On its own website Google states:

There are many components to the search process and the results page, and we’re constantly updating our technologies and systems to deliver better results. Many of these changes involve exciting new innovations, such as the Knowledge Graph or Google Instant. There are other important systems that we constantly tune and refine.

Here’s a comprehensive list of everything that goes into every Google Algorithm.

An Infographic of Google Algorithm Updates

In the early 90’s when the Google search engine was in its infancy it was not quite as popular, powerful, or precise as it is today.

They have made a lot of changes, most of which you have probably never heard about. But, then, there are the big ones – Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, and now Phathom.

Last month, Hubspot  and Moz teamed up to create an infographic that provides a snapshot of all of the major changes that Google has implemented over the years.

All major changes to Google Algorithm focus on content quality

Now if you notice all of the memorable changes are centered around one thing … the quality of web page content, not just a website.

In February 2011, Panda was supposed to focus on minimizing the value of link farms and websites that lack very much content. In fact, this is one of the reasons why popular SEO plugins like Yoast SEO suggest a page have a minimum of 300 words.

In April 2012, Penguin was going to make certain that a website was not simply going to repeat a keyword in every other sentence.

According to Rank Ranger, in August of 2013,  “their [Google’s] goal [with Hummingbird] is to provide more personalized results based on your online behavior, location, trends, etc.  The Rank Risk Index (RRI) captured this significant change on August 21st”.

When Google announced its Hummingbird algorithm update. Many digital marketers believed if “content is king”, then naturally “context and relevance would be queen”.

For others it was a concern…

This information made some marketers nervous, but at PubCon last week, Google’s Matt Cutts reminded the audience that the algorithm had been up and running for more than a month before it was announced, and no one even noticed.

– Jim Yu, SearchLand, Google Hummingbird & The Keyword: What to know to stay ahead

Soon after we saw the emergence of content distribution companies like Taboola and Outbrain, which had been around for at least 5 years prior.

Then, early this year Google Phantom updates began and many small businesses began to feel the pain …

According to a report by Ari Levi , Senior Tech Report at CNBC one company lost 22% of its web traffic overnight.

But, what I find even more interesting is how some sites with very little content and poor quality infrastructure are out performing sites with better designs and high quality and relevant content.

Do These Webpages Deserve To Rank High On Search Results?

Hydraulic Torque Wrench on Google

I recently asked this question on the Marketing Rule Breaker blog.

Here’s why I ask it …

Let’s look at the keyword “Hydraulic Torque Wrench“.

If you visit the first 5 sites out of about 588,000 results you’ll see well designed mobile responsive websites with good to great content.

Torcup is not mobile responsive
Then, the sixth site listed is not mobile responsive.

It sports a short news section which typically highlights an upcoming event in under 150 words, and has an outbound link to the event, or a PDF of the news at is sharing as a blog.

After seeing this the assumption has to be that the sites to follow are worst.

Page #1 lower part of Hydraulic Torque wrench site
But, as it turns out following this site are two very good sites with a ton of backlinks, content, and context.

Grainger – “for the one’s who get things done not only has content, but, is the first of all the sites to feature ecommerce.

Perhaps, since they have such a large variety of industrial tools and MRO supplies there sites is not considered as relevant as the others which in fairness are manufacturers of hydraulic torque wrenches.

Page #2 Hydraulic Torque Wrench

So, we click over to page #2 on the Google Search results for hydraulic torque wrench and find eBay and more manufacturers.

Three of them seem to have well-structured websites that are mobile-friendly.

They all have good consistent content, that is relevant. They all seem to linked to similar sites as the first page sites, so what gives?

To better understand what is happening.

We visited Ahrefs site explorer. [Check out this article on Quicksprout by Neil Patel to better understand how to use this tool.]

Our quick research shows a correlation between the number of pages crawled, shares on Google +, and quantity of backlinks — not quality seem to be the major difference makers.

hytorc 35k backlinks

TorcUp Ahrefs

TorxionX - Social media lacking

Of course, we want to make this is not a fluke. So, let us checkout page #3 on Google for the term Hydraulic Torque Wrench …

Page #3 - AMG Bolting Solutions - Hydraulic Torque Wrench

An unexpected turn of events.

Sitting on the top of page #3 is AMG Bolting Solutions.

By simply glancing at the structure of its Google search snippet we can tell some SEO work is being done on this site.

For example;

Hydraulic Torque Wrench is at the beginning of its title.

3 times in its meta description it reads hydraulic torque wrench(es).

This one is worth looking at a bit deeper, but, before looking at the site itself — let us see if our hypothesis is right.

So, we visit Ahrefs again.

Google Phantom Updates Impact Small Business Web Content

  •  1822 pages crawled?!? Only #1 Enerpac and #2 Hytorc has more.
  • Only 136 backlinks, nonetheless more than 17 of 20 sites ranking ahead of them.
  • 248 Google + shares, again within the top 5 of all the sites ranked ahead of them.

Perhaps their website is not mobile responsive and lacks good quality content.

When we take a look at their website we discover the following:

Google Phantom impact on hydraulic torque wrench

  • Evidently, we are wrong — the site is not a mess.
  • The site is mobile responsive,
  • Has a current and relevant blog,
  • Features ecommerce
  • And, seems to follow all the “SEO rules“.

Now, curiosity has gotten the best of me. I call the company and discover this site is owned and operated by a fellow Naval veteran named Alan Gross, [ follow him on Twitter ].

I told him about the article I was writing, and the results I have been finding and he responded;

Since 2012, have spent a significant amount of money on the AMG website. Mostly on SEO gone wrong. I used to be mid-page 2, then Google made a change and I was on page 8.

I have fired two companies how promised me page #1. We never sold anything.

He continues, the company I am working with now has me on the top of page 3, has help me sell a little, and has me convinced that if we continue to produce quality content things will get better… my fear is the bigger companies with deep pockets seem to be able to buy links.

Wait a minute.

Do his say “buy links”?

Is it not the purpose of the Phantom algorithm updates to rewards small business sites like AMG Bolting Solutions, and penalize companies who buy PR-links?

As I learned from Alan, here’s is a small business using Hatchbuck marketing automation, engaging in social media, listing itself on local and industry directories, making videos, and publishing unique quality content and there page fall all the way to #8.

Perhaps, as we have seen recently with the Panda 4.2 updates, these Phantom changes are simply taking their time to even the playing field.

If not, small business owners will have to turn to Google Adwords for a crack at page #1.

How ironic?