While the world was fretting over Google’s now infamous “mobilegeddon,” another update was quietly knocking websites off of their pedestals. It was originally dubbed “Phantom 2” by Glenn Gabe, an SEO analyst and digital marketing expert, because of its similarities to another significant, and unnamed, update from two years ago. Furthering its mystery, immediately following the May 3, 2015, release, Google was staying “hush-hush” and refusing to acknowledge it. We knew something changed and that it wasn’t Panda or Penguin, but we didn’t know what it was exactly. The enigma fueled whispers that wrapped around assumptions, as websites watched their traffic plunge without warning.
As of last week, Google finally confirmed that the rankings hit was a result of a change to how they assessed quality. While not providing any specifics about how quality will now be calculated, Google admitted to Search Engine Land that an update to its core ranking algorithm was made, in relation to how it processes quality signals. That’s how the Phantom 2 earned its other name, the Quality Update.
While mobilegeddon had no impact on its site, HubPages saw 68 of its top 100 pages lose visitors from the latest Google update. The website, which features a vast collection of miniblogs, was one of the worst hit sites. As the Quality Update made its debut on May 3, HubPages’ search traffic dropped by 22%. The 10-year-old San Francisco-based company employs professional editors to work with its independent writers, but still couldn’t stop their rankings avalanche. That’s because the domain-level update was ruthless and punished the entire domain once it recognized a certain percentage of “spammy” pages.
HubPages was not alone though. According to Searchmetrics, a company that tracks search traffic and provides SEO and content marketing analysis, forecasting and reporting, the pattern of decline in visibility affected certain how-to sites that had “thin content,” or lacked value. WikiHow, eHow and Answers.com also saw drops. Other low-quality sites were also penalized, such as those featuring Clickbait articles, stacked videos, overly abundant supplementary information and difficult navigation.
So, what can you do if the Phantom 2/Quality Update demolished your rankings? Aside from memorizing Google’s 200 ranking factors, that is. First off, remember the golden rule of internet marketing, quality content is king. If you’ve read my previous blog, you might be rolling your eyes and thinking that I sound like a broken record, but the point cannot be emphasized enough. If Google’s course on writing valuable content isn’t enough to convince you, then check out their 2011 blog on building high-quality sites. It may be old, but it’s still relevant, and hits the point home that without high-quality content, you might as well be writing on a roll of toilet paper. Redundant, unnecessary content will never help you rank.
Once you’ve accepted that basic truth, follow these simple steps to get your site back on track and ranking again:
- Perform a site analysis in order to understand which landing pages and queries dropped from the SERPs. This will give you a starting point from which to concentrate your efforts.
- Once the analysis is complete, conduct a content audit. Look for any weak spots in your site that do not match up to Google’s tips for high-quality.
- Get to writing. Aside from creating better content that will help your rankings, refreshing your site will make it more relevant and will show Google that you are actively engaging with the industry and your users.
In the end, all you really have to do is provide value to your users and to Google’s searchers. If you write it well, your rankings will improve and visitors will come…and you won’t be exiled by Google. If you are having trouble with the writing, or don’t even know where to begin, call in a professional. At 1SEO Digital Agency, we make it a point to create quality content every time, and to stay ahead of the curve as much as possible when it comes to Google’s algorithm changes.