Theories On Google Algorithm Update & Changes Last Week

Last week we reported on a possible Google algorithm update starting last Wednesday. We had most of the automated tracking tools light up but, as I covered, little chatter around complaints from webmasters or SEOs.

My initial impression was that something changed in the search results but it did not lead to any significant changes to the traffic one would receive from Google.

Then Pete Meyers from Moz reminded me in the comments section that Google is testing dropping featured snippets from the core web results, which should directly impact all of these tracking tools. If you take out the featured snippet result from those core web results, that will make these tools light up.

Pete said in the comments:

We’ve been seeing some volatility due to this test with Featured Snippets — since Google is removing the page-one organic ranking for some people (if the URL gets the snippet), it’s creating more flux. This only seems to be part of the story, though.

I asked in that story if removing the second result in the Google listings, if the site has secured the featured snippet position, would impact the traffic that site sees from Google. It seems, maybe, based on this, that the answer would be no. But again, this is all a theory.

So I reviewed a lot of the threads including the ongoing WebmasterWorld thread and a new Black Hat World thread and mostly, it is still pretty calm. The black hat thread is pretty quiet with just a few complaints about sites getting hit. The WebmasterWorld thread actually has stories which may back up the theory of the featured snippets change.

Here are those comments:

One of the articles shows a 20% drop in traffic on the 18th compared to the 16th (the day before the update), and the other article shows a 23% drop. I don’t understand how this is possible. How can articles that are still in the top spots have lost so much traffic? Is Google broken?

I’m in the same boat, my website is amazon affiliate, I have checked the impressions and which are also less with 30%, check yours.

According to Google Analytics, my Google traffic was down 19% overall on May 18th from the same day the previous week, and 17% on the 19th. Yet again today, when I do a search for my most popular keywords, I’m seeing my pages appearing in the exact same search positions that they’ve been in since forever, yet traffic for these pages has dropped. Unfortunately, Google Search Console is still stuck on the 17th so I can’t see any stats for 18th or 19th yet.

Something happened last week. Something that did not affect the rankings of my main keywords and yet still resulted in a 20% traffic drop.

than how can you explain the drop in traffic? I have a FAQ page where I answer to 200 questions in my niche and GA shows like 600 keywords for this single page. If I compare 18th to 11th the number of keywords showed in GA are 148, 117 keywords registered an increase in ranking to first page and first position and the rest of 31 register a severe drop of at least 20 positions.

Maybe in these cases above, they had featured snippets and lost the core web result. Based on the layout of the Google search results page, maybe searchers believe the featured snippet is part of the ads and skip over it and miss the core web result?

Again, this is all hard to prove but it does seem very sporadic and I doubt there was a true real massive algorithm update at Google last week. Nothing at the levels of Penguin or Panda or even Fred. But still the tools reported such levels, likely because of the featured snippet change.

Those are my thoughts at least.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld and Black Hat World.

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Author: barry@rustybrick.com (Barry Schwartz)

onpage seo

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