Did you notice any changes in your search rankings towards the end of April? If you noticed a difference in the search traffic, maybe it was the Phantom update.

There has been a great deal of speculation regarding this algorithmic update. Google did not issue any warnings before launching Phantom. However, after launching the update, they did confirm it. Google, however, refused to provide more specifics on the impact. While the company has been trying to play it down, the overall impact of this update seems to be significant. Due to all the mystery clouding this update, it has been named Phantom.

Google Phantom targets sites with content problems. Many lawyer websites have been hit by the Phantom update because they had poor content – duplicate content, thin content, scraped content, or affiliate content – on their sites. Many of these sites also had backlink problems. They had too many links coming from a single URL or too many links pointing to a single URL.

Interestingly, many of the websites hit by the Phantom update were not bad sites. Actually, they were authority sites in their niche. Still, they got hit because of some unclear quality issues.

Phantom has changed the way Google assesses quality; however, it is not clear how they assess quality now. With this update, Google created some winners and losers by decreasing the importance of some ranking signals and increasing the importance of others.

Google uses a large number of factors to decide the quality and relevance of a webpage. The relative significance of each one of these factors can change anytime. Actually, this is what happens every time a new update arrives.

Before major updates like Panda and Penguin, Google usually announces a warning. This allows webmasters to prepare their sites for the update. However, the Phantom update was not announced and hence it caught webmasters by surprise. Since this update arrived without warning, some webmasters believe that it did more harm. That said, a warning would not have helped because Google did not change any of its quality guidelines with this update. It still is not clear how the new ranking system works.

Experts believe that Google wants to create a more user-friendly approach and thus gives more importance to content. So if you want to create a high-ranking site, all you have to care about is the user experience. Is the user getting what he wants? Is the content high quality and user-friendly?

SEO experts at Direct Law Strategies keep themselves updated about Google updates. This enables us to reduce the impact Google updates have on our clients’ websites. If your lawyer website has been hit by the Phantom or another Google update, you should get it evaluated by our SEO experts.