A Guide to Manage Google Algorithm Changes

The internet has changed significantly and so have the signals that determine search engine ranks. We recently made changes to our website title. Some two years ago, such change would have affected our search engine ranks but today, it does not really cause any ranking gain. The fact is that titles are now expected to be more related to page content and not just built around keywords.

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We've got to change our strategy and do so very fast following emerging guidelines and indicators that the recent changes to Google's algorithm are pointing us to. So be careful with tweaking critical content like page title, description, main menu titles, other menu titles and description. They add up to how Google accesses your website friendliness and usability.

An algorithm change can create a major upset and force a radical change to how pages and content are constructed. That's the dynamism of the internet and sets us on the path to thread cautiously. We must keep in mind that changes to the search engine algorithm is continuous. One thing that seems constant is the focus to improve user experience. If you keep your content development efforts on improving user benefits, you are not likely to get a penalty even with future update to the search engine algorithm.

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You may be struggling to recover from a past penalty and drop in ranking. We have once suffered a heavy rank loss in Google search engine. Dropping from top 5 position and going down to 32 for a very relevant keyword.. That was because we frequently fiddled with metatags at a time it played very important roles and hoped that those changes will force Google to re-access our page and push it up. It worked but when the penalty came, it was also huge. That was the lesson that got us to know that there can be penalties for some things. We began to learn about the best and acceptable practices and have since moved up steadily. Slow and steady is the way to go. Never be in a hurry, stick to the rules and work with the advice of reputable SEOs, that will bring you eventually to a winning position.

Also read: OnPage SEO Guide for Top Search Engine Ranking

In this article, you'll find very useful guidelines that will help you avoid a penalty and also help your recovery if you are suffering a Google penalty. The focus of this writing is on Google from 2015. We shall be looking at the last four big algorithm updates from Google and lay out a strategy for dealing with the damage.

Also read: Useful Tips and Tricks for WordPress Search Engine Optimization

Let's look at them one after the other.

1. RankBrain, 2015
RankBrain signaled the introduction of advanced machine learning into the search algorithm. This algorithm uses advanced features of artificial intelligence, working with data from users, trends, queries, and other input sources to understand websites.

Google have clearly made known, the impact of this change and how it is used to process a very large portion of the search volume it receives.

RankBrain had been around for a while and now dictates the results of the search algorithm. The impact of RankBrain is very significant and is reported to be impacting about 15% of all queries. This is a huge figure. Keep in mind that a previous change (Panda 4.0, May 2014) affected only 7.5% of English-language queries.

Also read: What is an SEO Audit, and How Can It Help Your Business?

What Impact Did RankBrain Have

Though very massive, RankBrain's SEO collateral damage has been pretty low. The algorithm isn't trying to regulate the ranking of existing websites, rather, it is focused on interpreting user queries. The biggest impact of the algorithm change is an upside for users. Users who input ambiguous or more natural human language queries can expect to get more relevant results.

How to Repair a Damage from the Algorithm Change
You may or may not have had any damage from RankBrain. Whichever may be the case, these suggestions are good to keep you on the advantageous position and to help a speedy recovery from a hit if there be any. You accomplish this by:

  • Creating the best user experience possible. Make your website easy for user navigation and for them to find answers to their querries.
  • Post content that provides answers to the questions your users ask.
  • Deemphasize the stress over keywords. Not bothering to channel your content to focus on target keywords but rather write for user benefits is a better practice. Just be natural and try to solve problems.

Also read: 16 Mistakes That Turn People Away From Your Website

2. Panda 4.2, July 17, 2015
This was another major algorithymic change. Relatively an old news, it is still worthy to lay some emphasis and talk about how to recover from any penalties that may have arisen from its updates. According to MOZ, Panda 4.1 is the 28th of the Panda updates. Some of the negative effects Panda 4.1 (which Search Engine Land calls Panda 4.2) were still being felt as recently as October 2015, two months after it was implemented.

To be technically accurate, Panda updates are actually a refresh. The algorithm doesn't change as much as it processes new information, learns from it, and makes adjustments. Essentially, the Panda algorithm is a quality factor. It is basically designed to lower the rank of sites with low quality or thin content, and upgrade the ranking of sites that have strong, authoritative, longer form content.

Also read: SEO - What Search Engines Love and Hate About Websites

What Effects Did It Have?
Panda 4.1 affected around 3% of queries. Sites that escaped previous Panda updates were most likely hit by this update. But there was a good side of it. If you have been hit by a previous Panda update and you made improvements, you most likely got an upgrade.

How to Repair a Panda Damage
If you still suffer from a Panda penalty, then here's how to make improvements:

  • Make your content longer. Short-form content doesn't rank well.
  • Create a strong page title that matches the content on the page.
  • Solve a real problem with your content. Do not just write and fill up pages with words.
  • Improve on your spelling and grammar.
  • Remove or reduce the number of adverts on the page.
  • Check to make sure your links are working properly.
  • Create a strong meta-description to encourage click-through.

Also learn about: How To Manage the Sudden Disappearance of a Website from google SERPs

3. The Quality Update, May 2015

Google's Quality Update was unexpected as Google actually modified their core algorithm to adjust how it processes quality signals. In other words, Google was probably shifting some of the 200-or-so ranking factors that they use to rank websites.

This update had some significant impact on content-heavy sites. The How to articles were the worst victims like those found on Answers.com, Hubpages, and WikiHow. Each of those sites was affected by the algorithmic update. This update was similar to Panda because it focused on content. However, there were noticeable performance differences. There seemed to be a high degree of intuitiveness in the way that Google assessed the quality of the sites and pages that were affected.

How to Recover from a damage induced by the Google Quality Update

Google appear to be more interested in improving user quality rather than reducing spammy content. The Quality Update is meant to increase the quality of searches by bringing long-form content to the forefront. If an article title suggests that it will explain how to do something, then Google wants to make sure that the article has authority, validity, and a thorough explanation; it wants to ensure that the article provides what it claims.

The recommendation here is that you ensure that your content is authoritative, comprehensive, and detailed.

Also read: An SEO Guide on the Top 3 Factors That Guarantee Success For Every Website

4. Mobilegeddon, April 21, 2015

Google's comment on this update which was simply a mobile-friendly update puts it  like this:
"As we noted earlier this year, today's the day we begin globally rolling out our mobile-friendly update. Were boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results. Now searchers can more easily find high-quality and relevant results where text is readable without tapping or zooming, tap targets are spaced appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling".

To check if your website is mobile friendly, use the Google Mobile Friendly Test Tool

The mobile-friendly update made the biggest headlines but did not turn out to be so destructive. It however gave a strong signal and had some impact for mobile users which has increasingly become a huge community.

It had some limitations also:

1. It only affects search on mobile devices.

2 It applies to individual pages, not to entire sites.

How to Repair a Damage from this Update

If you don&' yet have a responsive or mobile-friendly site, it's time to change. You can test the mobile performance of individual pages by using Google's mobile-friendly test.

Conclusion

Google's algorithm updates are basically driven by the need to improve user experience on the web. Working to ensure that your visitors are happy when they visit your site through the quality of content they read is a sure way to get the thumbs-up in the eyes of Google.

Do you have something to contribute or share on this issue? Let's know.

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