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Google’s Algorithm Changes So Far This Year (2018 Edition)

2018 has been a rollercoaster of a year for Google. We’ve seen big sites go overboard and small fish rise to the top (erm, in a non-dead way…). In our last post, we talked a ton about 7 ways to put out killer content that ranks, so, we thought we’d dive into Google algorithm updates in 2018 to show you why you should be putting energy towards high-quality original content.

Let’s take this oppor-tuna-ty to see how Google’s algorithm has changed in 2018. Sure, some of this may be a little technical, but we’re going to try to cut out all of the fancy acronyms and overused tech buzzwords. Trust us; this post will have you hooked!

March 7th, 2018 (The Brackets Update)

Let’s get one thing straight, we didn’t get to name this update. The credit for “Brackets” goes to Glenn Gabe over at GSQI. We would have picked something way better, like “The Betta Update” or “The ClickBait Update.”

This Google Algorithm update was one of the “nothing to see here” updates that Google is famous for. SEO experts were seeing shifts about a week before the update was officially announced, and Google made sure to clarify that the update was broad, not specific. Essentially, we saw another quality-emphasized update. Google wants to see unique, quality content, and websites that weren’t delivering took a ranking hit.

We can’t give you any specifics, because Google didn’t release any. But, we can tell you that the update seemed to be 99.9% quality oriented. For anyone familiar with SEM, this update isn’t surprising. There seems to a slew of these “broad” updates every year, and almost all of them are content focused.

The Brackets Update Takeaways

  • You need to be leveraging unique content if you want to stay ahead of the pack.
  • Google is dead set on releasing these broad updates yearly, and we’ll probably see another one pop-up before the year is done.

Tip: For any of you who are having issues penetrating high SERP, check out Google’s official guide on creating quality content. Be warned; it’s dense.

March 26th, 2018 (Mobile First Indexing)

It’s finally here! It seems like Google had been talking about mobile-first indexing before smartphones were invented. Ok, so really they had been toying around with the idea for 2 years, but it seemed like forever.

Google’s index is essentially its collection of web pages. So, all of the web pages that Googlebot crawls through, it indexes. Until now, Googlebot has been indexing pages through desktop crawling, which means that it was only taking into account pages that it found on desktop versions of sites. Of course, not all websites have the same content on desktop and mobile (don’t be like these websites!) Unfortunately for Google; mobile searches overtook desktop searches back in 2016 (and are dominating them in 2018.) So, this was leading to some obvious inconsistencies for all of us who use mobile search.

Now, Google is indexing via mobile. This does not mean that Google is using two indexes; it still only uses one. Now, the index is mobile-based.

The Mobile First Indexing Takeaways

  • Make sure that your mobile site matches your desktop version. Don’t publish different content to each.
  • Mobile is Google’s primary focus, which means that it should be on your radar. We aren’t saying to ditch the desktop. Just like investing, your SEO strategy needs a blended portfolio, or your risk is far too high.

June 14th, 2018 (Goodbye Video Thumbnails)

We could all sense this coming from a-mile-away. Google dropped support to video thumbnails and uses the carousel to rank content now. Of course, the carousel is a mobile-first feature, which further emphasizes Google’s love for mobile this year. Here’s where it gets a little fishy. If you’re an eCommerce site, you need to be paying careful attention to your ranking strategy.

Since Google removes anything in the carousel from the organic search results, anyone whose primary purpose is to sell product may get a negative impact due to this change. If you have a video popped up on a product page, make sure that it’s the correct one. If the thumbnail ends up looking nothing like your product and you get into the carousel, you’re going to get destroyed on ranking.

For example, let’s say that I sell pens. I have a huge page of pens that are all grouped together. I put out a video of my most expensive golden pen. People search for black pens, which I also sell. I used to be on the top 10 Google results page as an organic link (the blue links.) Now, my video is in the carousel, so Google removes me from its organic search. Suddenly, the person searching for black pens is seeing a video of a golden pen and completely skips my page.

This update may not seem significant, but it’s important to pay attention to small details like this. If you feel like you had a ranking hit (or sales have slowed down) since this time period, reach out to us. We’ll get you right back on track.

The Goodbye Video Thumbnails Takeaways

  • Webmasters need to pay careful attention to where and how they’re positioning video creatives; missteps can lead to colossal ranking hits.
  • Google really wants everyone to know that they love mobile. Make sure that you have a mobile-friendly site and start optimizing your creatives for mobile consumers.

July 24th, 2018 (HTTPS)

If you weren’t using an HTTPS website on July 24th, 2018, you were a fish-out-of-water. Starting this year, all sites that didn’t have HTTPS were displayed as unsafe on Google Chrome. We can burst through this one quick. If you aren’t using HTTPS, stop what reading this blog post right now, and go fix it. You can’t rank, and visitors aren’t going to visit your website.

The HTTPS Takeaways

  • You website has to be HTTPS secured. Period.

August 1st, 2018 (The Medic Update)

Google Medic was first discovered by a bunch of health and wellness webmasters who noticed some(fin) wrong with their rankings. Moz started to see some crazy ranking fluxes during this time period, and these rank changes seemed to disproportionately impact health and wellness websites.

This update was another quality-related rank change. Essentially, Google is starting to penalize websites based on their authority. Google’s asking “what authority do you have to make medical claims” and using that as a basis for ranking. For businesses, this means that peer-reviewed studies and consistent linking are a necessity. It’s not enough to say that Octopus Creative is the best agency on the planet, you have to prove it.

The Medic Update Takeaways

  • Make sure that you’re backing up any claims that you’re putting out.
  • If you’re in the health and wellness niche, make sure that you’re not making any claims that could be perceived as fraudulent.

The Other Google Algorithm 2018 Updates

There were a few other updates this year, but they were either A) small or B) had unknown impacts. Here they are:

  • July 21, 2018: Search Engine Round Table shows some significant inconsistencies and ranking shifts. Update unknown.
  • July 9th, 2018: Google announced that mobile speed would play a role in ranking factor. So far, it’s only penalizing super-slow sites. We expect it to start putting more emphasis on speed in the future.
  • May 23rd, 2018: Moz and Search Engine Round Table show some strange ranking patterns. Update unconfirmed.
  • May 13th, 2018: Google reduces snippet length to the previous 150-160 characters (thankfully!)
  • April 17th, 2018: Google confirms a core update after Moz and Search Engine Land find strange ranking temperatures. No one knows why, but most think it’s related to quality.
  • February 20th, 2018: Moz predicts algorithm update, Google denies it.

Conclusion

Google’s algorithm is a living breathing AI that will continue to evolve and adapt to the way that people intent searches. Quality remains a pressing issue for Google, and most changes reflect a distinct craving for quality content. Some strange situations might pop-up due to the Carousel and Medic update, which is why it’s important for SEO companies to be hyper-vigilant about staying consistent with Google.

If you’re running a business and all of this seems like way too much for you to have to think about, we get it. You have a company to run and a brand to build! Let us step up and use our SEO skills to reel you in clients and throw some bait at the bottom of your funnel. Also, don’t worry, just because our brand is an octopus doesn’t mean we’re from Finland, we’re located right here in Canada! (sorry, we had to)

How You Can Increase Web Traffic With SEO

There are no secret methods or fancy tricks with SEO. The most effective tips are easy to understand and implement.

If you’d like to maximize your website’s potential, SEO is your key to visibility and success. It takes more than just hard work and effort to increase website traffic. SEO to the rescue.

Rules are forever changing in the competitive world of SEO. To stay ahead of the rest, you’ve got to have a strategy that constantly evolves with those rules.

We’ve put together the best tips for your guaranteed SEO success. Read on to learn more.

Take Advantage of Your Site’s URL

Also called the domain name, a URL is a website’s address. Your URL is an important factor to consider for effective, guaranteed SEO.

URLs can be considered a site’s storefront. It’s usually the first item seen by your visitors, so it’s imperative that it’s clear and impressive. The URL is the first item viewed by search engines when they’re deciding how to rank your site as well.

It’s wise to keep your URL to the point and clean. Leave out anything that makes it confusing, cluttered, or otherwise distracting. This means avoiding special characters, page IDs, dashes, or other similar items.

The best URLs state the name of a business or another descriptive representation of it. You can include relevant keywords if they fit naturally into the URL.

Make Sure Pages Have Titles and Descriptions

So what is a page title and description? These are brief texts that state concisely what a website contains through the use of meta tags. For search engines exploring your site to determine its rank, these are the next items to check after your URL.

Page titles and descriptions will ideally provide condensed explanations of what the site offers and will also include keywords or keyword phrases.

These titles and descriptions will not show on a page. They will, however, be displayed on a page of search results.

This is important because potential visitors see page titles and page descriptions and then use them to decide if they want to visit your site. Make these titles and descriptions work in your favor.

Use Links Thoughtfully

Guaranteed SEO requires good use of links. Links generate traffic, ensure that websites are friendly for web crawlers, and allow visitors to easily navigate your site.

Internal links

Links placed in a website’s content that point visitors to other pages on that site are called internal links. These links make your site easier to navigate so that visitors can find more information.

Internal links also prevent orphan pages. These are dead-end pages with no links. Their presence will hurt your rankings with search engines.

Internal links are made into clickable text. This clickable text is also referred to as anchor text. Its flow should be natural and should include a hyperlink, information relevant to the subject, and keywords.

External links

External links point visitors to other sites containing information that relates to your site’s content.

The anchor text of external links must be used in a way that flows naturally with the rest of your content. The anchor text should also give visitors an idea of where the external link is going to send them.

These links boost SEO because they’re considered by search engines to be third party votes of website popularity.

Use Keywords Correctly

SEO results require good use of keywords. But you can’t just throw them around and expect success. There are a few rules to observe for effective keyword usage.

When people search the web for something, they’ll use a search bar to enter the word or group of words that they feel describes what they’re wanting to know. These words or phrases are known as keywords and keyword phrases in the SEO world.

Your keywords should summarize what your website content is all about.

Keywords Connect

Good SEO is about making sure your chosen keywords and people’s search words are the same. This is what connects you with your target audience.

Guaranteed SEO will involve a lot of keyword consideration, research, evaluation, and adjustment.

To get started, make a master list of the services or products you offer. For each of these, list at least ten keywords or keyword phrases that describe them.

Put keyword research services to work to help you decide which words will be the least difficult and the most popular. These will be the keywords you’ll incorporate into your website content so you’ll have better rankings.

Avoid Keyword “Stuffing”

Don’t “stuff” website content with your keywords. Avoid using them excessively throughout your text.

Don’t use keywords in unnatural ways that flow poorly with your content. Keyword stuffing hurts your rankings with search engines.

Make Your Site Spider, Bot, and Crawler Friendly

A web crawler is a program that a search engine uses to explore sites and gather information. They’re also called bots, spiders, and crawlers. These programs “crawl” through site content, reading it and then sending back their findings to search engines.

Once crawlers have located a site, they will read through the site’s text, links, and source code. They harvest this information so that search engines can then analyze it for website ranking.

Your Site Should Be “Crawlable”

For good search engine rankings, a site has to be “crawlable.” Crawlers have to be able to easily follow links if destination pages are to be included in a search engine’s database.

Make sure the beginning of your pages have quality content. Web crawlers read from the top of a page to the bottom.

Also, crawlers can’t “see” your site’s images. You must use alt text that’s descriptive so crawlers can understand the image’s content. Alternative text, or alt text, is a phrase or word describing the image that’s inserted in HTML code as an attribute.

Be consistent with providing content. Websites should have a lot of quality content for crawlers to report, not just code for these programs to “crawl” through.

Increase Website Traffic with Guaranteed SEO

SEO is a must for better site visibility. The whole purpose of search engines is to scour content to find the sites that deserve top spots in their search results.

To keep your site from getting buried under tons of other results, you need to use great SEO strategies. To find out more about digital marketing and search engine optimization, explore our site or contact us today.