The SEO world is always awash with theories and hunches about Google algorithm updates, the dates they are to take place and sometimes the dates that *we think* they actually took place but were not officially announced.
In the past, Google has been very tight lipped about the expected launch dates for updates and often made an official announcement a few weeks after the event, usually by that time the SEO community has figured out something has happened and this may be another one of those cases…
The History of Phantom Updates:
Phantom Updates are not new… Here’s a history lesson:
MAY 2013: Phantom 1.
Google would not confirm this and the rumours were it was simply and algorithm update
MAY 2015: Phantom 2:
This was initially released and not announced but after the event, Google officially said it was called a “Quality Update”
November 2015: Phantom 3.
Again, no official word from Google but the rumour mill is saying that this may well be “Quality Update 2”.
Google does not always deny it’s updates but confusingly they often don’t bother giving the updates names or say what they update was for. They did this back in June with the “unknown update” that was official but still had no distinct purpose. We still don’t know quite what it did.
It’s all a bit confusing, isn’t it?
The Phantom Menace (Without Jar Jar Binks)
The last quality update was back in June and at that time there was no official word from Google. It took them 2 weeks for them to make it known that this was officially a quality update and in that the update had been dubbed “Phantom 2”.
To be clear, Phantom 1 and Phantom 2 were separate entities that may not even be responsible for the same job… We don’t fully know how or what they did to assess quality score or even if Phantom one was responsible for that… Only that they were not officially announced and that is about the only thing you can 100% say they had in common.
Industry experts have gone into great depth to explain that they have seen sights impacted recently by Phantom 3 that is giving rise to the strong possibility of a new and as yet unofficial update by Google.
Ranking Shifts Are an Indication
Rankings are always in a constant state of flux and it’s best to look at SERPS for a period of extended time rather than a few days or weeks but with the hundreds of changes and updates that Google makes every year it may not be your SEO efforts that affect your positions, it could well be an algorithmic update. But if there are huge general trends in your ranking positions that can point to something a little deeper.
SEO industry experts are indeed waiting for a Penguin update as I’ve mentioned in a previous blog but the talk is this was not it, it will happen any day but Google would have admitted to a Panda update and they are suspiciously tight-lipped about the update in November.
So… What was it? To be honest, we just won’t know until Google breaks their silence. It could be an update to Google’s core algorithm, a specific algorithm, or may just a subtle update that had quite a big effect on a handful of websites.
The single truth remains though: Always follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines and you will not get any nasty surprises… But you may get a pleasant surprise if your competitors have ignored the online rule book!