Is It An Algo Change, A Penalty, Or A Fluctuation?

Google Algo Changes
Google Algo Changes

First, Some Quick News

We added some new functionality to SERPWoo based on your demands and needs. Starting today, you can now:

  • Change or update your credit card payment details within your account.

  • Monitor domains like to see if specific domains are going up or down on average within Google based on their average position per day. We call this "SERP Sightings".

So what does these changes mean for you? Well, many of you are facing upcoming expiration dates on your credit cards and some of you just want to change the billing to another card entirely. Now you have the option to update those details yourself without CCarter having to update it for you.

Second, Lets Jump Into the Tutorial

So what about this "SERP Sightings" feature we mentioned above? Well, this is pretty HUGE for you.

Right now, there are lot of tools like Moz's "Weather" update and similar scripts that try to predict when algorithm changes happen. These tools are pretty good at what they do, but the data they use is largely shrouded in mystery and kept away from you. Plus, it's just a general look at the internet as a whole. It's not representative of YOUR NICHE and YOUR SERPs.

We'll talk more about that feature in just a second so we can jump right into the tutorial.

Now, lets take an example niche right from my own personal portfolio, Nursing Degrees.

If I take one of my keywords and plug it into SERPWoo, I can get a massive amount of data back that looks like some kind of 1st grade coloring contest gone entirely wrong...

Massive SERPs
Massive SERPs

You're thinking to yourself, "this looks like garbage".. but you're wrong.

This is data mapped out of every URL during a long period of time for this specific keyword. To the untrained eye it looks like a huge mess. However, to the right person this data is a goldmine of what has been going on for the past several months in this SERP.

Take a look at the exact same data where I mapped out specific days:

Massive SERP with color indicators
Massive SERP with color indicators

When I look at this beautiful mess of chutes and ladders, I see several interesting things...


The Steady Hand At The Top

The top 3-4 spots (as I have been preaching for years) hardly ever move over the course of time. Their fluctuations compared to everyone else below them is barely even noticeable. When the top 3-4 DO move and fluctuate, you need to pay attention as there would have been some serious reasons why they would have moved.

Most times, positions 1-3 will simply change place with each other. Position 1's URL will change place with position 2's and so forth.

This is normal.

It's when you notice this change coupled with large movements in the lower SERPs that you need to stand up and take notice.

Trust me, thousands of keywords tracked over 2.5 years can't be wrong.

Big Clutter, Big Movements

The areas of the chart that are extremely cluttered and jumbled is the unmistakable signal of large amounts of movement. These are the days you want to highlight and look at. I highlighted 4 of them in the pic above. You can see how they are more "cluttered" than other days or have interesting movements in them.

The Blue Circle

The blue circle in my chart is a unnamed and unannounced Google change. You won't find this data anywhere else on the Internet.

Comparing this spike in movement with other keywords I track in SERPWoo, I can see other unrelated keywords in different niches also experiencing this exact same dance. No word or mention of these fluctuations that rolled out from Jan. 10th until the 23rd ever hit Moz or other similar trackers.

It did not hit every keyword I track, but the same movements across several of them did happen.

The Green Circle

The green circle is an unnamed update as well, speculated to be a soft "Panda". It was never confirmed by Google, but you can see in my SERP that someone took over the #1 spot that day with lots of "clutter" in the lower end and middle placements. Moz even reported on this change, but you can see it with your own eyes visually here at SERPWoo.

Both the blue and green circles represent algorithm changes in the SERPs that you can visually see, but what does a regular fluctuation look like?

The Red Circle

Moving to my red circle, you can see what a regular fluctuation (or a one site penalty) looks like in the SERPs.

While this movement in the chart catches your eye, you can see that position #1 simply dropped out and the #3 position took over which caused everyone else to simply move up.

The URL at position #1 simply vanished, it didn't even move down which is what we normally see. This site was an affiliate site and caught a massive penalty from Google. It never again appeared in the SERPs after that day.

That's a penalty folks. Everyone moves up and top URL's vanish with no appearance in the SERPs (compared to just a drop to 4th). Some penalties do move you to 30th or lower, but since we only monitor and care about the top 20 results, #30 is pretty much a "dead man walking" placement.

The Black Circle

The black circle is my favorite. It represents more than one date where changes reached so far that even the #1 position was effected. Chaos was the ruler of the day(s).

This isn't an algorithm change though. Nope, nada, no.

Why? Because I personally track more then 1-2 keywords in SERPWoo. When I look at my other keywords that are similar AND even those that are non-similar, I don't find this movement. This is why in my last email to all members I stressed the importance of tracking at least 12 keywords within your account.

So what is this movement? Well, I know its not an issue with SERPWoo's code or IP's as most of the keywords that moved did not return back to their original placement days later.

The debate is still out on these fluctuations internally and I am OK with saying I don't exactly know at this point what happened. The good thing is, I do know something DID happen and I know exactly what these movements are NOT. I can now go forward with the correct mindset in figuring it out.

Right now my gut tells me this is either part of a rolling update (like Panda) effecting my specific SERP right now, or some random testing of new algorithm updates Google may be ready to unleash.

I have ruled out very busy competitors trying to take over my SERP as the URLs that came in and out are not affiliate types. I also know this has nothing to do with the Authorship Drop that completed on the 28th of July as my SERP didn't have those anyways.

What I did find useful was that while digging through this specific data, I realized that my SERP was effected by the Payday Loan 3.0 update on June 12th as seen here:

Payday Loan SERP results
Payday Loan SERP results

You can't possibly see or deduce this type of high level data with regular rank trackers. SERPWoo is the only game in town that allows you to see the big picture and figure out the next course of action you need to take.

"SERP Sightings" And What It Means To You

So finally we come to our newest benefit for you, the ability to see how a single domain is doing overall.

Within the Nursing Degree niche, I have some major players and I like to keep tabs on them all. I also like to see what parasites are working well in my niche (and in general) so I can plan around them.

But what if I am tracking my keywords and I see a major domain drop out of the SERPs? Did they get penalized as a site or just only the URL? What if it wasn't a penalty and just a fluctuation or algorithm change? How do I really know?

This is where "SERP Sightings" comes into play.

Now you have the ability to plug a domain into SERPWoo and tell just how Google is treating it over time to know if they are getting rewarded or punished. This is extremely important in finding out the "health" of that domain and if the "clutter" and movements you seen in other charts (like above) are giving you every piece of intelligence you need.

I plugged in one of my competitors into the new feature. Here is what I found:

Kaplan University SERP Sightings
(Click for a larger picture)

You can see that Kaplan is gaining ground not only in my SERP (I would see this in my chart for the specific keyword I track), but is gaining ground in general with Google since this feature tracks domains across all keywords we monitor.

Kaplan is doing something right, and I probably want to keep a close eye on them and try to emulate and pivot my plans as needed.


I only briefly touched on the power of how to use SERPWoo in this tutorial in finding out algorithm changes and fluctuations within your SERPs. The information though should be enough to get you started on finding out what is happening with you and your competitors so you can pivot and accelerate your SEO game plan going forward as needed.

Our "SERP Sightings" tool also has many more uses than what I have pointed out today. Many of you ORM guys should be able to find awesome parasites to piggyback off of, while many of you SEO marketers should be able to find potential clients that might need a boost in their rankings based on where their domain is heading over time.

The key to winning this game is data folks. If you don't have the right data (or enough of it) then you can not make the right decisions going forward.

As we look into the next few weeks of SERPWoo, me and CCarter have some exciting developments rolling out that that include:

  • Beta phase of our affiliate program.

  • Ability to see the health (or score) of the overall SERP/Google movements.

  • The top domains that appear over and over in all keywords we track.

SERPWoo only gets better with more and more feedback from you. Drop us a note within our feedback system inside SERPWoo and let us know what you think/want.

To The SERPs!

eLiquid and CCarter

Testimonial from thehobbster:

This is all about reverse engineering through the movements of every site in every serp. Think about it. A visual representation of what Google is weighting, filtering, thresholding, etc. All right in front of your eyes. Every metric we talk about, right there. Past, present, and with your brain, the future as well. It's all yours for the taking. This literally is God Mode: Activated.

Jason Brown is the Co-Founder of SERPWoo as well as a serial entreprenuer, digital marketer, web programmer, author, speaker, & mentor

At some point, he would like the bigger companies in his space to stop trying to steal his and his partners concepts and ideas and have them innovate on their own instead.