Halloween Algorithm Update: Trick or Treat?
Talk has been rife about whether Google will perform a Halloween algorithm update at the end of this month. Speculation is continuing over the possibility of the algorithm changes after last year’s apparent Halloween Google update caused confusion.
So, will it be a “trick or treat” if the unconfirmed update is initiated on 31st October? Only time will tell, but if 2018 was anything to go by, no one will find out it happened until 1st November – when websites start noticing changes in their search engine rankings.
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Whatever type of online business you run, you’re likely to have felt the fallout from Google’s regular algorithm updates throughout the year. Google uses the search algorithm to organise the ranking of its web pages, deciding which should be highest.
It performs updates up to 600 times every year, but some are so minor that webmasters may not even notice they’ve happened. However, some algorithm updates can have a significant effect on SERPs.
Businesses can usually keep track of the core updates and how they have impacted on organic traffic, as the major ones are often confirmed and explained. Online businesses can then check if any changes in traffic to their site corresponded with an algorithm change.
However, the unconfirmed 2018 Halloween update caught everyone on the hop, with some businesses calling it “creepy” – considering it was apparently released on 31st October, this was possibly the desired effect.
Despite widespread debate on community forums, such as Webmaster World and Search Engine Round Table, Google declined to confirm whether a core update had taken place.
The SEO industry was looking for evidence of a Halloween Google update, after discussion threads about changes in ranking reached fever pitch at the start of November 2018. Many forum members had cited changes in long-tail keyword phrases as evidence.
Some SEO experts were convinced that longtail keyword phrases were experiencing changes on 1st November, but others said this wasn’t a reliable indicator of a Halloween algorithm update, since the phrases were inherently vague at best.
Then, Danny Sullivan, co-founder of the Search Engine Land magazine, claimed in a tweet that Google had changed how it answered ambiguous queries, using a new system called Neural Matching. He said 30% of search engine queries were being answered using the new technology. It followed that changes in the rankings on 1st November were not necessarily evidence of an update. They could be subject to Neural Matching doing its stuff.
Regardless of there being no official word from Google of the Halloween update, users of the SE Round Table Forum were convinced it had happened after their sites experienced ranking disruption – described as “creepy” – on 1st November.
Various blips were reported, such as a drop in rankings, analytics real time not working properly, a feeling they had “fallen off a cliff”, a lack of keyword stability and SERPs differing “substantially by the hour”.
The true signal of an update having taken place is when chatter boils up on social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and SEO specialist forums. This was certainly the case on 31st October last year.
So, did the Google Halloween update ever take place, or was it a figment of the imagination – rather like the ghoulish creatures that reportedly rise on All Hallow’s Eve?
With Google remaining tight-lipped on this occasion and declining to comment, no-one will really know for sure! Algorithm updates are certainly something that businesses can benefit from – as those who have high-quality websites can find themselves higher up the rankings, often in a spectacular fashion.
Is trouble brewing for Halloween 2019 in the shape of more SERPS disruption? Nothing official has been announced – but we’ll soon find out!
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