It’s that time again, folks. Google has recently confirmed a “core algorithm update” – cue: dramatic music and sharp intakes of breath. In a slightly unpredictable turn of events, the powers that be elected to comment on the rumours:
“As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded”.
Well, thanks for that, Google. How insightful. As always, they’ve been deliberately vague, but it’s interesting that we’ve heard anything to be honest. Often, Google will simply let the SEO community suffer without offering any sort of reassurance or advice. The fact that they’ve chosen to comment so soon on this new, as yet unnamed, algorithm update could suggest it’s different to what we’re used to.
Rather than add to the existing speculation surrounding the recent algorithm update, we thought we’d try something a little different here. A number of highly-respected individuals within the SEO community have already picked all 111 of Google’s words apart, so we’re not going to do the same. Instead, we’re going to take a look at what some of these individuals have said, and try to piece it all together. While speculation in this industry is essential to remain sane, and conversation is only ever to be encouraged, having someone take a step back and piece a number of different views together is also necessary.
Barry Schwartz needs no real introduction. He’s one of the best-known voices in the world of SEO, and always has something to say whenever Google becomes a little restless. In this case, though, he’s actually been pretty quiet. After some back and forth with Google’s Danny Sullivan, during which any mention of an official “name” for the algorithm was quickly dismissed, he resorted to mainly quoting the search engine’s official statement.
Schwartz does point out that a number of previous algorithm updates, such as “Panda”, are now also part of Google’s “core” algorithm. This observation suggests that changes are likely to be relatively significant. Panda has stood the test of time and is now one of the most well-known algorithm updates, so it’s likely that any changes to Google’s core are likely to have a relatively far-reaching effect as well. It makes sense – if it’s got “core” in there somewhere, it’s probably pretty important.
Roger Montti, writing for Search Engine Journal, has gone slightly further than Schwartz (in that he offers his take on Google’s potential motives). Essentially, he largely buys into Google’s stance. He’s accepted that the update isn’t targeting “poor” pages, or ones of low quality. Instead, he believes that Google is simply trying to improve itself, rather than to penalise “bad” websites. As always, the more Google refines its parametres in line with the user’s intent, the more these bad websites should suffer. If a website isn’t satisfying user intent, the chances are it will be of lower quality than one that is.
In Montti’s words, create content that is “not focused on keywords, but on solving problems”. It’s straight out of Google’s book of typically ambiguous, open-to-interpretation phrases, but it’s a great way of viewing this update. Google’s aim is to create a search engine that presents its users with the most relevant results, which is always worth remembering. When our next point is considered, it becomes clear that a number of developments outside of the “algorithm world” have also pointed towards this kind of shift.
Peter J. Meyers
We felt it was only right to include someone from Moz in this piece. After all, we love their Whiteboard Fridays here and often refer to them in times of upheaval! While Peter J. Meyers hasn’t spoken about this “core” algorithm update, he has written a piece on zero-results SERPs, which could offer an interesting insight.
As Meyers explains, Google recently launched an “experiment”, whereby they removed all search results for certain queries, instead answering it themselves with one simple piece of information. He points out that we’ve seen this before, albeit on a smaller scale, in the form of rich results such as knowledge cards. While the option to click through and see more results still remains, the need to sift through multiple results until you find one that’s clear and digestible has largely been removed. All of this, obviously, relies on Google being right; the main question is whether your average internet user’s need for quick answers will overshadow their desire for complete accuracy. The way things are going, you’d be brave to bet against the former.
If we consider Roger Montti’s aforementioned stance, that Google genuinely are trying to improve users’ experience on their own site, then this all fits. From Google’s perspective, if someone types in a query and has it answered without the need to click through elsewhere, that’s ideal. They’ve done their job perfectly; the user hasn’t simply been pointed in the right direction, instead they’ve actually been answered by the search engine.
According to Meyers, this has all been coming for a while now. Google has been bringing in this kind of “instant answering” for years. For example, knowledge cards have been around for years, as have Tweets, results, and top stories. The introduction of all of these new features has, gradually, taken SERP navigation out of the equation. Granted, the latest development may look somewhat drastic, but, in truth, it’s the next step in a logical progression.
Active Internet Marketing (UK)
Having evaluated and assessed the opinions of three well-respected individuals within the SEO community, it’s now our turn. We know that Google has made a change to its “core algorithm” and that they allegedly do so multiple times throughout any given day. We also know that relatively little has been written about the changes so far, unless it’s come from disgruntled SEO marketers who’ve seen a dramatic drop in their traffic. In their official statement, Google placed emphasis on pages that had been “previously under-rewarded”. With this in mind, they’re telling us that any sites that have seen a drop in traffic are likely simply now sitting in their “correct” position, with a number of more suitable sites now rightfully out-ranking them.
Something we have to bear in mind any time Google makes one of these changes is that they’re a business. It is, therefore, not entirely surprising that they’re going to want to satisfy their customers. Peter J. Meyers’ observation came at the perfect time, as we can marry up his observations with the developments in the algorithm. If Google’s shifting its metaphorical goalposts, then it’s extremely likely that they’ll be moved to a more self-sufficient location. With this in mind, pages that are more “direct” in terms of how they address certain queries might expect to continue to perform better. If you have seen a drop in your traffic, try conducting a simple test: take a look at your page(s), and ask, “what query does this answer?”. Get inside the head of your potential visitors, and try to pick apart your site and its content. If your words, images, and videos aren’t answering a question or, in Roger Montti’s words, “solving a problem”, then change them.
Being successful when it comes to SEO is all about the user, we know that. Perhaps a more useful way of viewing things is to consider Google’s agenda. Google wants the user to have as little work to do as possible. It’s all about proving that you’ve got the ability to provide that experience. Answer queries directly, solve problems, and, ultimately, remember who you’re producing content for!
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Here at Active Internet Marketing (UK), we’re constantly striving to learn more about the world of SEO, and to keep on top of everything Google does. To hear more about what we think, or to enquire about our services for yourself, get in touch with us on 01604 765 796. We look forward to catching up!