Does it exist or doesn’t it? Is it singing out loud at the Opera or hiding behind your curtains?

Cheesy jokes apart, earlier in May, publishers began seeing fluctuations in their rankings and after a week of negating and much cajoling, Google finally confirmed changes to their algorithm, which a lot of people (especially @glenngabe) have dubbed The Phantom Update.

What is the Phantom Update? First of all, it’s finally a departure from Google’s menagerie. It’s being dubbed the Quality Update by the industry and primarily because sites that have questionable content on their pages were the ones who lost a significant amount of traffic and saw a drop in SERPs.

Google Phantom Update

Key Takeaways from the Phantom Update

  • It’s an algorithmic update that changes the way the core ranking algorithm “processes quality standards”.
  • It’s ostensibly looking like a fairly brutal move – there will be no problem in penalizing whole domains for even sparingly thin content on a handful of pages.
  • Tag pages are still a problem. Don’t go there. Don’t spiral your audience (or the bots) into a never-ending web of pages with no substance.
  • Click-baiting is still a problem.
  • Stacked-videos are still a problem.
  • Poor user-generated content (UGC) is still a problem; if you’re only attracting or displaying spam comments on your posts, you’re under scrutiny.
  • Thin content is a problem.
  • Low quality supplementary content, e.g. ads, sidebar ads, recommended articles, is a problem.
  • Bad design is a HUGE problem. If your site design is still stuck in the 90s, do yourself a favour and get it out of there.
  • DON’T LINK TO SPAM SITES. *ahem*

How to Save Yourself from Google’s Wrath

First things first. Stop creating substandard content! Seriously, y’all. Stop thinking you’ll succeed if you cut corners. Ain’t gonna happen.

As far as the content’s concerned, your visitors need to trust you. And building trust is all about transparency. After you’re done writing your content, take a good, long look at it and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the content sound like a marketing pitch?
  • Do all the links lead to relevant, valuable pages?
  • Are there too many ads on the page?
  • Do the grammar and punctuation work well in the content?
  • Does the content match other pages on your site or on third-party sites?
  • Is there a takeaway for the readers that goes beyond the obvious?

If you’re hesitating to provide a customer-centric answer to any of those questions – i.e., an answer that places your audience first – then go back and start over.

Also, go ahead and conduct a qualitative content audit and take all the necessary steps to fix your content issues.

Good luck! And let us know if we can help.