By now everyone has either heard or seen Google's "Mobilegeddon" update go in to effect which favored mobile friendly sites. But not a lot of people have heard of the secretive algorithm tweak soon after was disastrous for some websites which people are calling the "Phantom algorithm."
One of the companies that was effected the most is a pretty well know website called HubPages. They have more then 870,000 miniblogs that talk about everything from "Advertising online" to "Do it yourself home projects." They saw their Google search traffic drop a drastic 22% on May 3rd 2015 from the previous week. Of their top 100 pages, 68 of them lost visitors over that week stretch.
Google has done updates and algorithm changes in the past that has hurt Hubpages rankings and visitors but this one was obviously directed toward us and our industry, said the founder of Hubpages CEO Paul Edmondson. He said the worse part is Google refuses to provide any details on why they ranked their website down.
As a business owner that uses the internet to get new leads this can sound very discouraging and unfair. Google controls two-thirds of the U.S. search market. Their updates such as Panda and Penguin have lead to web-based companies to see plummeting traffic overnight which pushes their traffic to their competition and they give no explanation on why.
Most of the websites that were effected by this phantom algorithm were mobile friendly but, similar to panda updates, had low quality sites and they were being punished. By low quality I mean websites that have clickbait articles, sites full of supplementary information, pages of numerous videos and those that were hard to navigate.
People over at Google are very hush hush about this Phantom algorithm or acknowledging that a change took place. At the Search Marketing Expo in Sydney this week, Gary Illyes from Google's Webmaster Trends team, said it was part of a core algorithm update.
Edmondson said that he has grown accustom to Google updates and algorithm changes and he has spent many hours analyzing his websites data on how to minimize the damage. That means he has been improving the editorial and production quality of his top-ranked pages, investing in the mobile side and getting rid of pages that lack substance.
Working in SEO we see these changes happen multiple times a year and everyone freaks out because they lose a lot of business. Because Google owns the market there is nothing we can do other then try to figure out why we were penalized and fix it. The only proactive thing you can do other then that as a business owner to stop the inconsistency of business coming in is to boycott Google and market your business on other search engines. A less popular idea is to find other ways to get business outside of search engines.
My suggestion to Google on how to improve their customers satisfaction is to provide the equivalent of a credit score for webmasters. That way HubPages and others can monitor the health of their sites relative to Google's expectations and pinpoint problems before it's too late.