Google has recently updated its search algorithm — how will this impact the rankings of online businesses?
In mid-March, 2018, Google rolled out an update to its broad core search algorithm. The distinguishing factor, when compared to Google’s previous updates, is that Google finally confirmed the update through its Twitter account. Further information on this confirmation can be found on Search Engine Land.
Google Update: Key insights
- The update is in regards to the core search algorithm
- There are multiple updates of this sort each year
- Specifically focused updates (regarding page speed or HTTPs, for example) are carried out daily
- The update was not intended to punish sites but rather reward those with quality content and thus informative search results
- There is no particular way to reconcile a performance decrease, as the algorithm consists of a holistic evaluation
Google has developed a new algorithm to identify high-quality content that is also relevant to user search intentions.
What is a core algorithm update and how often does it occur?
A core algorithm update is a change in Google’s algorithm, which retrieves data and displays the SERPs based on the search query and multiple ranking signals. Considering that there are multiple ranking factors, narrowing down an update’s focus without Google’s further elaboration can be difficult. Yet, according to Barry Schwartz (and confirmed by Danny Sullivan), the most recent update did not consist of a specific focus (like Maccabees or Fred) but rather took a broad number of considerations into account.
What is the intention of the new Google update and what can you fix accordingly?
Google’s update speaks to two SEO-related areas:
- Understanding user intent
- Understanding content
The algorithm thus speaks to user intent and content rather than targeting all low-quality pages. Furthermore, Danny Sullivan states that there is no need to fret if certain pages decrease in performance, but rather that previously under-rewarded pages are set to benefit from the update. This means that Google has potentially identified a method of recognizing high-quality content that also speaks to user search intent. Thus, previously under-rewarded pages that are relevant to a specific query will improve in rankings, while higher ranking pages that, although strong, do not relate to search intent, will drop in performance at no fault of their own.
This is why Danny Sullivan insists there is no need to accomodate sites to this particular update and reiterates that the update simply seeks to answer user questions at a more efficient rate.
What impacts are we seeing in the market?
Although it is still early to clearly identify either the impact of or the factors propelling this update, reverberations are being felt across the market with clear winners and losers. Sistrix, in its study has highlighted that losers have been impacted at higher magnitudes than winners, with double-digit drops in visibility. As such, key takeaways are:
- The impact has been substantial on domains heavy with content – youtube, BBC, Telegraph, etc.
- The update has not yet fully been rolled out
This update does draw a comparison with that of December 2017 (referred to as Maccabees by some in the SEO community), which also saw domains increase or drop in visibility. But as Danny Sullivan, in recent tweets, denied Barry Schwartz’s hint at the update’s focus on specifics (similar to Maccabees), this algorithm update clearly extends beyond details. Yet the update has, thus far, targeted domains that are heavy with content and numerous landing pages while catering to multiple search queries.
Video content is quickly becoming the preferred method of search among young users
Others have recognized that the update’s biggest winners — youtube.com, dailymotion.com, vimeo.com, etc. — are heavy in video content, speaking to the fact that video content is quickly becoming the prefered method of search among young internet users.
Focusing on meeting the search intention
We looked at one of the affected domains highlighted by Sistrix, Softonic.com, for the keyword “Abbyy fotoreader freeware,” where it dropped from rank 13 on 05.03.18 to rank 90 on 12.03.18
SERPs on 03/05/2018
SERPs on 03/12/2018
Two notes here:
- A change in ranking URL “https://www.abbyy.com/” to “https://www.abbyy.com/en-us/support/fotoreader/sr/” highlights the update’s intention to better provide the user with solutions
- A drop for “https://abbyy-finereader.de.softonic.com/” also highlights the same point, as the screenshot illustrates that the page is concerning ABBYY FineReader, which does not solve the users search intention to download ABBYY FotoReader.
While this sample size does not allow us to derive any definitive conclusions regarding the update, it is safe to assume that the update targets the overall delivering quality of Google’s search results in order to better serve users.