Every time a new set of Google updates rolls around a sense of panic sets in. Read more about the golden rules of good content and fear no more.
The Blog Tyrant's Ramsey Taplin has been making a living online since the earliest days of blogging. He tells a story of making a respectable living via AdSense, only to wake up to drastically reduced earnings out of the blue. An unexpected Google update killed his first blog like the meteorite that ended the dinosaurs.
Google updates can seem like a force of nature. They are hard to understand. They are impossible to predict. If you're not prepared, they can kill your digital presence like some invasive bacteria. To help prepare you for the next Google update, here are some things to keep in mind.
Your Guide to Google Updates
Google processes roughly 2 trillion searches a year. That breaks down to about 40,000 searches each second. Even the most inconsequential Google update can have profound implications on web traffic.
Google changes with the times. It's a reflection of the ways that people use the internet. Google updates also help shape the way we interact with digital technology. Google started out simply crawling web pages for keywords. This led to unscrupulous black hat SEO (search engine optimisation) hackers to cram pages full of as many keywords as possible on a given page. This made finding quality information exceptionally difficult in the early 21st century.
This led to some of the earliest Google updates as the search engine struggled to bring relevant content to the front page. Other innovations have made Google updates more necessary and more frequent. Social media didn't exist during the first wave of modifications. Nor did mobile browsing. Now all of these factors contribute to a page's SERPs.
To gain a clearer understanding of the impact of Google updates, we'll begin by taking a look at their history. It's easier to envision where things are heading when we know where they've been.
A History of Google Updates
Revisions to Google's search algorithms have grown so frequent, it would be impractical to cover them all. We'll take a look at a few of the most extensive Google updates to illustrate the evolution of the search engine.
Toolbar Update - December 1, 2000
The Toolbar Update essentially introduced the concept of page ranking. This kick started the SEO wars in earnest, as site owners struggled to get as many keywords and phrases as possible into their domain. This would come back to haunt them later on.
Cassandra Update - April 1, 2003
The Cassandra Update was Google's first attempt at vetting where backlinks were coming from. They particularly penalised backlinks from websites from the same owners. The Cassandra Update also cracked down on hidden text and hidden links. These were other favoured tactics of Black Hat SEO developers.
Florida Update - November 1, 2003
The Florida Update sounded the death knell for keyword stuffing and other unscrupulous SEO tactics. It may also be one of the most famous technical updates in history. Many site owners were upset and confused when their page ranked plummeted with no warning.
Nofollow Update - January 1, 2005
The Nofollow Update explains why it's so hard to get a quality backlink today. This Google update dealt with spammy backlinks. Anyone can link to anything from anywhere, but most of those links don't qualify towards SERPs.
Personalised Search Update - June 1, 2005
Here's where we begin to see the outline of today's internet. The Personalised Search Update called on users' search histories to offer tailored search results. An entire industry of personalised recommendations was born.
Google Local/Maps - October 1, 2005
Google launched the Local Business Centre in March 2005. The Google Local/Maps update integrated the Local Business Centre’s information into Google Maps. Local search SEO became integral overnight. It's never slowed down since.
Universal Search - May 1, 2007
The Universal Search update launched the browser format we know and love today. This Google update split up results into different types of content. Images, maps, news, and shopping results all got their own tabs. The Universal Search is responsible for helping internet users find what they're looking for as efficiently as possible.
Consider these Google updates as the prehistory of today's internet. There have been hundreds of updates since 2007. Many of them have had a profound impact on the way we create and consume digital media.
Mobile ranking has become an important factor in SERPs. Google Penguin revolutionised the way backlinks are measured. None of these updates were anticipated. They all had profound implications on page rankings. Let's peer into today's internet a bit to learn how updates are impacting SERPs in recent years.
The Most Recent Google Updates
Google now has nearly 200 factors in determining page rank. Understanding the factors will help give you an idea of how to best display your content in a way that will appeal to search engines and users alike.
Use Structured Data Mark-up to Improve your Page Appearance
Google and Bing have been championing mark-up as a way to verify websites for quite some time. Marking up content increases its usefulness in rich content and voice search results. When you use data mark-up properly, Google is able to place your content in a carousel at the top of the SERPs.
That's higher than the #1 slot. That's higher than sponsored posts. That alone should encourage you to integrate data mark-up into your web development.
Rich Results are Rolled Out
This update tests websites for 'rich results.' These results can be placed beside the organic search results. This test is only available for Job Postings, Movies, Courses, and Recipes so far. You can rest assured many other categories will be soon to follow.
Store Locator Sites are Becoming Increasingly Important
Bulk store verification for businesses with more than 10 locations requires a Google My Business site. Otherwise, individual postcard verification must be conducted for each location. This can be time-consuming and annoying. Make sure your Google My Business site is up-to-date to avoid the hassle.
Page Speed is a Ranking Factor
Users expect a page to load in four seconds or less. The bounce rate spikes pretty quickly after that. When a page load time increases from one to five seconds, the bounce rate can get as high as 90%. This is even true of mobile users. They are slightly more patient, as pages are expected to load a little slower when browsing with a mobile device.
This wiggle room is shrinking by the day, however. Mobile users are growing accustomed to websites being mobile-optimised. The page speed metric is an excellent illustration of how Google updates can shape our content and web design. Now let's take a look at how you can future-proof your website.
Best Practices for Preparing for Google Updates
It's impossible to know what the next Google updates will be. Optimising your content for SERPs involves a number of time-honoured web practices, however. Understanding the current state of SEO offers some insight into how to prepare for future updates, as well.
Optimise for Voice Search
As virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa become more commonplace, voice search will become more integrated into users' lives. This means Google searches are getting longer and more conversational.
Mobile users are becoming an increasingly important demographic for search engine marketers. Integrating the actual phrases that people use in their daily lives will be an important factor in attaining that coveted first-page position.
Answer your Customers Questions Quickly and Clearly
Google has started showcasing answers to common questions in Quick Answer boxes at the top of the search results. This is so mobile users don't have to click-through to answer their questions.
This means having real insights into your buyer personas. It means speaking directly to your customers in a way that will bring real value to their lives. Which is what Google updates are actually about.
SEO Best Practices Still Matter
Classic SEO metrics will still play an important part in page ranking. Don't skimp on on-page SEO to focus on voice search just yet. Domain and page authority is the most important factor in determining page ranking. The quality and quantity of backlinks are the quickest way to reach the front page of SERPs.
Diverse links are the next most important SEO factor. Make sure to source quality backlinks from as many sites as possible. Keywords still matter. Just make sure to use them effectively. Using a keyword or phrase every 100 words or so is your best bet. Sprinkling keywords throughout your content also yields best results.
Context is becoming increasingly important in Google ranking. Google has been focusing on semantic search in a bid to help users find the most relevant content for their queries. Google updates can be minor or profound. They shape the way we create content. They sculpt the way we deliver it. Think of the Rise of the Listicles, as Google began scanning for scan-able text.
Focusing on time-honoured SEO tactics will make sure your website weathers every storm. Keeping up with the latest trends will also give you an idea where the industry is heading. Together, your web presence will be unsinkable.
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