Gilligan: The Update That Wasn’t

In September 2005, several webmasters reported changes in the rankings which led to speculation about an algorithm update. The fake update was named Gilligan, which stuck even when Google insisted that they didn’t tweak the system.

What’s It For

Matt Cutts, a Google spokesperson, did admit that the index was updated with new pages, backlinks, and PageRank data. These factors may have contributed to the purported changes in the algorithm that led to shifts in the SERPs. June’s updates with personalized search, mobile web search, and XML sitemaps may have also played a role in the stir that was felt by the webmaster community.

What Were Its Effects

While Google was adamant about the fact that they didn’t update the search engine, a majority of webmasters were in consensus that there was a change. A forum thread in WebMasterWorld initially dubbed the phenomenon as Gilligan, but the title was then changed to “False Alarm” after Cutts denounced the unconfirmed update.

Some webmasters, though, still believe that it was an update because they define one as an event that involves a significant change to the search engine’s underlying index; whether it’s noticeable or not. Google may have added a considerable number of new pages to its index or changed the way it reports visitor counts, which affects the rankings of websites in one way or another.

One website reported that what had begun as five indexed pages suddenly became 120. Meanwhile, another company had to have their SEO contract rewritten since it was based on how competitive a keyword is in Google when the counts for those search terms shot up.

What It Means for You

Cutts clarified that Gilligan was not a real update; it was merely backlink and PageRank data being noticed by the webmaster community. Until today, Google is constantly changing up its algorithm and, consequently, keeping SEO specialists on their toes. No digital marketer can predict what future updates will entail. The only sure thing, though, is that Google is focused on providing relevant information to its users.

Google currently has 200 ranking factors which include:

  • Domain Factors – These pertain to everything about your domain from its age, keywords incorporated in the URLs, length, and even subdomain.
  • Page-Level Factors – Page-level factors involve elements such as title tags, description, headers, content length, and the content’s keyword density.
  • Site-Level Factors – This one is a bit more technical as it includes your website’s TrustRank, site architecture, sitemap, site uptime, and SSL certificate.
  • Backlink Factors – It’s another technical aspect of ranking that involves counting the number of linking root domains and linking pages as well as evaluating the quality of backlink anchor texts.

Focus on these core principles instead to stay afloat even with Google’s regular algorithm updates:

  • User-Centric Commitment First and foremost, you must produce content for human readers. Google values relevance above all, so your website will do well if you focus on people first and search bots second. This means providing valuable insight and useful knowledge to your visitors on each post.
    The search engine also prioritizes mobile-friendly pages due to today’s primarily mobile users and boosts them in the SERPs. To improve your ranking, you must optimize your site to be pleasantly viewable on any device to cater to the needs of this generation of data consumers.
  • Fresh and In-Depth Content As mentioned above, writing in-depth content ties jointly to prioritizing human users. With each article that you write, you must ensure that readers get to learn something new by creating unique content with relevant information that helps solve their problems.
    Moreover, when your website goes live and gets indexed by Google, you get a freshness score for each web page. This number soon degrades over time if you keep on writing the same content. Improve it by updating your blog with relevant, well-researched posts regularly to increase your rankings and organic traffic volume.Inconsistent publishing can hurt this score and make it difficult for your site to retain a stable position in the SERPs. The minimum posting frequency by which you should upload new content is at least once a week. It’s better to publish long-form content every day to stay ahead of your competitors.
  • Brand Awareness Google’s priorities have also shifted from emphasizing generic search terms to brand-specific keywords. The anchor text plays a significant role in this process. That’s why; you should be meticulous when using anchor text. Your link building strategy must be aimed at boosting awareness for your brand and its relevance online instead of merely focusing on increasing organic rankings.