The Google Holiday Update Conspiracy Theory

For the past few years, right before the prime 4th quarter holiday selling period, Google pushes out an update that causes an upheaval in the organic SERP’s. This has lead to talk of there being a Google Holiday Update Conspiracy, with the goals of making SEO look bad to drive up Adwords spending. Is there any truth to these rumors or is is just people upset about rankings loss? Let’s take a deeper look at the issue …

First let me preface this with a little background. When I worked as an in house SEO for a large regional retailer many moons ago we had a policy: no new programming goes live on the website between November 1st and January 1st. That was when the company made its greatest profit and, like any smart business, we didn’t want to “break” the checkout process or have some other programming issue mess things up. Later on, we became concerned about not messing with our search engine rankings as well. We wanted to make sure we had our best foot forward, and this is a sentiment shared by businesses today … including Google.

Google doesn’t really care about your rankings … only you do

Google has the same goals you do, giving their customers (ie users) the best product (the best SERPs) during a time of peak search volume. If more people believe they will get better results, more people will use Google and the advertisers will get more exposure for their ads. Your goal of maintaining your rankings during the holiday period doesn’t play a role in Google’s decision making. Google doesn’t really care about your rankings … only you do. Google just wants to give users the overall best results.

So is this a conspiracy on Google’s part to make SEO’s look bad, or to drive up revenue? I’m going to uncharacteristically disagree with Aaron and Peter and say … No I don’t think the holiday update is designed to shake up SEO or drive up adwords revenue.  Those are just nice side bonuses 😉

As I said before, Google knows search volume increases right before the holidays, and they want to make sure they are putting out the best product they can (their SERP’s). Your specific website’s ranking or traffic doesn’t play a role in the decision making process. From Google’s perspective, they want to eliminate spam and be as resistant to manipulation as much as possible, so it makes sense that some “bad,” “aggressive,” or “guideline violating” tactics will get negated. The sad fact is that, with any change, there will likely be some collateral damage of “innocent” websites in the short term, but that will get sorted out down the road. I know that’s not much consolation for a business owner who has seen a 90% drop in traffic, but it’s not personal. There’s no shortage of websites to fill the SERP’s. Sometimes the players just get shuffled around.

Google makes its decisions based on what it thinks is best for users … not publishers …

Does Google engineer these changes to occur right before the holidays to drive up ad revenue?  I don’t think so. Google made instant search to give users results quicker and hopefully have a better user experience. The fact that it helped them make millions of extra dollars in revenue is just a bonus. Google makes its decisions based on what it thinks is best for users … not publishers … The sooner you understand that concept the better. From Google’s perspective, Google’s job isn’t to drive traffic for you to your website, Google’s job is to give users the best results. It’s your job to build a brand or create some other unique service offering that makes people look for you … not just for the generic keywords.

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