On 1st August 2018, Google announced a broad search algorithm update, which lead to a frenzy of SEO communities and forums reporting of ranking and traffic fluctuations.
Whilst Google updates its algorithm on pretty much a daily basis, this was considered a significant update and the third main update this year. In fact, some SEO professionals have called it the biggest change since Penguin in 2012.
This week we released a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year. Our guidance about such updates remains the same as in March, as we covered here: https://t.co/uPlEdSLHoX
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) August 1, 2018
The shift in rankings was picked up by AWR’s algorithm change tracker as the graph below shows fluctuations from the algorithm roll out of the update from 1st August.
Which sectors were impacted the most?
Research by Sistrix highlighted that the industries affected the most were ‘Your Money or Your Life,’ known as YMYL for short, which relates to the health and finance sectors, followed by eCommerce sites. Companies that saw notable drops included Pandora (-28%), My Protein (-24%), and Wales NHS (-18%).
A report by Search Engine Land reviewed 300 affected domains and showed that Health was affected 44%.
Which SEO techniques were penalized and rewarded?
Whilst Google has been vague with the exact features of the algorithm update, the SEO community has been exchanging its thoughts on the matter and has highlighted the following key factors:
⦁ Mobile-first index
⦁ Site speed
What you can do to stay on top
Unlike previous penalties for thin content and links, Google says that you cannot do anything as a ‘quick fix.’ However, you should not have to surrender to worse rankings and there are several things you can do to be up to date with this algorithm update.
Be Mobile Friendly:
Whilst having a responsive site or mobile-friendly site has always been a given, it has never been more essential and now you may experience a penalty if your site is not mobile-friendly. This could include demotion of your search rankings or something as simple as not being able to rank for your brand name.
In addition to a simple mobile design, mobile-friendly sites should avoid covering up content. Whilst it is normal for mobile versions to have a lot less content than desktop versions, you will still need to include useful information and some text to be indexed effectively by mobile first. Content can be effectively added lower down the mobile page or through the use of accordion tabs.
Where possible, clear information should be presented above the fold and include information such as application forms, phone numbers, buttons and calculators.
Google always wants to promote pages that load faster and get the user to their desired information as quickly as possible. If Google has to choose over a page that takes 1 second to load compared to 10 seconds, it is a no-brainer.
Google PageSpeed Insights highlights several things that Google is looking for when it comes to site speed. Whilst some of these might be quite technical, the basics for any webmaster include having a healthy amount of bandwidth for their hosting and to avoid filling pages with heavy videos and trying to compress images to below 100kb where possible.
For sites using WordPress, plugins such as W3 Total Cache and LiteSpeed offer quick and effective ways to improve browser caching and file compressing.
In a world where content is king, Google is adopting the acronym of E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness). Every piece of content written must have some kind of user intent. Writers should go beyond providing blog copy with a list of benefits and bullet points, but trying to demonstrate expertise through people in that industry.
Content should also be information that people are generally searching for and are likely to read, and not just to bulk up a site for the sake of SEO. Finding relevant content titles can be achieved through the suggested questions that Google prompt during a search query or using tools such as HubSpot or Phrasee.
For those in the health sector affected by the recent update, they should try to use content that includes medical professionals or additional tools such as health calculators, surveys and forms. Google clearly wants to move away from anonymous writers providing expertise without authority. Therefore, a standard piece of content in line with new algorithms should try to incorporate their brand where possible and how it relates to their customers.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.