SEO Experts A Month Later, What We’ve Learned About “Phantom”

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At the beginning of May, a change to Google’s organic search engine index altered the way its algorithm ranked websites, sending a shock wave throughout the SEO community. Like with Google’s past Panda and Penguin updates, web managers scrambled to check how the changes affected their sites. What was so frustrating about the latest change in particular?

Google denied making any changes at all. Hence, local SEO experts the world over dubbed it, the “Phantom” update. Within a week, as people compared the damage and/or reward from the new update, it became clear that something had changed.

Eventually, Google copped to the update, but only after weeks of denial. So a month later, here’s everything we know so far: local SEO experts report that the Phantom update changed the way Google processes the quality of a website. So sites that produced quality content saw their rankings jump up, while sites churning out low-quality content (or even outright gibberish), took a big hit.

Google wants you to pay for those expensive PPC ads you see your competitors buying, crowding the first page of search results. They have no incentive to tell SEO consultants exactly what they changed. Somehow, the factors and signals the Google algorithm uses to judge the interesting content from the garbage and spam has been tweaked.

So if your site or small business is already producing quality, original content, then keep doing what you’re doing. And if not, then it’s time to start playing content catch-up.

Creating content is a key element of all successful local SEO strategies, with 92% of local SEO experts saying content creation is “somewhat” to “very” helpful. More than 75% of businesses currently engaged in SEO campaigns plan to use content as way to increase visibility with SEO.

Previous Google updates targeted sites that were mobile-optimized for better rankings, while another update penalized sites building sketchy links. SEO is sometimes like a game of chess, the pieces are constantly in motion, and you have to anticipate how the other player will behave in the future.

Don’t expect to put up a website and forget about it, or else you’ll find yourself losing the Battle for the Front Page.