Some believe a seismic change is going on at Google with all indications pointing to a big change in the SERPs coming soon. This follows intense activity and greater than usual fluctuations in ranking positions over the last 72 hours.
Source: MozCast / SEO Round Table
In December, Google clarified its position on Penguin. In an unexpected move, it said that the latest version of its long running ranking algorithm wouldn’t be rolled out until early in 2016. It had been expected towards the end of 2015 so the announcement of a grace period caught many by surprise. Some suspected that the delay in launching Penguin was due to fears about the extent of the changes. It was thought the search engine had reconsidered its schedule after worrying that the change would hit many businesses hard right before the critical holiday sales season.
With the Black Friday, Christmas and New Year shopping rush over, speculation is building that Google has already begun to deploy Penguin. Many SEO and industry observers have reported increased flux in rankings, some several times per day and at much higher concentrations than normal, since late last week.
The activity appears to have intensified over the weekend and insiders believe that Google has been quietly testing its new ranking algorithms before it officially rolls out the full version. For the moment it has denied that this is Penguin related.
Image source: SEO Round Table
Google expert Barry Schwartz wrote a special report on the changes, and suggested that the search engine could be running tests on certain users before a full scale deployment. “It might be Google is testing Penguin or some other ranking algorithm change in the search results on a subset of users. And when they are testing it, some users are seeing it and when they come back, the test might not be running. So their rankings jump up or drop down and then it goes back to where it was, like you'd see with any test.”
This theory would explain why some have seen massive changes in their search rankings and results already, while other sites have held steady. This doesn’t mean those sites won’t be hit with changes, just that the new algorithm hasn’t yet been applied to them.
Industry forums have been filled with webmasters live tweeting and commenting their SERP behavior over the weekend. One user on the Webmaster World forum said the changes appeared to be staggered by region.
Have you noticed any changes in your rankings over the weekend or early this week? Are you nervous about the implications of this activity? Let us know in the comments.