Most of the 500-600 changes that Google makes to its search algorithm each year are minor and have little effect on the SERP visibility and rankings of websites. However, every so often a major update, like Penguin and Panda, is rolled out which has a significant effect on search results. Understanding the timing and nature of these Google updates helps to explain why rankings and organic website traffic have changed and also enables search marketers to improve their SEO strategies and activities.
‘Brackets’ Core Update
A major algorithm update was pushed by Google in early March, with hills and valleys in search engine rankings taking place internationally around 9 March. Many websites either lost or gained Rich Snippet positions.
What it is: This update was all about content quality. If your website has great content, your chances of getting featured on Rich Snippets is higher. As Google isn’t about to explicitly explain what to do to get Rich Snippets, our advice is to prioritise creating quality content. This involves:
- Identifying and answering the questions your target audience is actively searching for
- Leveraging outreach activity to capitalise on backlinking and the transfer of DA (Domain Authority)
- Providing great user experiences, not only in terms of content quality but also usability and navigation
What you can do: While your site may never have appeared for a Rich Snippet in the past, there’s now an opportunity to capitalise on the latest algorithm shakeup to appear for one. There are many notable benefits to appearing for Rich Snippets, including a higher click-through rate which can greatly impact the amount of traffic your site receives.
Mobile First Index Roll Out
An announcement on the Google Webmaster Central Blog on 26 March stated, “Today we’re announcing that after a year and a half of careful experimentation and testing, we’ve started migrating sites that follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing.”
What it is: Google’s ranking system, along with its crawling and indexing systems, have generally used the desktop versions of websites. What this update means is that Google is now using the mobile version of each webpage for indexing and ranking to help mobile users get the best results for their search.
What you can do: Google will primarily use websites’ mobile version to rank webpages. Make sure that your site is mobile-friendly and responsive. With regards to content, if both versions of the site (mobile and desktop) have the same content, there should be minimal to no impact. If you have different content on desktop and mobile, the site will likely see a negative impact.
Page Speed as a Ranking Factor
What it is: Google’s ‘Speed Update’ affects the slowest webpages and will, therefore, only affect a small percentage of search queries. Page speed is one of the most important factors relating to the user experience, so it’s something that Google is, naturally, taking very seriously as it aims to provide its users with the very best user experience.
What you can do: While there aren’t any available tools that indicate whether a webpage is, or could be, affected by this ranking factor, there are resources available to check whether your site is running at an optimal speed, including PageSpeed Insights, Lighthouse and Chrome User Experience Report.
Chrome Marks all HTTP Sites as Not Secure Starting July
What it is: The security of Google’s users isn’t something it’s about to compromise any time soon, and for that reason, this July, with the release of Google Chrome 68, all HTTP sites will be marked as “Not Secure”. HTTPS encryption has been developed to protect the channel between a user’s browser and the website they’re visiting to ensure that no one can interfere with or spy on the traffic.
What you can do: With HTTPS encryption now so much easier to implement, there’s less of an excuse not to adopt it. If your site isn’t HTTPS encrypted, do it now.
It’s outright impossible to identify with 100% accuracy the steps to take to fix the damage to search rankings once a Google algorithm update has taken place. However, by focusing on delivering a great user experience, from providing quality content that answers the questions your target audience is searching for to ensuring your site is easily navigable, you’ll be in the best possible position to weather any major Google updates on the horizon and get back on track if you are affected.
Need help making sense of all the changes to SEO in 2018? Bambrick Media can help. As a leading Brisbane SEO company, we’ve helped over 500 local, interstate and national businesses increase their search results visibility and connect with new customers. To have a chat about your SEO goals at a convenient time, contact us here.