It’s a very common question from frustrated site owners hit by Google penalties…
Until now Google has been pretty cagey about specific time frames for recovering from algorithmic ranking drops. Then, on a Google Webmaster hangout today (25th April 2014), Google’s John Mueller answered an audience question with a bombshell:
Question: “My site might have a penalty due to unnatural anchors (spammy links). I’ve submitted a disavow file…”
“If there’s a penalty/manual action active, you’d see it in Webmaster tools….
That said, if it’s something that’s been happening for a long time, that’s something our algorithms might also have picked up on. We recommend cleaning those links up, removing them where you can, using the disavow tool but also be aware that when an algorithm picks up on something like this, it can take a long time for things to settle down, and that can easily be half a year or a year. “
This confirms what we’ve noticed, which is that Google results seem to have a longer ‘float’ period before significant ranking improvements happen.
My guess would be one or all of 3 reasons:
- Google doesn’t want to reward ‘churn and burn’ sites that spam heavily to see short term ranking results, before being wiped out in the next algo update. Putting in a longer float period should mitigate some of this
- By introducing a longer float, the causes of ranking improvements and drops are somewhat disguised. By essentially removing immediate feedback, the algorithmic ‘black box’ is a little harder to translate
- Slower ranking movements lead to less webmaster outrage. If a site gradually loses (or gains) ranking following an algo update, the effects of the algo are less visible and instead the Webmasters are more likely to look elsewhere for the cause of their misery (or joy).
That Hummingbird went virtually unnoticed is, in my opinion, less to do with it closely matching the previous algorithm and more to do with this ‘float’ period removing sharp ranking movements.
This is, of course, a guess on my part. We can but speculate.
However, the news that effects of algo updates can take 6 months to a year to update is the most transparent we’ve seen Google so far.
See the full video below, or skip to the Question and Answer from about 21 minutes: