Google’s Latest Algorithm Updates: Do They Affect Your Site?
Most people are blissfully unaware that Google makes constant changes to its search algorithm – in fact, many only find out because their website suddenly disappears from the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Even professional SEO analysts have a hard time keeping up with all of Google’s updates, to which they assign kitschy names like Panda and Penguin. In April1 and May2 alone, Google made 92 changes to the way that it ranks pages in the SERPs. While the company is always quick to say that the changes will affect only a small percentage of websites, nobody can really say for sure how the updates influence individual pages until they have been implemented for a few weeks.
There are two general objectives that Google has with most of its updates; they first desire to provide a better experience for users and, secondly, to produce more relevant results for search queries. Updates to improve user experience over the past couple of months have been very focused on anticipating the keywords users will search for. This has caused the keyword suggestions, which pop up when users type in a search term, to be more likely to list the topic that users are looking for. Changes and updates to Google’s method of ranking pages have earned them to most attention, however, because they affect actual websites as opposed to just the people that are searching for them.
Google has been moving towards more semantic-based results; anticipating what information users are looking for is seen as the future of search. There have also been a number of significant changes that are intended to return fresher results in the SERPs, especially for news items like major events. Low-quality, thin content will be demoted no matter how fresh it is. The location of the user as well as location-based search terms are being given more relevance in the equations now, too, as one in five searches is related to a specific place3. In May, there were algorithm changes to improve automatic detection of users’ mobile device location in an effort to help users to find relevant results that for their mobile searches. Google is also trying to return a greater diversity of URLs in the SERPs to keep websites with several similar pages from dominating a full page of results. Pages on Google’s own social and business networks have been gaining increased influence in the results, as well. They are now connecting all of the pages posted online for exact matches with URLs and business names, making search a more effective tool for researching purchases.
The big changes in the last couple of months have been to the way that the search algorithm interprets keyword stuffing. Google has begun editing page titles that have a couple of long tail keywords so that they display only the relevant one. The other big change has been to the use of links and Google’s never ending campaign against webspam. Algorithm updates related to inorganic links have affected a lot of sites because their on-page links are sparking a flurry of link-checking by webmasters everywhere in an effort to isolate and delete Black Hat links.
If your website’s traffic has suddenly slowed down, or your pages have slid down to page ten of the SERPs, you can probably attribute it to one of the dozens of algorithm updates that Google makes every month. Equally, if you are suddenly inundated with new traffic it is probably because your complete online presence and high-quality website has been rewarded for having valuable information to share.