Google’s “Phantom” Update Shakes Webmasters : Rankings Drop!

Google’s “Phantom” Update Shakes Webmasters : Rankings Drop!

If you are a webmaster, or SEO guru that takes pride in all things Hummingbird, Panda, Penguin and Mobile then you’ll want to know about Google’s latest “Phantom” algorithm update.
You may have noticed a drop in traffic last weekend and were scratching your head, frantically undoing some recent site changes, while customers called you pointing the finger for a drop in traffic and sales? May 20th, 2015, 8.00am

Take a deep breath, you’re not to blame. It seems Google has made some changes to its core algorithm in terms of how it processes quality signals.

Let’s take a deeper look and try to make sense of this.

These are the search metrics and rank correlations for Google search results in 2014. Notice how Facebook played a prominent role in rankings? Now that we know the metrics for rankings, let’s take a closer look.

Google search metrics and rank correlations 2014

So what could be affecting these algorithm changes that has SEO and webmasters worried?

1) Facebook opened it’s doors to third party advertisers and this is a challenge to Google’s Adsense which is responsible for roughly 30% of Google’s revenue in recent years. This being said, it’s plausible to think that Facebook shares, likes and comments are falling out of favor with ranking factors in search engine results (SERPS). Perhaps the change feels a little late, but it cannot be denied that Facebook’s move towards earning more advert revenues will affect Google search metrics.

2) Google+ may take a more prominent role in ranking factors within search results. I personally, have seen some astonishing results with Google+ posts. Often times, my Google plus posts rank on the first page for specific keywords and for extended periods of time.

I’ve only been on Google plus for a few months and gained a modest 2.5k followers. I focused my time on building my following on my Personal Profile mainly because I wasn’t getting much initial traction when I published with my business page. And everywhere I turned for guidance on “Google post engagement”, I heard the same statement: “people don’t follow business pages, they follow people”.

From an SEO benefits standpoint, it seems I was lucky!

Check out what Kristi Hines’ research showed when she measured the difference in keyword rankings based on connecting with a Google+ personal profile over a Google+ business page. See her article titled “How you can use Google plus to Impact Search” over on

Personal Google+ Profile

Personal Google+ Profile and Keyword Rankings

Business Google+ Page

Google Business Page Keyword Rankings

She doesn’t link to her freelance portfolio so there’s no change in search position, but as you can see the rankings are not as good in her Google+ business page, as they are in the her Google+ profile.

My takeaway from this is Google+ posts from Googleplus accounts are finding their way into search results when users are logged in. If this is the case, then algorithms are definitely placing some sort of priority on Google+ engagement. I believe the relevance Google+ plays in search metrics will only increase, deep mind technology can’t ignore this massive body of engagers in it’s network.

3) Google bought over Deep Mind, an artificial intelligence that is currently being integrated into Google Images. It’s only a matter of time before artificial intelligence is integrated into text based results. This will disrupt everything because we just don’t know what AI is going to consider relevant. Personally, I believe social connections ( having all social media accounts connected ), social media engagement, bounce rates, time on page, and the completion of goals set up in Google analytic accounts are what AI will consider relevant.

4) Tweets are now being indexed by Google. This has to have an affect on rankings. If tweets and Google+ posts are taking positions in search engine results (SERPS), surely websites have to be knocked out or given less priority in SERPS?

In conclusion: SEO is a constantly and rapidly changing environment. There will be big changes and there will continue to be big changes as technology evolves, which it always is. Staying educated and up-to-date on all the rules will help businesses navigate these digital times. Want to stay up-to-date on algorithm and SEO news? And get actionable strategies to take so you can save your traffic and sales from plummeting? Click here.

Robert is the Chief Marketing Officer at Exodus Digital Marketing. He has achieved a 1st Class Honours B.A in Marketing from Vangaurd University, California, and 1st Class Honours M.B.S in Management Consultancy from UCD Smurfit Business School, Dublin, Ireland.
He has worked for companies like IBM and BT Telecommunications. He consults and trains small businesses in all things digital marketing. Learn more about us here

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