Are we in the middle of the latest Google update?
Just like anyone else working in SEO these days, part of my job consists of keeping an eye on our rankings for particular keywords and the rankings of our some of our biggest competitors. Now, with things like personalisation and local results, these days that’s definitely easier said than done… but more often than not, it is possible to get a good idea of your progress and overall position and, apart from the normal shuffle, things have been pretty steady-ish in the SERPs for a while now.
Last week that all changed. As I just mentioned, shuffling a few places in either direction is pretty normal – but last week, I definitely saw something more extreme.
Forget a few positions; over the course of five days, I saw a number of sites in our niche jump from page one to page three (and vice versa) for a number of key terms – and sites that were previously nowhere to be seen, suddenly pop up and take some of the killer positions in the SERPs for some of our industry’s most competitive keywords.
Now, the Google dance is nothing new – and thanks to Penguin and Panda, sites that might have struggled to rank previously are now being blessed with great SERPs… but what I’m seeing just doesn’t make sense. Forget local sites.
For some of our national keyword searches, I’m seeing sites from India, Pakistan and Ireland take the top spot… and major sites that were previously in the top five results and have great SEO (I’m talking major brands here!), slip right down to the second page and below.
Keen to find out what was going on, I turned to Twitter, only to find… nothing! Yep, apart from one reply, it seemed no one else had seen (or wanted to admit to seeing) these crazy SERPs. Hmm. I knew I wasn’t going mad – I mean, the SERPs are there for all to see – but why hadn’t anyone else seen this?
Luckily, my sanity was saved when a post appeared on Search Engine Round Table at the end of last week which claimed an SEO update might have taken place on 21st-22nd August (last Wednesday and Thursday).
The article claimed there was a lot of chatter in the webmaster forums last week about a possible update… and popular rank tools like MozCast definitely seem to suggest something major took place around that time too. Success!
At the moment, as you’d imagine, Google is remaining notoriously tight-lipped about any possible update… but that’s not stopped speculation being rife about what’s going on. As it’s been three months since the last Penguin update, a Penguin update is the most popular suggestion at the moment – but I’m not so sure. Okay, so there was a lot of disappointment in the SEO community with the Penguin 2.0 update – but Matt Cutts and Co took a whole 13 months to completely refresh the original Penguin algorithm… so I’m not so sure they’d be so quick to revise it this time.
Other suggestions include another Panda tweak but again, there’s some doubt about whether a tweak of this nature would have had such a big effect on the SERPs. From looking at our results, I think Google must be playing around with the location algorithms (I mean, why else would an Indian job site be appearing at the top of the SERPs for a generic keyword when searching from the UK?!).
As you can see from the comments in the Search Engine Round Table article I mentioned earlier, a lot of other webmasters are mentioning geolocation results… so I’m definitely not alone!
To sum up, it looks like something’s definitely going on with Google and the SERPs right now – but it’s definitely too soon to tell if it’s a temporary blip (ie. an experiment gone wrong) or something much more serious and far reaching. As with anything else with SEO and Google these days, it’s definitely a case of ‘wait and see’.
As you can imagine, I’m definitely keen to get your thoughts on this one. Have you noticed anything weird going on with your SERPs? If so, what’s your best guess about what’s going on with Google right now? Do you think we’re on the verge of seeing a new black and white-themed update? Leave us a comment or tweet me – @amy_edwards88.
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