Phantom was released on May 8. I'll cover Phantom more below, but for now it's important to understand that it targeted content and not links.
Then we had the much-anticipated Penguin 2.0 rollout on May 22. With Penguin 2.0, we learned that the new algorithm update went deeper than its 1.0 predecessor. And as you can guess, many websites were hit by Penguin based on risky link profiles filled with unnatural links.
Phanteguin - A Powerful One-Two Punch from Google
I do a lot of work with companies hit by algorithm updates. And when you speak with someone who's been hit by Panda, Penguin, or Phantom, you can hear the anger, frustration, and fear in their voices. Many don't know exactly what happened, they don't know what to do, and they are losing business with every hour that passes. It's an ugly situation.
But it can get worse.
There is a situation that's more serious than just getting hit by one algorithm update. It's when you get by two algorithm updates. I witnessed this last year with Pandeguin, which I saw first-hand while helping companies hit by both Panda and Penguin.Well, now we have a new one-two punch from Google, and I'm calling it Phanteguin. I'm currently helping three companies deal with a Phantom hit and a Penguin hit, and the two updates were separated by a mere two weeks.In this post, I'll go deeper with each algorithm update, explain how to identify the drop in rankings and traffic from each, and then provide some guidance on what you can do now to start the recovery process.
Google Penguin and Phantom: Digging Deeper Both algorithm updates had their own characteristics and targeted their own set of factors. Penguin is still extremely acute, and hammers unnatural links. The big difference with Penguin 2.0 versus 1.0 was that it went deeper, taking any page on your site into account. In the past, Penguin only analyzed your homepage links .I've now analyzed 26 websites hit by Penguin 2.0 (and over 200 when you combine Penguin 1.0 and 2.0), and the pattern is still the same. Penguin crushes websites with unnatural links using exact match anchor text from low-quality sites.
you can read my blog post covering Penguin 2.0 insights, but the types of unnatural links remained consistent with 1.0, including spammy directories, comment spam, public and private link networks, blogrolls on splogs, etc. I can spot Penguin food from a mile away now.
Phantom, on the other hand, was extremely content-focused. It resembled Panda more than Penguin.
Phantom was released on May 8 and the first calls I received started coming in just one day later on May 9. Below is a screenshot of a Google organic traffic drop from Phantom. Note, I've seen a drop in Google organic traffic for websites hit by Phantom ranging from 25-45 percent.
Phanteguin Phantom Drop
After writing a post covering the Phantom update, which was initially based on analyzing four sites hit by our spooky friend, the floodgates opened. I had companies from all over the world contacting me about getting hit on May 8th.
It was amazing to see, and incredible for confirming that there was indeed a significant algorithm update. Also, Pete Meyers from Moz ended up posting Phantom in the official Google Algorithm Change History. He also noticed the impact of Phantom on May 8.
Phantom Moz 2013 Update
The more sites I analyzed that were hit by Phantom, the more you could see the pattern. Let's just say that Phantom liked to haunt content, and not links.
There were a number of content issues on the sites hit by Phantom, ranging from thin content, affiliate content, scraped content, low-quality content, etc. There were also signs of heavy cross-linking from company-owned domains using exact match anchor text. I've seen that problem with sites hit by Panda too.
Panda Greased the Skids for Phantom
One common thread I saw across sites hit by Phantom was that almost every website had been previously hit by Panda. Clearly, these sites had struggled with content quality issues in the past, and Phantom seemed to come in and kick them while they were down.
How to Identify Phanteguin
Let's say you noticed a drop in rankings and traffic in May, but have no idea where to begin. That's the situation many business owners are in when they call me about their websites.
There are times when it's easy to connect the dots and then there are times you need to dig a little deeper to find the true culprit. Using both Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics (or any analytics package) can help you identify the specific drops in traffic, along with the specific dates of the drop. The dates are important so you can line up traffic drops with algorithm updates like Phantom and Penguin.
Starting in Google Webmaster Tools, you can head to the Search Queries report, which will display your impressions and clicks over the past 90 days. The default view will be the past 30 days, so you will need to set the timeframe accordingly to see any impact from Phantom or Penguin.
At this point, you might already see the drop on May 8 or May 22. Or worse, you might see a drop on both dates, also known as Phanteguin