SERP tracking tools have picked up signals of SERP fluctuations starting on August 18, 2021. But a lot has happened on Google search around this time. The spike in SERP fluctuations could be due to the slow rollout of the link spam update or a bug discovered in the Top Stories carousel, or a tweak that Google has made to rewrite titles completely.
While the exact reason is not easy to conclude as Google has not announced any update on their part, the fluctuations are evident as some webmasters have even seen a spike in traffic and CTR.
Link Spam Update
Google announced the rollout of link spam update on July 26, 2021, and was expected to be complete in two weeks of time. We’ve also seen unconfirmed search updates on August 6, 2021, and August 14, 2021, that could be related to the link spam update.
While the update seems to be rolling out slowly compared to what was initially planned, Danny Sullivan responds on Twitter that it might take a week more to be complete.
It's not. A lot of it has, but it's still got more to go. Maybe next week; unlikely this one. I do check back with the team regularly and expect to share when it is complete.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) August 17, 2021
Google Rewriting Page Titles
Google has made a tweak on August 17th or 18th that has resulted in a complete rewrite of the titles. While it was common to see Google making minor changes to the title, the complete title rewrites have received a lot of criticisms from the SEO community.
This must be really frustrating for the writers, editors and SEOs pouring time, energy, and resources into creating perfectly optimized titles and headlines.
The title change is feeling like a major case of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" pic.twitter.com/eV8IJB9cE0
— Lily Ray 😏 (@lilyraynyc) August 19, 2021
In a Twitter discussion that goes around the forced title rewrites by Google, Danny Sullivan acknowledges the criticisms and assures the feedback will help improve their systems. So if you notice your page titles are being rewritten at a large scale, it would be too early to dig into changing them, as Google might improve/reverse the system.
All that said, again — the feedback has been heard, and we're looking at some of these examples to improve our systems.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) August 19, 2021
Bug in Top Stories Carousel
A bug was discovered in the Top Stories carousel on August 18, 2021, that is widespread across all regions. The images in the Top Stories carousel did not load and remained blank for most search queries.
Google's Top Stories images are not loading – seems like a widespread bug https://t.co/6HYzIt5iLb pic.twitter.com/QBtcURPaea
— Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) August 18, 2021
As many users, noticed and reported the issue on Twitter, Google has addressed the rendering issue and expects to resolve the issue quickly. After two days, the bug was largely mitigated.
This bug has now been largely mitigated.
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) August 19, 2021
Considering a lot has happened in Google Search, it is no wonder that SERP tracking tools have reported severe fluctuations. If you notice fluctuations on your site’s metrics starting on August 18, 2021, then it could be likely due to one of the above issues. As it turns out to be another unconfirmed update from Google, it is best to wait for things to get settled.