On October 14th or 15th (depending on where you live) there was a pretty major Google algorithm update. Matt Cutts said in a tweet that it would only effect about 2% of websites, but from what I am reading it has had a much broader effect than just 2%.
Having had some of my websites effected as well, I have spent the last 5 days pouring over forums, trying to figure out what this update is actually doing. According to Cutts, it could take a few weeks to settle, so many site owners are hoping their sites bounce back from the abyss into which they were dropped when this update hit.
All evidence is pointing to a major update. This is no small change here, so either Google underestimated how many sites this would effect or just misled us. But one thing is for sure, if the giant search engine wanted to cause chaos in the SEO sphere, it has brilliantly succeeded.
So what sites were effected?
Normally, in order to figure out what the update did, we have to look at what sites were effected and compare the attributes of those sites to see what they had in common. But in this case the results are all across the board. There are old sites and new sites that were effected. Even authority websites that offer outstanding content have been hit.
But a few major websites have benefited from all the chaos. Wikipedia, Amazon, and eBay have all been seen hovering around the top of Google for certain keywords. This is bad news for marketers and maybe even for searchers if Google is just going to push the big name websites higher and let those “mom and pop” websites plummet, but again, this could just be a temporary adjustment in the algorithm. (and yes, typing the word “algorithm” does make you feel smarter. Just try it sometime.)
Let’s get some crazy myths out of the way
The first thing site owners do when there is an update is jump to conclusions without any facts to support them. I have heard people saying this update means backlinks no longer matter, Google is penalizing blog networks now, and even people saying that this update had something to do with Google’s +1 project. None of those things are true, however. Correlation does NOT equal causation, but when the results for different websites are so varied can you really blame the “conclusion jumper”?
Does this mean that Google is focusing more on quality content?
I would like to say yes, as I concentrate on creating quality content on all of my sites, but so far we are seeing some pretty crummy sites moving up in the rankings. There are even reports of websites with 404 errors and parked pages ranking #1 above other websites with very good quality content.
But I have a theory that Google is trying to rank webpages based on the bounce rate more and more. I can’t prove this but I think this is why we are seeing websites with such different link portfolios and ages moving in such different directions. I have actually been saying this for a while, as it only makes sense as the only true way to determine if a visitor got what they wanted from a webpage or not.
This also may answer why some newer websites were not effected or even went UP in the rankings, because Google does not yet have enough information on these sites to see if the bounce rate is too high or low compared to competing sites.
So how did YOUR websites fare? I would love to hear from you.
I know this update is not done, but it’s always good to look at what other sites are doing that survived this update to see what Google is looking for.
Of course, there is always the possibility that Google just randomly changed things around to make SEOs and marketers scratch their heads and just give up and resign to pay for Adwords after all.