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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)

SEM: What is It and How to Get Started

Online advertising has a lot in common with its analog counterparts. You want to place your solution where the most people can find it–high traffic areas.

If you are new to the online business game, the prospect of getting your solution on the front page of Google may sound daunting. There’s a lot you need to do, from blogging to keyword optimization–all falling under this vague label, SEM.

Check out this article for a head start on learning about what SEO SEM marketing is and how it can help you rise through the ranks of Google.

What Is SEM?

Okay, let’s start with the basics.

SEM stands for search engine marketing. The term encompasses a series of strategies that work together to improve your standing in Google’s ranking system–which is based on a complex set of algorithms we don’t need to get into today.

SEM is a term that is sometimes used interchangeably with PPC (Pay-Per-Click) and this is about paying for ads that show up on Google and Bing or even on sites like Youtube and Kijiji

In all reality, SEM encompasses SEO, and SEO SEM marketing isn’t just for people trying to make their mark on a global or national level. Often, it works well for small businesses like restaurants and shops that rely on connecting with their immediate community online to boost sales in person.

 

So, Can I Really Influence Search Results?

Yes, but you’ll need to put in the work or pay for the clicks.

One of the best ways to ensure you’ve got a place at the top of the heap is to regularly put out high-quality content that actually helps people. This means you’re writing (or paying someone to write) how-to guides that inform–not blatant product plugs. Essentially, you’re writing industry-specific articles that keep others informed. The point is, you’ve got something other people don’t–a skill, an awesome menu, or insight into a complex topic people want to learn more about.

Some Strategies for SEO SEM Marketing Content include:

SEO & PPC: Keyword Research

Because we’re talking content strategy, your starting point should be keywords. Why? Because keywords signal to Google that your content can help answer the questions web users are asking and it also forms the foundation of your PPC bid strategies.

Pretty simple, sure. The hard part, however, is finding out which keywords relate to your business. Start by making a list of all the terms that correspond to your website–then see how your competitors rank for those keywords.

Hubspot has an article that lays this process out in simple terms.

SEO Specific: Writing Blog Posts and Articles

Once you’ve got your keywords in place, it’s time to get writing. Blogs and articles are an easy way to share bits of information with your audience. They function as a way to add more pages to your website, increasing the number of times your site is indexed by Google.

Additionally, good content functions as a sales pitch of sorts for your company. If people like what you have to say, they may subscribe to your RSS feed, keep tabs on your social channels, and more.

SEO in 2018: Video Content

Video is blowing up these days–and for good reason. Short videos on Instagram stories or on Facebook present a unique opportunity to connect with your customers and show off the more “human” side of your business.

Spreading The Word: Promoting Content Via Social Media

Social media is especially important to small businesses. While you might feel like this isn’t the best use of your already limited time, think again. Pushing blog posts, articles, and updates out through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram is a great way to reach your audience and drive traffic back to your website. Plus, there are plenty of programs–Hootsuite, Buffer, Sprout Social–that allow you to pre-schedule posts and save time.

Beyond the promotion part of the equation, social media can help you keep tabs on what content is performing well for your competitors as well as what people are talking about in your niche.

SEO Basics: Don’t Forget About Backlinks

Building backlinks is a little tricky.

Google uses a variety of signals to determine the quality of the links that connect to your website, and some are better than others. If a popular news source or a government website connects to your content, that can be a huge boost–a vote of confidence that prompts the search engine to bump you up.

But, you’re not going to get these links overnight, no matter how good your product or your content. To get started, reach out to smaller blogs and review sites and find out if they’ll link back to you. Ask customers to link to your site or do something newsworthy.

A lot of backlink building has to do with building relationships with people willing to talk about you online. If you’re active on social media, create good content, and offer top-notch service, it’s a matter of plugging away and making an effort to connect. If your content is lacking or non-existent, spend some time improving what you’ve got.

Pay Attention to the Competition

SEO SEM marketing doesn’t exist in a bubble. You can’t keep your head down and bang out content without keeping tabs on the competition.

Take a look at competitive sites in your niche and see what others are doing in terms of content. Are people making videos to promote their products and services, or are blog posts more the norm?

Make Sure Your SEO SEM Strategy Is Well-Documented

Monitor your efforts and see what sticks. Maybe your articles do better than your videos or vice versa. Maybe you need to spend more time fostering the kind of relationships that build backlinks.

Track your metrics through tools like Moz, AhRefs, and Google Analytics. Seek out broken backlinks and remove them. Make your content as attractive and grammatically correct as possible.

There’s a ton you can do, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work on the docket, we understand. Octopus Creative specializes in the full scope of web marketing services from content creation to search engine optimization and SEM.

Call us at 1-866-205-8488 to learn more.

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.