HOLD ONTO YOUR SEATS FOLKS - THIS IS GOING TO GET UGLY
At least it looks like they rolled out a huge algorithmic update. Either that or what's happened is some amazingly destructive bug! Only time will tell which one it is, but at time of writing we have to assume it's an algorithmic update and deal with the consequences. Because the disruption to the SERP results are so dramatic, so wide reaching, that we can only HOPE that it's a bug, and not a permanent update.
What We Know So Far
Many legitimate businesses have seen their websites VANISH from the SERPs because of what happened yesterday. And I mean VANISH. Rankings have gone from page one to page 7 or 10 or even, in some cases, to not being able to be found at all. And these are legitimate sites I'm talking about here, not some dodgy affiliate site with loads of row-rent/toxic links pointing at them or whatever.
What is Happening and Why?
Since yesterday forums are ranking well for no apparent reason. Amazon listings are ranking well, directories are ranking well, sites that are out of area are outranking local businesses, and even random job listings are ranking well. All these sites offer little user satisfaction to the person doing a search in Google, and yet they are now, at time of writing, outranking legitimate industry client sites who operate well SEO'd websites.
But it's not just that directories, forums et al are now out-ranking normal sites, and all the 'normal' sites are pushed down below them. Because this has impacted individual websites within niches too, seemingly at random. It reminds me of the Macabee algorithmic update of Dec 2018. Only this could be WORSE. Much worse (and that's saying something, believe me).
And unlike algorithms like Macabee or Penguin this algo isn't targeting sites with dodgy links; because I've got several clients who have been negatively impacted (in different niches) by this since yesterday. All of whom have sites with robust, white-hat link profiles helping them kick their SEO goals. And I also know of one company (not a client) who dumped 80,000 dodgy links in one week a couple of months back via black-hat link building bots, who are now suddenly ranking SERP #1, #2 and #3 in the country for their major industry keyword after this update!
So much for Google's algorithmic updates being about making search better, huh?
It's things like this that are really soul-destroying to SEO companies who do the right thing, and only run white hat 'Google Best Practice' SEO strategies. Because you want people doing dodgy, black-hat SEO to be caught with hand in the cookie jar when Google does a big algorithmic update. You don't want to see them rewarded. And you sure as hell don't want to see honest, by the book, small businesses websites get penalised in Google search for no reason whatsoever.
What Can be Done?
Edit Aug 12, 2020 - Google Confirms it Was a Bug!
Now, the cynic in me, while being over the moon that everything in Google-land has gone back to normal, can't help but wonder if it was in fact a 'bug' as Google are claiming. Or was it rather Google accidentally showing their hand and releasing something into the wild before it'd gone through more rigorous testing? Because it seems to me (and this is personal research done over a bunch of different client verticals), that the websites who benefited from the August 10 'update' / 'bug', were in fact sites that had a truck load of links pointing at them. And I don't mean the GOOD type of links. And if the 'bug' was in fact Google showing their hand too early, then they appear to be tweaking the core algorithm to give more weight to links. A LOT MORE WEIGHT.
Only time will tell how much...