Over the past few weeks, there has been plenty of online chatter regarding Google pushing out secret, and then not so secret updates. The update was first blogged about and dubbed ‘Phantom 2 Update’ because Google didn’t say anything about it, and it was released 1 year to the day from when Google last did a large update that they didn’t confirm or deny that became known as the ‘Phantom Update’. The early reports of the 29th April marry up with the data we saw. Then, earlier this week, Search Engine Land got a confirmation that a core part of the algorithm had been updated that assess quality score of a website.

As an agency, we have sat back and analysed what has been going on from our own data sets. There certainly was a lot of activity starting at the back end of last month and we have seen more than one point of activity.

The Data

Overall, the update was a very positive one for the majority of websites and keywords we track. We tracked increases across our keywords and we tracked 5x more positional increases than we did decreases

On the negative side of the update, the 29th of April seems to be the point of websites dropping.



From the data we track, we have seen that the there is an initial drop, and then a much smaller but noticeable step style drop around 2 weeks later.

The positive lifts in traffic are positive on a couple of fronts. Firstly, because the rankings went up and not down, but more so that the websites we track that went up, went up by huge amounts.

As a comparison, our biggest drop was no more than the 238 positions documented above. Our best performing website increased by over 3500 positions (we were tracking slightly more terms but not much more).



We noticed that the increases started to appear a few days after the 29th April at the start of May. We also noticed on a lot of rankings we track, that the initial increase was followed by a continual increase in rankings week after week and they are still rising

The Cause

Google have confirmed that this was a website quality update and did not relate to any spam algorithms we are so used to dealing with over the last few years. They confirmed that the update was with a core element of the ranking algorithm that calculates how Google sees the quality of your website.

We are very confident that the primary cause of increases and decreases is down to content on a website.

Many of the largest climbers (including our biggest) are all websites designed and built by our design and website development department. Being involved in all aspects of the website, planning the architecture as well as the content for websites had paid dividends for our clients that have had us build and market their website.

The negative drops we have witnessed all have areas that need improving from a content perspective. The biggest drops we saw were from 2 websites that either had external duplicate content or duplicate pages within the same website focused on the same topic.

We have also seen websites with thin or very similar content effected. For example, websites that have product ranges that are very similar except for sizes such as, computer parts, or screens. Many of the products are very similar.

What To Look For & What To Do

Duplicate Content – The oldest issue in the book. Rewrite the content to be unique to you. If you can’t produce content for your own on-line shop window, then don’t expect Google to rank you.

Repetitive Content – Repetitive content generally occurs in older websites. If your products are so similar that you only change the colour or size on each page, then rethink how your website works. Have one product page with size and colour selectors on it and the the website will become much stronger.

Similar Content – Although similar content and repetitive content may sound the same, it’s not. Similar content is when you have multiple landing pages, categories etc for the same product. Google expects you to have your house in order. Having a well optimised category and 50 blog posts about the same thing will be bad for the site. Having multiple landing pages for the same subject or product will also be bad for business.

Thin Content – Having no content is better than having duplicate content, however, having no content is a terrible idea! Content is vital to make pages unique, especially in an E-Commerce environment when a page may have a title on the page, and then a big list of products that may even be in different categories.

We have looked through a lot of accounts and what is apparent is that the sites performing best are the sites we have the most control over from content, to design and build.

Here is what Adam Ramsden, our Head of Design and Development has to say

“We have worked hard with a lot of clients to develop content and feature rich websites that are engaging and easy to use for the end user. The updates and ranking increases we have seen over the last 4 weeks are evidence that if you build a solid foundation for a website, then great things can be achieved.”

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