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Google Algorithm Updates: Colossus and the Phantom Menace

In the world of SEO, or website ownership in general, it pays to be clued into when Google is doing something new with their search algorithm. We’ll track all the updates like Penguin and Panda and study the notes thoroughly when they’re released and adjust our work and our websites to appeal better to the “new” Google. However, some of their more recent updates this year haven’t been “released” so much as they’ve been secretly put in place, unannounced.


The two new sheriffs in town

The first secretive release in May, known as “Phantom II”, is thought to have been released around May, a “sequel” to another unannounced update from 2013. Meanwhile, in June, we discovered the update now being dubbed “Colossus” or “Newsworthy”. Immediately, both updates changed the landscape of Google’s search engine, with many high-ranking sites dropping out of sight entirely. If you’re looking for a Greeley SEO team, you need one who knows how to get you back on top.


Phantom II

Phantom II focused on site quality above all else. Since its implementation, Google has focused on penalizing sites with indications of a frustrating user experience. This includes elements like no original content, low-value affiliate content (such as clickbait articles without any valuable information), overuse of ads, autoplaying media, and content that has simply been gathered from elsewhere in the net. While Phantom II has since been explained to be built to punish only the specific pages bearing these red flags, many users have complained it causes major traffic loss, fewer conversions, and disappearance from Google SERPs across the entire domain. Regardless of how highly ranked or well-trafficked their keyword use was in the past.



Also known as Newsworthy, this update which arrived secretly in mid-June prioritizes content considered fresh or newsworthy. News sites like Time.com, Forbes.com, and Techcrunch.com benefited greatly, for instance. On the other hand, sites that tended to curate or aggregate content such as UpWorthy and even social media channels like Pinterest suffered drops that could get as high as 70-80% regardless of user experience quality. This update focused solely on penalizing what content was found on other sites, including images and videos, not just written content. Surprisingly to some, the user-generated content once so loved by Google has also taken a hit with Colossus.


Breaking free of the Phantom

These updates can cause real damage to a website and if you’ve suffered a major traffic decrease from Google in either May or June, you might be one of the victims of Phantom II or Colossus. As broad and deep as the updates are, there’s no quick solution to fix the changes. But a long-term strategy focusing on improving user experience and quality, value-riddled content can help you not only get to where you once before, but will give you an advantage over the millions of sites that haven’t yet adapted to Google’s new algorithm changes. Here are a few of the issues that you can start tackling now:

Content: If content is “thin” (no new or helpful information) or duplicated from other pages (including your own), that’s an issue. Especially if you’re using affiliate networks that provide no free new content but just keep pushing the same ads and stories. Start building quality content through a regular blogging schedule, ensuring each post has value to it, whether it’s entertaining, insightful, or educational. Leverage that content through your social media channel to improve its impact.

User Experience: UX is about the whole site. How fast it loads, how easy it is to navigate, whether there are broken links., etc. This is now one of the most harshly punished red flags by Google. Ensure you regularly check your site with free online tools that search specifically for broken content. Have it tested by friends and new users to determine any navigation difficulties. Identify what doesn’t work and simplify it.

User Focus: If you have a high bounce rate, address why that’s the case. Usually, it’s down to the problem of uninspired, low-value content and poor user-experience as mentioned above. Stop thinking just about what appeals to the search engine. Craft the site specifically for the user and fit your SEO plans on top of that. What are their needs or wants and what is your site offering to give them that?

User Content: This might be the hardest to give up for sites that have relied on it, but user-generated content simply isn’t as valuable to Google anymore. If it keeps traffic coming, you don’t necessarily have to get rid of it. You might, however, have to start producing your own content alongside it. What’s more, ensure you stay on top of spammer, bots, and abusive users with clear community guidelines and verification methods to stop bots from digging their way in.

We know it can be hard to stay on top of all the changes that Google likes to throw at website owners. If these latest algorithm updates or any others are giving you trouble you can understand, get in touch, and as the chief Fort Collins SEO team we can help you find the way to get back on Google’s good side.

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