If That Was A Google Update You Felt, Google’s Not Confirming It

google-algorithm-search-featuredOver the past few days, the Webmaster and SEO community have been discussing significant shifts, fluctuations and updates in both the Google rankings and traffic patterns they have seen from Google’s organic search.

I’ve asked Google if there was, indeed, an update, and Google would not confirm. Instead, they gave me the boilerplate response, “We have nothing to announce at this time.” They of course added, “We make over 500 changes to our algorithms a year, so there will always be fluctuations in our rankings in addition to normal crawling and indexing.” This is nothing new; Google often will use this response when discussing matters of algorithmic changes or updates to their index.

They have, however, been very transparent about some updates, such as the former Panda updates, Penguin updates, EMD updates, top heavy updates, as well as others. I should note that Google said they will unlikely provide confirmations of future Panda updates.

Was There A Google Update Or Not?

So, was there an update this week in the Google search results? It is hard to say for sure without Google confirming.

If you look at the various discussion forums, including some like WebmasterWorld and Google Webmaster Help, there is definitely an uptick in discussion around ranking changes. If you look at the Google monitoring tools such as MozCast and SERPs.com, there are clear signs of more fluctuation in the search results this past week than in prior weeks.

If you look in the comments at two posts I made at the Search Engine Roundtable, one on May 9th and the other on May 7th, and totaling about 200 comments – you will see many people claiming either ranking declines or ranking improvements.

As you can see, I am convinced there was something that happened in Google’s search results which impacted many webmasters.

If There Was An Update, What Did Google Update?

If there was an update, what was it? Was it an algorithmic update? Was it Penguin? Was it a small Panda refresh? Was it a new algorithm? Maybe Google is testing an algorithm to a select subset of searchers, and that is why some webmasters are noticing it and some are not? Maybe Google made user interface changes to the search results, which results in click through rate changes or placement changes of the search results?

The bottom line: without Google confirming the update and telling us specifically what changed, it is impossible for me to tell you with certainty if there was an update and what the update was. All I can say is that there are many webmasters and SEOs talking as if there was some sort of Google update.

Postscript: At 1:46pm EDT today, Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts said it wasn’t a Penguin update. So we can cross that off the list. Our follow-up story has more: Google’s Matt Cutts: Next Generation Of The Penguin Update “Few Weeks” Away.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: SEO | Google: Web Search | Search Diary | 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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  • http://www.clayton-nichols.com/ Clayton Nichols

    From a lot of the sources that I read yesterday, there was some serious fluctuation. I however didn’t see many decreases for a lot of the businesses that I work with. Some actually improved.

  • http://www.rustybrick.com/barry Barry Schwartz

    An improvement is a change. If one site goes up, another goes down.

  • http://www.v2interactive.net/ Josh

    Funny enough, my weekly traffic this week has been the same +/- ~5%

  • http://www.nrjsoft.com/ Deyan Totev

    I have to agree- there is so great change, that I still can’t figure out how bad the things I’ve done could be :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/remar.barquilla.7 Remar Barquilla

    As far as I know, the website that I am handling right now experienced the fluctuation of the keyword rankings. Before April ended some of the keywords rank on 10th page, but when the first week of this month google listed the keyword on the first and second page. Then today the ranking have changed. From the first page it goes down to 10th page or worst scenario is that the keyword was not listed. I have asked some of my colleague about this scenario and thought that my SEO strategy is kinda not that effective that’s why I suffered from this situation. Knowing that there’s an update (might be) makes me feel good since I have now a reason to tell to my boss why we’ve experience the fluctuating of the keywords. But still we will not just relaxed and sit comfortably since there are too many competitors.

  • ankya7

    My traffic is DOWN. What ever the update was , it wasn’t good for me. And worse is i do not know anything about what did this update hit. Its so frustrating to lose your readers , your site , your income all going down after months and months of hard work without even knowing the exact reason for it.

  • Kamal Kumawat

    I have also seen major updates in my websites in Google rankings with few major keywords. Google hasn’t confirmed the update but my websites have gone up and would like thanks to Google.

  • http://twitter.com/victorpan victorpan

    I’ve been on a rollar coaster ride for the past week. Both ups and down, on and off the first page. Algo updates or I need a multiple rank trackers to make sure it’s not some systematic error.

  • http://twitter.com/dr_pete Dr. Peter J. Meyers

    Curious about your opinion (recognizing you have to interpret what Google tells you) – with Panda in “everflux” now, do you think they would confirm anything except a major Penguin update? Traditionally, they’ve confirmed very few updates that weren’t Panda/Penguin – named updates prior to Panda iterations were always less than a handful per year (sometimes, only 1-2).

  • http://www.rustybrick.com/barry Barry Schwartz

    Rephrase that please. :) My opinion on what?

  • http://pagearabia.co/ pagea arabia

    I do not think that there is an update and but Come resulting from older updates to Panda was a few weeks ago

    http://pagearabia.co/6461.html

  • BillyTheFourth

    “…do you think they would confirm anything except a major Penguin update?”

  • http://www.rustybrick.com/barry Barry Schwartz

    Depends on their mood that day. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/adam.boulton.71 Adam Boulton

    There’s also been several times when they were confronted WHILE an update was rolling out (like now), and would not confirm anything. A couple days later, there would be an announcement. So this “nothing to report” thing may just be a way of saying “get off our backs, we’re getting to it.” I guess we’ll find out in a few days. But the fact that they said some big updates were coming a few months ago, and the type of fluctuations we’re seeing this week – there’s definitely something brewing.

  • http://twitter.com/EJerikjay Erik Jay

    Why zero-sum?

  • Alan

    So much for the new and open strategy towards publishers. If anything they are even more closed than ever.

    Google will only do things if it is of benefit to Google. So why would they bother telling us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lisa.agostoni.5 Lisa Agostoni

    Great point, Dr. Pete. They’ve never been SUPER transparent except for huge initiatives like Panda and Penguin. At least those gave publishers an inkling of where to start. As they become more integrated in Google’s BAU, the guessing game will only get more prominent. *Covering eyes, throwing dart at dartboard*

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565291452 Mike Cartmel

    I’ve seen pages drop by 53 places and others gain by the same amount for different keywords on different sites. These are pages that probably deserve to move around. Solid monthly Top 1 or 2 ranked pages haven’t moved at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MarkBehnken Mark Behnken

    40+ percent drop on my fitness website. Was getting 150k unique visitors a month across the main and subdomains for the past few years. Not any more…What a joke. Especially considering I post quality articles (at least 4 a week) averaging 1.5k words in length and do nothing shady with SEO. Now pages are showing up on top results for some of my popular page keywords which I held 1st page listings for for years (now nowhere to be found even after browsing 15 pages deep). The sad part is that these new results contain little content or irrelevant articles for the search query at hand. Something is wrong over there at Screwgle, yet their revenue keeps climbing. Google is the Walmart of the Web.

  • benlanders

    I think it’s time to stop worrying about “updates” and instead think of Google’s ever-changing algo as a SPAM filter that is continually being adjusted (tightened). Take the time spend worrying, reading, and writing about the next Google update and use it to build an awesome company. Heading off to take my own advice ;-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/greencelebrity Kae Davis

    I mostly monitor A&E stuff for SERPs… From all the indications I have seen, evergreen traffic is almost totally dead unless there is something that re-surges on the hot topic news list that no other media outlets have written about yet. The shift away from indexing on topic content (even in the news results) seems really strange. Lots of articles with tangential phrasing are indexing for obscure and not heavily trafficked terms — but it looks like the major media outlets and well known scrapers who steal captions are dominating news and organic results [at least in the entertainment news world]. Very frustrating because not only is there no real access to significantly interesting news, there’s no impetus any more to research or write any because unless articles go viral on social media, truly informative and lengthy articles never even index for three word terms on Google. Bottom line, unless you are a big fish or a black hat whale, don’t count on making any real money from any pop culture or historical articles of note that you submit to Google. To that end, if you want to find real time and on-topic news, making the switch to Bing or Yahoo (as a researcher) is [sadly] prudent.

  • http://www.fri-v.com/ Friv

    I think. Take the time spend worrying, reading, and writing about the next Google update and use it.

  • Steve Arnold

    I’ve got a pretty good idea. We were knocked off Google’s top pages for our target keyword phrase. A week ago we had four organic spots on page #1 with just a little AdWords advertising. We were pushed off by a company promoted by Yelp. Now when I do a search for our keyword phrase, the top five spots point to Yelp. The #1 spot is a Yelp sponsor. This happened within a matter of days last week.

  • Steve Arnold
  • http://twitter.com/aybecker Alex Becker

    We started to see a significant drop off in SEO visits on Wednesday, May 8. On Thursday, May 9, we were down 33% in SEO visits compared to the previous week, and have been down that much ever since. To put it into perspective, on Thursday, May 2 we had 141,500 SEO visits; on Thursday, May 9 we had only 97,000 visits.

    Google can release as many updates and tweaks to their algorithm as they want, but if they are going to release something this drastic, they should at least tell us what the hell it specifically was targeting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Kenozy.Admin Lion Heart

    they would confirm anything except a major Penguin updat!!!
    الربح من الانترنت

  • Jon Wakefield

    Many of our ranking have changed from May 8th. We have had some go pages go up and some pages disappear. We have product pages and faq pages for the products. Both of these pages would rank in the top 50 for the broad keyword term. The product page would rank 5 to 20 and the faq page would rank 20 to 50. What we have found happen is the product page isn’t ranking and the faq page has moved up to advance past where the product page previously ranked. The product page will still rank for terms it was in the top 5 for in other more detailed phrases.

    This same thing has happened on a number of a products with totally different keywords. The problem with this is the faq pages just are not as good as the product pages, they serve a different purpose and are not as useful to the searcher as the product page was, but now they are out ranking them.

  • Arun Goyal

    adsfAF

  • http://www.octalsoftware.com/ Kamal Kishore Pathik

    Great Kamal,

    But things have gone little harsh for my client as i saw sudden fall in ranking. I couldn’t identified the reason behind it but yeah…i performed same activities Barry described above though i assume that we might have experienced a penguin update…

    What you say…?

  • http://www.octalsoftware.com/ Kamal Kishore Pathik

    Yeah we all are interpreting over here about Google updates and i am definitely not sure that for what update google guys will make a confirmation or not. It has become almost a hide and seek game which left us interpreting. But yes for last update that hasn’t been confirmed yet, I think we might have experienced a penguin update..:)

  • http://www.octalsoftware.com/ Kamal Kishore Pathik

    Ha ha ha ha….actually they don’t want to take blame of those
    people losing their business due to these updates…

  • alex miklin

    There definitly is something going on. My guess, Google is in the process of dripping Penguin 2.0. Instead of dropping the entire update in one swift blow. My impressions for MiklinSEO dropped from 50,000 Per Day to 10,000 Per Day. Here’s my solution to the problem: Create relevant content and update authoratiative media websites with it. I’m interested to see what happens to Hot Vs Not in the next few weeks, in regards to the Citation and Trust flow which can be measured by MajesticSEO.

  • http://www.iuvetravel.ro/ Iuve Travel

    seems that the EMD update was a big BS… you can still find in 1-st page of google “in construction sites” just because they are EMD, so what’s the point of making so much fuss about this update?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=720751969 Craig Broadbent

    haven’t seen any movement this time around, but a similar thing happened in the UK in mid January. I imagine there will be more stealth updates which Google goes on to deny in the future…

  • zawadi

    I have noticed an increase in g+ authors bring at the top oh the serps …. more than usual. Good microdata stuff

  • Durant Imboden

    Our Google referrals have been down 25 to 30 per cent in the last week or so. The drop occurred suddenly, with no obvious cause. (Ours is a travel-information site that has been at its current domain since 2001, has been listed as “Best of the Web” by Forbes and the Washington Post, and has never bought or sold links.)

  • http://twitter.com/CSEOS CSEOS

    yep – same here and the higher quality the domain the bigger the hit – however more traffic from Bing and Yahoo – weird results in Google’s first page that are barely even relevant to the search term (we are finance and loans – big changes going on in this niche this week!) some real sub domain spam going on and winning now too. buy.widget.number.one.in.texas.info – these sub-domain spam sites have been ranking in millions over in the Yahoo/Bing engines this year.

  • http://twitter.com/CSEOS CSEOS

    It’s big deal when my wife and I are making $180,000 less (per year) overnight!

  • http://twitter.com/CSEOS CSEOS

    exactly – in our niche (finance) the results on the first page MIGHT have one result that is an actual lender, or a site that has links to real lenders. 2-3 of the results are on community pages that have NOTHING to do with the search term – how bad can their results get before people stop using them?

  • http://www.iuvetravel.ro/ Iuve Travel

    I mean, we can make a fuss but G don’t give a f…k about our businesses and the value we are loosing… right?

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