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Google Updates its Algorithm, but What’s the Impact?

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In March, it was revealed that the Google algorithm had been updated after SEO specialists around the world noticed changes to Google search indexes.

Although Google, as usual, haven’t told us exactly what changes they made, we’re here to give you a run down of the impact the update has had so far.

User Signals

The latest Google algorithm update looks like it might have increased the importance of user signals (for example, time on site, bounce rate and CTR) and intent. It means websites that generate more time on site, more pages per visit and lower bounce rates will likely have seen an improvement.

However, don’t be fooled into thinking these metrics are the be all and end all. A user may have their query answered with a one-off visit to a website where their question is answered on one page, rather than using your site for researching more detailed information.

It could be that Google are thinking that the growth and development of Featured Snippets will end up satisfying these short answer queries – we have already noticed an increase in no-click searches (searches which don’t results in the user clicking on any of the results) and a decrease in CTR for pages ranking in Position 1 due to Featured Snippets.

E.A.T Reversal

E.A.T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness and the Google Algorithm update in August 2018 focussed on rewarding sites that adhered to this and punishing those who didn’t.

The Core Algorithm Update of March this year appears to have reversed this previous update to some extent. Basically, some websites that saw a negative impact from the August 2018 update have now seen a positive one this time round – and vice versa.

According to data from Search Engine Land, almost 60% of those affected by the Google Algorithm update last August claim they saw some form of recovery.

SearchMetrics’ analysis has also shown that Google is favouring websites with strong branding and a broad topical focus which means, on the flipside, that niche websites and pages have been some of the biggest losers with this update.

For example, Martin Mißfeldt runs a range of (mostly) health-related websites including one site specifically focussed on blood cells, one on glasses and one specific to red blood cells. Martin saw all their traffic fall by around 66% after the update and predicts that his sites could have now, in Googles eyes, lost some of their expert status.

Winning after Google Updates

After the first official Google algorithm update of 2019, there are some ways SEOs can deal with losses and protect themselves from further updates.

Firstly, as I touched on earlier, build branding, trust and expertise in a broader topic so that users and Google can trust the site for a range of sub-categories. Focus more on creating long-term user relationships so people are visiting your site directly, rather than relying on organic search.

When it comes to organic search, people are naturally more likely to click on a result from a site they recognise than one they don’t. This improves user signals and should have a long-term positive impact on rankings and traffic.

Equally, optimise for user intent. SEOs need to ask themselves if the page is meeting user expectation and provide the exact answers users are looking for. This will be particularly important with the growth in voice search too.

Ensure you are optimising for more than just one or two keywords and focussing on what the purpose is of the search. Is it navigational, informational or transactional? Theoretically, every topic and search query demands its own kind of answer.

Finally, get acquainted with Google’s Quality Rate Guidelines. They primarily cover page quality and ‘needs met’ ratings – essentially how quickly and fully satisfied the user will be by the result – and give you a clear guide what makes a desirable search result.

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Sharon Flaherty

Hi, I’m Sharon the Managing Director of BrandContent. Day-to-day I oversee client satisfaction and carry out strategic client work. I work on both established financial services brands as well as challengers and love working on both. In a previous life, I was a journalist at the Financial Times and worked in-house for brands including the MoneySuperMarket Group and leading their Content, PR and Social divisions.

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