Blog Post

Google's Quality Update & Your Website


Phantom is here! Google’s latest update -- Phantom 2 (as people dubbed this Google algorithm update) has been the subject of talk with a lot of SEO resellers this week! Google took some time to officially confirm that, yes, indeed, there was a rollout of a change to their algorithm and how it assesses content quality on the website. Watch this Daily Brown Bag to learn more about this Google algorithm update and what it entails, how Phantom 2 differs from both Panda and Penguin, and what it means for your website!

Also available on YouTube.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Hello, and welcome to the Daily Brown Bag. Today we’re going to be talking about the Phantom 2 update. I’m Chad Hill, and I’m joined by Adam Stetzer.

Yeah, good morning, Chad. Welcome to the Brown Bag. We actually have some pretty important news this week to be talking about. Google updates, while they say they happen -- over 500 of them a year, the big ones don’t really come along all that often and then there is a lot of drama around it. Chad, the story unfolding here -- there was a lot of rumbling as you know, we’ve been talking about it with our white label SEO resellers for the last week or two -- is that people have been seeing a lot of ranking changes. Small businesses are calling in and asking about it. Some people were bumped up. Some people aren’t doing so well. People started naming this the “Phantom” update because there was evidence in all of our minds out here in the search engine optimization world that this is happening. But Google wouldn’t confirm it.

Most recently, it’s been called the Phantom 2 because this has happened before going back to 2013. Most recently, with a lot of pressure, Google finally officially confirmed that, yes, indeed, there was a rollout of a change to their algorithm and how it assesses content quality on the website. So I want to talk about the Google Phantom 2 update today -- and, specifically, what they’re saying and what we’re seeing and what you can do about it if you had a negative impact.


Google, as usual, is not giving us a lot of details on what the specific changes that they made were. They never like to tell us that. But they are saying it wasn’t Panda, and it was not Penguin.

It was not Panda or Penguin, the two anti-spam routines that we’ve gotten to know that are sort of outside the core. They come along behind the core algorithm and clean things up. Sometimes slap people down. This is not targeting specific sites or any particular category. We’ve seen that with the payday loans updates and other various categories that Google thought were being overrun, becoming too commercial. They’re stressing this was an overall update to the core algorithm.


The CEO of HubPages is describing it as “just a giant whack across the board,” which is interesting, Chad, because we have been looking at our clients and, on the whole, they’re moving up. You have got to remember, there are over 200 signals that Google uses for ranking, and there are all sorts of things that could impact a site. Search Engine Land, when trying to take into account all of the data they’re seeing and all of the discussion, they’re calling this a quality update -- really focusing on quality.

Your website should provide the best user experience possible:

For sure, Google has not been shy about talking about the importance it places on quality of content and the website itself. Of course, that’s what it’s all about. They want the best user experience, because that’s what keeps people coming back to Google. If they can be the best at organizing that data and getting you to where you want, they can put their ads on it and they can make money. So they’re driving all the way down.

So we need to echo some of those sentiments: if you’re worried about the Google Phantom 2 update or perhaps have low quality or thin content, this is not good for users and the Google bots are taking more action to make sure they show high quality stuff. This means that everything you do on your website needs to be well-organized. The URL you choose, how fast your site is loading (that’s site speed, load time, the way your site is organized). Most recently, of course, is your site mobile friendly? And the content itself, Chad. We’ve talked about this over and over and over again. The quality of content needs to be good. It needs to be accompanied by relevant images, and, at best, custom-designed infographics that are super relevant to what you’re talking about. It all has to be formed around good keywords that make sense for what the user is looking for (that’s search intent) and what you’re providing. Is it stretching too far or sounding unnatural? At the end of the day, you need to really make sure you’re engaging with that audience. Audience engagement is really a measure of how good the quality of your content is, which will result in things like good time on site, low bounce rate, and how often your content is shared, which of course leaves social signals.

Today, Chad, the Phantom 2 update focusing on quality -- this is not about links and this is not Panda, which it sounds a lot like it would be and it’s certainly not Penguin because it’s not link-related. So, Chad, what can we tell folks out in our reseller community to do if they were impacted?

It’s a great question. And these are really difficult times. Of course, if you went up and you improved in the rankings and your traffic has improved, you’re celebrating that all of the hard work that you put into your site is paying off. It’s fantastic. On the other hand, if you’ve seen a drop, you want to look at some of the things that, Adam, you just talked about.

Look in your Google Analytics:

I think the first thing to really understand is to look at when that traffic dropped -- when it actually happened. Look in your Google Analytics to really understand: was this related to Phantom 2?

Now the quality update started rolling out on April 29; we saw it kind of roll out over the week or so after that, so look into your analytics and make sure that’s what it is related to. Because the reality is that there can be hundreds of other things happening at the same time. For example, maybe your Google Local listing has duplicate information or the wrong category. There are all kinds of other things. You have to really isolate it down to, did something change that lead to my ranking drops or was it -- nothing had changed -- and then all of a sudden my ranking drops and my traffic drop happened? That might mean or will mean that it’s related to this content update.

Be aware of & Follow the Google Quality Guidelines:

So, if that did happen, you want to follow the guidelines that you talked about. You said thin content, which I don’t think a lot of people really know what thin content is. I typically think of thin content when I go to a website, you look at the page, there is a picture or maybe there isn’t a picture, and there is just very basic text -- a couple of sentences. If you’re a plumber you might say, “I’m a plumber. I handle everything in your house.” That really would be considered relatively thin content. You really want to go into, what are the specific services you provide? What things make you a little different? If you can work into that piece of content maybe your geographic area, that’s going to be helpful in building a more differentiated and useful piece of content for a potential person reading or looking for a plumber in your area.

Go back and check your content. Make sure that you’ve got that. Look at your homepage because a lot of times people don’t have much information on their homepage and typically the homepage is the page that ranks for many of your keywords. Look at it, see what’s on your homepage, and consider that. The other thing you want to do is be aware of the Google Quality Guidelines. Follow Google’s quality guidelines. Check that out. Read through it. See what Google says is good quality vs. not good quality.

Finally, just don’t take shortcuts. Think about what information you want to try to convey. Think about the audience. Flip the telescope around a little bit. If you were looking for your service, would you find the information on your website useful and helpful or not? Be the judge of that. Again, this isn’t rocket science. This is really basic stuff, so get to work. Get in there. Make better content.

Excellent advice, Chad. So just to recap, the Google Phantom 2 update started on April 29. As you said, we saw it rolling for at least a week -- well into May 6 or May 7. Now it’s pretty well-confirmed around the SEO community and from Google itself. This was a quality update. This is not Panda. This is not Penguin. This is not backlinks related. This is really about getting good engagement and good quality on your website.

Tips & Takeaways On This Recent Google Algorithm Update:

One last word in closing here, Chad, we did -- back in 2013 when the first Phantom update came out -- we did see it closely followed by a Penguin update, which was their view of backlinks and those they thought were good and those they thought were manipulative. Keep your eyes out. That could be coming. This would be typical to their pattern. They like to do releases in bursts. You might see this quality one (that feels a lot like Panda, but they’re saying is part of the core) followed by another that might be the cousin of Penguin and, then again, may also be folded into the core.

That’s our Brown Bag today covering the Google algorithm update. Hope this was helpful, and we always ask that you subscribe. We’d love to see you back for another video.