What is the Google Phantom and Phantom 2 Update?

by Joy Go (Google+)
Posted on July 31, 2015 in seo.

The Phantom Update is also called the Quality Update. The dates to note are:

May 3, 2015 – Phantom 2 Update

July 14, 2015 –Phantom Tremor

May 9, 2013 – Phantom Update

July 17, 2015 – Panda 4.2 Update

Why is it called the Phantom Update?

It is called Phantom because with its first release in May 2013, there were major ranking and search result fluctuations but Google said it had nothing to announce. (See: https://www.seroundtable.com/google-update-now-16762.html). Matt Cutts tweeted that it was neither a Penguin nor Panda update and that Google makes “over 500 changes to its algorithm per year so there will always be fluctuations in our rankings.”   

Thus, it’s called Phantom. It is a core algorithm change impacting and rewarding quality signals. It will also follow a slow rollout versus a push rollout.

What are the quality signals?

  1. Quality Content
  2. User Signals
  3. User Experience
  4. Trust
  5. Optimization

How is Phantom different from Panda?

  1. Phantom rewards sites with great quality content with higher rankings, while Panda penalizes sites.
  2. In a way, there is a correlation because a lower-quality content site will be outranked by websites with higher quality content.
  3. This is a core algorithm change versus just an update, so pieces of these rules are going to be factored in the overall ranking algorithm. Thus the slow rollout as well.
  4. Page level, not site level. Content will be assessed on a page-level basis and will be rewarded (or not) accordingly.

What does Panda penalize?

1. Bad Content

  • Thin
  • Spun/Automated/Rehashed
  • Aggregated (gathered from other sources)
  • Duplicate (within the site and from external sites; multiple URL versions such as http and https versions, URLs with and without trailing slashes, different URL paths, repurposed content)
  • Irrelevant

2. Bad User Signals

  • Low click through rates
  • High bounce rates
  • Low time on site
  • Low amount of returning visitors

3. Bad Usability

  • Design/Layout
  • Navigation
  • Mobile version
  • 404 errors
  • Meta-refreshes
  • Site speed
  • Ads (sites that are top heavy with ads)
  • Flash

4. Low Trustworthiness

Proving trustworthiness leads to users recognizing your brand–even to a degree at which they’d click on your snippets just because they see your domain under the title. 

Trustworthiness plays an important role on several touch points and starts early in the customer journey:

  • Snippet
  • First impression (design & layout)
  • Content
  • Conversion

5. Over Optimization

  • Keyword stuffing/high keyword density
  • Too many internal links and hard anchor texts

What's Up Next?

Are You Still Using Flash Technology For Ads & Rich Media? Here’s Another Good Reason To Stop Immediately - In the past few weeks, both Chrome and Firefox announced that they would no longer support Flash based elements on their browsers. →

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