At the beginning of the month, you may well have noticed a change in your website’s search rankings. Many webmasters and news outlets certainly did, reporting that certain types of site were being specifically targeted – instructional or ‘How-To’ outlets such as About.com and eHow purportedly lost traffic, although Wikia and Wonderhowto simultaneously gained traffic, providing no consistency to their claims. The one aspect that everybody seemed to agree on was that there had been an algorithm update, but when Google was approached for confirmation, they insisted that no such change had occurred, subsequently causing many people to refer to the incident as a ‘Phantom Update’.
This week, however, Google have finally acknowledged the hordes of confused users by stating that although there was no update relating to spam, there had been changes to how the core ranking algorithm assesses the quality of a webpage. Unfortunately, that’s about all they said, leading to further speculation about what changes had actually been made. We already know that Google’s idea of ‘quality’ is a conglomeration of multiple individual factors, so whether the weighting of some of these factors has been altered is one potential revision that could have been made. It is reasonably likely that the updated algorithm makes some new considerations, too, but given the varied feedback from across the web, it isn’t something that can be easily identified.
During a Google+ Hangout, John Mueller addressed the queries by stating that the update was nothing majorly important or out of the ordinary, saying that “this is essentially just a normal algorithm update that we make all the time“. He also quelled claims of whether or not any particular type of website was being targeted, suggesting that some sites will see an increase while others will see a decrease, which correlates with the findings mentioned earlier. Finally, his advice to everyone was to “work on your web site in general” and it is unlikely that “there is any technical issue that you need to focus on”.
With no specific clarification or objectives to aim for from this algorithm update, the general consensus is to continue focusing on providing the best overall user experience for your users.