Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

Google Major Algorithm Update Guide

Google Major Algorithm Update Guide

Google rolls out a new algorithm update several hundred times a year. This may seem dramatic (because it is), but there’s no questioning that Google has earned its reputation among SEO kings for continuously rolling out updates. Most of these updates are minor, but occasionally, Google will drop a bombshell of an algorithm that shakes the SERP and SEO strategists straight down to their core. All of this may seem intimidating, but we’re here to break it down for you piece-by-piece, algorithm-by-algorithm, and animal-by-animal. Yes, that’s right, we’re talking about Google’s animals folks. Here’s your all-encompassing guide to Google’s major algorithmic changes along with some SEO advice that you should take to heart to combat these changes.

Pigeon

What is it?

In July of 2014, Google launched their Pigeon update to the US. It wasn’t until December of that same year that the update reached the shores of the UK, Canada, and Australia. So, what did this mystery bird of an algorithm change? At its core, Pigeon dramatically altered the results Google returns for queries where searcher’s location plays a part. Pigeon created closer ties between the local algorithm and the core algorithm. This meant that the same SEO factors were being used to rank local and non-local Google results. The algorithm is designed with the sole purpose of providing users with more useful, relevant, and accurate local search results. While this was good news for users, it wasn’t so stellar for local businesses. They would now be required to invest more time and effort into on (and off) page optimization if they wanted to keep up with the competition.

How to Adjust Your SEO

Pigeon had a significant impact on ranking and map results. This meant that businesses would need to act fast if they didn’t’ want to get buried in the SERPs. Before Pigeon, local businesses could usually skate by without investing much energy in their sites page optimization. However, now that the same SEO criteria was applied to all listings, they would now need to ensure their on-page optimization was air-tight.

Creating a Google My Business page certainly wouldn’t hurt your chances as a local business either. If you sought to be included in Google’s local index, this would be an excellent starting point. Once your business is verified and appropriately categorized (to avoid irrelevant queries), all that’s left is getting your name in relevant local directories.

Local directories, such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, have all seen significant ranking boosts after the Pigeon launch. Find a quality business directory, and get your name on there. These act as backlinks and rank well within Google themselves, giving your business a quick boost. Doing so is straightforward. Reach out to webmasters and ask to get listed with Link Assistant.

Mobilegeddon

What is it?

In April of 2015, the world came crashing down on some SEO strategists who hadn’t been taken the significant rise of mobile seriously. Google’s Mobile Friendly Update, commonly referred to as the apocalyptic Mobilegeddon, was put in place to ensure that pages adequately optimized for mobile devices would receive a significant ranking boost in mobile SERPs. It’s implied that non mobile friendly pages would be down-ranked significantly. It is worth noting that desktop searches are not affected by this update, and it works on a page-level factor. Meaning, one page of your site may be mobile friendly, while the rest of the mobile site might not hold up.

How to Adjust Your SEO

It’s time to address the elephant in the room, if you’re currently not utilizing a mobile-friendly configuration, what are you waiting for? It’s 2018 and long overdue. Optimize your site for mobile with a focus on speed, usability, and responsive design. Once your site is optimized, take the test and see if it stands up. If you want to rank well in mobile SERPs, you’re first going to need to pass Google’s mobile friendliness criteria. Assess what factors your page is missing and focus on correcting them to meet all of Google’s criteria. If you want to dominate mobile SERPs, this is how you do it.

RankBrain

What is it?

On October 26th, 2015, Google launched its machine learning system, RankBrain. This was Google’s self-proclaimed third most important ranking system and a component of Google’s preexisting Hummingbird algorithm. It was a pretty big deal. This machine learning was put in place to deliver users with better search results based on relevance. So, what does this machine learning system do precisely? Is it some breed of Terminator A.I. that is plotting world domination? Not quite, RankBrain helps Google decipher the meaning behind queries and respond with best-matching search results. That’s not all, as stated earlier, there is a ranking component to RankBrain. This machine summarizes a page’s contents and evaluates relevancy through a combination of traditional SEO and query-specific factors.

How to Adjust Your SEO

The entire structure RankBrain is dependent on user experience. Ensure that your site is optimized for user experience and diversify your content, or take the risk of getting down-ranked in the SERPS. These are things you should be doing regardless, but RankBrain is now even more of an incentive to provide users with a fluid, intuitive, web experience. The entirety of RankBrain is reliant on identifying query-specific webpage relevance and use them to rank pages. For example, pages with more content and relevant information are likely to see more success than others. For this, Google Analytics is your friend. When analyzing your site’s analytics, take a good look at Bounce Rate and Session Duration. If these numbers are less than satisfactory, start generating diverse, relevant, content.

Possum

What is it?

Google made some changes to their local ranking filter with the Possum update. This update occurred on September 1st, 2016, and the primary aim was to deliver better, more diverse results to the user based on the location of the searcher and business’ address. Following Possum, searchers were finding more varied results based on their physical location. This meant that the closer they were to a business, the more likely it was that they would see it among local search results. Not only this, but the phrasing of the query would now also play a more prominent role in how your business would rank in the local results. Previously, businesses outside of the city being targeted wouldn’t show in the local results directly. This was no longer the case.

How to Adjust Your SEO

There’s no questioning that Possum shook up the SERPs quite a bit. For local businesses with tense competition in their targeted location, Possum was a nightmare. The best way to adjust for this is to be more targeted in their keywords. Now more than ever, keyword targeting would be make or break for businesses. If a competitor’s business address is located closer to the searcher’s location, they most certainly will show up before yours. Unless your keyword targeting was on point, then and only then could you stand a chance.

In post-Possum, the location from which you’re checking your rankings now plays an even more substantial part in the results you get. This has everything to do with the now greater variety of results for similar-looking queries. By setting up a custom location through geo-specific rank tracking, you can alleviate some of the stress on your SEO.

Fred

What is it?

Yabba dabba do (we couldn’t help ourselves), Google’s most recent update, Fred, was launched on March 8th of 2017. This one is a little more cryptic than most, mainly in part due to Google’s refusal to discuss the specifics of this update. What we do know, is that Fred is targeting sites that are in direct violation of Google’s Webmaster guidelines. SEO strategists found that most of the affected sites are content sites with low-quality articles on a wide variety of topics created for what appears to the sole purpose of generating ad or affiliate revenue.

How to Adjust Your SEO

Well, first things first. Google came out and said they were directly targeting those who didn’t fall in line with their Webmaster and Search Quality guidelines. So, while it seems redundant to say, the best initial step would be to review those guidelines and be confident that your SEO isn’t in danger of taking a hit.

Be vigilant about thin content. Any content that is deemed to be low-value, ad-centered, or affiliate-heavy will be flagged under Fred’s guidelines. Having ads is only natural, Google expects it, SEOs expect it, everyone expects it. Just be sure that the pages that display these ads contain high-quality and relevant content. Don’t try and trick Google. They do not like this. Sites that have gateway pages full of affiliate links have suffered immensely from this update; we implore you not to fall into the same trap. Audit your website for thin, low-quality content. Turn it around and transform it into something relevant and useful.

There you have it. All of Google’s major updates up until this point. With any luck, you’ve gained some insights, along with possible solutions, into the updates that hurt your pages the most. Still curious about how to implement SEO or PPC strategies into your business and marketing plan? Kraus Marketing specializes in SEO and PPC campaigns, serving companies in the New Jersey and New York City area. Inquire about our services by calling (973) 998-5742 or contact us online.