Google confirmed that they released an update to their core algorithm in March 2018. The update was released on March 7th, but many site owners noticed the effects on March 9th. Further “tremors,” or tweaks to the algorithm, were noticed by the search community on March 14th, 23rd, and 28th, but have been unconfirmed.
Google’s announcement on 3/12/18 via the Twitter handle @searchliaison –
In short, this update can be described as the release of Google’s latest machine learning which takes many factors into account, all with the goal of satisfying search intent and providing the user with the best experience possible.
We know this update is NOT:
· Related to mobile-first indexing (according to Google’s John Mueller)
· Specifically targeting one area of SEO (backlinks, content, page speed, etc.)
· A penalty against sites violating Google Webmaster Guidelines
Instead, this update is rewarding sites that satisfy users better.
Here are a few general trends that individuals in the search community have noticed:
· Drop in rankings for tabloids
· Drop in rankings for multiple sites that provide very similar information, such as song lyrics, dictionaries, etc.
· Improved rankings for videos (especially YouTube)
· General changes in which SERP features are used for different queries. For example, a knowledge graph may have been replaced with a “people also ask” box, if Google’s machine learning has concluded that this is more satisfying for a specific query. These changes in SERP features vary for each query.
How to Recover from the Google Algorithm Change
Analyze how this update affected your site. Since the March 2018 algorithm change is a broad quality update, there is no one specific reason why rankings may have changed. Therefore, there is no set formula that will help all sites recover.
The best way to begin is to analyze how this update specifically affected your site, and then develop a customized strategy based on your findings.
· Identify the pages that had the biggest drop in traffic. What do these pages have in common? (Example: Were they mostly product pages, blog posts, category pages? Do they have thin content?)
· Was the drop mostly from desktop traffic, mobile, or both?
· Did you lose rankings for a specific group of keywords? (Example: “how to” queries, location-based queries, transactional queries?)
· Did your competitors recently start outranking you for your target keywords? Is their content satisfying search intent better than yours? Is there a specific type of content that is helping their rankings?
· Did you recently lose your spot in Rich Results? These are special features in SERP’s, which include answer boxes, knowledge graphs, products, ratings, reviews, local map packs, etc. Tools such as SEMrush and Ahrefs can help identify changes in SERP features.
These questions can help you identify specific issues that need to be addressed, and areas to focus on in your optimization strategy.
Back to Basics: Improve Site Quality
Google’s focus is always on the USER, so it makes sense that their algorithm rewards sites that satisfy searcher’s intent and provide a positive user experience. The March 2018 algorithm update has actually helped many sites that have been long been investing in the overall quality of their site.
If your site has been negatively affected, it’s time to get back to basics and implement foundational best practices for SEO, Content, and UX. It stands to reason that Google will only continue to roll out similar user-focused algorithm updates in the future, so now is the time to work on your site’s foundation.
· Improve your site navigation so users can intuitively find what they are looking for
· Create a well-designed, visually pleasing experience on both mobile and desktop
· Simplify your site; don’t overwhelm the user with choices
· Optimize the check-out / conversion process
· Remove disruptive or deceptive ads
· Resolve thin & duplicate content, including auto-generated pages
· Improve Page Speed
· If you haven’t already, migrate from HTTP to HTTPS
· Optimize your Information Architecture (IA) for both users and search engines
· Consolidate redirect chains
· Fix broken links
· Implement proper canonical & hreflang tags
· Earn links from reputable sources
· Optimize on-page content (title tags, meta descriptions, headers, page copy, image alt text, internal linking anchor text, etc.)
· Implement Structured Data where possible. This will help search engines understand your content, and will increase the chances of showing up in features such as a knowledge graph, “People also asked” box, product carousel, review/ratings stars, news/article carousels, etc.
· Leverage your expertise and establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry
· Focus on “E-A-T”: Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness
· Provide valuable information regarding questions and problems users may have
· Clean up any spelling and grammar errors
· Refresh outdated content
· More in-depth information can be found in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
Improving the overall quality of your site is a long-term goal. Many of these recommendations take time to implement and may not yield results immediately (although some may!). Begin working on your site quality now, and you’ll be in a better position when Google eventually rolls out their next algorithm update.
Contact IMI if you need help analyzing how your site was affected by the recent Google algorithm update, or if you are ready to take steps to improve the overall quality of your site.