By Jonathan Griffin. Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.
I started tracking a sharp increase in SERP volatility on the 27th of February, continuing into the 28th. Initial indications show a wide range of categories affected. While there are no obvious E-A-T categories affected in the US, the UK shows differently. The volatility in the UK is significantly higher.
I’ve updated this article to show that the changes in the US differ significantly from those in the UK.
For the US:
The categories affected appear to differ from those in the the 22nd of February Google Update. As such, this update seems to be something new, rather than a roll-back or tweak of the previous update.
With the lack of prominent E-A-T categories, it is most likely to be a broader quality update.
For the UK:
This looks like a significant update. There are many categories affected, including E-A-T categories such as Health and Science.
While I still think this update targets content quality, I cannot rule out E-A-T either.
The SERP Trackers
The SEMrush Sensor for the US shows increased volatility on the 27th of February 2019, continuing into the 28th.
And for the UK:
Rank Risk Index:
The Rank Risk Index tracker shows increased volatility over three days commencing on the 26th of February, although the main spike took place on the 27th.
The MozCast weather report doesn’t yet show the “weather” for the 27th of February, although it does show some minor volatility on the 26th.
Advanced Web Ranking:
The Advanced Web Rankings report shows a significant increase in keyword volatility on the 27th of February, coupled with a large decrease in visibility over the previous couple of days for the dataset.
I am finding it difficult to reconcile the visibility (line chart) with the keyword volatility (bar chart) data. Zooming out to a three month or six-month chart, it appears the scale of the changes in visibility over the past month is very small. This magnifies how the changes look on the chart.
The Algoroo report shows a spike in volatility on the 27th of February.
The SERPMetrics report shows a large spike in volatility on the 26th and 27th February, indicating a significant update.
Chatter in the SEO community indicates a Google Update took place
Let’s take a look at the discussions on WebmasterWorld for this update.
Anyone seen a drop overnight into this morning? (KaseyM)
@KaseyM: yes, Monday and Tuesday were good days for G organic for us, but Wednesday morning has not been so good. I am wary of writing the day off completely though because often afternoon visitors boost the numbers up quite a bit. As far as I am aware there are no holidays to chalk a poor day down to though, so no idea what is occurring. (Mark_A)
I saw some moderate shifting happening last night before going to bed. SEMRush is back in the yellow again too. (lostshootingstar)
Seeing some small shifts in this latest update (27th). I’ve got a handful of pages in fragile balance that go up and down depending on what Google have tweaked. LSI/keywords seems to have become less important and authority more important. Not simply link authority to the page, more like total site authority, or perhaps something to do with branded links. This seems to have been a big brand update. I noticed a massive link update in GSC. Google now acknowledging a mere 8% of my backlinks! (broccoli)
Black Hat World:
Let’s take a look at the discussions on Black Hat World.
The following comment was posted on the 26th of February. It is quite interesting in that it appears this site was hit by a sitewide penalty, aka Panda. It would indicate a possible tweak to the content quality algorithm, especially in the absence of any major E-A-T categories affected (I talk about this more in the next section).
So I have a big site of mine that has survived all the updates from the past few months, until last night.
All of a sudden at one point, the site lost ALL of it’s rankings in one instance. It now ranks on page 5-6 for every keyword. The site has 500+ pages of content (2k words avg length), with 1-2 new pages added daily. In the last 60 days, 10+ natural editorial backlinks have been secured as well.
I’m not sure what happened here, and the way everything just flew to the 5th page is nutty, especially when it has happened across 30,000+ keywords.
Even if you search my site’s brand name, I’m only on the 5th page.
Who does the Update Effect?
For the US:
Looking at the SEMrush Sensor Deviation (from the average volatility):
Like the previous update on the 22nd of February, this is also showing a lack of categories that are E-A-T related.
This update affects several categories more, such as Internet & Telecom, Online Communities, Beauty & Fitness, Computers & Electronics, and Reference. I can’t completely rule out E-A-T, as Google is known to tweak the algorithm for specific categories with regard to YMYL.
That being said, if your SEO strategy includes a review of E-A-T, user intent for targeted queries, and content quality generally, you should see improvements, and future-proof (as far as you can) against updates such as these.
For the UK:
The update in the UK also shows a wide range of categories effected, including typically E-A-T categories such as Health.
It could be that this is part of a phased rollout, and that volatility will spike elsewhere in the coming days.
What to do if this update hits you
Before you start updating your existing content to improve site quality, the most important thing you can do is to read the Google Raters Guidelines in its entirety.
There is some excellent guidance relating to E-A-T and content quality.
If you are looking for some help with your SEO, I would highly recommend tools such as SEMrush, Moz, or Ahrefs. They will help audit your site and contains tools to assist you in producing high-quality content.