Google changes its search algorithm frequently. But it is easy to overlook when changes happen, because Google does not announce it in most cases. The onus is on online marketers to detect the change, typically by witnessing noticeable changes in SEO performance after the fact.
If you find some erratic SEO performance shifts and can’t figure out what in the world is happening, the logical conclusion is that there was a change to the search algorithm that directly and negatively affected your own organic progress. Naturally, you must stay apprised of what is happening in the SEO world, because being ignorant can really damage your marketing efforts overall.
Given that optimizing for the latest algorithm updates forms the foundation of your search engine optimization strategy, this isn’t a topic you can sleep on. You need to stay vigilant.
Of particular importance to webmasters and marketers alike – there are over 600 Google updates annually. While some of these changes will qualify as major updates, others not so significant that they should affect your overall SEO campaign strategy.
Instead of speculating about updates, gather as much information as possible about current marketing best practices, and then vet your campaign against it. Monitor your campaign carefully to rapidly detect changes in performance that stray far from historical results. Quick and unanticipated shifts in performance are signs of algorithmic changes slowing your progress in one or more areas.
So it pays to keep up with the latest algorithm modifications. In this article, we will review some of the major changes we already know about, and evaluate how they will impact SEO results during the remainder of this calendar year.
Over the past few months, the SEO world has been abuzz with Fred, the name of the Google update that is currently creating waves. In early March, webmasters afar and wide began speculating that a major update had begun pushing out due to major turbulence in the SERPs. Some website rankings crashed significantly, and we saw almost 90% of tracked keywords shifted in search rankings.
No doubt, this is quite a strange thing to happen, and apparently, it motivated many webmasters to dig deeper. Later, Google admitted that Fred was a significant update aimed at websites that are heavy in advertisements and poor in content.
It came to light that this update was an attempt from Google to weed out websites more interested in making money than presenting quality content to users.
Google Messages for Webmasters
If you found yourself down in organic traffic after Fred or another update, you have much more to do beyond simply identifying the reason for the loss. You also need to take corrective action to get your traffic back in order.
Going a step deeper than the vague guidance we tend to get from Google, webmasters have been able to chart out actions required to recover from any SEO-related, temporary setback. In many cases, the problem comes down to cleaning up your links, and this holds true with reacting to Fred. It’s gotten where link penalties are severe when the source websites fall foul of Google’s guidelines, and this applies as well to domains overloaded with advertisements and marginally quality of content.
Keeping Your Backlinks Clean and Tidy
Via Fred, Google has once again made it clear that we should be focused on acquiring fewer high-quality, trustworthy and relevant links. Chasing link quality continues to get more risky and less productive in the end.
Of course, you also want to be careful to pursue a well-rounded mix of links and link types, to comply with the standards they went after with Google Penguin a few years ago. Packing anchor text with keywords can send wrong signals to Google, making them see it as a part of link scheme that deserves a penalty.
As with all of the bigger Google updates, you need to operate in a way that shows you care about making users happy, and not only the search engines. Google wants to see all of us focus more on quality content, good white hat links, and user experience. So give it to them.
Readying for the Mobile First Index
This major update, though not launched yet, is reverberating in the SEO corridors due to the high impact that it is likely to have on SEO. No one knows exactly when the Mobile First Index will happen, but one thing is evident: It is a major update on a similar scale to Panda and Penguin.
So in other words, we all need to be prepared for it in advance. For the last few years, Google has been advocating for mobile friendly websites, but the focus was primarily on mobile design. Mobile user experience was the biggest piece of this focus. This resulted in widespread popularity of responsive web design that is necessary for creating mobile friendly websites.
Having achieved this initial goal, Google is now likely to make further changes to the search algorithm, acknowledging the fact that most people are accessing the web from mobile devices. To ensure that you’re optimizing your website properly for the new index, test the robot.txt of the site to ensure that the mobile bots can crawl the responsive website as well as desktop spiders.
Get the newly designed mobile friendly website verified on the search console.
And most importantly, if you don’t yet have a responsive website, get it done. Yesterday.
Mobile Interstitial Penalties
A lot of visitors do not like intrusive advertising on websites they visit. The problem has magnified further with the spread of responsive web design.
When people view websites on mobile devices, the sudden encroachment of advertisements on the screen is a big showstopper for many viewers. Users despise ads that block the content from view. Naturally, Google has chosen to come down heavily on websites that serve up uncontrolled intrusive advertising.
Besides obstructing viewers, advertisements slow down the website performance and load speed, and this affects search rankings adversely. If advertisements baffle viewers on mobile devices, Google simply downgrades the rankings of sites.
This has been happening since January 2017. Since user experience ranks far above the needs of advertising, Google assigns more importance to it. However, Google does not discourage advertising as long as it is controlled and do not become a cause of poor user experience.
That Google places user experience above everything else is clear from the updates. The sooner you can adapt to these new guidelines, the better organic results you can expect as mobile becomes their top priority.