We have been paying close attention to the SERP trackers over the last few days, as increased volatility in the Search Results seems to be taking hold. If you look at the Grump Rating for the United States on Wednesday, Google can be described as "Furious". Google is staying tight-lipped about any update with Gary Illyes replying with a "Shrug" + "wink," as well as blaming Dr. Pete (Moz). John Mueller responded initially with "Summer is coming," although later said he is not aware of anything specific.
Firstly, it is useful to check out the SERP trackers so that you can see the scale of the movement being discussed:
The Rank Risk Index shows significant movement from around the 6th May 2016.
This too shows volatility in the SERPs from around the 5th May 2016. The MozCast weather report only gives data up until the 9th May, so we will have to wait a few more days to get the full picture from this chart.
This is one of our new favorite tools, as you can filter the chart by Mobile, Desktop or by Country. We will show you two different graphs here. Firstly, the Global chart, and then secondly the chart for the US. You will see much more volatility in the US Wednesday, indicating a phased rollout, or merely localized testing:
What Google Had to Say
In the tweet below you will see the response from Gary Illyes, at Google. As you can see, it is not very helpful and does not give much information away, instead using a reaction gif to indicate a "shrug", but with a sly "wink" at the same time. What can we read into this? Something is happening, but they won't tell us any more than that.
John Mueller was equally cryptic:
Could this be a cryptic clue relating to the release of the new Real-time Penguin Algorithm? For those hit by the Penguin algorithm, it has been a long wait (1.5 years since the last refresh, and 2.5 years since the last real update to the algorithm). We know they won't give any indications anymore of when this is likely to be released, but John Mueller did say in April that they may "test the water silently first", and that when they did launch Penguin, they would post an announcement.
Unfortunately, we would anticipate that with any Penguin Testing there would be significant chatter in the SEO community, specifically pointing this out as a possibility. While some people at Webmasterworld have picked up on the volatility, there is no indication anywhere that this is Penguin related or even a silent test of Penguin.
Another option is that it is related to a core algorithm change. For those of you who track your main keywords, check which keywords have dropped in the SERPs and ask yourself if that page is low quality. If you can find a pattern that your low-quality pages have lost ranking, then that is a strong indication that it is related to content quality. We have noticed one or two pages on our website that fit this pattern, but there is not enough data for us to be sure. It never hurts to improve low-quality pages or pages that drop in the SERPs in any case.
In a follow-up Tweet, John Mueller confirmed that he was not aware of anything, but that they are always making changes at their end:
This would seem to lend itself to a core algorithm change, a RankBrain refresh, or routine testing. Unfortunately, updates like these are never easy to get to the bottom of, and if you did suffer a ranking drop, we would recommend reviewing your website for quality issues.