Leveraging Google Updates
Every time Google announces a search index update, some sites see their traffic diminished a great deal. This is because weak sites suffer when their content is re-interpreted and some backlinks are devalued or deleted by Google themselves.
And when these big updates or core algorithm changes happen, a lot of people jump to conclusions about what it was about. Truth is, it’s very difficult even for SEO experts to know what Google did or wanted to happen.
There are those who believe each update pushes small business websites further down the rankings and forces them to pay for Google ads to get visibility. Others believe small website simply don’t have comprehensive content coverage, credibility, or quality. Either way, it seems the challenge for advanced SEO consultants is greater than ever if they want to leverage Google’s big updates.
The New Google Algorithm Overrides All Previous Updates
There’s a lot of talk about Google’s algorithm updates as though they alone can inform your SEO decisions. It’s mostly marketing hype, not truth.
The problem with the public reasoning is that Google does small and complex updates more frequently now. SEO experts actually aren’t sure how these previous algorithm changes are still being used in today’s algorithm. Some small features have been removed almost completely. With the algo changes, Google was hoping to discourage search engine optimization completely and put SEO companies out of business.
The last time they did a serious massive update was with RankBrain. Major updates responded to key issues Google had to solve including content quality, spam backlinks, redundant content, site speed and mobile display, and orchestration of all algorithms.
Google Looks for Signals, and So Do We
To SEO consultants, the updates help to define exactly what Google’s perceived rankings weaknesses are. This is why Google doesn’t tell anyone anymore about what was changed. Keeping everyone in the dark is their main strategy now. Yet with each update, there are corresponding changes in keyword rankings and an SEO can guess as to what the algo update was all about.
The problem with referencing old algorithms is that Google indexing system is vastly different in how it works. So when we discuss algo updates, we should refer to what it was intended to accomplish. Because today, these objectives are still done, but at a higher level by the Rankbrain AI-controlled system.
Google’s ranking system is more particular than most believe. This graphic below shows that the algorithm is different on Monday’s and Fridays, which may be special days to Google. On these specific days, like clockwork, the website’s rankings jump up (on two different and very competitive keyword phrases). Google’s ranking system is not one big homogenous system.
The Major Updates: Are They Still Relevant?
The truth is that Google has recently only conducted major algo index updates several times. Those were called:
Panda update – improved indexing by Googlebot unfortunately created much more lower quality content being collected. Google created new criteria that rated the site overall, and the page in question to filter out poor quality content.
Penguin Update – this update sought to filter and penalize links from spam sites. This update was major and also penalized paid links. It was considered anti-blackhat SEO update.
Hummingbird Update – Hummingbird went further on the Panda Algorithm to better find higher quality content. So the emphasis wasn’t on bad content, but rather to elevate or pickout the sweetest content like a hummingbird would. This update was said to use related words, synonyms and co-occurring words that happen in similar content. This is likely the most significant update of all because it assesses the relevance of the content itself against the keywords.
Mobilegeddon Update – Websites designed for big desktop screens didn’t work so well on mobile phones. This big problem resulted in the Mobilegeddon update which assessed a website’s mobile friendliness and penalized elements that didn’t work well on mobile device screens (which were smaller in dimensions, e.g., 360 pixel width) among other technical issues (Flash).
RankBrain Update – With all components of Google’s search algorithm becoming very complicated, and with page quality a key priority for rankings, Google needed to manage it better. RankBrain was to become the master controller guided by artificial intelligence. It’s said that Rankbrain understands national language and assess it deeper for meaning. That means it can understand searcher intent better.
There were other smaller updates such as Caffeine, Florida, Big Daddy, and Medic, but their influence was specialized or limited in scope, or more just a tweak to previous updates.
You may have seen the core metrics reports in your Google Search Console account or the pagespeed checker. These indicators measure your page loading speed and user experience on a slow 3G mobile connection. This was a controversial move to measure websites according to how they behaved on a mobile phone screen. The belief was that all web usage would be on mobile phones.
However, as time passed, the degree of use of mobile phones on 3G connections has not grown much. Further, most ecommerce sales take place on desktop (hotel, travel bookings, appliance purchases, etc).
Since many slow, clunky sites still rank very well, we know the core metrics importance is overblown.
Ranking dominance still comes down to creating good content that other website owners want to view, share and link to. Strong promotion also plays a key role in creating dominant ranking websites. And the less ranking power you have, the more you’ll have to rely on expert SEO.
At this point, I’d suggest you review the post on Advanced SEO Strategy and then review the SEO services page. That will help you visualize the exact service mix you need to succeed.
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