Google Algorithm Update in December 2017 Officially Confirmed

The search engine results pages have seen a significant shift since around mid-December 2017, and Google has confirmed that it was indeed down to algorithm updates.

The main implications were:

  • Mobile SERP disruptions
  • Sites with no schema data impacted
  • Doorway page websites impacted

It was reported back on December 14th that something had happened with Google’s algorithm but it had no official announcement or word from Google on the matter.

You can see many people experiencing up to 30% drops in organic traffic, as well as dropping 5 or 6 places in the rankings. And this has continued.

Rankings in the SERPs have been moving around according to multiple sources. Both rankings and the level of organic traffic has been fluctuating since the update was spotted.

At first, changes were seen in the US around December 19th, but then came over the pond to hit the UK, France, Germany, Spain and even Australia.

But overall, the update has had some specific impacts that have not gone unnoticed.

Mobile SERP had the highest volatility, with desktop seeing less change across most categories.

On mobile, auto & vehicles, law & government and reference were the most affected categories.

Hobbies & leisure, science, jobs & education, home& garden, internet & telecom have also been affected on December 19th, with biggest fluctuations on mobile.

So mobile search listings are the most likely to have changed, with some specific industries being hit. It is noteworthy that sites that do not utilise Schema markup have also seen more fluctuation, as well as websites that use doorway pages.

Doorway pages are defined by Google as “are sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries”. These are deemed bad for users browsing Google as they can lead to multiple versions of similar pages in the search results. Each result will then take the user to the same place, or to intermediate pages which are not as useful to the user as the actual destination they are searching for.

Examples include:

  • Multiple domain names/pages targeted at regions/cities that funnel to one page
  • Pages created to funnel site visitors into usable sections of the site
  • Similar pages which are closer to search results than browsable website

As for Schema markup, it is a specific set of tags or microdata which can be added to the HTML of your site, which improves the way your site is represented in the search results. In short, Schema markup helps provide information to search engines, so they can better understand the content of your site. This, in turn, helps users decide which is the most relevant search result for them. This also helps websites and businesses gain more traffic, as they can show more information directly on the search engine result page.

It may be worth checking your rankings to see if you were hit back in December, and whether this has changed since.