After the Google’s mobilegeddon update last month (April 2015) which was aimed to favour mobile friendly sites, the Google Phantom update has rolled out. This Phantom update will target sites which have “informational” and “how to” articles.
Most of the results of Google updates are measured using search traffic drops and surges on major websites and keywords. This time the site HubPages.com shows confirmed results of Google’s PHANTOM update. The April 2015 “mobilegeddon” update of Google did not affect HubPages. But very soon, this site had shown drastic fall in its traffic.
HubPages is a very common information based website which has 1000’s of pages of content based on virtually any topic that one can think of. The drop in Google search traffic for HubPages was a whopping 22% i.e. about one fifth of its entire traffic dropped with the Phantom update.
It is not the first time that HubPages has been hit by Google updates, but Paul Edmondson, CEO and founder of HubPages says that this update was indiscriminate. Edmondson added “Imagine how hard it is to run a business when you see 22 percent of your traffic evaporate overnight.” HubPages is a 10 year old company which has numerous professional editors and thousands of freelance writers.
Since this is a major unnamed update in past two years, hence it was called “Phantom 2” by Glenn Gabe who is a SEO analyst and marketing expert.
Apart from drop in traffic of HubPages, the severity of this update can also be confirmed by Searchmetrics. Searchmetrics.com is a site which tracks search traffic. According to Searchmetrics data, a clear trend was seen in drop of visibility for certain how to sites. Though the severity was much more for sites with thin content, but even established sites like HubPages, eHow, WikiHow and Answers.com also noticed considerable drops.
This can be said as a site wide update rather than a page wise update as Edmondson confirms that this change has hit not only weaker sections of Hubpages but also at a broad level. It implies that even if you have high quality articles on your website, but the low quality articles will make penalty on your entire site rather than only on low quality pages.
“When you have a domain-level algorithm update or ranking change, it can impact the whole site,” said Glenn Gabe.
It must be noted that HubPages was a major victim of Google’s Panda update earlier during which it lost almost half of its traffic. To bring back the traffic, HubPages removed several thin articles and hired several top quality editors to publish high quality content. In spite of all efforts, HubPages didn’t got traffic to previous levels. This update made the situation worse for it.
The Phantom update is most disastrous for small website owners as they do not have the financial capability to match the content level of top level websites.
More than 200 signals are taken into account by Google to decide the ranking factors but the constant tinkering with Google algorithm in recent years has made a scene of uncertainty for webmasters. While big sized companies can cope up with such updates by pouring in more and more money to adjust with such updates, the smaller ones are always at risk. Google controls approx two thirds of search traffic in United States and hence any change it brings out is far more significant than any other search engine.
Earlier Panda update was rolled out to make sure that relevant and high quality sites get more visibility. It was followed by Penguin update which attacked sites which manipulated backlinks to get rankings.
Google has now turned very much secretive of its updates so as to ensure that they cannot be gamed by spammers. But this opaqueness has led to much criticism and also allegations that the company is benefiting sites from which it has its own vested monetary interests. There is also fear of the increasing monopoly of Google which would make or break life of millions of webmasters with just an update.
The company has not publicly acknowledged this Google Phantom update but Gary Illyes from Google’s Webmaster Trends team said this week in Search Marketing Expo in Sydney that it was part of a core algorithm update.
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