The Google Unknown Update Christmas Edition

Some things are time-honoured traditions: public transportation takes a hit after getting surprised by the start of winter, you can ogle at the SISTRIX ferris-wheel and Google gets everyone up and horrified before the Christmas season by a large update.

Google dutifully kept up their part by stirring the UK SERPs around quite a bit in November. In this blogpost we will show you the aftermath, including interesting winners and losers.

A real Algorithm-Update, not a Penalty-Update

The large Google Updates of the past (Penguin, Panda) often turned out to be so-called Penalty Updates: Google wanted to get rid of a quality related problem in the search results and made changes to the way their sorting works. For this, they targeted sites that went against specific rules and moved them far to the back. The sites received a Google Penalty. These updates gave no ranking boosts to sites that behaved well, though. Looking at the results, you could find noticeable losses for individual domains, but no winners.

This update is different: It seems that Google is not trying to solve some quality related problem, but rather they are using a modified Algorithm (or the data set the algorithm works on) to sort the search results differently. We can see this well by observing that about as many domains lost Visibility as there are winners.

Google is increasing their Update-Cycle

Many domains that showed a noticeable reaction to the November Update also show gains or losses to their Visibility at the same time as similar domains, when we look at their Visibility in the past. It seems that, over the past six month, Google has increased the speed of their update frequency for these “Unknown Google Updates” to about once a month. SEO-retirees can surely remember the days in which we had monthly PageRank Updates. Here are two noticeable examples.

One for a winner:

And one for a loser:

Another increase we see is in the time it takes to notice changes in the SERPs. Where it took us about 2 to 3 weeks to measure the updates for the past months, it took only two days for this update.

This Update is stronger than the ones before

Compared to the last Unknown Google Update, it seems the engineers were very sure of themselves, this time around. The changes show a much stronger response for most domains than for the previous updates.

Which Domains won?

As we said before, there are about as many winners as losers for this update. For the record, the winnings of the big winners are much more distinctive than the losses for known losers. Here we have a list with 15 big and interesting winners for this update:

Selection of Domains that noticeably won Visibility in this Update (UK)
DomainVisibility on 06.NovVisibility on 13.NovGains (absolute)

Who lost?

When some go up, it’s just natural that others must go down. The same holds true for the Google Visibility. Interestingly, this list is filled with a potpourri of different domains – just as the winning side – which shows that there is no easily discernable pattern. A page like can show up for the winners, while a similar domain in the same vertical, such as, will show losses:

Selection of Domains that show a noticeable Visibility loss in this Update (UK)
DomainVisibility on 06.NovVisibility on 13.NovLosses (absolute)

Google stays silent about these Updates

The days in which Google was even partially transparent about their algorithm changes are over. It is not to be expected that Google will shine a light on the reasoning behind their Unknown Google Updates any more.

If we take a look at the amount of updates and their regularity, it is also not to be expected that Goolge makes large algorithm changes, each time. Instead, this can be seen as evidence that Google is re-evaluating and re-calculating ranking signals, based on current and extended data.

Both winners and losers are a wild mix of different domains. There is no clearly noticeable pattern for Googles actions. This is the reason why it is rather unlikely that Google is re-evaluating either the content or the link-profile of domains. If this were the case, we would be able to make out specific patterns. So what is left? The users themselves.

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