No really, … was there a Google update in January 2014?

February 6th, 2014 by Amy Arnold

It’s curious how when you’re looking so intently at one thing, something so much bigger sneaks up behind you. Like when you’re a six-year-old kid all excited at your birthday party opening presents, your mom buzzing around taking lots of pictures demanding everyone to “smile,” and your dad sneaks in behind you rolling in a bright shiny new bicycle!

Google January 2014 update is a nice present

Thanks PorticoMecanica for the picture of such a big smile.

That’s how I have been feeling the last week or so. Like I just got a bright shiny bicycle with a horn and a bell and handlebar fringe!

I have been head down, concentrating on a project with numerous Excel spreadsheets, lots of cups of coffee, data overload, and a glazed look in my eye.  When I was poking around in yet more data, I found that Google snuck up behind me with a big bright shiny present.  I gotta say, it’s a pretty exciting surprise when I see the majority of our clients have an increase in January’s organic traffic; and not just any increase, impressive increases that makes big smiles all around the office.


So, was there a Google update when I wasn’t looking?

Because the increases in Analytics are seen across so many clients, across so many industries, there had to be an algorithm shakeup.  Lo and behold, on January 9th, Barry Schwartz announced the chatter on it “Is Google Search Updating?

The post’s comments express some winners and losers as expected with any update.  I had to dig to find some excitement similar to my own:

Vibhu Gauba
• 16 days ago
“Tracking almost like 700-800 clients of ours and all have moved up !!!!”

and …

• 16 days ago
“Wao… Thats gonna be a wonderful update… My traffic rose about 250% from last few day”

Barry Schwartz’ post drove me over to Algoroo. Algoroo was developed by Dejan SEO, and they say “Algoroo tracks Google algorithm changes by observing turbulence in rankings of thousands of keywords.  When the bar is high, it’s likely that Google has made a tweak to their algorithm.”

They posted on recent, significant algo updates which is interesting and related to the topic.  This unannounced, unacknowledged January update is the 6th most strongest update since May 2013 Penguin.

When we look at the Algoroo chart for more recent dates, we see some definite turbulence in keyword rankings:


The chatter indicates that there was an unannounced update, and a fellow blogger commented, I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

Crawl Rate as an Indicator?

Some of the commenters on the webmasterworld forum had a short burst of discussion around crawl rates trying to find some commonality among websites’ changes, or at least as an indication of “something” happening.

White Dove says, “I’ve seen an increase of crawling activity, including pages that don’t exist anymore.”

Shai comments, “Although no major changes in rankings, I can see some strange crawling occurring on around 30 sites. Not found anything in common between any of them yet.”

I want to check this out, so I’m looking at clients who I know have improved organic visits in January and scoping out their crawl rates. (Screen shots are Google organic visits Jan 1, 2014-Jan 27, 2014 Compare to: Dec 5, 2013-Dec 31, 2013.  Crawl rate charts are showing last 90 days.)


Client A has fantastic organic increases in January.  I will take 27% organic increase any time.

client DC google organic increases january 2014

A’s crawl rate shows a clear uptick in crawl rate, but not in January. His crawl rate started picking up in late November.

client DC google crawl rate January 2014


Client B had a 37% increase in Google organic traffic.

DL google organic traffic January 2014

 His crawl rate picked up in early December.

client DL google crawl rate January 2014


Client C had great improvements.

client DD google organic visits January 2014

If anything, I would say his crawl rate slowed in January.

client DD google crawl rate January 2014


I had to dig around to find these somewhat obvious examples of the above crawl rate changes.  Most of the clients within this same industry had crawl rates like Client D.

Client D has exciting organic visit increases in January.

client N increase in google organic search Jan 2014

The crawl rate doesn’t indicate any clearly obvious trends.

client N pages crawled per day last 90 days

All of the clients looked at above are in the same industry, so let’s look at another industry to see if the trends are widespread.


Client E is enjoying a 34.32% increase in Google organic traffic in January.

client S January 2014 google organic

Their crawl rate also picked up in late November.

client S Google crawl trends January 2014


Client F has a 20% increase in Google organic.

client G google search in January 2014

His crawl trends seen in Google Webmaster tools show a slight decrease in crawl rate in January.

client G WMT crawl data


I poked around at other clients in GWT, and I’m not real sure we can pull any decided trends from the crawl rate theory.  I didn’t check every Search Influence client, nor did I create elaborate charts of crawl rates per month. I’m comfortable seconding Shai from the webmasterworld forum, “Not found anything in common between any of them yet.”

Search Queries

I’m not seeing any huge changes in rankings data for the keywords we are tracking.  We have some ups and downs, but nothing out of the ordinary.  We update tracking information regularly, so until the next keyword ranking report is updated, Google Webmaster Tools can tell me some great information, too.

Google Webmaster Tools Search Queries data shows a lot of keyword data that we don’t track in our keyword reports. So for the example clients noted above, I see they all had an increase in Google search results shown in GWT.


When we look at the Queries data for the same comparisons as the organic search data at the top of this post, we see they all had an increase in showing up for searches.  Google defines Queries as: “The total number of search queries that returned pages from your site over the given period.”

I interpret this as our websites are ranking for more varied keywords and more than we are tracking.  It’s typical for a website to rank for more than you are actually tracking. It’s unreasonable to track for all of the possibilities.

I want to acknowledge that there is seasonality in January search for some industries.  Some of the organic increases can be attributed to seasonal search trends, but never at these levels.  Also, last week I spoke with client F telling him about the January organic goodness, and his response was January was usually dead for him, and the phones this last month have been ringing.  Yes, seasonality is often a factor for any month-to-month increases or decreases, but these data are suggesting something bigger.

Bottom Line

Any time there is any Google algorithm update, whether announced or perceived, there will be winners and losers.  I’m happy our client sites are on the positive side of whatever changes were implemented.  Yes, it’s good to be a winner today, but it’s not without effort.  I can repeat what everyone has been talking about for months and months:

  • Clean fresh content on a regular basis
  • Encourage client engagement on Google+
  • Cleanup any residual devalued links
  • Earn links with great content and local community participation

These are just a few actions to take in earning trust and traffic from Google search.

If you’ve noticed any changes in search traffic or rankings in January, we would love to hear about it in the comments below.