In recent weeks, it looked like Google was purposely trying to keep every webmaster around the world on their toes, doing the Panda dance, and wondering whether what they were seeing in the SERPs actually had to do with yet another algorithm change. Google themselves have yet to come out with an official statement on the matter, yet there are too many signs pointing their way to ignore them any longer. The situation is complex enough as it is, given the fact that, in late June, Matt Cutts replied to a tweet on his own account, explaining that the latest fluctuations in rankings had something to do with an algorithm update. Said possible update was taking a rather long time to roll out, as indicated by more than just one SERP ranking tracker. In late June (and into early July) fluctuations kept increasing, up to a noticeable spike, as reported by the MozCast tracker. That particular spike left many wondering what had happened – and, of course, if they could expect their website to come in for some heat from Google.
Assumption 1: A Google Test
Some have speculated that Google was just testing out some possible changes to the search algorithm. The data spikes were some ten days apart, which might indicate that the main people in charge at the search engine giant may have tested an update, then reverted it back to normal. Given the fluid nature of multi-day temperatures recorded by trackers, it is difficult to ascertain with any degree of certainty whether or not a test was the case. However, it is now publicly known that Google will roll out its updates over the course of several days (roughly ten days’ time, as forecasts have shown). This being the context, it is highly likely that Google may have taken a decision over the course of a multi-day roll-out, then gone back and reverted its own decision.
Assumption 2: A crack down on partial-match domain names
Data collected during late June and early July indicates that the attempted algorithm change may have targeted partial-match domains. The trend recorded over that period of time indicates that both partial match and exact match domains lost some influence, in comparison to other domains. However, there are two key differences between the evolution of PMDs and EMDs. EMDs faced far less dramatic fluctuations, on the one hand. On the other, they made no recovery to speak of, in terms of influence, once the assumed update had completed its roll-out. Meanwhile, the PMDs fluctuated wildly – and some actually made a sort of a recovery at the end of those ten days.
Assumption 3: The effect on the ten biggest online brands
By and large, the top ten biggest brands online didn’t see too much fluctuation during late June and early July. They earned some 2.5 per cent in terms of top ten ranking positions in the SERPs on any day of the year, during the first half of 2013. There is sadly not enough data to sketch out a clearer view on their performance over the course of those weeks when Google slowly rolled out the ‘softer’ Panda update. However, given the fact that Google’s current tendencies are geared toward eliminating spam and crediting authority, it is safe to assume that these top ten brands would gain some grounds in the SERPs. After all, the way the current algorithm seems to be structured, one of its aims is to eliminate redundancy and promote trustworthiness. Having one of the ten biggest and most prominently established brands online must certainly help toward meeting this goal. In other words, those top ten brands have been (and continue to be) favored by Google.