In a recent tweet by Gary Illyes, Google webmaster trends analyst, it was confirmed that most algorithm updates go unnoticed by webmasters. Illyes also said that they may communicate updates relating to named ones, such as the mobile friendliness algorithm.
When reporting on recent Google Updates or Volatility on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), it is sometimes tough to give any indication what that update was affecting. Furthermore, some updates may have only a small effect while others a much larger one. With Google reportedly making over 500 hundred changes per year, with many different changes often rolled out at the same time, it stands to reason that not every fluctuation in the SERPs is reported.
The fact that changes are not reported does not mean people are unaware that changes are happening. Many SEO's will monitor keywords daily via rank tracking services and frequently look at SERP trackers such as the Rank Risk Index, or MozCast. By doing this, they can determine whether a site's ranking change is due to a general algorithm change (increased volatility in the SERPs), or whether it might be something more specific to that website.
As a result, it does not come as any surprise to us that Illyes believes that many of the changes go unnoticed. Here is the Twitter conversation:
@SimpsonGareth it depends. Most algo updates go unnoticed, but we may communicate about the named ones, like mobile friendly.— Gary Illyes (@methode) May 5, 2016
How Often are Updates Rolled Out?
If you believe Google, then there may be as many as 500 different Algorithm changes every year. This equates to around 1.37 changes per day on average. Of course, we suspect they are not rolled out every day of the year, and instead done in batches.
If you look at the SERP trackers for the last few months, you will see an interesting trend. Much of the volatility in the SERPs commences on a Thursday \ Friday and continues through the weekend. It is almost like the team responsible at Google for making or testing changes in the algorithm work all week on ideas, and then roll out those ideas over the weekend for testing. Those tests that are successful are implemented, and those that are not are rolled back. Of course, we are speculating here, but there is data to support it, as you can see below:
You can see from the Algaroo SERP tracker the day "Friday" highlighted in red. There is a clear cycle of volatility starting on Thursday and Friday, ending on Monday.
The key takeaway from this is that if you notice some wild ranking changes over the weekend, not to worry. There is a good chance that some of the changes will be rolled back on Monday. If they don't, just keep focusing on quality, as many of the changes are simply to help show the best content in the Google Search Results.
Furthermore, if a change relates to one of the major named algorithms Gary Illyes said it is likely they would announce it in some way. Even if they didn't, and it was related to say Penguin, there would be so much chatter in the SEO community (SEO specialists would see recoveries in Penguin hit clients for example), that we would be able to report on it fairly swiftly.