As the most popular search engine in the world, Google revises its search algorithm daily. As such, content creators may not even notice the differences on a day-to-day basis because they are so small. Whenever Google rolls out one of its periodic larger updates, they send content creators into a frenzy, despite how they already revise their program all the time. Like the smaller unnoticed changes, these tweaks may not have a very noticeable impact, and Google generally tells content creators you don’t have to change your content in response. However, you should still understand what these algorithm updates mean for you and your search engine optimization (SEO) tactics.
Websites want to increase their hits through a process called search engine optimization, which Google uses to sort the order in which websites appear in a search. When users search a phrase, Google pulls up websites that contain that keyword or phrase and order them according to relevance. The result of a query on Google is a search engine results page or SERP.
Some content creators use “black hat SEO” tactics, meaning they stuff their content with keywords that would allow them to appear higher on a page in a keyword search but do not contain much valuable content. This is partially what Google targets when it refines its algorithm, so it is important to understand different types of SEO. Google has released several updates, such as Panda and Penguin, to prevent websites from keyword-stuffing and elevate the ranking of quality website content in search results.
Google posted on its Twitter account the following message: “Sometimes, we make broad changes to our core algorithm. We inform about those because the actionable advice is that there is nothing in particular to ‘fix,’ and we don’t want content owners to mistakenly try to change things that aren’t issues….”
Essentially Google says not to change your site in response to a drop in ranking, which sounds counterintuitive. Your site may have experienced a drop in relevance that doesn’t have to do with quality. To improve your traffic, you may want to analyze how your website may be relevant to users and how to promote that.
If you run a legitimate website, some updates may not significantly affect you. For instance, some of Google’s larger changes involved decreasing ranking on SERPs for very slow pages sites that keyword-stuff, and sites that use artificial or inorganic backlinks. Essentially, Google intends its algorithm to optimize organic, relevant content on SERPs and punish sites that try to trick the program.
Google released a detailed manual describing what factors affect a page’s ranking. Here are some of the main points.
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Google measures the quality of a page based on this standard. If your site has a high level of E-A-T, it will appear higher in ranking on a SERP. Whether the page is humorous or scientific, it should still exhibit E-A-T characteristics. Writers of hobby websites should have expertise in that field, the same way a doctor or professional creating a medical page should have credible authority because it will impact someone’s health and wellbeing. However, while your page may have high E-A-T, it must still maintain relevance to rank near the top of SERPs.
Main content (MC) refers to the main page(s) of the website and conveys the purpose of the website. MC should be clear, factual, and engaging to readers. Because a website can revolve around a wide range of topics, quality MC may look different for different subjects. Even if the page is about shopping or crafting, the site should still help users quickly understand what the website aims to accomplish and help them efficiently find what they are looking for.
Your page should also include information about your website and you as a creator. This should legitimize your identity and establish your expertise and skill in the subject matter of the site.
Google’s updates largely target deceptive, fraudulent, or inaccurate sites that try to game the algorithm’s keyword functions and generate clickbait. Updates are supposed to boost legitimate websites, so if anything that should help you out, as long as you use organic methods of SEO. While Google’s advice may sound frustrating, especially for sites that lost traffic following an update, pay attention to their metrics of ranking. Focus on both creating quality content and making that content useful to readers. If you do so, you can actually use Google’s algorithm updates to your advantage.