If you’ve been in the search engine marketing industry for any reasonable length of time, you should already know that unannounced updates of Google Search’s algorithm are par for the course – unlike the big names that even muggles know about (Penguin, Panda, Pigeon, Hummingbird, Mobilegeddon, etc), there are smaller, subversive updates that roll out quietly, like a whisper through the web.
Typically these cloak and dagger updates don’t rock the boat – they typically affect specific industries, verticals or niche markets (think adult, firearms, payday loans, and other predatory industries). As of May 2015, though, one of these updates is making big waves across the net – and any SEO worth his or her salt should have caught the signs of an unidentified update spooking sites across all borders and industries as of May 1, 2015 – My team did, and we’ve been investigating it ever since.
So, just what do we know about the Google Phantom algorithmic update?
What Do We Know About Google Phantom?
Well, for starters, this isn’t the first time the web’s been creeped by Google Phantom – as mentioned in Glenn Gabe’s recent post over on the G-Squared Interactive blog, this is actually Google Phantom’s second haunting (the first encounter occurred back in May 2013).
Here’s what we know of Google Phantom for now:
- It’s worse than the original Phantom from 2013 – most webmaster (myself included) saw site ranking decreases in the 10-20% range within 48 hours, as soon as the clock struck midnight on April 30, 2015 – thankfully targeted sites haven’t suffered more since!
- Google is denying the very existence of the Phantom update as anything official.
- This is entirely distinct from the April 2015 Mobilegeddon update – more like a vengeful spirit sweeping through the web in its wake, picking off survivors.
- Fundamentally, Phantom is sucking the rankings out of any domains that have low-quality, thin and clickbait content – PLUS this new incarnation of Phantom is also picking off instructional, how-to and guide content (content with titles like “10 Best Taco Pies from Spring Break 2015,” or “How To Prep For Tax Season with Expert Tax Advisers” for example).
- Pages containing lists of links, directories, index pages, and (important for WordPress users!) Tag and Category pages are also being targeted – let’s face it, these web pages only exist to point you to actual content, so they aren’t the best content to have on Page 1 in the first place…”
How Can You Recover From Google Phantom?
- Invest in your content! Have a trusted digital marketing specialist (blatant declaration – that’s a link to my team) help you identify low-quality content and replace it high-quality content that generates good UX (user experience) and is search engine optimized!
- Resubmit the revised web page URLs to Google and continue culling offending content as necessary.
- Prep for the next wave! As Glen Gabe mentioned over on his original article, the original Phantom haunting was shortly followed by Google Penguin 2.0 – check your inbound links and clean up anything that could be perceived as manipulative or low quality links, just in case!