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Possible the SEO Industry's Wrong About Phantom?

     
4:47 pm on Mar 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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


What I find strange is that the "SEO Industry" is ignoring those who express experiences that are different from what the "Studies" say Phantom is. Even Paul Edmonson, who wrote a candid blog post [hubpages.com] about the HubPages experience that was 100% different than the "Studies" has been ignored.

There are folks in this very discussion whose experience is vastly different from the conclusions reached in the "Studies."

Two years later the "SEO Industry" is repeating conclusions similar from two years ago, again ignoring those with different experiences, even though two years later it still seems fairly obvious those conclusions may have been faulty.

My opinion is that the "SEO Industry" may be mistaken about what Phantom is. Take a look at what Mr. Edmonson wrote. An intriguing clue is how the update seemed to affect HubPages by category. In my opinion this is a very important clue that has been regrettably ignored.

I have my ideas of what Phantom is and it's nothing at all like what the "Studies" say they are.
6:02 pm on Mar 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Yeah, this is one of those subjects where I'm way out on a limb relative to respectable opinion.

22% traffic drop that spans normal metric buckets looks like a traffic allocation ceiling adjustments. Not a popular position.

The category changes look exactly (and I mean exactly) what I mean when I say I get "referral shifts" - though usually I do not get these accompanied by traffic changes (usually the referrals precede the traffic change, if they coincide at all).

Your miles WILL vary
7:34 pm on Mar 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I have my ideas of what Phantom is and it's nothing at all like what the "Studies" say they are.

And....? (No fair keeping us in suspense!)
8:03 pm on Mar 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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There are many unanswered questions. Here is one:

Categories
I think it's important for the industry to think about why certain categories on HubPages got hit harder than other categories. For example, why did their religion category get dinged by the update more than other sections? What kind of algo would be sensitive to categories?

Read that hub pages article. It raises many questions that are not being discussed by an industry that refuses to consider anything other than the presiding theory. The industry is simply accepting what everyone else is accepting and willfully refuses to even consider any other explanation despite that there is evidence of other issues that do not fit the profile of the current theory.

So there you are EG, here's but one factor that is being ignored by the SEO Industry that may hold a key to what Phantom truly is:
What kind of algo would be sensitive to categories? :)
10:10 pm on Mar 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Were the same categories hit on other sites?
If not, it may not have to do with "being a category", but something else underlying?
10:31 pm on Mar 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Hubpages is a content farm - always has been. If quality is a big part of Phantom, it's not surprising that Hubpages would be hit. If I recall correctly, it was also hit by the original Panda, probably for the same reason.
10:46 pm on Mar 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Sorry, I don't mean to imply that these updates are targeted at categories. That is not what I meant.

Only that in the case of Hub Pages, they tried to isolate numerous metrics such as user experience factors, time on page metrics, the quality of the authors and many other factors but they couldn't identify any on-page factors to account for the drop. The page quality metrics were the same sitewide, regardless if the page was hit by the update or not.

That's one of the highlighst of the article that contradicts the prevailing theory that the SEO industry has rallied around.

The part about the categories only comes up specific to Hub Pages in that they noticed that certain categories were hit harder than others, regardless of on page metrics. To me, if all of the above is true, it seems to suggest that some other off page metric is affecting it.

What if the pages that contain low quality user experiences also share this (currently unknown) off-page factor? That would mean that the SEO Industry is in one of those correlation is not causation situations. Do you follow me?

The Hub Pages article does not fit the SEO Industry Approved theory. Is it an outlier that doesn't have anything to do with Phantom? That's unlikely.

Or is the Hub Pages situation a round peg that has been brushed aside because it does not fit the square peg of the commonly agreed upon theory?
11:08 pm on Mar 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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It may not have anything to do with hub-pages at all. They may simply be feeling the effects of certain competitors limited to a "category" being pushed up the rankings. Don't forget ranking is a zero sum game, if you make a change that pushes your site to the top, the site that previously held the position gets pushed down, despite having no changes.
11:33 pm on Mar 7, 2017 (gmt 0)

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So... are you suggesting that the 22% drop in traffic had nothing to do with Phantom and that it was just an unrelated ranking movement, affecting 22% of their entire traffic?
12:47 am on Mar 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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No I'm suggesting that maybe it has nothing to do with the actions of hubpages. So analyzing metrics on hubpages may not provide any indication of the cause of the ranking shift.
3:03 am on Mar 8, 2017 (gmt 0)

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No I'm suggesting that maybe it has nothing to do with the actions of hubpages.


Exactly. That is the point of this discussion. Those metrics have nothing to do with the actions of HubPages. Yes.

Now the next step of what I'm communicating:
1. Those metrics are generally accepted to be the causes and triggers of a Phantom penalty.
2. But those metrics were not the symptoms presented by the HP situation.
3. It turns out that none of those metrics were relevant to their Phantom related problem.
4. Thus, the conclusion that the abundance of sites with UX problems may have masked the underlying issue that affected both HubPages and the websites cited as having "quality" issues.
5. It's the correlation is not causation loop.

Can you follow what I'm trying to communicate?
5:17 pm on Mar 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Do you get the feeling the SEO industry has a hard time understanding updates unless Google tells them when and what they are?

1. February 3, 2017: It was reported there was a link related update.
2.. February 7, 2017: A Panda-like Phantom Update Phantom Update was reported [seroundtable.com]. What I love about SERoundtable is that they do not deal in speculation, they only report on what the industry is saying. So it's a good source of news to get a pulse of what the industry is saying.

And today it reported there is a THIRD update, named Fred. Or is this just the face of what we have been seeing all along?

[seroundtable.com...]

4. I posted about this on my FB feed. Some people refused to even consider the possibility that Phantom was anything other than what the industry stated, as if I were committing a literal act of heresy.
7:40 pm on Mar 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The SEO world is a fascinating dichotomy between a relatively small percentage of quiet practitioners who continually dominate their niches and a much much larger percentage of demagogues hustling tools and personality. That last is where opinion often substitutes for fact, actual data is at a minimum, and what there is is commonly skewed out of context.

Some often intriguing insights do come from the echo chamber but it can be fatiguing picking an occasional signal from the noise of the bandwagon. And almost none of that group actually test their assertions, they are simply presented and taken as true.

While it means that the more thoughtful and hypotheses testing oriented can gain competitive advantage, it also means the vast majority simply lurch from crisis to crisis. And it's always someone else's fault.

Quite fascinating really. And sadly human.
8:42 pm on Mar 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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And today it reported there is a THIRD update, named Fred. Or is this just the face of what we have been seeing all along?

There was no update named Fred. Fred was a facetious remark on the part Gary Illyes to tell SEO community to stop wasting their time naming algo updates that may are may not of actually occurred.

What I love about SER is when they report an update as a result of the chatter ongoing here at WW and then those causing the chatter here use the report on SER as the support of their claims of an update. Classic....

@iamlost 100% spot on...
10:54 pm on Mar 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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What I love about SER is when they report an update as a result of the chatter ongoing here at WW...


Nope. I get what you mean, but this is not that. You should know by now I stick to the facts. ;)

This is Data Not Chatter
I linked to that because SER reported on the data to back up the chatter. The rank checkers are in agreement that there was significant movement in the SERPs typical of a change in the algorithm. FACT, not Chatter.

Accurank
[accuranker.com...]

RankRanger
[rankranger.com...]

SEMRush
[twitter.com...]

Algoroo
[algoroo.com...]
[twitter.com...]

SERPMetrics
[serpmetrics.com...]

MozCast
[mozcast.com...]
8:53 pm on Mar 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Goodroi's SEO Weather vs SEO Climate [webmasterworld.com] of last week is quite timely. Yes, all that SERP movement tool reporting aka news media flood bi/semi/annual flood/tornado/hurricane/what-have-you watch is mere weather reporting (as Moz directly plays up, Rand&Co do have a sense of humour) - and if a site is being affected by mere 'weather' it has serious underlaying problems.

There are four vectors to SERP change: what you do, what your competitors do, what Google Search's visitors do, and what Google does. Algo changes are what Google does. However, it very very very rarely changes it's underlaying aka climate model. Almost without exception, regardless of the severity and the reach, the changes are simply weather. And if one is continually being battered by weather it's time one took a serious look at getting a grip on the underlaying climate. If one is being regularly flooded out perhaps one should learn to build out of a flood plain or not cheap on the levees - unless the good times sufficiently exceed the bad or someone else picks up the cost.

I believe, as martinibuster, that many/most commentators have misconstrued Phantom. Where we part is that I don't think it matters much. Many/most algo commentators are SEO soothsayers, algo astrologers who do not see the climate underlaying the weather they so assiduously report and dissect. And the shocking result is that, for the vast majority of webdevs and web users, it simply makes no difference.

Yes, if catastrophe finds one it is good to know just what landed on one's head; however, I keep hearing from a lot of the same voices every single update and, frankly, I wish they'd get a clue. Further, in my experience the more one has future proofed aka built for a known climate and it's inherent weather extremes catastrophe is relatively rare and digging out minimised. The web is 25 years old. There is a very visible legible track record. It's time folks stopped recreating prior problems.
Note: _______: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

The basics of Google's 'climate' are not terra incognita. Various website best practices are not mystic secrets. Business and marketing models/behaviours are neither new nor improved.

Do your research due diligence, treat your site as the business it is (unless it's a hobby in which case, hey, have fun) and stop with the faux media weather prognostications (unless that's your business model). I'd really like to ask how many have a 5-year plan but I know that would be foolish as I've been consistently told one doesn't need a business plan or marketing plan or anything except Google, Ave Google!

Fred: fetch!
9:26 pm on Mar 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Goodroi's SEO Weather vs SEO Climate [webmasterworld.com] of last week is quite timely. Yes, all that SERP movement tool reporting aka news media flood bi/semi/annual flood/tornado/hurricane/what-have-you watch is mere weather reporting


Heh.
Kind of the point of this discussion, and yes, it's very timely!
:P

The SEO industry is doing the best it can, putting out hypotheses. But it's the SEO Industry's job to also challenge them to see if they stand up to challenge. But that's not happening.

True story: I posted about this on my FB feed and one guy publicly stated that he would not consider it because the blogger who posted about Phantom was his friend and if his friend said it he refused to consider any other proposition. Is that behavior, to literally close one's mind to ideas, justified?

I would not consider anyone a true friend who did not give me the courtesy of a reality check. I appreciate it when I am challenged. All theories must be challenged. It's a good way to get an idea (if not know for certain) if a theory has merit.
10:33 pm on Mar 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I would not consider anyone a true friend who did not give me the courtesy of a reality check. I appreciate it when I am challenged. All theories must be challenged. It's a good way to get an idea (if not know for certain) if a theory has merit.

Agreed.
Critiques are critical. :)
Too many stepford filter bubbles out there, our industry is particularly prone.
7:57 am on Mar 16, 2017 (gmt 0)

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From what I know from my properties and observations of my colleagues, there were two updates. First was Phantom or content related (basically low-quality pages or pages with some text and a section that is a gateway to another site, often e-shop) and the second was link-weight related (what I experienced and discussed here on the forum). The amalgamation of the two created the "Fred" update where many sites experienced drops/upticks and caused the SEO industry to spew hundreds of alternative fact blog posts, in an attempt to ride the wave.

So, I fully agree with martinibuster that the heavy hitter update was actually link-weight related and the Phantom update before it was just the right amount of fuel to get SEO industry on fire.
4:49 pm on Mar 22, 2017 (gmt 0)

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A relevant post by Search Engine Roundtable of Mar 22, 2017.

PS. WebmasterWorld mod @martinibuster is included in this post :)

Google: Phantom Updates Are Core Algorithm Update [seroundtable.com...]
11:23 pm on Apr 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I had kept quiet about the Phantom update phenomenon until I took a closer look and was shocked at the unconfirmed speculation being consumed as canonical truth and how the SEO Industry refused to even consider there might be alternative reasons for what they were seeing.

What happened with how the myth of a Phantom Update was created and perpetuated will hopefully not be repeated.

So I'm glad to have played my part to help show what was really going on.
;)

Roger Montti