It was not an update. It was a glitch in Google’s system. The bug has since been fixed.
But here’s what we know about what happened.
We Got Confirmation
Yesterday, Google’s John Mueller confirmed what happened.
Responding to a tweet from Barry Schwartz, Mueller said: “I don’t have all the details yet, but it seems like this was a glitch on our side and has been fixed in the meantime.”
He jokingly added: “If someone could fix the other 2020-issues, that would be great.”
But those issues are subjects for other articles. Let’s stick to the Google glitch in this one.
It Was Worldwide
Alas, it seems nobody was denied entry to this party. The bug rolled out all over the world and this Google search glitch hit all languages and all countries. At least it can say, no one was left behind.
But the bug wasn’t universal only in the geographies it affected. It was universal in the types of websites it affected as well.
It Hit All Niches
Well, it seems like the Google glitch hit all niches, anyway. I’m not seeing any evidence that any type of website was spared.
Recipe sites, for example, took a beating.
Casey Markee, the SEO for Recipe Blog, shared a screenshot that shows exactly how badly Google messed up when returning matches for “baked beans.”
The carousel in the screenshot included recipes for Slow Cooker Teriyaki Meatballs, Braised Pork Belly With Borlotti Beans, Best Sausage Casserole Recipes, Black Bean Soup, and Green Beans With Poblano Peppers.
Note: a search term as routine as “baked beans” doesn’t seem like it requires a lot of heavy lifting on Google’s end. So the bug clearly messed up the most basic searches.
Local SEO, Too
Yep. Local SEO got bit by that bug as well.
According to search strategist Joe Youngblood, a Minnesota company ranked for “Dallas SEO.”
But hey, we’re living in a pandemic and everybody’s working virtually anyway so… why not work with a company that’s at the other end of the country?
The online community of SEOs wasn’t happy with what they saw yesterday.
For starters, they thought it was an update and not a glitch. That’s understandable because that’s how these things usually play out.
Google issues no warning and then boom! Keyword rankings start jumping around like Olympic gymnasts during the warmup session.
Eventually, Google issues a statement to the effect of: “Yep, we did an update. Don’t change anything. There’s no way to make your site better. Go on living life normally. K thanks bye.”
But not this time.
This time Google said it did an oopsie.
Before that mea culpa, some folks over at WebmasterWorld were publicly wringing their hands.
One user who goes by the name of webdev29 wrote: “huge update also in France ATM, no word to describe the mess, its simply crazy ! there is no more ecommerces in my SERP (decoration) and mine has just lost everything…6 years destroyed in just one minute and the lives of several employees at stake! it’s not possible that it continues like this, in the SERP, there are only the big marketplaces (cdiscount, amazon, laredoute, aliexpress…) and some more or less recent sites without much interest…all the rest has disappeared on the deep pages of the search engine.”
All that’s missing is that he actually saw the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Another user wrote: “Every niche I follow is messed up. Shops are gone, affiliate sites have disappeared, SERPs are full of Amazon, ebay and news sites.”
And mini_007 said “wow insane big update here in Norway, never seen so big change.”
Wrapping It Up
Hopefully, all those folks are in a better emotional state now. But the incident still gives us a warning for the future: as much as possible, try not to put all your eggs in Google’s basket.
Of course, that’s difficult if you’re a search strategist (waves hand). For other industries, though, make sure that your business model can survive Google updates and glitches.