Google’s February 7 Update; 2 things to check

February 21, 2017


Welcome back Rankers! Are you all having a good week?

Back on 7 February there was an update. There was a lot of chatter online, but I didn’t talk about it at the time because there wasn’t a lot of data around. Since then we’ve collected quite an amount of data since we started looking.

Some clients went up and had good upticks in traffic, others suffered little blips and drops, but most clients by and large weren’t affected by it. We found some interesting things that you may want to take a look at on your own sites for this change around February 7th.

Seeing Double

The site I’m going to use to look at is Back on the 3rd February, Digital Photography School had two entries in the top ten for ‘portrait photography.’ They then went to number one on the fourth, when the number one result dropped down to number four, then they dropped back. Now we only have one entry, whereas they had two entries for a long time. I’ve seen this with a couple of other clients too where they’ve had more than one entry in the search results, but now Google is only showing one.

Google Feb 7 update double entries
Google Feb 7 update double entries

Now for some clients, they went up because of that, whereas others went down. So one of the morals of this story is that when you go and have a look at these things and you have some search results where you have more than one entry appearing on page one, you’re probably splitting the authority of one of those pages. Meaning that you’re probably making one of those pages less authoritative because you have two that Google thinks are equal. If you can combine them, or can maybe make one of them more authoritative by linking more to it or similar, then that’s going to help one of them rank higher rather than both of them sitting in the same search result.

I think that’s what’s happened to some extent with this update. One of the other traps you could fall into when looking at stuff like this is making certain assumptions, such as correlation equals causation. For example, today, is nowhere in the top 100 for ‘portrait photography.’ A week ago it was number five, and before that, number one. What’s happened to it?

Quality Issues

Well, when you go to the page that was ranking number one, it’s a 404. Therefore, those guys have just lost all that traffic. So there’s that problem. So then, you might think that Google would take another page if that were a 404. Not necessarily, and in this case it hasn’t. The other thing that’s interesting about, and I don’t know this site at all, is that it looks to be low quality, and that would tie into what Glenn was saying.

Glenn Gabe and Barry Schwartz on Twitter Februrary 7 update
Glenn Gabe and Barry Schwartz on Twitter Februrary 7 update

What I mean by low quality is the same Meta description because this is obviously a forum and the other results are all the users in the forum, well I’m assuming that’s what it is. So they’ve all got the same Meta description and have the same page title apart from their names. That would be low quality, as we’re not giving the user enough information within the search results so they can make a decision about which page they want to click on.
I’d love to know a couple of things if you are seeing change around February 7th. Now initially I thought it had something to do with rich results, and I did tweet Barry Schwartz who’d written about it and also Glenn Gabe last week. I asked if they’d seen anything with rich results to which Barry replied, “No.” Glenn thought it had something to do with quality, and with quality updates he said he always sees rich results updated as well, which makes sense. I’m leaning towards the quality.

Google rich results February 7 Update
Google rich results February 7 Update

The reason I was thinking rich results at the time is something you can go and look at yourselves. This is from Search Analytics in Google Search Console. You can just go in and select ‘Search Appearance’ and you may not have the tab below it depending on your site, it depends on whether Google is serving rich results for your searches and those sorts of things. It may not be there. But if it is there, we are looking for ‘Rich Results’ under ‘Search Appearance.’ Look in there and see if you get spikes like this around February 7th. I’d be interested to know if you did.
Then, for certain phrases, if you did have an uptick or a downturn around the same time, (it is hard to go back retrospectively unless you’ve got a tool that’s been tracking this), but if you know for instance that you may have had more than one entry for a certain search result, it might be a good idea to go check that search result to see if it’s changed.
Hopefully that’s helpful. I’ll see you all next week. Bye.

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