Did Google Launch a “Phantom” Update Targeting How-to Content?

phantomSeveral weeks after Google released its “mobilegeddon” update, it looks like the tech giant has rolled out another search algorithm update. This time, however, it is reportedly targeting websites that publish “how to” content online.

US-based news site NBC reported that Google might have unleashed an undisclosed “phantom” algorithm update. HubPages, a collection of more than 870,000 mini blogs that provide online users with informational content about a wide range of topics, has seen its Google search traffic decline by 22% over the last couple of weeks. Websites like eHow, WikiHow, and Answers.com also have had similar experiences.

Paul Edmondson, founder and CEO of the San Francisco-based HubPages, said unlike previous updates, Google’s latest move was indiscriminate. “It was just a giant whack across the board. Imagine how hard it is to run a business when you see 22 percent of your traffic evaporate overnight,” he said.

Glenn Gabe of G-Squared Interactive coined the phrase “phantom update” because according to him, the algorithm update came without warning. Also, Google has yet to officially confirm and provide details about its existence.

By analysing various data, Gabe has found out that the update is neither related to Panda nor Penguin. However, it also affects similar types of “thin” content, or those that are lacking in value, that are being targeted by Panda. He also discovered that mobilegeddon had nothing to do with the decline in traffic because the affected sites are all mobile-friendly.

Gabe also pointed out that the phantom Google update was quite “ruthless” in its approach. According to him, it apparently has no problem punishing entire domains just for having a few web pages with thin content. He said many clickbait articles, sites with lots of supplementary information, pages of stacked videos, and web pages that are difficult to navigate have lost their visibility over the last few weeks because of the update.

“When you have a domain-level algorithm update or ranking change, it can impact the whole site. Pages that should be drawing well could also be pulled down in the results,” Gabe explained.

Meanwhile, as mentioned earlier, Google has yet to provide an official statement regarding the “phantom” update. However, the tech giant might have somewhat acknowledged its existence. Speaking at the recent SMX Sydney, Gary Illyes, a member of Google’s Webmaster Trends team, alluded to there being a recent change that is a part of a core algorithm update.

Share our blog post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print
Scroll to Top