By Jonathan Griffin. Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.
The SERP trackers have shown increased volatility on the 16th and again on the 18th of February. While there has been a small amount of chatter on the SEO forums, it is fairly minimal.
There have also been some changes in the visibility of various SERP features, such as the image, people also ask, and knowledge panel, which align nicely with the SERP trackers’ volatility.
In addition, Mozcast data shows a slight shrinkage of the search results from a steady 8.57 results on average to just 8.46. This may not be much, but it may influence the SERP tracking data.
What do the SERP Trackers say?
Let’s take a look at the SERP trackers:
The SEMrush Sensor shows a couple of interesting things. Firstly, there is a definite uptick in volatility around the 16th and 18th of February.
What is interesting, though, and might explain the volatility at this time is the SERP features volatility.
On the 16th of February, there was high volatility in both the “Knowledge panel”, “Images”, and the “People also ask” panel. The frequency of the “Knowledge” panel and “People also Ask” panel both dropped, while the number of “Image” panels increased.
On the 18th of February, both the “Top Stories” and “Site links” panels increased. Also, both the “knowledge” panel and “Top Stories” panel recovered some of their loss from the 16th of February.
It is difficult to know if this is the cause of the volatility, especially when there is some forum chatter of ranking changes. This may indicate something else is going on.
We’ll cover this later in the article.
Rank Risk Index
The Rank Risk Index confirms the volatility seen on the 16th and 18th February.
The MozCast weather report shows a very small increase in volatility.
In addition, the average result count data does show a fairly significant fall in the number of organic listings displayed on the first page of Google.
The Algoroo SERP tracker does not show much volatility compared to the other trackers for the period in question.
The SERPmetrics report shows the volatility in the SERPs on the dates in question.
Advanced Web Ranking
Advanced Web Ranking shows some volatility on the 17th and 19th, but the differences in dates could be to do with how the data is collected or timezone.
CognitiveSEO SIGNALS shows some volatility on the 16th, 18th, and 19th February.
Chatter in the SEO community indicates a Google Update took place
For this update, let’s take a look at the discussions on WebmasterWorld.
I’m starting to wonder if G has dropped an update within the past couple of hours. Traffic has fallen off a cliff. (bebopandrocksteady)
I’m also seeing some traffic changes. We had some decent gains starting the Sunday before last, but dropping back slightly since yesterday. The Semrush Sensor was up slightly along with our personal score. (samsseo)
I have to say that I have seen strong, valid traffic all day and probably heading for my busiest day of the year so far. (RedBar)
The chatter is very light for the level of volatility shown in the SERP trackers. There is no helpful information in the comments that may shed light on why they may be affected.
Who does the Update Effect?
According to SEMrush data, almost every category of website is affected.
That being said, websites that typically require a higher level of Expertise, Authority, and Trust (EAT), such as Finance and Health, appear to have escaped the worst of it.
There is currently no information available to determine if a particular query or website has been targeted. As mentioned above, the only trend that might explain the volatility is the changes to the SERP features visibility.
While it is helpful to look at categories, you should remember that Google Algorithm Updates targets types of queries, not categories per se. Looking at categories is helpful as a part of a broader process to determine patterns.
So from our point of view, it’s usually not the case that we would say we need to do something specific to make the search results better for one particular industry, but rather we look at it I had the other way around and try to think about ways that we can improve search results with regards to relevance for users with specific types of queries.
What to do if this update hits you
For general updates like this, the advice we will give you is the same.
That advice is to read the Google Raters Guidelines in its entirety.
The guide has some excellent guidance relating to E-A-T and content quality. More importantly, the advice comes straight from Google.