Anyone who read my previous blog post about my prediction of a major algorithm change (which was way off) knows that I track keywords using a little tool that I created. It gives me a variance figure that gives me an idea of how volatile the current SERP positions are (read the article to get more information about how the tool works). The higher the variance, the more change there has been to my keywords that tend to stay in fairly stable SERP positions. When the variance is high, I can make a pretty logical guess that something is going on over at the Googleplex.
A variance of 5-10 is fairly normal, and figures as high as 20 usually show some minor change in the SERPs, possibly because of a small algo change by the engineers over at Google. In the last week, I've run the test on my little application three times, and all three results showed a variance of at least 20. This morning's test showed a variance of 61, a number I've never seen before, and 26 points higher than any previous test. There are a couple of possibilities:
- Google engineers are testing a small/medium/large algorithm change
- Some seriously heavy hitters in the industries for which my keywords are targeted (about six of them) are pushing the SERPs around with some brute force SEO tactics.
- The datacenter I use is being updated, and the SERPs are bouncing around during the update.
I don't take option 2 seriously, for the simple fact that no one should/could/would have the power to manipulate the SERPs to that degree.
If option 1 is the reason, dare I say that we'll be seeing a toolbar update by the end of the month? I do see some harbingers of that:
- The large variance in my SERP tool - this indicates that SOMETHING is happening, I'm just not sure what
- In the last week, I've chatted with several webmasters that have had their PR dropped by a point or 2. These changes are showing up on the toolbar, and have propagated to all the data centers.
- Multiple backlink updates at a frequency we haven't had in the past. Until July of this year, I expected a backlink update about once per month, but I've counted at least 5 in the last two months. Possibly this is how Google will be working BL updates moving forward, or it may be a sign of often updated data - a signal that the enginerds at Google are running real world tests.
- A lack of blog posts from Matt Cutts - if he's busy working on real projects instead of posting to his blog, then something is happening. Caveat: whatever he's working on could be completely unrelated to Google SE stuff. For all I know he's managing and working on a project completely unrelated to PR, the SE, etc.