11th Jun 2019
DesignWeb SEO Consultant Lisa Baker discusses Google’s latest Algorithm change.
At the slightest twitch of Google’s algorithm, a business can literally drop from first page ranking into obscurity overnight. Make no mistake, getting SEO wrong is not good for any site, but for a business that relies on web leads, or ecommerce sales, a Google algorithm change can literally halve your sales.
Many website owners may not be aware that last week, Google made some massive changes to it’s algorithm that are still being felt by the search community.
Google haven’t given any details about this update, other than to confirm it. They don’t always announce changes and only rarely do they let the web community know what the changes will be. At least the SEO community will understand why our rankings may be fluctuating this week, even if we don’t yet know the full outcome as it settles into place.
As always, there will be winners and losers. The Daily Mail has reportedly seen it’s search traffic drop by 50% since last week- something that will hit advertising revenue. The CEO is apparently appealing to the search community for help to resolve the problem.
If experience is anything to go by, we won’t know the long-term outcome of these changes for a few weeks longer. Even then, Google makes regular, minor tweaks and search is evolving all the time. I therefore won’t be rushing to respond.
The last big Google algorithm change in March seemed to hit health-related sites, however early indications are that sites hit hard in March are showing signs of search recovery since last week’s update, so there could be some ‘corrections’ to earlier changes.
SEO consultants are judged with a mix of awe and fear, as though we hold huge power. I’m sometimes called the ‘Google Witch’ (I love that one so much I want to brand it!).
Actually, the real power remains with Google, and our role is less sacred, SEO is mostly hard work, measuring, testing. reading, painstaking link building and content creation and keeping active in the search community. We may tweak your website content, build backlinks within and to your site, sometimes we may remove or disassociate backlinks. It’s very individualised and we focus on learning what works today – and re-learning as necessary.
Black hat is seen like a mystic art and almost always involves trying to trick Google. White hat SEO means following best practice.
I always follow white hat because in the long run, this works. Even if hit by an algorithm change, sites using white hat techniques usually recover fairly quickly once the Google algorithm changes settle into place.
Black hat SEO – now that really is a dark art, with only short-term effect. Trying to exploit a weakness in Google, like building fake links, (which saw business owners literally slapped out of the top 200 rankings by Google’s Panda) and other nefarious practices, will have limited long term effect.
In case you are wondering, I have seen the impact of penalties in real life. A former employer who loved black hat went from page 1 position 1 for over 50 keywords to obscurity and not being visible in the top 200 for months, when Google rolled out Panda. It proved a costly lesson.
We shouldn’t feel resentful when Google challenges an unethical practice, because bottom line, as search consumers, we want high quality results. In my view, black hat is the lazy man’s approach to SEO and it only works short term.
However, Google’s power is scary. For example, when Google changes it’s policies to determine whether news or products are ‘fake’ or ‘genuine’, I’m left a little cold.
When it comes to holistic medicine, drugs, or alternative remedies, many sites simply do not rank despite having excellent SEO – the algorithm has deemed their content as not fit for their search engine (and by extension, society).
With effectively one search engine to rule them all, should we allow Google to make these policy decisions for society? Because let’s face it, if you can’t find it, you can’t shop there. They can close an ecommerce business overnight.
It’s a lot of power for a single player to hold – and while Google rules all searches, it is largely unregulated. Google is simply a business with shareholders to please.
On the flip side we also expect our search engines to protect children and vulnerable people from seeing harmful content. Censorship through search is a tough tightrope to walk.
The Daily Mail have, I’m sure, put a response team in place to deal with this Google algorithm change, with internal and external resources working on the issue while search positions stabilise.
I will be monitoring my client’s traffic and will make changes if necessary once things are settled. Like most SEOs, in the meantime, for me it will be business as usual. Two things are certain:
1) Sites optimised using white hat SEO are more likely to recover, even if there is short-term instability, and
2) This will definitely not be the last update Google makes – it, like the SEO community, are learning, evolving and responding.
If you need help with any aspect of SEO, please get in touch with the DesignWeb team.