Google has been pushing updates and data refreshes to its algorithms for the last couple of weeks. I have reported about it here.
If you don’t know what is the difference between an algorithm update and a refresh, here is how I differentiate them:
- An algorithm update is tweaking the algo, so that when you supply the same data, it gives a different result.
- An algorithm refresh is when the algo is not modified, but fresh data is supplied to it.
It’s very hard to say which of the two is happening at any given time. I usally refer to Google Search as a black box in terms of search engine optimization. We know the input and the output, but we have no idea what’s going on inside.
So were these recent movements updates or refreshes? I don’t know. Here is how Google makes it harder to reverse engineer their updates:
- They push out unrelated updates and refreshes in close proximity. Good luck finding out what hit you.
- Their spokespersons give only a vague response to queries about what happened.
- In some cases they misinform (either purposefully or by incompetence).
The November update probably includes links to some degree. They have gotten very strict about links. You can have one very bad link and that single page may get your site drop out of the first page of Google. I speak from experience. I had a case that two keywords fell out of the top 3. I did a link audition, and checked if my linking pages are indexed and in good standing with Google. I discovered a spammy domain that was indexed but didn’t rank for any of its keywords. I disavowed that link in one week the rankings were back.
Is that a good thing though? No! Only one’s conscience can prevent a negative SEO attack. Google has made it too easy to sink a website. I would do a case study did I not fear someone suing me. This can really hurt a business.
I track a lot of sites and I can pretty much tell by the tremors which sites have link issues. This time those sites with link issues remained very stable. So if it includes links, it’s very limited in scope. Maybe a data refresh.
What about content? We know about BERT. Incidentally I have also noticed a lot of featured snippets changing out. So most likely that got an update. Don’t forget that Panda is also humming on in the background, along with some mystery updates. My data is showing this was more on the content side of the udpates.
What do you think?