Google updates its core algorithm yet again

Feb 19, 2016 by
Google updates its core algorithm yet again

When the SEO community started noticing some significant ranking volatility last month, it was assumed that the long expected Penguin update had finally arrived. Others speculated that the fluctuations could be related to Panda in someway.

However, it was confirmed by Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, Gary Illyes, that the changes were not caused by Penguin, Panda or any other animals, for that matter. It turns out that these disturbances were simply one of many recent quality updates. In other words, a change had been made to Google’s core algorithm.

What’s changed?

While significant changes in both desktop and mobile rankings have occurred, the community are still trying to come to conclusions about the general direction of the update. Fortunately, inferences can be drawn based on data from Searchmetrics, who post a list of search ranking losers and winners every week. It seems that news sites have taken the most damage, specifically for brand terms. The most affected site was The Atlantic, which suffered a loss in position for a multitude of terms.

If there is any obvious direction that can be discerned from this update, it’s that Google is looking to reward high quality content (this priority has been evident in previous updates too). It appears that the Atlantic and other major losers have taken punishment primarily due to older content on their sites. Conversely, publishers with current and holistic content such as Alaska Air have benefitted tremendously.

Interestingly, this article about NFL superstar quarterback, Tom Brady, was a major winner as a result of the algorithm update (at the time, Brady was well on his way to another Super Bowl victory before this happened). The article contains over 3000 words of text, lots of images and is highly contextually relevant – something worth considering when orchestrating content from now on.

How to proceed

It is logical to assume that Google is going to be even more effective in omitting underwhelming sites from its rankings.

It is logical to assume that Google is going to be even more effective in omitting underwhelming sites from its rankings.

Panda was initially integrated in 2011 in order to stop spammy sites attaining high visibility in Google’s search results (this definitive guide by Search Engine Land is a must read for those looking to understand Panda). Now that Panda is a part of Google’s core algorithm, it is logical to assume that Google is going to be even more effective in omitting underwhelming sites from its rankings.

In the ‘Wild West Era’ of SEO, SERP gamesmanship was often used to attain undeserved visibility for sites which had terrible content. Fortunately, a lot has changed since then, and it’s getting increasingly difficult to rank highly if your site lacks high quality content. The best way to proceed is to stop worrying about writing content for search engines and start really considering what will provide value to your audience. This might require you to incorporate more images into your articles and write more comprehensively. Neil Patel offers the distinctly unsexy advice that if your article isn’t the most informative of all on that particular topic, then it simply doesn’t deserve to rank #1 in Google!

To quote digital business expert and blogger, Alexandra Gavril:

“If you’re already doing a great job at creating useful and interesting content for your visitors, keep that up. Providing researched and purposeful information that people are searching for should be your main focus from now on, if it isn’t already. So when you’re creating content, make it your mission to help people with your content, and not to generate as much traffic as you can.”

In addition to writing better content, there are other ways you can improve your site’s user experience (which will help to put you in Google’s good books). Find and remove thin or duplicate content, particularly when this relates to affiliate marketing programmes. Refine your site design and ensure it works effectively for mobile users, remove long lists of internal links on landing pages but above all, constantly refine your content strategy and work towards helping people. This is all common sense, and fortunately, common sense is pretty damn important to Google nowadays!