November 19th Google algorithm update – Phantom III

Louise Linehan, 31 Jan 2016

November 19th Google Algorithm Update: Speculation on “Phantom III”

The digital world was buzzing back in November, as people took to forums, Twitter, and email to report unusual movements in Google.

 

Pi Findings

We saw drops across a variety of different sectors at around the same time, with landing pages being the worst affected areas.

Google didn’t confirm any algorithm changes at the time, but this came as little surprise since they’re always pretty secretive about these kind of things. Below are a few examples of our findings from the travel, fashion and gambling sectors.

 

Phantom III: Hostelz.com dropped out of the SERPs completely, just after November 19th

Phantom III - Hostelz.com - Drop 20th Nov

One example we found of a site losing its positions for a range of search terms was Hostelz.com, which dropped from strong positions (i.e. position 6) to below 100 in Google UK for three out of the six search terms tested. As we can see above, this drop occurred shortly after the 19th of November, which would substantiate the “Phantom III” theory of a newly updated, quality based algorithm on this date.

 

Phantom III: William Hill lost positions for a large amount of Poker search terms around November 19th

Phantom III - William Hill - Drop 19th Nov

The key terms below the graph represent poker related search term groups, with each containing a substantial amount of key search terms. This meant the whole poker section of the site had seen drops.

 

Phantom III: Littlewoods dropped out of Google UK almost entirely, but in December – not November

Phantom III - Littlewoods - Drop 2nd Dec

We came across this dramatic drop in a range of Littlewoods search terms on the 2nd of December – a little after the supposed Phantom III algorithm update.

 

What is Phantom III?
In May 2015 it took Google 2 weeks to confirm a quality update to its algorithm, which was labelled “Phantom II” due to its relative anonymity and the secrecy that enshrouded it – and also as a reference to “Phantom I” which occurred previously in 2013.

However, despite there being unmistakable drops and movement in Google from November 19th onwards, as well as a flurry of anticipation around another quality update, Google insisted they had nothing to announce. From our research, we have seen signs which confirm Phantom III is a quality based update.

Was Phantom III an extension of Panda 4.2?
Since it’s initiation in July, the ripple effects of the Panda 4.2 roll-out have been felt by many, with Google officially confirming the last update in October. Could“Phantom III” just have been an extension of Panda 4.2, albeit a significant one?

Could “Phantom III” have been a consequence of an algorithm update in June?
According to Search Engine Land, Google confirmed another algorithm update in June which is, as yet, unnamed. There was little to no information provided on what it was regarding, but maybe the impacts of this update were the ones being felt from November 19th, and onwards.

Could “Phantom III” have been a part of Google’s Core Algorithm
On January 10th, 2016 Google announced that the Panda algorithm is now part of its Core Algorithm, which means that it will be paying more attention to quality than ever before. However, Google did confirm that the Panda part of the algorithm had not been updated recently. Could Phantom III also have been part of Google’s Core Algorithm?

 

Avoid drops caused by updates by providing quality content and checking the SERPs daily

Checking your ranking and content daily will help you to preempt any major SERP drops, but preventative measures are the most full-proof way to maintain positions. You can avoid a drop from a quality based update by theming each page uniquely and incorporating good amounts of relevant copy.

Pi Datametrics SEO platform helps you to keep an eye on your daily SERP movement by providing the top 100 results for your key search terms. It also sends you daily emails reporting on any positive or negative flux, enabling you to immediately identify any suspicious and potentially threatening drops.

 

Posted in Google algorithm updates