I guess he forgot about the annual Google Slap that has occured ever year since 2004 when they shook up everyone by removing all the big boys from search that Christmas.

  • http://pestcontrolseo.wordpress.com/ Thos003

    This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen a tool show something abnormal, but when further analyzed it is the tool’s fault. I’ve even seen spikes and drops in link counting tools magically mirror each other across my industry and across different tool platforms. I highly doubt that Orkin, Terminix, and Bulwark all drop and build links in a synchronized fashion.

    But if what you allude to is correct, like user data changing results (not exclusively just personalization), then this post should wake up a few souls.

  • http://blackhatpwnage.com/ igl00

    me and users of http://blackhatpwnage.com do see changes that seem to big to be just ‘twist’ its algo change or turn on of spam links db of google

  • http://ecosmob.com/ ashvyasseo

    Matt is really smart and diplomatic man. He always use his words and position twisted. Here also he has not denied nor accepted changes. It recalled me the recent video of Matt how Google handles duplicate content in which somewhere he said Google doesn’t take negative action on it and we all know about Panda who fights against low quality content. Before that he said there will be no PR update in 2013 and we got it in 2013. :P I think Matt must stop misguiding SEO people.

  • http://ecosmob.com/ ashvyasseo

    Matt is really smart and diplomatic man. He always use his words and position twisted. Here also he has not denied nor accepted changes. It recalled me the recent video of Matt how Google handles duplicate content in which somewhere he said Google doesn’t take negative action on it and we all know about Panda who fights against low quality content. Before that he said there will be no PR update in 2013 and we got it in 2013. :P I think Matt must stop misguiding SEO people.

  • Dave

    According to my finding to recent Google updates, there are 2 updates per week by Google. Google has now get into a habit of making updates on around Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday.

    And 17 was Tuesday. They do drastic changes on Monday-Tuesday and then try to minimize collateral damage on Thursday-Friday, which in fact is of no use.

  • Dean

    right on the money. my niche content sites gone up (+ higher PR) and few simple, money sites gone down drastically. Big hit on them, for sure Algo change.

  • Narek Vardanyan

    I don’t believe what Google say anymore! Something definitely has happened as our rankings for non-branded keywords came back to the first page in SERPs

  • http://ilikeit.asia/ Lavanay Bhadwal

    There was indeed an update around Dec 18th when I lost 60% of traffic. I also searched everywhere on internet and did not find any discussion about google update… So, I felt, may be it was a problem with wordpress 3.8 update or some plugin update.. Glad I found this post.. I suspect its related to Google Authorship..

  • Monadnock

    My traffic went way up on the 17th and 18th…then came crashing back down on the 19th.

  • http://www.waytoosocial.com/ Chris Calo

    As usual, they are denying everything… but I saw heavy fluctuation on that same day. The data claims major fluctuations… shouldn’t that be enough?

  • http://perthwebdevelopers.edublogs.org/ mmayer

    I think it is Matt job to misguide marketers

  • deppdog82

    Our company website has improved on performing keywords going from 675 to 827 keywords (within top 20 results) in just a week. Such a huge boost for us.. I would say something is going on..

  • Willem Nout

    I noticed major shifts in traffic in certain countries I have websites running. German speaking countries in particulair.

  • Exo Andy

    I think Matt Cutts lies. There was definitely an update even though it was not a Panda or Penguin. But there was an update.

  • Nick Fitzgerald

    There was definitely an update on the 17th. I am seeing major rank swings on that date across dozens of sites. Keep in mind that Matt Cutts did not actually deny anything. Read his words carefully… There was an update. Of that I am certain.

  • http://www.touristlink.com/user/david-urmann.html David Urmann

    We saw a clear shift in traffic. My thought is its a Panda refresh the same as occurred on Nov 26.

  • Nick Fitzgerald
  • Nick Fitzgerald
  • Openuris

    We got smashed on our main site. It’s weird though. It’s almost like entire sub directories of our main site aren’t ranking for anything while others are completely fine. Have held top 10 in many keywords for years and now we’re not even in the top 5 pages for many of them. Even if I search for the unique content on many of the pages, we don’t show up. No messages in webmaster console either.

  • nickveneris

    My site Xomba was crushed. So, there was a major update. The holidays were a nightmare. We lost our Google ads two days before we lost 60% of our traffic. No messages via Google Webmaster and we’ve never done any shady linking, so I don’t think it was penguin. It was the greatest Christmas present Google could give.

  • nickveneris

    My site Xomba was crushed. So, there was a major update. The holidays were a nightmare. We lost our Google ads two days before we lost 60% of our traffic. No messages via Google Webmaster and we’ve never done any shady linking, so I don’t think it was penguin. It was the greatest Christmas present Google could give.

  • http://www.meteorsite.com/ Jeff Chance

    Hi Barry, Happy New Year.

    It’s funny…when I wrote Danny Goodwin
    about this that morning of Dec 13th saying I believed an update had just
    happened I didn’t expect it to become as strong as it did just a few days
    later (on the 17th). I kept looking for info on it or some kind of
    recognition from Google but alas we got this line about no updates
    around Holidays. It was absolutely an update and a major one to boot.
    These stats are far more reliable than Mr. Cutts’ “Washington-esque”
    rhetoric. I also noticed that on New Year’s Eve and Day there was an
    additional (and substantial) shift in rankings where some pages I was
    tracking rose sharply from deep pages to 1st page and also a
    corresponding rise in the overall amount of keywords that those pages
    then ranked for. For example (before New Years) a page ranked in the
    300′s and for only a couple of similar keywords. Come New Years it
    shoots up in a straight line to page 1 for those terms plus it now ranks
    for a bunch of related terms including more long-tail and contextually
    varied terms (all on page 1). The fact that a page shot up overnight
    without any recent changes having been made to the page in question (or even the site) to
    me signals an update while the fact that it now ranks for many terms it didn’t
    before (even deep in the ranks) hints to a change in the way Google
    perceives relevance which was likely the point of the update. If it was
    in fact an update, as I believe, then that would mean G hit us with an
    update on one of the biggest Holidays of the year, making his statements
    that much less credible and his word going forward equally so. As to
    why do it on New Years? Perhaps it was because most SEO’s weren’t on their computers but
    likely popping corks, singing Auld Lang Syne and wondering what SE
    changes await us in 2014!

    From my research I believe these changes are a mix of on-site related (The 13th-17th Unnamed Update) and relevance related (New Years Update). Any one else see movement on New Years or come to any conclusions on these?

    Cheers!

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