On August 10, 2020, Google’s index went a little haywire.
Many SEOs began to notice pretty substantial fluctuations in their rankings that, frankly, didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Recipe results are a disaster. Half the SERPs aren’t even returning the search query. I really hope this gets fixed ASAP! A search for “paleo chocolate cake” is returning chicken, oatmeal and ice cream! pic.twitter.com/5ckp1Vhx7d— Lisa Bryan (@Downshiftology) August 11, 2020
While some attributed the volatility to an algorithm update early on, others assumed that the strangeness they were seeing on the SERP must have been the result of a bug.
Turns out, they were right.
A few hours after the chatter began, Google’s John Mueller commented that, although he didn’t yet have all the details, the volatility seemed to be a glitch on their end.
I don’t have all the details yet, but it seems like this was a glitch on our side and has been fixed in the meantime.— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) August 11, 2020
If someone could fix the other 2020-issues, that would be great.
The next day, Google’s official Webmasters account confirmed that it was, in fact, an indexing glitch and said they had fixed the problem.
On Monday we detected an issue with our indexing systems that affected Google search results. Once the issue was identified, it was promptly fixed by our Site Reliability Engineers and by now it has been mitigated.— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) August 11, 2020
Thank you for your patience!
If you’ve taken a peek at your ranking and organic search traffic reports and noticed a dip on August 10th that’s prompted you to ask “Was there an algorithm update?” the answer is no. The volatility you may have experienced on August 10th was the result of a temporary indexing bug that Google has since fixed.
No action needed on your part.
The indexing bug was a good opportunity to explain how Google’s indexing system, Caffeine, works.
Google’s Gary Illyes took to Twitter to break it down for us.
The indexing system, Caffeine, does multiple things:— Gary 鯨理／경리 Illyes (@methode) August 11, 2020
1. ingests fetchlogs,
2. renders and converts fetched data,
3. extracts links, meta and structured data,
4. extracts and computes some signals,
5. schedules new crawls,
6. and builds the index that is pushed to serving.
He explained that the process we know as indexing is actually comprised of multiple steps, such as:
Knowing how much goes into the indexing process makes it easier to understand why something could go wrong on occasion.
If anything goes wrong during the indexing process, there would be downstream effects on rankings, traffic from Google/Organic, and ultimately, your conversions.
That’s why it’s so important to understand the SEO funnel. Anything that goes wrong at one step has an impact on all following steps.
That’s why we can’t assume that ranking fluctuations are always the result of an algorithm update or an on-page change we made.
Ranking fluctuations could be the result of an indexing bug, like we saw on August 10th, or because a page was accidentally noindexed or blocked from crawlers.
If you notice volatility in your rankings, it’s normal to wonder if there was an algorithm update. However, Google confirms all their Core Algorithm Updates, as they did with their last one: the May 2020 Core Update.
Later today, we are releasing a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year. It is called the May 2020 Core Update. Our guidance about such updates remains as we’ve covered before. Please see this blog post for more about that:https://t.co/e5ZQUAlt0G— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) May 4, 2020
So, what’s the difference between updates and bugs?
Indexing bugs and algorithm updates aren’t the only reason your rankings for a query or a group of queries could be fluctuating.
Here are some other reasons why your rankings may have changed:
If your rankings dropped, we recommend looking into all possible options. Ask yourself questions such as:
You may also be interested in this roundtable discussion with the SEO managers at T-Mobile and Walmart: Algo Updates, Volatility, & How to Roll with the Punches in SEO — check it out on demand!