Must-Know Google Updates
The SEO industry is worth 65 billion and is set to grow even further, as a third of the world's population will own a smartphone by the end of 2018.
With the number of internet users passing the 4 billion mark, and more businesses coming online to serve this growing market, the SEO industry will expand exponentially.
The challenge though has been Google. When it comes to the search engine behemoth, Google's a beast that doesn't stay constant. You have probably heard of Google updates 2018.
If you haven't, then you should. Google frequently updates its algorithms to curtail shady websites and businesses that try to game the system.
Therefore, you need to stay in touch with the game. How?
Keep reading to learn about the latest Google updates for 2018.
- 1 Must-Know Google Updates
- 1.1 Google Updates Before 2018
- 1.2 Google Updates 2018
- 1.3 What Can You Do If Any of These Updates Hit You Hard?
- 1.4 The Emphasis Is on “Wow” Content
- 1.5 Get Your SEO Score Today
Google Updates Before 2018
Please note, Medic Update has not been added yet. Please stay tuned as we finalize our case studies.
While 2018 has been no different, first let's look at prior google updates, before 2018, that you should know before you tackle SEO this year.
Panda came out in 2011, followed by the latest, Penguin, in 2012. Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird updates were all aimed at preventing sites with thin, low quality and duplicate content from taking over the front pages of the search results.
The Pirate update in 2014 was an attempt to penalize sites that repeatedly violated copyright, probably affected by DMCA's takedown requests for movies, music, and books.
Not familiar with DMCA? Don't worry, we have you covered and some:
Everything You Need to Know About DMCA Protection
Google's Pigeon update was created to tie Google's local search and web search, thus leading to an improved ranking that was based on distance and location.
So, if you were looking for SEO consultants in Chicago, simply typing Chicago SEO would bring in all the local Chicago SEO experts, instead of consultants from all over the US.
Google rolled out the Mobile Friendly update in 2015, which ensured that mobile-friendly pages were ranked better when viewed on mobile. This update had no effect on desktop sites.
Later that same year, RankBrain was introduced which was a machine based learning system where the engine would match search results to the search queries by understanding the meaning of the query. In addition to traditional SEO, it would consider other page factors, like relevance.
Possum update of 2016 was a change in the local search filter that returned search results that were slightly wider than the original search.
So taking the previous example, if you were to look for an SEO expert in Chicago, the search would show you SEO consultants in Chicago as well as the rest of Illinois.
Fred was an update that was rolled out in 2017, aimed at blogs and websites that were content mills, and aimed at ad and affiliate revenue, via clickbait.
Google Updates 2018
While Google doesn't always confirm its updates, it's well known that they've responded to several issues and rolled out a few. Their latest “major” update came in late March 2018.
The first had to do with the so-called “Fake news.”
They developed an update to evaluate site and blogs for quality and credibility. This would ensure they could weed out fake news and content that had rampant keyword stuffing.
In fact, Google was so serious about the fake news mess that they've decided to spend 300 million dollars on quality journalism.
In addition to fake news, they want to crack down on sites that use manipulative content. This is where marketers are more interested in creating SEO rather than thinking of the human being reading the blog post or the webpage.
Manipulative content delves into the widespread use of backlinking to high ranking websites and getting ranked based on those hyperlinks. Google wants to reward websites with relevant content that is useful, rather than piggybacking on other sites content.
You'll be able to tell whether you're creating good or bad content based on your site's performance. This is so because most websites experience a shift in their ranking once a new update has rolled out.
Therefore, if you see a negative shift in your rankings, ask yourself, who is your audience? What do you want to tell them? Why do you have to tell them? After you keep that in mind, incorporate keywords and SEO. That would be a good practice for SEO and quality content.
Google's updates in 2018 have taken a stern view on quality backlinking. They prefer backlinks that are relevant due to domain authority. This is a 100-point score that websites score based on popularity.
A website that is growing can aim to have a range of 20-30.
Domain authority (DA) is important because high-quality content and good backlinks produce traffic which results in ranking on Google. Many even judge the “success” of a website based on DA.
For a deeper look into what link building is, check out:
What is Link Building? Strategies & Examples
Another area that the updates have cracked down on is security. SSL, Secure Socket Layer and security have taken on major importance with HTTPS sites now being rewarded in Google updates while flagging HTTP only websites.
This certification simply implies that your website has a secure connection. Most people can see a visible warning in red on HTTP sites where there is no SSL certification. This is particularly concerning to websites that have e-commerce on their website or online stores.
Google pushed this step as it wanted internet users to have security and privacy while making online purchases. Cybersecurity is on every shopper's mind. With SSL, your website is unlikely to be prey to cyber attacks and customers will be comfortable sharing personal information.
For more info on being sure your site is secure, check out:
WP Engine Review: The Pros and Cons of WordPress Hosting
Page Speed Is Also a Big Factor
Page speed for mobile ranking was one of the first updates google rolled out at the beginning of 2018. Page speed hadn't featured so much in the past with mobile users.
But with the number of smartphone users increasing, which means more internet penetration, download speed and bandwidth considerations have come into play.
Google confirmed that page speed would now be considered on all devices. And if that was an issue, then this might be even more concerning. Irrespective of what technology the page is built with, Google will use a single criterion for assessing your page speed.
To learn more about your websites page speed, check out:
WP Engine Review: The Pros and Cons of WordPress Hosting
Another Macabee update, which came through late December 2017, but whose effects were only felt at the start of this year, was the keyword permutation.
The update targeted websites and pages that used keyword permutations that were synonymous and created with the sole aim of driving traffic.
An example of this would be the Chicago SEO consultant from the previous example creating a home page stuffed with keywords such as Chicago SEO, SEO consultant Chicago, or Chicago SEO expert. Then he would replicate this across all his other pages.
To deal with such, Google has taken the next step in machine learning to interpret the content and see if its useful to users, or just stuffing.
For a more in-depth understanding of keyword research, please check out our keyword research guide:
Beginner SEO Guide: How to Do Keyword Research
Private Blog Networks (PBNs)
Another update that was felt this year was that on private blog networks (PBNs).
A PBN is a sly technique tricking Google into ranking your website higher by spammy backlinking through a network of private blogs. This tricks the Google bots into thinking your website has the authority and lots of links.
But Google bots have now begun to penalize websites that do this.
Google updates have also now punished content farms and this has been a major focus for the developers working there.
They've been coming down hard on websites that have thin content, or more content compared to advertisements, copy-pasted content, content that takes you to another website, click farms, irrelevant material, and pages with keyword stuffing.
The use of snippets came into play in 2017, and they seem to be evolving every month. Snippets are basically the meta description of your website that is usually about 160 words and goes below your search engine results' URL.
Google has tinkered with this length from 160 to 250 and then 350 words. However, the snippets currently on a google search are now more detailed and highly specific, answering specifically to queries of the users.
They also highlight and reward websites with specific answers and detailed posts, thus rewarding quality content. Now, pictures and videos also seem to be featured in the snippet section.
The latest updates in March seem to be a flurry of changes aimed at relevance. Google has pushed for quality content on sites with E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust) and demoted the ones that didn't.
They made a broader general change to the core algorithm to identify high-quality content and have incorporated more ways of doing so.
And many companies, even big brands, were hit by the update because they'd duplicated content in some way or had content that was available on multiple other sites.
So the bottom line to their unnamed core update was to promote high-quality content that really stood apart from competitors.
To learn more about Rich Snippets, please take a look at this guide:
Rich Snippets: What are they and how to use them
What Can You Do If Any of These Updates Hit You Hard?
If you were negatively impacted by a recent Google update in 2018, the first step is to perform a site audit. See if you have broken or dead links, redirect issues, and page speed problems.
If you have more than 50% broken links, then you will have a link devaluation. These are some basic issues that must be fixed before you go on to the next step.
Familiarize yourself with Quality Raters' Guidelines or QRG. It may be 160 pages long, but it's totally worth it. What the guidelines show you is how Google Quality Raters determine which websites are high quality.
What if I have E-A-T issues?
If you have E-A-T issues, this same book has tons of advice on what Google understands as E-A-T. The book also explains what kind of ads are tolerated and what is considered clickbait.
Have a Look at What Your Competitors Are Doing
After you've read through the QRG, do a competitor comparison. Does their website serve customers better? If so, how?
Also, ask random people who know nothing about your website to compare it with a set of competitors and find out which they prefer to purchase or do business with. Find out why yours isn't the best.
What is it that your website doesn't have? Perhaps a video, prices, pictures, testimonials or reviews? Is the content relevant? Does it add any value to the user? Is your content like what is already available on ten other websites?
You can also compare your site to the number 1 website ranked on the search.
The Emphasis Is on “Wow” Content
Towards this end, the content can't be slightly better. It needs to be “wow” so that Google considers it the best. The days of simply tricking Google through loopholes and a few choice words are slowly disappearing.
Google's machine learning is getting better at figuring out excellent from good content. If you want to see an improvement, then you will have to work strategically on content creation.
This emphasis on quality is why Google carries out roughly 500 tweaks and updates every year, without confirming any changes. They've said they won't even announce updates. They will just simply carry them out.
So how can you keep track?
While you're watching the analytics page, domain authority, and studying the performance of the websites, you'd see the fluctuations.
However, the bulk of the challenge is now on the heads of SEO consultants. Why?
Your consultant should study the content length and the keywords your competitor uses, research the queries people send in through the search engine regarding the same keywords and find out better ways to answer them through your website or posts.
Do you want ‘WOW” content for your website but don't have time to write it yourself? Let our SEO writing team that is the exact team that wrote the content on our website help with your blog post writing.
Get Your SEO Score Today
Google updates can easily throw you off-balance if you are not in the know. But now that you are, all that is left is for you to put up the necessary measures and remain on track for great rankings.
If you want to find out if google updates has affected you, reach out to us and we will surely be available to help you.