Matt Cutts from Google weighs in on whether the changes people are seeing at Google right now constitute an update. He says no. I say yes. What you say depends on how you want to define update :)
From Matt's blog post, What?s an update?, he notes that Google is constantly updating its index with new pages, updated pages, new backlinks and new PageRank data (the link count value assigned to particular pages). But some of this isn't visible to those who might do backlink lookups. As he says:
We only export new backlinks, PageRank, or directory data every three months or so though....When new backlinks/PageRank appear, we?ve already factored that into our rankings quite a while ago. So new backlinks/PageRank are fun to see, but it?s not an update; it?s just already-factored-in data being exported visibly for the first time in a while.
He also notes that Google is constantly going through "everflux" style changes, because of new data flowing in. In fact, all major search engines have (and have had even before Google) this type of constant change to some degree. Such low level change aren't an update to him:
The term "everflux" is often used to describe the constant state of low-level changes as we crawl the web and rankings consequently change to a minor degree. That's normal, and that's not an update
I agree with that. I certainly wouldn't call changes of this type of low level an update either. So what IS an update? To Matt, it's a major algorithmic change:
Usually, what registers with an update to the webmaster community is when we update an algorithm (or its data), change our scoring algorithms, or switch over to a new piece of infrastructure. Technically Update Gilligan is just backlink/PageRank data becoming visible once more, not a real update. There haven?t been any substantial algorithmic changes in our scoring in the last few days.
Matt links over to WebmasterWorld, which initially dubbed this an update with the name of "Gilligan" but has since retitled the thread "False Alarm."
It's not a false alarm to me. That's because I don't define an "update" solely by whether there's an algorithm change that shows massive shifts in rankings. I'd define an update to be any major, significant change to the search engine's underlying index, noticed or not. And that's what's going right now. Google has either added a significant number of new pages to its index or significantly changed the way that it reports counts.
Moreover, the change IS getting noticed and commented upon. One person emailed me happy that he suddenly went from 5 pages to having all of his 120 or so pages indexed. Another person emailed that an SEO contract that was to be based on how "competitive" a term is in Google had to be rewritten when the counts for various words shot up, suddenly making them seemingly a much more competitive challenge. This has been an update to both of those people!
Updates also used to be called dances, as in the Google Dance. As I wrote on our SEW Forums, perhaps we should be using those terms to mean different things.
We're not having a dance right now. The results aren't radically shifting around. To have a dance, you have to have an update -- to have an update, you don't necessarily have to dance.
Want to comment, disagree, enhance or read more? Visit our forum thread, Sept. 2005 Google Index Update & Size Increase Coming?