Google’s search algorithm is one of the world’s most closely guarded secrets. While no one knows exactly which factors Google favours at any given time, what we do know is Google is constantly evolving as it learns more about how its users search.
“Each year, Google changes its search algorithm around 500–600 times. While most of these changes are minor, Google occasionally rolls out a “major” algorithmic update…that affects search results in significant ways.” – MOZ
The latest “major” update – Fred – was in March 2017, and it created a ripple effect throughout the SEO world (although In typical Google fashion, this update has yet to be officially confirmed). So if Fred hasn’t even been officially confirmed, why is this update so significant? Put simply, because of the immediate and dramatic fall in traffic experienced by countless sites across the globe. Search Engine Land analysed over 100 different sites and observed an organic ranking drop of between 50 – 90%. While this is a staggering figure, the more interesting observation is the characteristics these sites had in common and what we can learn from them.
High-Quality Content Is King
It’s no secret that Google is all about user experience. Google doesn’t say much, but when they do, they reinforce their mission to maximise effectiveness and ensure users can access the information they are seeking. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that Fred appeared to penalise sites with low-quality content. Specifically, in this instance, sites where content appeared to be written purely for ranking purposes or monetization rather than user experience. An example given by Search Engine Land is “content wrapped around ads, where often the ads are a bit hard to differentiate from the content.” In other words, the content on these sites had no value for the user and prioritized revenue raising over providing useful information.
Rather than living in fear of Google’s algorithm and future updates to it, adopting a quality over quantity approach will ensure your site is not demoted down the search results. Producing high-quality, relevant content is not easy, and it takes time. However, the benefits are worth it because Google will ALWAYS favour a site that engages users and has actionable content.
Backlinks = Authority
Those in the SEO world know that backlinks signal authority to Google. However, Fred highlighted that, once again, quality outweighs quantity. A low-quality backlink profile (where links are from spammy sites with low domain authority) will see your site penalised. And don’t make the mistake of thinking you can hide paid-for links from Google with intermediary pages, or link wheels etc. etc. You can’t. Google is constantly updating and changing the way it ranks pages so just because you haven’t been penalised today doesn’t mean you won’t tomorrow.
So, what can you do to ensure a disreputable website isn’t linking to your site? Clean up your link profile with a tool like Open Site Explorer from Moz. This tool allows you to easily identify which links are from reputable sources (strong links) and which are from not so highly regarded sites (weak links) and need to be removed. Never buy or sell links and before submitting your site to a directory, do a bit of research to ensure your site will be sitting next to other high-quality sites, not a junky directory that accepts everything submitted to it.
Effective SEO takes time, skill and patience. If you don’t have the time, speak to Webics.