Whenever Google decides to update its algorithm it will unavoidably bring different controversies to webmaster, companies and the entire SEO community. The guys at Mountain View seem to have really done it this time around: the shake caused by the infamous last update has been tremendous, and it led to a deep change in terms of online search results. Let’s try to understand what is happening and which potential adjustments we could take from now on, both in an operative and in a chance to rethink our methods way.
What is happening? What’s next?
On August 1st, Google has released an update that changed the very heart of its algorithm, leading several websites to a literal online chaos. Big G announced the whole thing with an olympian calm, writing a short and simple tweet:
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) 1 agosto 2018
So basically, it officially told us that:
- There has been an update which affected the very crux of the search algorithm, not just a marginal one
- It has been launched on August 1st, 2018
- Google does that different times throughout the year, so there should be no reason to be worried
- The update hasn’t officially hit anybody, it will just be a reward for those websites not been correctly recognised as they deserved to be
Dropping out the debate on the last point for a minute – since the reward for certain websites would simultaneously penalise other ones, or the other way around – what we know for sure is that the entire SEO community is in turmoil globally and, to make this really clear, nobody has a clue about the real criteria influencing those different variations in terms of search results. So, as for the moment, we’re left in the dark trying to guess and test potential solutions.
Just to get an idea of the real impact of the update, we can look at the Semrush Sensor results in terms of volatility of the search results, meaning they’re constantly moving: for as long as we can remember no previous update has made such a relevant impact, specially for a range of selected areas.
The worst hit websites seem to be editorial platform – as blogs and webzines – particularly those in the medical sector (even if, literally, every area on the web have been hugely hit).
But let’s see what we can do to cope with such a situation.
How to cope with the update successfully
Nothing. There’s really nothing we can do to make things better, at this moment. Simply because the spread of the update has not been totally finalised, so we actually haven’t any reliable informations and even the best SEOs of the world are trying to understand the situation best. We’re in a state of total observation, waiting for the latest shakes to end.
Honestly, seeing the extent of the update, we don’t think there’s any “quick win” solution we can find right now: it won’t be a matter of titles, tags or micro-data to make things better, but true actions to pursuit in the medium and long term.
Having said that we don’t have a proper answer on a global scale yet, let’s try and list three key points I strongly put my focus on everyday and which, for my knowledge, won’t be affected by negative changes. We’re talking about three simple – yet really important – factors that come with a series of practical steps, so take the following as a sort of guideline.
1 – Objectively useful content creation for the users
This means letting go the theory for which the amount of content is rewarded. We just need to focus on create effectively useful content for our users: enough with this being search engines slaves thing. Every single article must inform, help, guide people, human beings. Not an algorithm, a robot or a crawler. There’s no more space for shortcuts and tricky games: Google is becoming a proper artificial intelligence, much more advanced than any other living person on the planet, already capable of perfectly foreseeing a web search, a suitable content for a user and its possible usefulness, before any other can, today.
Create quality content will lead, obviously, to build a network of relationships on the web that will bring links, social mentions – and so on – to a website.
2 – Maximize the speed of a website, specially for the mobile traffic
Technical factor that many seem to not understand. It’s a crucial thing that for Google means a lot and for which there’s no conference, meeting, retraining or workshop in which we’re not being reminded, by Google itself, how much loading speed from mobile devices is important.
Google wants to provide the perfect experience for its users and it will tend to reward, all other things being equal, a much faster and performing website, even at the cost – for instance – of heavy, and often questionable, graphics (let’s leave aside the fact that the work of graphics is to communicate, to drive and convey a message, to work to remove: to find a synthesis rather than to weigh down).
Everytime a developer or a systems engineer will tell you there’s no way to improve the loading speed of your website, be aware that you are losing traffic, positions and credibility in the eyes of Google. Everytime you won’t invest in optimising the weight of pictures in your website, in a much better hosting and in targeted technical implementations, you lose real business opportunities. Not bits or quirks for SEOs, but real business, turnover, bills, money.
3 – Optimising the usability of a website, specially for mobile traffic (specially for mobile traffic!)
I will never get tired of reiterating how important the usability of a website is and how often this is relegated to a change of color on a call-to-action. If you don’t want to invest a massive amount of money, at least follow the best practices to improve. There are lots of tools, even for free, that allow us to test and improve constantly (as Google Optimizer).
Careful, not only the algorithm track directly and indirectly – through signals such as bounce, page views, etc. – the usability of your website, but there are also real-life testers who make the evaluators of websites (funny, right?!), and who follow almost 200 detailed pages of an official Google handbook to perfection, evaluating the websites they visit and giving their assessments to the algorithm. The document was updated on July 20, 11 days before the date of propagation of the update. I don’t usually like to go back over old history, but maybe some questions are legitimate.
In the long run a change of mentality will be necessary by embracing a holistic 360-degree strategy on different channels. Trivial one, but it’s the pure and still largely unheard truth. It makes no logical sense to keep thinking for silos: “I’ll do this for the SEO – this is done for Google Ads – this one for Facebook organic – this other one for ADV on LinkedIn”. No! That’s not how it works. The web world is going somewhere else, wether we like it or not.
We must concentrate and keep the straight bar on a concept of strategy aimed on a variety of channels, trying to make them work together. There’s no doubt a coordinated and effective effort will make the one support the other. We need to be able to resist the temptation of “write an article every 3 days”, or to “produce 4 contents” that deal with the same subject only for placing ourselves at the top. Because the result will be, sooner or later, the very opposite.
My personal advice: start working immediately at your mentality, at the core your work process, day after day and in small steps. Otherwise, Google will learn you how to, sooner or later, at its conditions. I know it is difficult, especially when you need to report to superiors or directly to the market, but you will still need to respond about it, in one case or the other.
Whenever you consider the internet a place full of shortcuts where you can succeed with some sort of shrewdness, give yourself a pinch on the cheek.
Let’s make the internet a better place for everyone.
Our CEO’s video on the topic