What Did Google Change In The October Update?

The SEO community is buzzing with the news of another Google update. We know that the most recent Panda update is still rolling out, but Barry Schwartz has reported on Search Engine Land that there is another update, possibly a phantom update (one which Google will not name).

Barry Schwartz is one of the SEO community’s most active commentators and analysts. Rather than relying only on SEO monitoring tools (e.g. using SearchMetrics data) he closely monitors Google’s search forums to see what is being discussed. Whenever there is a major change to the search algorithm, many of those who are affected will ask Google for advice via their own Webmaster Central Help Forum, so an increase in the number of daily requests for help is an indication that something is changing.

October Updates

Schwartz says that the mid-month update, which appears to have taken place on October 14, is a continuation of the Panda 4.2 rollout, which has so far not caused any major shake-up of the results pages.

However, the more recent update, which took place between October 20 and 21, is something else. Although this update seems to have Panda elements, Schwartz believes that there is something else happening. Typically, these updates are called Phantom updates – an apt name for a pre-Halloween change!

It is also not uncommon for an update in the run up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which are just over a month away, so it is possible that these recent changes will affect mostly ecommerce sites.

Google’s Gary Illyes said on Twitter, in reply to a question from Alex Graves: “@AGr4ves Sorry, Alex, we don’t confirm updates to our core ranking algorithms. We make hundreds of changes to it, this could have been one.”

Alex Graves wrote a blog post about the October 14/15 update on David Naylor’s website. Alex Graves actually considers the October 14 changes to be linked with the October 20 changes, also naming them a “Zombie” update, in relation to Halloween. Graves suggests that some of the changes have a hint of Penguin in them too.

Google has already announced that it plans to release another Penguin update this year, but general consensus is that it is too soon for that, and the latest changes are not far reaching enough to be considered a Penguin update.

There have definitely been some big gains and big losses following the October updates, but so far, we are really not sure what the changes have acted upon.

Of course, we must remember that Google makes around 500 changes every year to its search engine, meaning that there is at least one change every day. It may just be something minor that happens to have affected more people than expected.

Hopefully the SEO community will better understand the October updates soon, although all eyes are still on the close of the year, when we have been informed that the next Penguin update will be released. It will be an early Christmas present for some, and a horrendous close to the year for others, when Google asks, “have you been good”?

About the Author

Danny Hall is a co-director for the well-established digital marketing agency, FSE Online. Danny has worked within the SEO sector for many years and is always keeping up-to-date with Google’s latest news.

Photo credit: Christian Hoppe

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