By this point, you’ve probably heard something about the new Google Algorithm update that’s launching mid-summer of this year. Most likely, you’ve seen a blog telling you “3 Ways to Prepare for the Latest Algorithm Update”, and you probably thought “haven’t I done these already?” The answer is – you probably have. This blog will help you understand why you feel as though you’ve been told to make the same changes to prepare for the last few Google Algorithm updates and how you can use that information to prepare for future updates.
What is a Google Algorithm Update?
Google algorithm updates are routine updates that help improve the end user’s experience. These changes essentially direct searchers to more relevant search results and to websites that will provide the quickest conversion opportunity. It is easy to forget that in addition to being a massive search engine, Google is a corporation that needs to stay competitive against competitors who provide similar services. This means that websites don’t rank better because they spend the most money or because they have the flashiest features. Websites rank higher when they help make Google’s customers (AKA searchers) happy by providing relevant information on an easily navigated website.
Google is constantly updating its algorithm to help achieve one goal: matching searches to their perfect result the first time around. Every time a user has to rephrase a question or go to another page to find what they’re looking for, Google learns from that behavior, and their team works on updating the existing algorithm accordingly. Google actually updates its algorithms thousands of times a year, but only discloses updates if they might cause websites to take a visible hit. But the biggest secret no one wants you to know is that if you are abiding by all of the best SEO practices, you should have nothing to worry about; there shouldn’t be any changes to scramble to make. To understand this more, let’s get into a little of Google’s algorithm history.
History of Google’s Algorithm Updates
When the updates first started, they were something marketers needed to be aware of because they would completely turn a website’s organic traffic upside down. This is because back in the day, SEO specialists were more likely to use black-hat SEO and frowned upon techniques to help get ahead of their online competition. This included tactics such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, using spammy backlinks, in addition to other ways of cheating the system. The original big updates were created to even out the playing field by assigning rules that everyone had to play by.
With the first few game-changing updates, a lot of SEO strategists didn’t even know what they were doing was frowned upon. A great example of this is keyword stuffing. It used to be that the more times you used a keyword within the content, the more likely you were to rank for that keyword. Now we know that keywords also have to be surrounded by relevant and high-quality content, but we learned that the hard way after the RankBrain update and then again after BERT. This is just one example of an algorithm change that really changed the game, but it’s definitely not the only one.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to know all of the updates by name to apply the best practices to your website. Some of us have already gone through the trenches and brought back the Cliffs Notes version for you. You can check out our Basic SEO Checklist for a quick rundown of your SEO, well, basics.
What to Expect from the Latest Google Algorithm Update
This algorithm update will focus on a user’s experience while navigating through the website, focusing on mobile experience. Again, if you have already been implementing all the right SEO tactics on your website, there’s nothing scary about this. Honestly, you should have been prepared for this update three updates ago – why? Because the number of searchers that are searching on their mobile devices has exceeded the number of people searching from a desktop for years now. With that being said, it’s not surprising that Google is focusing on the same experience, but with an emphasis on mobile devices.
How to Prepare for the Latest Google Algorithm Update – and Future Updates
- If the information about more people searching from their mobile devices than from desktops surprised you, the first step you should take is subscribing to some of the major SEO forums. Here’s a quick list just to name a few:
- Search Engine Journal
- Neil Patel
Staying up to date will help you be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to algorithm updates.
- The next step would be to make sure you are constantly working on cleaning up your website. This list of items to fix will help get you started if you’re not sure what “cleaning up” your website looks like:
- 404 errors
- Broken links
- Broken images
- Missing meta titles and descriptions
- Missing image alt tags
No, fixing these little errors individually will not single-handedly boost your rankings. However, working on them can improve the ease of navigation through your site – and that will boost rankings.
- For this update, in particular, you’re going to want to make sure that your website is loading as fast as possible. Be sure to check both the desktop speed test as well as the mobile – there might be different issues slowing the speed on each view. You should then make sure your website reads easily on a mobile device. If someone gets on the mobile view of your website and can’t read the content they are bouncing immediately. Gone are the days of people fidgeting with a website when they can get the same information on another one more conveniently.
- Content will forever be one of the most important optimizations that should be made on your website. Having relevant, keyword-focused content will do wonders for your organic rankings. There isn’t really a concrete number of words Google recommends per page, but 500 words is a good starting point if you want to be competitive.
Long blog – yes, but this is valuable information. Obviously, you should always stay informed about the changes happening within the industry, but there is no need to run for the hills before every algorithm update. There will be a time when Google throws a wrench into things and tells us we need to optimize emoji-friendly content, but until then, just follow this guide and you’ll be safe.
If you liked this blog and feel like we really know our stuff, which we do, contact us to talk with one of our marketing specialists!
Hannah Gilliam, Digital Marketing Strategist