Everything you need to know about this summer's updates.
Google is constantly updating its algorithm, making it hard for webmasters to best optimize their sites, and this summer was no exception. The three most recent major updates in May, June and August caused tidal waves in the SEO community as Google rolled out new requirements and penalties to match.
Google was never one to divulge specific information on these changes, but the powerhouse search engine has gotten progressively subtler as times goes on. This has left SEOs to sleuth on their own to unearth the secrets of the Google-God and determine the implications of algorithm changes.
The following is the fruits of our detective work: a breakdown of each of the three major updates from this summer. This cheat sheet includes what you need to know about each change and how to revamp your site post-penalties.
On May 17, Google made it clear putting user experience (UX) first is the new status quo. We’ve named this update “Heatwave” because updates are easier to remember when they’re named, and this change certainly brought the heat. Websites with poor user experience saw major drops in SERP ranking. Some major contributors to the drops were:
Content is a major factor in UX. To ensure quality is high quality and avoids penalties from this update, marketers should write relevant and timely content that’s unique from competitors. Users should be able to quickly and easily find the content they are looking for on your website.
Sites that featured poor user experience were dinged and removed from the first page of SERPs, making it clear Google wants websites to optimize for the end user rather than its page crawlers.
— Tom Fishburne (@tomfishburne) June 11, 2017
There are a few things you can do to bounce back from issues related to this update:
The update that hit on June 25 caused an uproar because it took fire at sites that had also been affected by previous updates. Some in the SEO community are calling this one “Moon” because it was released when there was a new moon.
When Google launched the famed Penguin and Panda updates, it penalized sites for having low-quality and spammy backlinks. Those who didn’t heed Google’s warning and clean up their backlink profile felt a critical hit with Moon.
A tale of two Junes. Smoked by the June 2016 update and surging with the June 2017 update. Some rankings jumping 30, 40, & 50+ spots. pic.twitter.com/NBAruYz10y
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) June 28, 2017
Another major takeaway from this update was the importance of having an optimized mobile presence. Mobile SERPs are beginning to show up differently than on desktop. Also, Google is indexing mobile versions of a domain before the desktop version, further proving their interest in responsive design.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to audit your backlink profile. Quality links are much more important than the quantity of links you have. To adjust this imbalance, change your link building strategy to target affinities related to your brand and avoid blackhat linking strategies like paying someone to link to your site.
Paying attention to site responsiveness is also a key element of combatting Moon. Your mobile site should be just as optimized as the desktop version — or, better yet, ditch the “desktop vs. mobile” mentality and invest in a responsive design.
In August 2017, Google released an update aptly nicknamed Hawk because it made changes to some features of an earlier update called Possum.
First, a history lesson: Possum was released in September 2016 and changed how Google filters local searches. The intent was to stop businesses from creating multiple listings for their location that push competitors out of local searches. Possum created a filtering zone that removed similar types of businesses within a geographical location to solve this. While Possum’s filter did get rid of these duplicates, it also backfired and eliminated some similar businesses located close to each other, such as two Italian restaurants on the same block.
Hawk swooped in to fix this issue and shrunk the radius of the filter. Although, the new filter may not entirely fix the problems Possum caused for similar businesses located in the same building or shopping plaza.
— Rank Ranger (@RankRanger) September 11, 2017
Hawk also featured a filter to remove irrelevant, duplicate and incredibly similar content. This made it harder (but not impossible) for websites of the same domain to rank twice in the same SERP. This also screams out why content needs to be unique and relevant. You don’t want to be filtered out for your main keywords because your content is unoriginal.
The purpose of Hawk was to fix problems Possum caused, so in general you shouldn’t have seen too many rank drops. Still, if your SERPs were impacted by Hawk, there are a few things you can do to adjust for these penalties:
Just as it’s true in sports, having a good SEO offense is the best defense against future Google algorithm updates — especially with Google admitting to launching new algorithm updates nearly every month.
With a team of experienced SEO consultants on staff, Knucklepuck is ready to help you write your offensive plays and keep algorithm updates at bay. If you’ve been hit by any of these summer algorithm updates, we can help with those too — starting with an audit to determine exactly why you’re being penalized. These insights will help us write strategic recommendations that support your business goals, and implement the recommendations to produce real results that grow your business. Ready to get to work?
Contact us today about our SEO services.
Anderson, S. (2017, September 11). DYK: Low-quality content on part of a website can affect rankings for the same website on more important keyword rankings. Retrieved from https://www.hobo-web.co.uk/dyk-low-quality-content-on-part-of-a-web-site-can-affect-rankings-for-the-same-website-on-more-important-keyword-rankings/
Gabe, G. (2017, May 26). The May 17, 2017 Google Algorithm Update – Frequency of Quality Updates, Surfing the Gray Area and Reversals. Retrieved from https://www.gsqi.com/marketing-blog/may-17-2017-google-algorithm-update/
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Rank Ranger. (2017, July). Google algorithm updates – Latest news & history. Retrieved from https://www.rankranger.com/google-algorithm-updates
Schwartz, B. (2017, May 19). Was there a Google algorithm update starting on Wednesday? Retrieved from https://www.seroundtable.com/google-algorithm-update-may-17-23880.html
Schwartz, B. (2017, June 27). June 25th Google Search algorithm update legit. Retrieved from https://www.seroundtable.com/june-25th-google-search-algorithm-update-24062.html
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Willis, S. (2017, September 13). What Google’s Hawk update means for you and your local SEO. Retrieved from https://www.impactbnd.com/blog/google-hawk-update-local-seo