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How to Handle a Major Google Algorithm Update

Aug 13, 2018
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Google is constantly working on their search engine in order to deliver better results for their users and their business. In fact, Google makes anywhere between 500 to 600 updates each year.  While not every one of this updates are major, when the big ones do role out you need to know how to respond. 

To put all this into perspective, here is a list of the major updates for this year alone that we pulled from Moz. (For a more in-depth list of changes, check out this great page from Moz)

  • "Medic" Core Update  —  August 1, 2018
  • Chrome Security Warnings (Full Site)  —  July 24, 2018
  • Unnamed Update  —  July 21, 2018
  • Mobile Speed Update  —  July 9, 2018
  • Video Carousels  —  June 14, 2018
  • Unnamed Update  —  May 23, 2018
  • Snippet Length Drop  —  May 13, 2018
  • Unnamed Core Update  —  April 17, 2018
  • Mobile-First Index Roll-out  —  March 26, 2018
  • Zero-result SERP Test  —  March 14, 2018
  • "Brackets" Core Update  —  March 8, 2018
  • Unnamed Update  —  February 20, 2018

At the time we are posting this, there have been 12 major updates in 2018. As a website owner or digital marketer, it's important to know what Google is doing, and how you need to respond. Check out the video below to learn how to respond to a major Google algorithm update. 

 

 

Video Transcript: 

Hey, thanks so much for checking out this video. If this is your first time watching, or maybe you've been watching a while, you haven't yet hit subscribe, please do so now. We would love to have you join our community.

So, today we're going to be talking about how to respond to a major Google algorithm update. Now, these happen sometimes more frequently than others. But Google is constantly making changes to their algorithm.

So, let's talk a little bit about how we should be responding when Google makes a major search algorithm update. As you can see up here, Google makes about 500-600, in between there, different algorithm updates or tweaks throughout the year. So, that's more than a few a day. So they're constantly trying to tweak and change and update the search experience to deliver better results for their users. And to make sure that they're weeding out the spam, and really giving people the best options available to them.

Now, a lot of times these updates don't make major shifts or fluctuations in the search results. But every so often, there are major updates that do make some shifts and changes, and you've got to be aware of what those are, and how you need to respond if your site has been impacted. Or maybe if your site just needs to be updated to meet the new regulations of what Google's trying to look for.

This summer seems to have been a very active summer, where Google has been testing and trying new things. And as you can see, in just over a month or so, we've had some major updates. On June 14th they did a new video carousel. They've got actually videos sliding in the carousel, just the traditional organic search results, kind of like images and some of the things you've seen there.

July 9th is when mobile speed started to roll out and really become full-on inside of the algorithm. So, if you have a slow site on mobile, you're going to get negative points. If you're fast on mobile, you're creating a better user mobile experience, Google's going to give you a little bit more weight.

And July 21st we started seeing some big fluctuations. Now, when it says unnamed, this means that Google didn't actually confirm that there was an update, but people in the SEO community were noticing some major fluctuations in their search positions, and where their site was being seen, and some of the visibility dropping.

July 24th is when we had the Chrome security come out. So, if your site's not up to HTTPS, doesn't have an SSL certificate installed, this is going to majorly impact you if users are using Chrome. Google's going to say, "Hey, these sites are not secure."

So these are big rollouts, right? And then we had a huge one on August 1st, and that's been called Medic. Again, this one has been confirmed by Google, and the reason it was called Medic is a lot of the sites that were hit the hardest, or that saw the most fluctuation, were in the Medical community. But if you just read that, you say well I'm not a medical site so I don't have to care about it. That's not actually true, because there's a lot of other sites impacted by it as well.

Google names updates and you're going to see a lot of names when it comes to SEO. Penguin, possum, hummingbird, medic. We had one earlier this year that was nicknamed Fred but those don't always tell you the whole story.

So, what do you do when this happens? A lot of people panic. They're like Google's changing things, my whole business model is in trouble, and sometimes it happens, especially doing black hat SEO and tactics that are seen as more spammy than others, you could be very, very negatively impacted by one of these major updates. But what do you do when this happens, if you have been impacted, or you need to update your site to be more secure, or you need to optimize your videos with schema in order to show up in these carousels? How do you respond to that?

Well, the first thing you need to do is not panic. A lot of people panic, they start trying to make changes. They think "Oh my gosh, my traffic's being tanked, my whole website's done." A lot of times you've just got to wait and let the dust settle, because we don't actually know everything that's going on, Google doesn't say, "Here's what we changed." They don't tell us that, we have to figure this out, and we've got to use each other and people in the industry to help us.

The first thing to do is take a breath. If you start to see these major fluctuation changes, major raking drops, just stop and breathe. The next thing you need to do is do your homework, review industry news. Now, my favorite site for this is SEO Roundtable. It's one of the better sites on the web. They do a good job of letting you know what's going on, and really trying to break it down, share a lot of different tools from a lot of different resources so you can get a more rounded view of what's happening and how this update may or may not be impacting your industry, or the SEO community.

You're also going to get a lot of news from other SEO's, they could say, "Hey, this rolled out, this is the impact that we're seeing." It can help you understand what's going on.

There's another site too, Search Engine Land, they also do a pretty good job of this as well. As well as Search Engine Watch. These are high credible SEO sites that you can go to and start to learn about how these algorithm updates are impacting not just your site, but how they're impacting the community. How they're impacting other SEO's, and what those other SEO's are saying about it.

I find these very helpful because you can get some other perspectives, they can help you figure these things out faster and let you know, "Hey, is my site being impacted, is my site not being impacted?"

The third thing you need to do is respond if needed. Sometimes you're not going to be impacted. Let's say you've been doing SSL for a long time, your site has been secured, you've really made sure that your site is following the Google Web Master guidelines. When this update came out on July 24th, you didn't need to be worried, because you've already met that requirement. So, you don't need to start panicking, and asking what do I need to? No, you've already done that. So you should be good there.

But let's say you were a medical site and Google's saying, "Hey," this is a level that they take very seriously. Most medical sites fall into what we call your money, your life. Which means these are a little bit more important topics, because they actually impact the health of somebody.

So, maybe you need to be more clear on your content. Maybe you need to look at the way you're saying things, the way you're linking yourself out to other sources. Make sure that you are following the guidelines in that area. And you may need to make some changes, you may need to make some changes to your linking profile, to the content of your site. How you deliver content to people, how secure your stuff is on your site. There may be a lot of things you need to do to kind of bring your site up to what Google's expecting from your industry and your niche.

The first thing is you've got to first slow down. The second thing is you've got to understand what's happening. And third is when you actually take action because you don't want to start taking actions and changing a bunch of stuff, and then the dust settles on the algorithm and you've done all these changes that you didn't really need to, and now your site's really impacted. That's what happens a lot, these things roll out. So August 1st it rolled out. It wasn't done rolling out for a couple of days, it actually took almost a week for the thing to fully roll itself out. And during the times these algorithms are rolling out, you're going to see these huge ups and downs in the rankings, and in the visibility of certain pages on your site. And maybe you might disappear.

We've had that happen before, with doing some local stuff, where Google made a big change and it seemed like our sites completely disappeared, and seven days later everybody was back. It was just the algorithm was trying to figure itself out and settle itself. So, don't make any irrational movements until you know what's going on.

Now, the thing with SEO is we never know 100%, because Google doesn't typically tell us anything. They will confirm stuff, then they may say, "Hey, we're doing this, and this is what it's targeting." But they don't say, "This is what we actually changed." They aren't that open about what's going on.

So, you've really got to use the community, use the resources you've had to make smart decisions so that your site doesn't get impacted even greater by making a poor decision, instead of just really understanding what was going on and then knowing how to implement the changes that need to be made in order to make sure that your site is visible, and it's meeting the Web Master guidelines.

So, I hope you found this video helpful. If you've got any questions on Google algorithm updates, you need a link to point you in the right direction, we would love to help you out. Just comment below. And again, if you like the video, please subscribe. And until next time, Happy Marketing.

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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