Most search marketers are well aware that Google is constantly changing its search algorithm. It is estimated that the algorithm is adjusted more than 500 times every year. Most of these changes involve minor tweaks; however, Google occasionally rolls out a major update – such as Panda and Penguin in recent years – and these can affect search results significantly.
Google – The Enigma
Google isn’t exactly upfront about its intentions when it comes to its algorithms, and updates can seriously hinder – if not kill – search marketers’ best efforts and hard fought for achievements. However, being aware when these updates occur can help SEO marketers to understand and explain changes in rankings and organic search traffic.
A few days ago, there were reported rumours of another possible Google update. While the article mentions that most of the signs are coming out of the UK, a quick check of a couple of dozen clients’ UK websites has shown us no particular changes that we would usually associate with an update. However, from our experience it does sometimes take a while before we notice any change on google.co.uk
Of course, there could be other explanations as to why so many marketers have been reporting sudden dips and spikes in traffic, and SEO forums are bursting with potential theories ranging from a change in the UK weather, the Lunar New Year, the Chinese New Year, and half-term holidays. There have also been hypotheses that some niches may have been affected more than others, possibly due to some of these reasons.
Stormy Weather Ahead?
While it is very difficult to say with any certainty whether or not Google launched an unannounced update a couple of weeks ago, it is possible to gather hints with SEO tools such as Mozcast, SerpMetrics, Accuranker and SEMRush. It is important to remember that these tools are monitoring google.com and not google.co.uk, but they can be an indicator of changes which may ultimately trickle down.
For example, on 6 February Mozcast was showing a significant spike in the forecast of 104 degrees, and other similar tools gave similar reports. This could suggest that an update took place at around that time; however, Mozcast’s forecasts were back down to around 80 degrees by Saturday 16 February.
In summary, nobody really knows whether the spikes and dips in rankings and traffic many people were seeing earlier this month were the result of a Google algorithm update or other factors entirely. However, we will keep a close eye on the stats over the coming days and weeks, and if anything comes to light we will post an update.