Looks Like Google Rolled Out a Small Algorithm Update on February 18th, 2020

Algorithm Update, February 18th, 2020.
Algorithm Update, February 18th, 2020. CREDIT: CANVA
Jonathan Griffin
By Jonathan Griffin, Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.

The SERP trackers have shown increased volatility around the 18th of February, which, when combined with chatter on various SEO forums, indicate that a small Google update has taken place.

It’s difficult to know what the update is targeting, but Health, Finance, Law & Government, and Beauty & Fitness sectors were most affected. These are sectors that typically require a lot of Expertise, Authority, and Trust (EAT), so it may be an update to that part of the algorithm. I cover this in more detail later.

What do the SERP Trackers say?

Let’s take a look at the SERP trackers for the 18th of February, 2020:

SEMrush Sensor:

The SEMrush Sensor shows a couple of interesting things. Firstly, as you would expect, there was a high level of volatility on the 18th of February, 2020.

SEMrush Sensor, 18th of February, 2020.
SEMrush Sensor, 18th of February, 2020. CREDIT: SEMRUSH.

Secondly, digging a little deeper into some of the SERP features over the same period, the occurrence of Featured Snippets dropped by around 3% on the 15th of February. While this ** doesn’t quite align** with the SERP volatility on the 18th, it is nevertheless interesting.

Rank Risk Index:

The Rank Risk Index indicates the Google update was much smaller than implied by the SEMrush Sensor, although the volatility is more evenly spread over two days.

Rank Ranger Risk Index, 18th of February, 2020.
Rank Ranger Risk Index, 18th of February, 2020. CREDIT: RANK RANGER.

The Rank Risk Index confirms the drop in featured snippets in the SERPs, as well as a decline in the Video Carousel.

There also appears to be an increase in the number of results in the SERPs using HTTPS, but the scale is relatively small on that point, so the movement seems greater than it is.

Rank Ranger Risk SERP features, 18th of February, 2020.
Rank Ranger Risk SERP features, 18th of February, 2020. CREDIT: RANK RANGER.

I’m hesitant to say the SERP features cause the volatility, though. The dates do not quite match up.

MozCast:

The MozCast weather report shows the volatility a day earlier (the 17th of February) than the other trackers.

Mozcast 17th of February, 2020.
Mozcast 17th of February, 2020. CREDIT: MOZ.

Algoroo:

The Algoroo SERP tracker does not show much volatility in contrast to the other trackers.

Algoroo, 18th of February, 2020.
Algoroo, 18th of February, 2020. CREDIT: ALGAROO.

SERPMetrics:

The SERPmetrics report is interesting in that you can display the volatility for both the first page results and the top 100. The volatility appears much higher for the top 10 results, with it looking reasonably quiet over the top 100.

It almost makes you wonder if the Featured Snippets reduction is having a small impact, as it would affect the first page more.

Top 100:

SERPMetrics Top 100, 18th of February, 2020.
SERPMetrics Top 100, 18th of February, 2020. CREDIT: SERPMETRICS.

First page:

SERPMetrics First Page, 18th of February, 2020.
SERPMetrics First Page, 18th of February, 2020. CREDIT: SERPMETRICS.

Advanced Web Ranking:

Advanced Web Ranking shows some volatility on the 18th, increasing further into the 19th of February.

Advanced Web Ranking, 19th of February, 2020.
Advanced Web Ranking, 19th of February, 2020. CREDIT: ADVANCED WEB RANKINGS.

CognitiveSEO SIGNALS:

CognitiveSEO SIGNALS shows a very small increase in volatility.

CognitiveSEO SIGNALS, 18th of February, 2020.
CognitiveSEO SIGNALS, 18th of February, 2020. CREDIT: COGNITIVESEO SIGNALS.

Chatter in the SEO community indicates a Google Update took place

Let’s take a look at the discussions on WebmasterWorld for this update.

I spoke too soon regarding my conversions. Now traffic and conversions are back in the toilet.

Looks like SERP tools are reporting high volatility today. Are we beginning another round of 5+ days of massive changes? (glakes)

Nice increase in traffic since January, but suddenly a significant drop this weekend (and still going). cite>(MarvinG)

Articles are indexing slowly since yesterday. Anyone with the same problem? cite>(MayankParmar)

Google just killed my website, from 825k organic daily search to only 3.6k yesterday. All my kw’s disappear, anyone having same issues ? cite>(StupidAI)

Two days of conversion rates above 2% for organic traffic, now I’m back down to .75% today. What a mess.. cite>(glakes)

While a few people are discussing the update, there appears to be little consensus on what it is targeting or why they lost rankings.

Who does the Update Effect?

One of the most telling indications of what this Google Update is targeting is from the Category Deviation chart from SEMrush:

SEMrush Sensor Deviation of Categories 18th February, 2020.
SEMrush Sensor Deviation of Categories 18th February, 2020. CREDIT: SEMRUSH.

Many of the sectors most hit appear to be YMYL topics or topics that could impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety. As such, I would look at this aspect if this update hit you.

A summary of YMYL topics can be seen in the Google Raters Guidelines, which has recently been updated:

Google Raters Guidelines - YMYL definition.
Google Raters Guidelines - YMYL definition. CREDIT: GOOGLE.

While it is useful to look at categories, you should bear in mind that Google Algorithm Updates targets types of queries, not categories per se.

So from our point of view it’s usually not the case that we would say we need to do something specific to make the search results better for one particular industry but rather we look at it I had the other way around and try to think about ways that we can improve search results with regards to relevance for users with specific types of queries.

What to do if this update hits you

Whether this update targets YMYL categories or something more general, doesn’t really matter. The advice I will give you is the same.

That advice is to read the Google Raters Guidelines in its entirety.

There is some excellent guidance relating to E-A-T and content quality in the guide. More importantly, the advice comes straight from Google.