June 2016 Google Algorithm Update – Analysis and Findings (But Was It Panda or Another Quality Update?)

June 2016 Google Algorithm Update

{Updated on 7/4/16 with additional information and screenshots based on the impact from the June algorithm update.}
{Updated on 7/6/16 with  information about the gain or loss of rich snippets based on the June update.}
{Updated on 7/11/16 with information about Penguin 4.0 from Google’s John Mueller.}

Summer is here, and it could be a hot one. Earlier this month I noticed some major volatility, which led me to believe there could be a major update brewing. For example, I tweeted this last week:

Increase During June 2016 Google Algo Update

That’s a huge swing for that website, so I definitely took notice. Also, there was a connection with the November 2015 update (Phantom 3), so I was interested to see if there were more examples like it. Well, the past few days yielded even more volatility, with some websites surging and others dropping. And after digging into more drops and surges, it’s pretty clear that Google rolled out a major algo update in June.

June Algo Update – Important Dates
Specifically, I saw movement on June 1, June 8, June 21, and then more movement on June 26. Now, I’ve covered many times that Google can roll out an update followed by a number of “tremors”, which are tweaks to the algo to fine tune the results. We could be seeing those with the most recent volatility. In addition, a number of sites have either gained or lost rich snippets based on the update, which is eerily similar to previous quality updates. For example, I saw that happen with the November 2015 update (AKA Phantom 3). More about that soon.

Examples of Impact (Positive and Negative)
Before I continue, I wanted to provide a few screenshots of the impact I’m seeing. It’s all over the board. Some sites surged, others tanked, others surged then tanked, and vice versa. There’s a lot of movement going on right now, that’s for sure.

Decrease Then Increase During June 2016 Google Algorithm Update

Steady Decrease During June Google Algorithm Update

Increase During June 26 Google Algorithm Update

Surge During June 21 Google Algo Update With Decline on June 27

Increase During June 21 Algo Update With Decrease on June 26

Major drop during June 21 Google Algorithm Update
And here are some screenshots displaying the connection with previous quality updates (AKA Phantom):

Positive impact during Phantom 3 and negative impact during the June 2016 update.

Negative impact during Phantom 3 and positive impact during the June update.

Rich Snippets Impacted (Again)

As I mentioned earlier, a number of sites have either gained or lost rich snippets based on the June algorithm update. That is exactly what we saw with previous quality updates, especially the November 2015 update. Google has always said there’s a quality threshold for receiving rich snippets, so it makes complete sense that a “quality update” would yield the gain or loss of rich snippets. That’s a really big deal for websites in a competitive space. Rich snippets can absolutely impact click through rate (CTR), so a combination of lost rankings with a loss of rich snippets (for rankings that remain) can equal big losses for those websites. Not good. But on the flip side, some sites gained rich snippets.

Rich snippets impacted during the June 2016 Google algorithm update.
If you want to learn more about this, then check out my post about how rich snippets (including review, how-to, and FAQ snippets) can be impacted during major algorithm updates.

What Are We Dealing With? Penguin, Panda, Phantom, or another animal?
In March, I documented a series of updates that looked extremely Panda-like to me. It was the first time in a long time that I could say that. Also, we learned last week from Gary Illyes that each Panda cycle can take months. It’s part of Google’s core ranking algorithm, it continuously rolls out, but it can take months to complete a cycle. So, if this is Panda, it does make sense timing-wise. We are a few months out from March (enough time for the previous cycle to complete).

Then we have Google’s quality updates (AKA Phantom). That’s where Google made a change to how it assesses “quality”. We saw Phantom 2 in May of 2015, then the September 2015 updates, which looked connected to Phantom 2. And then we saw what many called Phantom 3 in November of 2015. That was a big update with major connections to previous quality updates.

So what are we seeing here? It’s hard to say… it could be Panda, or it could be Phantom (a quality update). I was initially leaning towards a quality update, but after analyzing more data, it very well could be Panda. Regardless, it looks quality-based (content quality, horrible user experience problems, aggressive advertising, usability barriers, etc.) These are problems I have seen while analyzing both Panda and Phantom over the past several years.

Also, I know sites that worked hard to fix some of those problems that increased during the June updates. So again, in my opinion, I believe this was a quality update or Panda.

The big question is did this have anything to do with Penguin? That’s always possible, but I don’t think so. First, I’m not seeing signs of links causing problems. More about that soon. Second, Google did say it would announce Penguin 4, so I’m not sure this had anything to do with our cute, black and white icy friend. I guess we’ll see if Google explains more about this update over time.

Update: Google confirms that Penguin 4.0 has not rolled out:
In a Google Webmaster Hangout on July 8th, John Mueller confirmed that Penguin 4.0 has not rolled out. This didn’t surprised me at all based on what I’ve been explaining about a quality update, but it’s good to hear Google confirm that Penguin 4.0 hasn’t rolled out yet (so it did not cause any of the volatility that was seen with the June update). You can watch the video to hear it directly from John (at 55:02 in the YouTube video}.
John Mueller confirms Penguin 4.0 has not rolled out.

Problems and Potential Factors
I’ll quickly cover some of the problems and potential factors I saw while analyzing sites that saw negative and positive impact. Note, this is not an exhaustive list of problems and factors, but ones that stood out to me based on my experience analyzing algorithm updates like this one. These were also some of the most interesting situations I saw during my travels.

Sponsored Posts ABOVE The Content
Talk about a usability nightmare. Seeing a large list of sponsored thumbnails linking to third party sites at the top of the article is not exactly the best approach for users. And this site got hammered during the June update. It’s ok to provide content recommendations to third parties, but don’t overdo it. If you do, you could end up getting hammered.

2/3 Ads, 1/3 Content
Boy, is that a recipe for disaster. Checking a site that dropped significantly yielded pages with two thirds ads and one third content. Below the main content there were many, many ads. It was overwhelming, even for someone like me who analyzes this stuff on a regular basis. And this was occurring all over the site. Then boom, June arrived, along with an algo update. Not good.

Answering Questions, Barely
There was a site focused on Q&A that had many ultra-thin pages. Some with no answer, some with ridiculous answers that clearly wouldn’t be helpful for people, etc. I dug into a number of queries and landing pages that dropped and I can see why. Forum and Q&A content can have high quality content, but site owners must manage content properly. For example, don’t let every post be indexable… Only index your highest quality content.

Generic Content, Ads Weaved Into Main Content (MC)
I analyzed one site that seemed to have provided very generic content that could be found many other places (for the topic at hand). Actually, it looked like they took publicly available information and slightly rewrote it. And then they weaved ads into the content (the ads matched the content enough that I almost clicked the ads thinking it was the content on the page). This was going on all over the site.

Interesting Situation -> Desktop Horrible, Mobile OK
I checked one site that saw a major increase during the June update that got hit by the November 2015 update. When checking the desktop version of the site, it looked like minor changes had been made. That had me wondering why the site recovered. In other words, it still wasn’t a great user experience. But, checking on mobile yielded a much smoother, less aggressive approach. I’m not saying this was 100% why they surged back, but we know mobile is incredibly important, and their user experience and advertising situation was much, much better on mobile than desktop. Just an interesting side note.

Indexing Issues – Collateral Damage
A site I’ve been monitoring that went through some major changes this spring just dropped significantly on 6/21 and then more on 6/26.  There was a big indexing issue based on robots.txt problems, which may have led to Google simply not being able to understand a lot of content on the site. The site has had quality problems in the past, but really turned things around a few years ago. The changes this spring, along with the indexing problems, seem to have led to a drop during the June algorithm update. Be careful when you make serious changes to your site. You could become collateral damage. Scary, but very possible.

Opening Reviews The Right Way
Another site that saw an increase had made some major changes with how it handled reviews for products. In the past, they canonicalized all review pages to the first page. That means Google would not index those additional pages, and all of those reviews. They began using a stronger approach using rel next/prev and the proper use of rel canonical across the reviews. That’s across every product on the site. More quality user reviews means more quality content overall. And enabling Google to consolidate indexing properties from across the reviews can help as well. There was a 60% increase in indexation (of quality content that’s connected via rel next/prev).

And I saw much more…
I can keep going here, but based on what I’ve seen, the update looks content quality and user engagement-based versus inbound links-based. And regarding Phantom versus Panda, they are very similar factor-wise, so it’s hard to say 100% that it was a quality update versus Panda, or vice versa.

I’ll post additional updates as I learn more. Again, this looks like a big one. Check your stats. :)

Summary – A Hot Start To The Summer Algo-wise?
To quickly recap, there was major volatility in June, especially on specific dates like 6/1, 6/8, 6/21, and 6/26. The algorithm update looks like a “quality update” or a Panda update based on what I’ve seen.  Remember, we haven’t seen a Panda-looking update since March, so it’s definitely possible. And regarding Penguin, we are still waiting for Penguin 4.0 to roll out. I don’t think this is what we are seeing, based on everything I documented above. I’ll try and learn more about the June update and share what I can. Good luck.


30 thoughts on “June 2016 Google Algorithm Update – Analysis and Findings (But Was It Panda or Another Quality Update?)”

    • Thanks for the info Nicolas. That’s good to know. Regarding which algo it was, it’s really hard to say if it was Panda or Phantom… The timing makes sense for Panda (based on the last cycle), but it very well could be a quality update too.

      The more sites I analyze, the more I”m leaning towards Panda. Regardless, it seemed heavily focused on content quality, usability barriers, aggressive advertising, etc. All important things that webmasters should review. :)

        • Right, I have now seen overwhelming evidence that rich snippets were impacted during the June update. I updated this post to include more information about that. I saw sites lose or gain rich snippets after the update rolled out, which now makes me believe this was a quality update. I saw the same thing during previous quality updates! :)

  1. So Panda hits and recoveries apply same time for every affected website? Or Panda individually collects information for each website and we can see recoveries/hits anytime for anywebsite,not on a specific date?

    • Panda is continuously rolling, and could takes months per cycle (as Gary Illyes explained last week). The last Panda update IMO was in March (see the link in my post to the March 2016 algo update). That looked extremely Panda-like to me. And since each cycle takes months, the timing makes a lot of sense for Panda.

      It’s hard to say if this was indeed Panda or if it was another quality update (Phantom). I’m leaning towards Panda based on analyzing more sites. Regarding when you can see impact, theoretically it could happen at any point while Panda is rolling out (during the cycle). So if we are seeing Panda, then we’re probably not done yet impact-wise. I saw more movement today based on the update… I hope that helps.

      • Thanks for the answer! My website was hit in December/January. I started making big changes in March. So It’s been more than 3 months for me to expect a recovery. No changes for me, yet. Flat traffic, lost rankings are stable.

        • The January update was a core ranking update (looked like a quality update). So that’s not Panda. But there’s typically a lot of work that has to be done when impacted by a core update like that. And then Google needs to recrawl the site, understand the changes over time, etc. Then you have a chance at recovery. I hope that helps.

  2. Thank you for the headsup. Very interesting. I particularly liked the part where you identified the issue using, “…ones that stood out to me based on my experience analyzing algorithm updates like this one. ” Gunna start digging around and see what I see. Hmmm.

    • Thanks Jennifer. It’s always important to analyze a number of sites impacted by an algo update to see the queries and landing pages dropping. And then to dig into those areas to see what’s going on. For example, what common problems are there, is it a content quality situation, user experience situation, a combination of both, inbound link problems, etc?

      By the way, I added some screenshots yesterday showing the connection with previous quality updates. Hard to say if it was Panda or Phantom, but there were many sites impacted by the June update that also saw significant movement during Phantom 3 in November of 2015 and Phantom 2 in May of 2015. Very interesting. :)

  3. Hi Glen – thanks for your in-depth analysis of the June algo changes.

    We are based in Australia, so don’t always see the algo changes at the same times you report above, however we did notice a dip in SEMRush on the 26th June. We are working hard to bounce back from a suspected Panda hit in 2014 – so to have this impact us seems like a real set-back, and really out of the blue because we have made so many improvements.

    Recently, I noticed a change in our Title’s in the SERP’s. I understand Google will make changes to Titles where it sees necessary to make the Titles more representative of what they see on the page. However the changes I noted are in relation to our Site Name suffix.

    We added ‘ | Site Name’ as a suffix to all of our page titles at least 12 months ago. They have been re-indexed and like that ever since. It’s only recently that Google has started adding ‘ – The Site Name’ suffix to the end of almost all of our Titles in the SERPs. So our Titles look like this in the SERPS: ‘Descriptive Title of Page | Site Name – The Site Name’.

    Do you think Google is having an issue with the quality of our Title tags? Could this be what has affected us on the 26/6?

    Let me know if you’d like anymore information and I can email it through to you.

    • Hey, thx for your comment. No, I don’t think adding a suffix to your titles impacted quality at all. If you were impacted by the recent update, I would take a hard look at the top pages receiving organic search traffic. Then dig into to objectively analyze content quality, user experience, the advertising situation, etc. I would make sure the content meets user expectations based on their queries. That’s ultra-important, especially from a Panda perspective.

      You can read my previous posts about Phantom and Panda to get a solid idea of what the potential problems could be. Unfortunately, there could be many possible things causing problems… which is why a deep analysis of the site in question is extremely important. But I highly doubt that slightly changing your title tags would cause any problems at all. :)

      • Hi Glen – and thanks for your reply. I did think that it would be an odd reason for the algo to have an affect – but I guess it was just a strange coincident.

        We have just under 300,000 pages indexed by Google, predominantly made up of our active Forum, followed by Articles, Reviews and an Online Directory. As we saw an organic hit across the whole site, from your suggestions above, I would lean more towards this being an advertising issue. As content quality and user experience varies across the site, but advertising would be the most constant element on our site. Would that be a fair assumption to make? Our advertising isn’t over-the-top, but if it’s an issue – obviously it will have to be reviewed.

        • Hey, no problem. It’s hard to say what the problems are without analyzing the site. I will tell you that forums have unique challenges when it comes to content quality. Heavy moderation is extremely important to ensure only high quality posts and comments are indexable. I would definitely take a hard look there.

          And then make sure reviews are being handled properly. They also help make up the content on the page, so low quality reviews or comments can impact the site content quality-wise. I haven’t seen your articles, but make sure they are meeting user expectations, they are high quality, etc. Regarding your advertising situation, ensure your approach isn’t overly aggressive, annoying, and sending users screaming from your site. :)

          Again, it’s really hard to say what the core problems are without heavily analyzing the site, but I would definitely check those areas. I hope that helps.

          • Hi Glen – totally understand it’s hard to draw conclusions without knowing the full story. We weren’t really impacted by the November 2015 algo change, and with not much changing in the way of how we handle the forum, articles, and reviews since that time – it’s hard to see why we are being impacted now. The Site has been running since 2002 – so we have seen many ups and down, but really been hit hard the last couple of years – the main one in May 2014 (Panda). We made some big changes in 2014 to remedy that hit – and in many ways still waiting to bounce back.

            Our Forum is moderated, but not to the extent of selectively noindexing certain threads – that would be a hell of a job – but that’s SEO…

            I will analyse further with all the details you have given above – it’s great to have feedback from someone with such an in-depth understanding. We follow your twitter/blog for any and all updates and really do appreciate you taking the time to give us feedback.

    • Good question. The quality rater guidelines were last updated in March of 2016. They haven’t been updated since then. But, there is a ton of great information there that mentions many of the problems I come across while analyzing sites impacted by algorithm updates (like Panda, Phantom, etc.) I highly recommend reading through the guidelines for anyone that hasn’t yet. It contains a boatload of important information.

      • So ‘phantom update’ is connected with guidelines, they change guidelines, raters click based on new guidelines, they train neural networks on new input and see how things look and then run it on entire web.

        • Not necessarily. I’ve just found that “quality updates” (AKA Phantom) were focused more on user experience than low quality content. And the rater guidelines cover many examples of what can be considered a low quality site (or content that doesn’t meet user expectations).

          So I guess my recommendation would be to read the guidelines, objectively analyze your site from a user experience and content quality perspective, perform a deep crawl analysis to help surface potential problems, and then tackle the problems you find. You should also read my other posts about both Panda and Phantom. I cover a lot of nuances between the two and potential things you can do to help your situation.

  4. Hi Glenn, Thanks for this…not seeing anyone else talking about this much yet. I’m looking at two sites that were potentially impacted by this. Did you happen to also notice a sudden change in the number of pages crawled per day? On one of the sites, traffic dropped significantly around June 21 and again around June 27. Early in June I saw a substantial decrease in pages crawled per day in GSC. I normally don’t pay too much attention to fluctuations in crawler activity but this one has me concerned because of the correlation to the dates you reported movement.

    • Hi Clark. I didn’t see that happen on many sites impacted by the update. There were a few sites that did show a surge or drop in crawl activity in mid-June, but that could have been caused by other changes for those sites. Google has explained in the past that crawl activity wouldn’t mean an algo update is about to happen. They also explained that those changes are typically caused by other reasons (more technical SEO-based). I hope that helps.

  5. Why would a site that benefited from the Nov 2015 update be punished with the latest one?

    The case of a site punished in Nov then recovering makes more sense.

    • Totally depends on the site and the situation. For example, let’s say a site surged during the November update and then fell back to old tactics. If they kept that up, and Google saw a decrease in quality, user experience, etc., then they could get hit during a future quality update. That’s just one example, and there are other situations that could yield a future hit.

      And then for others, they could be sitting in the gray area of the algo, always close to either getting hit or surging. Again, it’s different for every site. :) I hope that helps.

  6. Hi Glenn, Thank you for the info and updates. its good to see the confirmation from google that this is not penguin 4.
    You mentioned specifically a site that has updated its reviews section to work much better. specifically using rel prev and next and then you mention they changed to proper use of canonicals. could you elaborate a little on that please. How are they now using canonicals within the reviews pages. are they to self instead of to the main page?

    • Thanks Simon. I might cover that topic in a future post, so stay tuned. It would make for a really long comment. :) But the proper use of rel next/prev + rel canonical helped yield more quality content for Google to index (and tie together). It was an important change for that site.

  7. Thanks Glenn – Saw the March update in Feb site went up double and it gained hundreds of thousands of users a day. Also noticed a small increase around the June 25th/26th mention. Appreciate these analysis. Since Matt left I find your pieces on algo updates to be the most accurate.

    • Hey, thanks Kristine. I appreciate it. And glad to hear the site you mentioned saw such a nice surge during the March update and then more during the June update. Both were significant updates and both were tied to quality. I just think the March update looked very Panda-like to me, while the June update looked more like a quality update. Anyway, great to hear you saw positive movement! :)

  8. One question: The site that opened the reviews saw an increase in indexation only? Or in traffic as well?

Comments are closed.