Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from 54.158.253.14

Forum Moderators: Robert Charlton & andy langton & goodroi

Featured Home Page Discussion

Feb 7, 2017 Google Algorithm Update - studies suggest it was Phantom

     
11:16 pm on Feb 20, 2017 (gmt 0)

Moderator This Forum from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Nov 11, 2000
posts:11845
votes: 287


Two early studies of Google's February 7, 2017 algorithm update are both suggesting this was principally a "Phantom" quality update. As discussed in our Feb Google Updates thread [webmasterworld.com...] ...and also noted in both articles... the update was major, accompanied by wide ranking swings. As both studies note, Phantom refreshes cyclically, like the old Panda.

The articles are by Glenn Gabe for his company G-Squard Interactive, and by Daniel Furch, for Searchmetrics. We've discussed Phantom studies by both companies in this forum previously. Here's a link that references several of the threads...

Nov 2015 Phantom updates: user-engagement factors + Panda
Dec 2015
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4780955.htm [webmasterworld.com]

Here are the two recent articles...

The February 7, 2017 Google Algorithm Update – Analysis and Findings From A Significant Core Ranking Update
February 15, 2017 - by Glenn Gabe
[gsqi.com...]

Google Phantom V Update: There and Back Again?!
February 15th, 2017 - Daniel Furch
[blog.searchmetrics.com...]

Both describe Phantom as an algo that's Panda-like but not quite the same. It's currently appearing to update on six-month cycles, and like Panda requiring a data refresh before a site can recover. Both involve what can be broadly described as site "quality"... ie, usability and user experience, satisfying the intent of the user and the query. .

Gabe more specifically refines this, I feel, than he has in previous studies...
Basically, don’t just look at content quality. There’s more to it. Understand the barriers you are presenting to users and address those. For example, aggressive ad placement, deception for monetization purposes, broken UX elements, autoplay video and audio, aggressive popups and interstitials, and more.

He emphatically points to the relationship of these updates to the Raters Guidelines. In particular, he cautions against "aggressive monetization", and references section 6.3.3 in the Page Quality Ratings section.

I'm thinking that while Google might have a hard time measuring "user experience" as an algo factor, "Needs Met", involving user intent, might be a more usable metric for them.

Both articles mention "relevancy", with Searchmetrics discussing "brand names and short head keywords" as problematic. Because of the long cycle nature of this algo, pages that are in the gray area are susceptible to a roller-coaster ride for certain keywords. I can see how this would relate to Needs Met, which raise the bar considerably for ranking on broad generic keywords. Both articles, and the Quality Rater's Guidelines are worth some study. See also, in this forum...

Google Quality Rater Guidelines Update March 28
April 2016 etseq
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4799052.htm [webmasterworld.com]

2:09 am on Feb 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member aristotle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 4, 2008
posts:3139
votes: 213


Thanks -- that's interesting. I've never paid much attention to Phantom. I don't think any of my sites have ever been affected by it, and I didn't see anything this time either. Maybe most old sites that survived the earlier roll-outs also survived this one.
7:35 am on Feb 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

Full Member from GB 

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Mar 26, 2013
posts:255
votes: 32


Thanks for the heads up Robert. Always great having some real analysis done by people like Glenn and Daniel. Will have a proper read during lunch and post any feedback.
9:23 am on Feb 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

Moderator This Forum from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Nov 11, 2000
posts:11845
votes: 287


Thanks, Shai. The interpetation that ranking drops on broad, general keywords are related to Needs Met is my interpetation connecting the observations of the two articles. I've been saying for months now, since I first read the Guidelines, that broad general keywords are going to take a hit on a great many sites which don't have the necessary range and depth of content.

When you read the Reviewer Guidelines, it becomes extremely clear that the ranking demands for broad general keywords have become much more comprehensive. It's no longer about getting a lot of links with the right anchor text. Frankly, I think that building the content is the easier way to appoach the process. It's really tough to get good links from good sites when there's nothing there to link to.

Looking forward to your feedback.

2:17 pm on Feb 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

New User

10+ Year Member

joined:Jan 14, 2007
posts:36
votes: 7


I have been hit by this update, and its costing me a lot!

My case is:
Only one url that is affected (my most popular url and tool), but ALL the main keywords for that url has been dropped costing me 800/1000 clicks a day.
The keywords has many competitors, and has always been subject to some small changes
The context of that url did not changed for a long time.
Subscription has been going down with this update also!

I had changed last month the adsense code because off a new adsense account (changing countries), also I have added a prices page about the cost of the subscriptions. This month I have changed to a new server and moved to HTTPS. But this was after the update started!
3:16 pm on Feb 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

New User

joined:Feb 16, 2017
posts: 24
votes: 3


Interesting article, thanks for posting. We've been hit quite severely by the 7th Feb update and it has been for short head keywords. I can only put this down to thin content on a number of old pages, our mobile site, whilst responsive, features a ghastly design where it crushes all the desktop content into one continuous list and thus, the bounce rate is double that of desktop, and we have way too many pages indexed, dating back to 2009. We don't feature ads, we don't have mobile interstitials,

But, we've lost our featured snippets, and we no longer rank for many of our core keywords which, contrary to that article, we were very relevant for.

Not quite sure how we fit into this description - the only thing that makes sense is a sort of Panda penalty.
6:02 pm on Feb 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

Moderator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 13, 2002
posts:14481
votes: 330


Most if not all the factors those articles discussed can be folded into Panda. Why are they making the distinction that it's something else?
6:55 pm on Feb 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

Moderator This Forum from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Nov 11, 2000
posts:11845
votes: 287


Most if not all the factors those articles discussed can be folded into Panda. Why are they making the distinction that it's something else?

I was asking myself the same question, and one of the thoughts I had is that the heuristics might be different. Another is that the type of keyword sensitivity that's being observed might involve extra sets of variables... or interpretation of intent might involve more "working parts".

I'm not a search engineer, though, and the black box is too vast at this stage to get more specific than that.

7:29 pm on Feb 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

New User

joined:Dec 20, 2012
posts:10
votes: 1


I clearly see some differences between Panda and this update. In my case from Feb 7, if i look at GSC i see a noticeable drop in impressions, however the CTR increased by almost 30%.

Generally Panda from what i have seen on the past it's more like a filter where you will hardly see any improvement unless you are released from an earlier penalty or a competitor is hit. Here i see improvements in some keywords while decreases on others.
8:50 pm on Feb 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

Moderator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 13, 2002
posts:14481
votes: 330


a noticeable drop in impressions, however the CTR increased by almost 30%.


CTR is a percentage of clicks from total impressions. So if your impressions go down but the amount of clicks stay the same then the percentage of clicks (CTR) goes up.
9:16 pm on Feb 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

New User

5+ Year Member

joined:Jan 24, 2012
posts:35
votes: 0


Hello, i've been hit by "i don't know exactly what". It started slowly around feb 7, stronger at feb 10, and since then, it's going down the road (half and more of my usual traffic).
Ads Revenue are going down also, but at a slower pace (better RPM).

It's not a manual penalty. From my point of view, it's not really panda related (no thin content), unless it's the differences between mobile and desktop versions (the navigation menu have less links in mobile).

I've worked during the end of 2016 : new design, https, amp pages, mod_pagespeed : everything was doing very fine, january was one of my best months in years. But now... it's all gone.

What I've done so far to correct this strange thing :
I took off the AMP pages. Google didn't awared me for this, on the contrary. They were bad : 1.2 pageviews per session (when the non-amp mobile version is 1.4 pageviews/session).
They were bad, because (I think) I have a fairly good responsive website.

I disavowed a lot of external backlinks (we never know) and I'm currenting updating older content.

I also put aside some ads.

Alea jacta est.
9:42 pm on Feb 21, 2017 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member editorialguy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:June 28, 2013
posts:2905
votes: 493


Here i see improvements in some keywords while decreases on others.

As I recall, Panda is a sitewide filter, weighting factor, or what have you. Maybe Phantom is more page by page?
9:59 am on Feb 22, 2017 (gmt 0)

New User

joined:Feb 16, 2017
posts: 24
votes: 3


If Panda is a sitewide filter and Phantom is (possibly) page by page, I'd be more inclined to think it's Panda. The pages of mine which have been hit are both relevant, and engaging. Unfortunately, we do have a lot of old pages featuring thin content that needs to be de-indexed immediately.
12:03 pm on Feb 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

Junior Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:May 27, 2016
posts:61
votes: 18


its is not phantom and it is not Panda. This update shafted plenty of sites its about PBN links
12:07 pm on Feb 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

New User

joined:Feb 16, 2017
posts: 24
votes: 3


Well we have no PBN links, we're an academic institution, and we've been hammered by it...
12:13 pm on Feb 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

Junior Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:May 27, 2016
posts:61
votes: 18


ok thats different to what I see, shame i thought I knew. It looks like link update to me. Thanks for info Rhys
12:15 pm on Feb 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

New User

joined:Feb 16, 2017
posts: 24
votes: 3


No worries. I think we're all clutching at straws a bit. My thought was Panda because we have so many old and rubbish pages on the website, but again, this may be different to other people's experience
12:33 pm on Feb 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member from DE 

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 11, 2014
posts:513
votes: 154


The bad thing about Phantom is that it resurfaces some very click-baity sites that are most definitely roam in the grey-hat zone, promoting "accidenta" banner clicks and the likes. Also it reranked some websites that used to have keywords for particular niches that they do not have anymore (because of demotion) back. So you have invest X with landing page that is about invest Y. Crappy SERPS for sure in the financial products sector.
3:32 pm on Feb 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

Full Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:May 3, 2015
posts: 271
votes: 112


I have been racking my brain about this update too, and so far I still think its something to do with rankbrain having some type of meltdown. For example, it can't decide where to rank certain pages because it thinks other pages are more relevant for whatever reason (which they aren't). For certain queries, I have similar keywords but pages that target informational searches as well as transactional. However, it seems that either 1 or the other gets ranked, and there is a huge discrepency about where it ranks too. It is once again trying to determine the relevancy of topics, rather than ranking what people are actually searching for. This is a stupid update and I am seeing a lot of irrelevant rubbish.

For example, I was recently searching a health topic (conversion paths of steroids in the body), but every few results there were SEO websites ranking for conversion paths in terms of traffic optimization.
6:06 pm on Feb 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

Full Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:May 3, 2015
posts: 271
votes: 112


One other thing. I think this could also have something to do with links, because I am seeing PBN's show up for some very competitive terms. However, the interesting thing is that a lot of the links to these PBN sites are dead. I am also seeing old competitors crop back up in some niches, who have lost a considerable number of powerful links (part of which was me asking site owners to remove the spam from their authoritative websites), but also natural link attrition.

As I said, this is one of the most useless updates to ever hit Google and webmasters who actually put in time to their websites .
6:56 pm on Feb 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member editorialguy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:June 28, 2013
posts:2905
votes: 493


As I said, this is one of the most useless updates to ever hit Google and webmasters who actually put in time to their websites.

I'm pretty happy with it. Our Google traffic is up significantly, and I'm seeing more editorial pages and fewer crowdsourced pages dominating the rankings for the queries that I watch. Obviously, quality is in the eye of the beholder, and YMMV in any case.
12:48 am on Feb 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

New User

5+ Year Member

joined:Jan 24, 2012
posts:35
votes: 0


I saw two or more responses about "financial websites" beeing hit. It's my case also.

Maybe Google is hurting financial websites with low authority on the subject? (I mean by low authority taht you're not a bank). This would match the quality guidelines, but, in response to myself, I saw some results (that are PBNs) that aren't banks ranking pretty well. They do have some kind of "about" page, but it's obviously crappy for a human reader (maybe not for a robot).
12:13 pm on Feb 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

New User

joined:Feb 24, 2017
posts:1
votes: 0


I saw two or more responses about "financial websites" beeing hit. It's my case also.

Maybe Google is hurting financial websites with low authority on the subject? (I mean by low authority taht you're not a bank). This would match the quality guidelines, but, in response to myself, I saw some results (that are PBNs) that aren't banks ranking pretty well. They do have some kind of "about" page, but it's obviously crappy for a human reader (maybe not for a robot).


Around when did you see the hit?

Around 2/7, or did the major hit come later, like around 2/16?
2:15 pm on Feb 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

New User

5+ Year Member

joined:Jan 24, 2012
posts:35
votes: 0


Two hits, actually : one around 2/10 (-30%), and another one at 2/20 (-30% again).
4:50 pm on Feb 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

Full Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:May 3, 2015
posts: 271
votes: 112


EG I agree. I often use incognito to avoid biased search results because I do a lot of research for a variety of topics. It could be a number of things, because I have seen things that could be affected by links, as well as "established" content.

For example, I see a lot of old pages that haven't had anything relevant on them for years (or been updated) ranking again. I also see competitors that have had links on stale webpages for over a decade get relatively large boosts in their rankings for certain keywords. Perhaps the link issues people were seeing in the search console late last year could have been related to this update (old links that no longer exist, and haven't existed for months/years showing up).
3:13 pm on Feb 25, 2017 (gmt 0)

Junior Member

5+ Year Member

joined:Oct 26, 2011
posts:116
votes: 5


I'm seeing two things happening in one content niche I watch. First, the "people also ask" box is showing below a rich snippet on many queries, driving regular organic results way down the page - especially if people click on any of the questions in the "also ask" box. The second thing I'm seeing is that big brands are showing up first, again.
3:51 pm on Feb 25, 2017 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member aristotle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 4, 2008
posts:3139
votes: 213


From the first post in this thread:
It's currently appearing to update on six-month cycles, and like Panda requiring a data refresh before a site can recover.

If that's correct, then people who made changes to their sites since Feb 7 may have to wait until the next Phantom update to see the possible effects of their changes.
10:05 am on Mar 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

New User

joined:Dec 12, 2016
posts: 6
votes: 1


My 2 cents, the websites that have had the best increase in organic traffic on my accounts are the one that have no commercial intent, some of them do not have optimized content, they are just as they are, written by the owner and never touched.
I use this websites as side by side test in this events and updates and this make me think a lot.

G.
10:51 am on Mar 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

Junior Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:July 15, 2015
posts:103
votes: 39


" For example, aggressive ad placement, deception for monetization purposes, broken UX elements, autoplay video and audio, aggressive popups and interstitials, "

Just like to say non of those apply to my site and my site ranks like a toilet.

I find it kind of funny how google has been at this for all these years now but is not really that much better at ranking it search results... someone needs to tell its shareholders.
 

Join The Conversation

Moderators and Top Contributors

Hot Threads This Week

Featured Threads

Free SEO Tools

Hire Expert Members