Google spokesperson confirmed to the Search Engine Journal about minor changes made to the core algorithm this month. He said, “We released several minor improvements during this timeframe, part of our regular and routine efforts to improve relevancy”.

Many websites experienced volatility mainly from December 12-14.

Danny Sullivan, Google’s public liaison for search, in a Twitter post, made it appear less important. He said, “Reports calling this a single “update” or calling it “Fred” don’t reflect what we actually said: there were several minor changes that happened as they routinely do in any particular week.”

What is Update Maccabees?

As core algorithm updates are not given any formal name, they are informally named Fred. It was, however, named Maccabees by Barry Schwartz in recognition of Hanukkah. The search community continued with this name.

Danny Sullivan, in another tweet, said “There was no single update. I suppose some might find it useful to give a name to the general flux period, but I think it’s important to understand there were different changes happening – as happen in any week.”

What Does a Core Update Mean?

Updates to the core algorithm can be a variety of things.

Here are some examples:

  1. Algorithms that determine the relevance of a search query to a web page
  2. Change in how links to a site are scored. This means, some links begin counting less or other links can count more. This will result in a re-ranking of certain kinds of sites. Sites that depend on a single kind of link can be vulnerable if that kind link is devalued.
  3. Change in how page content is scored. For example, if a search query is informational in nature, then a commercial site may be deemed irrelevant.

What Is the Maccabees Update?

Minor changes in Google’s search results were noticed on December 12. It is being assumed, based on informal evidences, that though e-commerce sites have reported a minor drop in traffic, many affiliate type sites have felt it the most.

Although, it is tempting to view updates to the core algorithm as targeting a certain kind of site, as per Google the changes are meant to improve on-page and off-page relevance signals.

Here are the prevailing theories and counterarguments:

  • Maccabees Update is mobile-first related: This theory has been dismissed because some have reported that their sites are mobile friendly and others have reported they’ve seen no increase in Google’s mobile bot.
  • Desktop visibility affected more than mobile visibility: This is an interesting hypothesis but some have reported the opposite. I am inclined to rule this out.

What Kinds of Site are Affected by the Maccabees Update?

Speculations are being made that this update might be related to shopping, considering the number of affected publishers in the shopping space.

There a little concerns about in Facebook groups regarding aggressive linking techniques. It is not at all related to link or site affiliation. Although, it might be connected to something that aggressive sites have in common.

Supporting this, Jim Boykin from Internat Marketing Ninjas said “nothing changing in rankings or Google organic traffic for the past month”.

Casey Markee, of MediaWyse in San Diego dropped another hint by saying that “I did have some sites contact me and they did have drops. Their content and overall user experience though had some holes”.


Ritu from PageTraffic is a qualified Google Ads Professional and Content Head at PageTraffic. She has been the spear head for many successful Search Marketing Campaigns and currently oversees Content Marketing operations of PageTraffic in India.