Google Christmas Updates Are Back?

I have always preached the value of experiencing SEO for yourself before you preach. All good SEO or conversion types learn quickly that any information without substantial grounds for such belief is counterproductive and in some cases maybe purposely misleading. I had told an up and coming SEO strategist once to pick some SERPS that mean something to you in a competitive space and watch them every single day. When you learn the pattern, behaviors and attributes of every website in the top 40 or so for one SERP you can often apply this knowledge to all SERPS. It is in essence an algorithm and math we are trying to decode and it will apply consistently in most cases to all SERPS or similar nature.

So today was one of those teachable moments. A moment that appears shared by many others who felt the change on the same day, some who cry foul and others that are preaching the old cliché, “content is king” style explanations.

Content always seems to be much “King-ier” before Christmas.

One of my web properties is a very good EMD (Exact Match Domain) in the medical space. Medical is a nice niche as the AdSense clicks, advertising demand and value of a ranked site are very high.

This site makes a nice steady $100 to $190 per month in ad revenue and clicks for the last year, not a superstar, but free money and little time spent is pure profit.

This philosophy helped me to immediately recognize a “disturbance in the force” as the SERPS had drastically changed.

First stop is Google Analytics, where we find this flat line drop-off that would be consistent with Google changing the SERPS but BING staying steady and supplying their small contribution as usual.

November 26th google update

So my suspicions are confirmed from what I caught by being educated in my SERPS that I use as benchmarks. Next stop is MOZCAST, which is SEOMOZ of the MOZ tracking of many indictors of SERP volatility to track the overall volatility in one single metric.

SEO Moz for November 2013

Upon checking about 10 more domains I control, I saw some glitches that weekend, but of course  it is a holiday weekend so any small changes are skewed by the fact that it is a non traditional traffic day. Also to this point, when you see this action in the EMD and PMD realm, what does that leave? It leaves proper noun brand names and websites that are not built around a topic or phrase but around an established brand.

Not science by any means, but when you see what went down, what is left to go (or remain) up?

My main domain that saw so much position loss was an EMD, with 5 pages of content and answers to a searchers questions, but an EMD nonetheless. So lets look at the EMD volatility metric on MOZCAST.

Exact match domain penalty

Now this does not tell a complete story or give us causation, just correlation. Let’s assume that we can find a trend of exact match domains dropping during this time period, that still does not mean they were “penalized”. Too often “guru-wannabes” 2 years out of getting their Art Degrees scream such things, but there is one important thing to know about organic search.

SERPS Change for 2 reasons.

When analyzing a change understand that something going down can also be the cause of something going up, and is almost always a combination of the two. My first notion here is Google once again having a high level boardroom meeting and turning the dial in favor of the large online brands right before Christmas. Let us not pretend there is no phone calls between media outlets, the White House and the top positions at all important information control centers like Google.

When I turn on CNN it is the “economic growth indicators” like how Amazon, and eBay are doing this holiday season, and what it means for the country. And, not to sound like a tin foil hat, but Google has more control over the success of such companies than anyone working there will ever have.

Think I’m crazy? A nice piece by SEO Giant Aaron Wall on the same subject that cites many further reading. And if you caught a lot of bad publicity from performing this type of update at Christmas in the past, when better to do it than during a weekend of already skewed statistics for webmasters?

“5 watch brands jumped onto the first page of search results for watches. To be honest I have never heard of Nixon Now.” .. “ recently started ranking for electronics and just recently started ranking for gifts.”..

But, I am not trying to spin the conspiracy further about Google timing updates that benefit large brands every Christmas, but it is food for thought. There are two ways to make large brands have a merry Christmas, tweak the weighting system to benefit them, or tweak it to devalue everyone else.

Just in time for the holidays! Big Shock.

NOTE: Before anyone else thinks of it, know that I have already thought of the fact that MOZCAST and my personal observations could also be the effect of the holiday on the natural SERPS. The inclusion of social factors into ranking over the past few years, and recent increases in social media by major brands could have this effect with Black Friday Weekend (also a good excuse to hide an update there).

One hugely successful HASHTAG/Social campaign for black Friday by a major brand could spike their rankings on its’ own (perhaps). But the across the board changes don’t suggest it is something so simple. Not everyone got a huge social push this holiday season.


About author

Todd Kron

of Sellaholics is a veteran of Analytics, PPC, Display, video, UX, conversion optimization, affiliate programs, web design and web programming since 2002. My background includes affiliate sales to 6 figures, director of a web design agency, and currently the digital manager for a leading energy company located in Huntersville, NC. From search to sale 1000 different ways is my background. Sellaholics is a Google Partner Agency.