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Google Algorithm Updates Result in Extreme SERP Fluctuations

This month (January 2016) Google confirmed making two separate updates to its core algorithm (see Figure 1). These updates resulted in extreme fluctuations in website positions on search engine results pages (“SERPs”). The first algorithm update occurred on January 9, 2016. The second algorithm update occurred on January 16, 2016.

Search engine positions are still changing as a result of the update. As is usually the case, website positions drop in one week and then rebound right back the next week, after an algorithm change.

As the dust settles and more data is analyzed by us and our peers (search industry professionals), we will continue to learn more about the algorithm changes. It is still too early for any solid theories, but some analysis suggests that Google may now be giving greater weight to keywords in webpage addresses (more on that to follow).

The chart in the Algorithm Update Timeline below is from Algoroo, a program that monitors changes and fluctuations in Google SERPs. Shorter green bars indicate periods of relative stability, while the taller red bars indicate high volatility in search engine results.

Algorithm Update Timeline:

Algoroo Google Algo Update Timeline
(Figure 1)

The chart below is from Google Analytics. The green line shows an upward trend in daily website visits to a particular website, from the end of December 2015, through the 15th of January, 2016. The red arrow shows a large spike in website visits on January 16, 2016. Unusual, since this website is business-to-business and doesn’t do as much business on weekends as on weekdays. This spike correlates with Google’s core algorithm update.

Fluctuations in Website Visits:

Google Analytics Core Ango Update
(Figure 2)

Keywords in Webpage Addresses

One of the early theories to have surfaced about the change made to Google’s core algorithm (Google never shares publicly exactly what changes it makes to its algorithm) is that the algorithm may now be giving more weight to websites that have keywords in their webpage URLs.

A quick look at our clients’ websites’ current search engine positions, seems to give some weight to this theory. Their webpages that contain their keywords in the URLs (one of the many “white hat” tactics that we use to help our clients’ websites rank high in the search engines) are now ranking higher than they were.

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