If you’ve had your ear to the SEO ground over the last few weeks, you may have heard about a recent Google algorithm updated that has been dubbed Google Phantom. Why the name? Because initially Google denied any update at all.

What’s the Phantom Update?

Here’s the sequence of events and timing:

  • On May 3, industry experts noticed some unexplained changes to Google’s search results. Chatter started immediately, and Google denied any changes on their end.
  • However, on May 19 Google confirmed they’d made some changes to their core ranking algorithm, specifically how it process quality signals.
  • Google stated that the recent change didn’t go after any particular class of sites or any specific websites. It was an update to the overall ranking algorithm itself.

Thus far, some sites like credit/loan websites and some informational/how-to websites like About.com and eHow.com reported dips in visibility. At the same time other similar sites and some news sites reported gains in visibility. Without any consistent direction, it’s been theorized that this new update, since renamed the Quality Update, might be correlated with previous Panda algorithm updates. Panda was intended to filter out poor quality content from search results.

What To Do About the Phantom (Quality) Update

  • Continue to optimize your website for the user, such as:
    • Use intuitive and plain navigation
    • Ensure a simple, concise URL structure
    • Utilize internal links to connect relevant and related pages
  • Continue to create deep, informative, useful, and varied site content, that:
    • Satisfies a question
    • Solves a problem
    • Entertains visitors
    • Provides a resource or reference
  • Continue to do on-site optimization, including:
    • Writing unique, relevant, descriptive page titles and meta descriptions
    • Optimizing headers (h1s and h2s) to help search engines understand the content structure
    • Utilizing schema.org structured data markup to help search engine understand content intent
  • Continue optimizing page content according to Google Webmaster Guidelines
  • Ensure your website is mobile-friendly

Follow all of the guidelines above and you should be all set. You should consistently be auditing your website to ensure that you are following best practices and, generally, you'll be all right.