May 2015 Google Changes: A Roundup

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Keeping your eye on the most popular search engine in the world is paramount to the success of any online business. Late last year and in early 2015, Google had been very calm and quiet – too quiet. We knew we were long overdue for a new overhaul or update that would upset SERP rankings and cause Internet marketers to pull their hair out, but we weren’t sure when it would surface.

As many of you know, last month we were graced with another update to the Google algorithm that was anticipated as being biggest change we have seen in the recent past. In fact, the online community dubbed the mobile update ‘the mobilepocalypse.’ In addition, Google seems to have been making further changes in the month of May. However, first and foremost, we need to take a look at the results from the mobile update from last month.

Repercussions of the Mobile Update – or Lack Thereof

With all the hype and buzz the new mobile update created, many Internet marketers and website administrators were positively shaking in their boots. Such a big change to algorithm was predicted to change and revolutionize the digital marketing landscape – at least that’s what we were told. In the end, it seems that those of us who feared the new update were no more than ‘chicken littles’ fearing that the sky was falling.

As it turns out, the mobile update didn’t have as large of an impact as was predicted. This is not the same as saying, however, that it had no impact. Understand that with previous updates, entire web empires seemed to vanish overnight as they lost the vast majority of their organic search traffic. The mobile update, on the other hand, only made small ripples of changes as opposed to a tsunami of ranking upheavals that the other updates had made.

As a direct result of the changes, two of the biggest losers are as follows:

  • com – losing approximately 27% of their organic search traffic
  • com – losing about 89% of their organic search traffic (Yikes!)

On the other hand, some websites saw massive favorable changes in organic traffic such as the following:

  • com – gained a whopping 771% increase in traffic
  • org – increase in organic search traffic by 420%

The reason for the changes in rankings is undoubtedly due to the fact that the update only affected mobile searches. Search queries made from desktops are, as far as the web community can tell, largely unaffected.

Google’s Changes in May

In addition, it seems that Google has continued to tinker with their search algorithm behind the scenes – without publicizing their intentions. In fact, Google is refusing to acknowledge or shed any light on their changes after the mobile update. Early this month, ranking signal changes were felt by many websites that don’t seem to be attributed to last month’s mobile update. Because we aren’t aware of the details of this update, many in the online community are referring to this change as a phantom update.

Whatever this tweak was, it had some disastrous effects on well-known sites. NBC reported that 68 of the top 100 ranking HubPages blogs lost significant amounts of traffic. In fact, the founder and CEO of HubPages, Paul Edmondson, reported that altogether HubPages lost about 22% of their traffic.

Furthermore, it seems that there was a common trend regarding the websites that saw drastic changes to their traffic. Apparently most of the affected sites had the commonality of how-to documentation. For example, eHow lost significant amounts of traffic. In addition, though they did not lose as much traffic as the preceding sites, WikiHow and also experienced traffic losses.

Apart from the how-to website penalties, websites that rely heavily on ‘clickbait’ marketing also seem to have been punished. These types of sites frequently use catchy images, photo-shopped images, and questionable article headers to drive traffic to their sites. If you haven’t seen these before, just log into Facebook. This type of marketing is dominating many users’ Facebook feeds. However, Google seems to have deemed these types of sites as low quality, and is dishing out punishment accordingly.

What’s Coming Next?

Admittedly, many feel a little mislead due to the recent changes Google has made. The biggest update (the mobile update) was forecasted to have drastic effects, but in the end, it didn’t affect that many websites. Next, an unforeseen change came out of nowhere and wreaked havoc on many websites organic rankings. What gives, Google?

It feels like Google has pulled the rug out from underneath our feet, causing us to stumble. Never make the mistake of underestimating how powerful a change to Google algorithm can be. Drastic changes that affect your very own website can happen in the blink of an eye – many times without any warning. You never truly know what’s coming next and you need to stay on the bleeding edge of Google updates to be successful with your marketing endeavors.

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