Algorithm Rolled Out: February 2015

Algorithm Summary: Overall Gist 

Many webmasters have noticed fluctuations in their rankings, but Google has yet to provide detailed information. We examined the changes on search engine results pages, which primarily affect brand e-commerce and, it appears, mobile rankings. Both developments appear to be in the early stages and may not have a clear relationship.

The most significant changes in the e-commerce industry and for traffic-heavy keywords

The SERPs are still changing in parts. Second, we observed some changes being rolled back. Some sites that lost rankings, for example, regained them in the meantime. Some traffic-heavy e-commerce keyword rankings fluctuate so much that they appear in positions 1, 5, to 9, then completely vanish.

This advancement is primarily focused on e-commerce and keywords with measurable CPC. Affected sites usually involve, but are not limited to, retailers, shops, price comparison sites, etc. We noticed two things: first, a loss of a few positions (mostly affecting “loser keywords”), and second, complete removal from the top 100. (affected a small number of rankings). The pattern is dominated by losing a few rankings, mirrored in traffic losses.

Affecting search results for and with brands

There are a lot of brands when it comes to keywords with big changes. They won in the first instance, but as previously stated, the results are only conditionally fixed.

1. For example, type “Adidas” into the SERPs.

One interesting finding was in search results for brand keywords with typos, such as “Addidas” or “Adidas.” Before the recent change, most of the sites ranked here were price comparison sites, shops, and small ad sites. Then Google began to treat keywords similarly to brands. “As usual,” the brand ranked first, with Wikipedia close behind—representing a brand’s typical search results. The SERPs now appear to be brand new. We saved a copy of that data in our software. In the Trend column, you can also see that all the rankings are new.

 2. Exchange of rankings for correct brand searches

Smaller providers gained positions for correct brand searches, while some (also larger) domains lost significantly. Take a look at the rankings for “under armor,” for example; everything else remains the same. It appears to be a “brand exchange.” In the meantime, some of those rankings have shifted, with domains dropping completely out of the SERPs or being pushed to the bottom.

“Nike” and “Samsung” are two more examples.

It appears that Google tries to clean up brand searches and, as a result, also tries to correct typos. We’ll keep an eye on it because the development appears incomplete.

What about changes to mobile algorithms?

Since neither Panda nor Penguin played a role in the recent developments, and Google has recently issued warnings to sites that do not appear to be “mobile-friendly,” it is reasonable to conclude that it can trace the fluctuations back to changes in the mobile algorithm. Both aspects-e-commerce/brand and mobile-are most likely unrelated. At least one sample included mobile-friendly e-commerce “losers.”

Conclusion: Although Google may deny it, it appears to be a very granular update. 

The recent changes may not be considered a full update like Panda or Penguin, but their impact is greater than usual algorithm adjustments.  Things do not appear to have calmed down yet, so proceed with caution when concluding. We cannot yet speak of a Google update. We’ve seen an effect on brand e-commerce keywords that affects brands and retailers, shops, price comparison sites, and even (small) classified ad sites.

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