Everything You Need to Know About the Google Algorithm Update
Though never formally announced, several astute webmasters and SEO experts noticed that there was recently a major Google algorithm update, which hit around March 8, 2017.
In a nutshell, Google’s algorithm is the way it decides which pages should show up at the top of search results. When it changes, it can affect websites around the world, and the audiences they serve.
Overall, Google changes its algorithm quite frequently, sometimes up to three times per day. Yet, when a major shift occurs, it typically creates some sort of shake-up within the industry.
Today, we’re taking a look at this most recent update, and some of the implications users are experiencing.
Interested in learning more? Let’s dive in!
1. Everyone’s Calling It Fred
As far as names go, this Google algorithm update has a pretty interesting one.
Users began to notice the changes around March 8, 2017. Then, many pinged Gary Illyes, a Google Webmaster Trends Analyst for details.
In his response on Twitter, Illyes jokingly mentioned that there was probably an update. He went on to suggest that any future updates be named “Fred.”
Though meant as a light-hearted reply, the name stuck. As such, many are calling this the “Fred Update.”
2. The Google Algorithm Update Was Confirmed
On March 23, 2017, Google Search held an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session at the SMX West conference. Gary Illyes was on the panel for this session. Attendees could request information straight from the Google experts themselves.
One person asked about Fred, and if Illyes could elaborate on the changes. Illyes responded that he couldn’t disclose any more details on the Google algorithm update.
Yet, he did say that it was important to read all the Google webmaster guidelines. He claimed that the update related to them.
3. It’s Believed to Affect Black Hat SEO
In response to Illyes’ remarks at the conference, as well as conversation on online forums from many webmasters detailing immense drops in traffic, it is believed that the Google algorithm update primarily affects black hat SEO content.
Black hat SEO involves content that is formatted to simply show up higher in search results. The aim is to drive traffic, delivering little to no value to a human audience.
As a result, black hat SEO material is typically characterized as shallow, advertising- or affiliate-heavy content. It is material that seeks clicks and conversions rather than connection.
In most cases, content is written around a plethora of advertisement or affiliate links, which are strategically interwoven into the data itself. Main sources of content include blog posts and other online articles.
Common tactics used in black hat SEO include keyword stuffing, hidden text or links, link schemes, buying backlinks, and much more. All of these violate search engine guidelines.
As Illyes pointed to the webmaster guidelines as a source of information on the Google algorithm update, this makes the connection stronger. It is believed that the sites and links targeted through this update are ones that go against the Google guidelines for quality content.
Sites that rely on black hat SEO tactics to build visitors saw their online traffic decline by as much as 90% due to the most recent algorithm. This update flagged and denied these sites from showing up on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
4. Some SMBs Took a Hit
Much of black hat SEO is low-quality content meant to drive short-term profit over a long-term connection. Yet, these types of spammy links weren’t the only ones affected by Fred.
Small-to-medium sized businesses who rely on keyword- and advertisement-heavy content to attract new online visitors were also affected.
It takes time and resources to consistently churn out quality content. As such, many of these businesses rely on blogs and articles that are heavily promotional.
Top examples are businesses that rely on sales from outside sources such as Amazon. These companies tend to operate websites that are heavy with affiliate links and third-party advertisements.
Most of these companies have yet to build up the resources required to produce a steady stream of meaty content. To do so often requires a team of writers or content developers dedicated to online marketing.
As such, these methods, which use many of the same tactics as black hat SEO, offer the high exposure and visibility they need to get their brand noticed.
Still, they fail to prioritize the user experience and don’t deliver the type of relevant and interactive content that Google is increasingly demanding. Thus, they too were pinged and penalized.
5. There’s Still Time to Change
If your site was affected by the latest Google algorithm update, there’s no need to panic. Deleting scores of pages or adjusting tons of links can only add to the confusion and chaos.
Rather, it’s important to take a look at exactly why Google made the changes it did. Then, consider how your site can benefit from the new structure enacted.
It appears that with Fred, Google is once again making changes to ensure its SERPs are as human-focused and relevant as possible.
It’s become wise to underhanded shortcuts that webmasters can easily take to win the SEO game. Now, it’s prioritizing sites that produce content-rich, readable content over ones that simply strategize their way to the top.
Focusing on white-hat SEO content is a great way to build the credibility that can help you improve your SERP rankings.
The counterpart to black hat SEO, white hat SEO is strategized specifically to appeal to a human audience rather than a search engine machine. Its tactics include using thoughtful meta tags and image descriptions, optimizing site navigation, and much more.
Quality SEO That Gets You Noticed, Naturally
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