It’s no secret that Google releases upwards of 500 algorithm updates every year. Many fly under the radar unnoticed and others, like the Panda, Penguin and mobile update, have more publicity. Recently, what is now being dubbed the Phantom 2 update has been implemented without warning and has caused a large impact on websites. Some sites saw Google organic traffic sway 10-20%, either up or down due to the latest Phantom update.

History of the Phantom Update

In May of 2013 while the SEO community prepared for the Penguin 2.0 update that targeted unnatural links, a different, unannounced update swooped in and seemed to affect content quality. Digital marketing expert Glenn Gabe coined the term Phantom due to its mysterious feel and the way it flew under the radar. Gabe has also done extensive research on the latest significant, unnamed update, calling it Phantom 2.

Effects of the Phantom 2 Update

  • This update wasn’t part of the 4/21 mobile algorithm update, as it impacted both mobile and desktop rankings
  • Like the Phantom 1 update in 2013, this update seems to focus on content quality problems
  • Many of the sites affected have battled Panda updates in the past
  • Sites seem to have a Google organic traffic swing either 10-20% up or down
  • Tag pages with large lists of links sending users and bots from one horrible page to another and sites with invasive popup ads decreased in rank
  • Pages affected were thin, having only a few paragraphs of copy and the primary content was surrounded by low quality supplementary content
  • Low quality pages with many stacked videos had a negative impact on user experience
  • Sites with poor design and low quality user generated content (like blog comments) saw a decrease in traffic


From what we’ve learned about the Phantom 2 update, it’s clear that both content quality and user experience are ranking signals of great importance to Google and their mission to create a better Internet.
What can you do if the Phantom 2 update has affected your business’ website? Audit your website to ensure it meets Google’s best practices for user experience. Examine your site for quality content and plan to fix issues you find as soon as possible.
Quality content and user experience continue to increase in importance. At Savy, we suggest having unique, quality content on every page that’s optimized for the best performance. Integrate a blog of new content on a regular basis. User experience comes from having an easily navigable site with a design that makes the product accessible and the site easy to use. A great user experience paired with quality content should make your site immune, or at least prepared, to face any Phantom update Google throws out next.