By Jonathan Griffin. Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.
I started tracking an increase in SERP volatility around the 12th, continuing into the 13th of February. Initial indications show that E-A-T related categories were affected, with Science, Autos, Law & Government, Pets & Animals, and Health-related queries were most affected.
It is difficult to be sure exactly what Google is targeting with this update, but previous updates of this nature typically targeted one or more of the following:
- E-A-T - Does the author have Experience, Authority, and Trustworthiness?
- User intent - How relevant is the query to your content?
- Content Quality - How good is your content. Is it in-depth, and answers the user’s query?
I’ve provided advice at the end of the article on what steps to take if you are affected by this update.
The SERP Trackers
The SEMrush Sensor shows some volatility over the 12th and 13th February 2019.
Rank Risk Index:
The Rank Risk Index tracker appears to indicates a spike of volatility on the 12th of February. What is interesting, though, is the slightly higher volatility since the last Google update on the 7th of February.
The MozCast weather report shows similar volatility to the SEMrush Sensor report.
Advanced Web Ranking:
The Advanced Web Rankings report shows a significant increase in volatility around the 12th of February, 2019. Interestingly, the chart shows the 7th of February update to be much quieter than the other Rank Trackers.
The Algoroo report shows the 7th of February update to be greater than the 12th \ 13th update.
The SERPMetrics report is similar to the Algaroo chart, with higher volatility on the 7th of February.
Chatter in the SEO community indicates there was a Google Update
Let’s take a look at the discussions on WebmasterWorld. You can take a look yourself here.
My rankings have now gone back to pre-update last night/this morning and I haven’t changed a thing - the changes in my niche must have just been the usual update ‘shuffle’ (RareBit)
Looks like the serps reverted me to the wrong page again. Hoping it’s a temporary flip-flop, we’ll see. (broccoli)
Seeing minimal ranking changes today, but traffic has fallen off a cliff. Definitely not correlating, must have lost something in the long tail. (lostshootingstar)
Freaking awesome. Another potential update, another decimation of traffic in favor of thin affiliates and spammy exact match domains. (lostshootingstar)
@lostshootingstar: Do you have rankings flipping serps (e.g. serp position no. 9 or 12)? With todays update still in progress, sometimes your position will be lost totally, as Google seems to even switch (or build up new) datasets when navigating from top10 to top11-20. And if you are on position 12 in the shown dataset for the top10 and on position 9 in the shown dataset for 11-20, you are practically gone.
At least I’m seeing a lot of flipping between top10 and top11-20 with short tail / strong competition search terms today for several sites. This is going on for some hours and than stable for some, before it starts over again. (Spiekerooger )
My traffic looks pretty good today. Maybe I finally got that little bit of rankings boost that I’ve been waiting for. (jmorgan)
No changes going on with Auto, I believe. (hurwith2)
I’m afraid to jinx it! But I am seeing upturn in traffic as well. It’s still too early to tell by how much or if it will even hold. (NickMNS)
Semrush off the scale again in the UK (BushyTop)
Had a good Monday and now Wednesday, but Tuesday was dismal. (Mark_A)
Same here a big increase in traffic today but most of it seems to be bot traffic. (southernguy)
My Google traffic was up 5% yesterday and 11% Monday over last week. Today seems to be holding strong. (Cralamarre)
Good week here as well. (MayankParmar)
From Yesterday [13th February], traffic is falling. Although yesterday a good amount of traffic was holding but today that is also gone.
Looks like Valentine’s Day is ruined guys. I mean the mood :P
We’ve seen super low conversions over the past couple of days. It’s not seasonality and I’m doubtful that its anything to do with Brexit, even though i suspect it is having a marginal effect. But our conversions are dead atm… for the first time in a long time!
automotive, UK (BushyTop)
Who does the Update Effect?
Looking at the SEMrush Sensor Deviation (from the average volatility):
** 12th February:**
** 13th February:**
These charts are quite interesting. The typical E-A-T updates affect categories that require a lot of expertise, and that usually includes Health, Science, Law & Government. Also, you can easily imaging Autos, Pets & animals are categories that require some expertise.
It’s difficult to say whether Google is refining how it sees authority and trust, or whether they are looking at content quality. I suspect, though, that one or the other, or even both aspects have seen some tweaks in the algorithm.
What to do if this update hits you
There have been several other Google Updates this year that have focussed on content relevancy (i.e., does your content satisfy user intent for that query), and E-A-T (i.e., does your content show expertise, authority, and trust).
I recommend taking a look at the following PDF starting on page 24 in particular: Link to PDF.
For a high-quality page, Google wants to see the following:
- Very high level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
- A very satisfying amount of high or highest quality Main Content.
- Very positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the Main Content on the page. Very positive reputation of the creator of the Main Content, if different from that of the website.
Once you have read the guidelines, I recommend taking a step back and thinking about the type and quality of content you are producing.
You may even want to review the keywords each page is targeting and undertaking a technical SEO audit. Various tools can help with this, such as Moz, Ahrefs, or SEMrush.