Adrian Foster

VS SEO Episode 1: The Phantom Update

*Cue scrolling text*

A long time ago in an SEO galaxy far, far away. A search engine giant made a decision that impacted the work of SEO-ers across the world. Google decided that content shouldn’t be used as a tool to manipulate the search results, instead, it should be a resource for searchers, providing accurate information relating to the search and adding value to the site. The original Panda update changed how the SEO industry worked – no longer could webmasters rely on keyword stuffed text or spamming article directory sites with text that vaguely related to what they were selling. Content needed to be useful and engaging, putting the user first and SEO copywriting techniques second.

The name ‘Phantom’ is used as initially, no one knew that this update had happened, or exactly what it was there to do. The first Phantom update appeared in May 2013, followed by another earlier this year in May, this one was later confirmed by Google as a ‘Quality’ update. Fast forward to today and the latest Phantom Update III is rumoured to be a second quality update to Google’s algorithm. As always, the update hasn’t been confirmed however experts have noticed a definite shift in the results, correlating with the updated Google Quality Rating Guidelines that were released on 12th November 2015.

Are your visitors getting what they want?

At the heart of the Quality Guidelines lies user intent, a new way of assessing the quality of a web page based on how well user expectations have been met by the results. This quality control focuses heavily on content and whether it provides the user with adequate information relating to their query. The guidelines state that “supporting content has to correspond to the central user intention” which is something that all site owners must keep in mind when creating content for their pages. Sites which have seen a recent rankings boost have been those that focus on quality long-form content, offering accurate information that is regularly updated to help the user find that they need.

Although there’s been no definite word from Google that an update has happened, there has definitely been a disturbance in the force (last Star Wars reference, we promise) The main shift has been seen in US results but we expect to see this start to filter over to UK results in the not so distant future.

What does this mean for me?

If you’re not already focusing on great quality content for your site, you need to start. Take a look at your key areas and see if you can improve what’s there or create brand new descriptions focusing on giving the user the information they need!

Is your blog looking a little neglected? Start posting regular updates to get fresh content back on the site.

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