Google is constantly testing updates and making tweaks to their search algorithm. Sometimes these are small, and sometimes these are huge, which can dramatically affect how they return search results for users.
They are historically tight-lipped about these updates, meaning that SEO enthusiasts and digital marketing companies often find out about these changes by seeing sudden and sometimes dramatic changes in their partners’ website traffic and things like keyword rankings. Then they work through the data to determine what changes may have been made to the algorithm, and how they need to adjust their strategy to make the most of the update.
Google’s Most Recent Core Algorithm Update – March 2018
If you want a detailed timeline on when exactly changes were being detected, and what Google confirmed and when let me point you to GSQi’s article on the “Tremor”. If you just want to know how this is likely to affect your personal business strategy and rankings keep reading!
This recent major Google algorithm update was focused on better ranking for sites with good website quality. Your site’s quality is determined by a number of factors like page load time, how much original content you have, technical items like 404 errors, internal links, backlinks and much more. These are things you can’t fix and build up overnight.
For businesses who haven’t employed any black hat SEO tactics, they are more likely to benefit from this update by getting improved rankings for their keywords while other more spammy sites in their industry took a hit from this update.
Why SEO Will Never Die – Quality Over Long Term
Google wants to see significant improvement in quality metrics over the long term. They will continue to make updates to their algorithm that further reward sites who create a quality experience with quality content. Simultaneously, these updates are likely to be better at detecting and penalizing sites with spammy content and aggressive advertising practices.
How do you avoid getting penalized? Stay the course with your content and technical strategies. Spend time and money investing in relevant and engaging content your users can get value out of. Make sure to keep scanning your site to find and fix 404 errors, spammy backlinks, and bot traffic. These things can feel hard to focus time and resources on since they don’t have an immediate effect on your search results or site analytics. You won’t see big swings in quarter over quarter updates, but you should see steady measurable progress in year over year results. This is how the tortoise wins the race.
If you have an SEO strategy in place keep it up! This will continue to produce good, long-term results with the way Google prioritizes website quality. If you don’t have a plan in place, it’s time to start. Lay the foundation now, and keep building on it. You’ll likely be rewarded over time for a strong SEO strategy by Google’s major algorithm updates.
Google’s Making It Official – Mobile First Indexing Is Happening
For months (maybe years) there have been rumblings that Google would shift to “Mobile First” indexing, and on March 26th they made it official. Rather than crawling your desktop pages to determine what content is on a page, Google’s bots will now be crawling your mobile site to determine this. If you don’t have a mobile site, they will still crawl your desktop one.
If your website is set up with responsive design, your site is probably already set up for mobile first indexing and you have nothing to worry about at the moment. If you aren’t sure if your site is mobile friendly, work your way through our Mobile First Strategy Checklist to see where your holes are and what steps you need to take to make sure you won’t be left behind as Google prioritizes mobile in the future.
No Mobile First Ranking…Yet
For now they’re saying this is just how Google will crawl and index your site’s content. They say it’s not currently related to their ranking algorithm, but having a site that’s generally mobile friendly is important, and it seems like a safe assumption that it’s only a matter of time before your mobile site and experience directly relate to rankings in search results. Better to set yourself up for success now, than try to crawl out of a hole later.
What You Need To Do Now
If you haven’t started a long-term SEO strategy targeted at improving your website’s overall quality through both content and technical factors, start now. These things are only going to increase in importance over time according to Google.
Make sure your site is mobile friendly and ready to be crawled. Go through our checklist and start working with your web team to improve any issues you find. Odds are good that mobile will eventually become a ranking factor, and you want to be in a good place when the shift goes into effect.
If your marketing and web teams are always focused on providing valuable content with a great user experience on any device, you’re maintaining a long-term strategy that Google’s updates are likely to reward. Keep up the good work!