September 23, 2015

Phantom Google Update May Have Tanked Your Traffic

Phantom Google Update May Have Tanked Your Traffic

No one saw it coming…mostly because Google never said anything. Here’s what “Phantom” does and what you can do about it.

Did you hear about Google’s new “Phantom” update?

You’re not alone if you didn’t – because no one else did either!

Google didn’t tell anybody about this one.

This Update’s Had a Huge Impact…

It mostly targets websites with loads of thin “How-to” type content. Some websites, following Google’s content guidelines from years ago, have hundreds or thousands of authors producing content.

The problem: Google views it as “thin” content, contributing nothing new or unique to the web.

So, sites like HubPages (lost 22% of its search traffic), eHow (remember how they used to dominate search years ago?), wikiHow, and Answers.com have taken a painful beating.

But it’s not just hit the big guys. It’s a domain-level update, so it can hit a domain of any size – maybe even your domain. Plus, it’s separate from Panda or Penguin!

It could affect you – even if you have some decent quality content! This information’s according to G Squared Interactive’s Glenn Gabe (based in Lawrenceville, New Jersey).

What Were Some of the Websites Doing That Got Them Penalized?

Here’s some examples of things not to do, again according to Gabe:

  • Writing pages that have a long list of links to content on other areas of your website
  • Writing content just a few paragraphs long
  • Using articles as “clickbait,” just to get clicks, but not to provide useful info
  • Too much supplementary content (ads, recommended articles boxes, sidebars) on each page
  • Using too much third party content from other sites
  • Pages had waaaaay too many videos
  • Outdated designs that appear like they were made decades ago
  • A high amount of spammy and completely irrelevant comments on the page

How Do You Know If Phantom Got You?

There’s still a lot of uncertainty around this update. No one knows exactly when it rolled out.

But it did happen somewhere around the beginning of May. If you saw a 10-20% drop, or greater, in your web traffic, this update probably got you.

That leaves you with a few options:

  1. Keep things as-is and live with the traffic drop
  2. Rewrite thin “how-to” posts that are similar to many others on the web
  3. Keep building fresh new content that goes farther into depth than anything else on the web
  4. Re-evaluate the design of your web pages, and see how you might improve the user experience, rather than your business goals

You’ll probably have to do some combination of all of the above. Recovery won’t be quick, easy, or cheap.

You Can Do It Right the First Time!

All these changes sound scary. And they are.

But, Google’s talked about giving users the best possible experience on your website for years.

Always focus on what’s most helpful for your visitors first. Don’t add every new thing to “improve SEO” because you heard that’s what everyone else is doing.

Instead, keep things simple, your content quality high, and your rankings safe.

Google's Algorithm Updates
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