At the beginning of August, Google rolled out a core update for their search algorithm. Google does this on a regular basis. In fact Google does tiny updates every single day, reporting that in 2017 they did over 630 updates (that’s about two a day!). They do this to ensure that their users are getting the most accurate results from their searches that they possibly can.
That’s great news for Google searchers, but maybe not for you and your startup’s website. It’s already hard enough to get recognized when you’re just starting out, and then Google comes along and messes with it’s search engine. We know, it just doesn’t seem fair. Even though the update might give you anxiety over your well thought out SEO strategy and website rankings, most likely it’s not as bad as you think.
So before the panic ensues, here are the main takeaways from the August update:
Broad Core Algorithm Update Vs. Algorithm Update (Yes, there’s a difference)
Before we get into what changed, it’s important to note the difference between the broad core algorithm updates and regular algorithm updates.
Regular algorithm updates can happen multiple times every day. Google is constantly making updates to improve their users’ experiences. These small updates are actually just new algorithms made to fix a very specific problem or flaw. For example, the Pigeon algorithm was used to fix local SEO spam and Penguin was used to get rid of link spam. These updates are simple: Google tells us the problem they are trying to fix, they fix it, SEO experts adjust accordingly, and rankings go back to normal. All is right with the world.
Broad Core Algorithm updates, like the one that occurred in August, are not as targeted (and they don’t get cute animal names). Instead, they are tweaks to the main search algorithm. When Google makes this kind of update, it means that they are changing the order, importance, or value of certain words and signals. In other words, Google changes how they calculate the importance of the page and how it should be ranked when matched with a search. Because these tweaks are done to the main algorithm, Google can’t say what the changes were without giving away a portion of their secret formula. This, of course, results in many disgruntled SEO professionals and business owners wondering how and if the changes are going to affect their website.
Local and Organic Rankings: Win for the little guys?
One of the things people have noticed with the recent update is that local and organic rankings were affected by it. Unfortunately, it’s just not clear which way. Many are reporting that their local rankings went up while their organic went down, and others said the opposite.
Getting ranked in a local search is crucial for small businesses and startups. It lets you be visible to the people who immediately surround you. Most local searches done online are usually followed up by a visit or a call within 24 hours of the online search. Organic searches have less to do with location, and more with whether or not the content on your site has to do with the search. The two work together to produce your rank during a given search.
It may seem tempting to check your rankings right this second, but it seems like this part of the update worked in favor of the little guys. National chains with multiple locations actually saw the biggest negative impact of the new search algorithm. It would appear that locations of chains have been given less weight than they have for local businesses. No one exactly knows why, but a small victory for small businesses and startups for sure.
However, if you are worried that your website still lost rank, make sure that you have your address listed on every page of your website and social media channels. This boosts your local SEO and should help you get back to normal.
YMYL and Medical Sites: Sucks to be You
The update is being referred to as the “medic” update since websites that deal with the medical field, nutrition, and dieting were among the most affected. These sites are often referred to as “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) websites. They are often websites that give financial, legal, or medical advice or information. They can range from mommy blogs to a financial institution’s Q&A page.
Google seemed to place an emphasis on the E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust) of websites during this update. Focusing on E-A-T ensures that searchers are getting the most accurate search results (and information) possible.
E-A-T can literally make or break your YMYL website. Think about all the sketchy nutrition blogs that tell you a juice diet is the best way to lose 50 pounds in a month. They only reference and link to other sketchy juice cleanse diet blogs and products like a special smoothie that has a big “NOT FDA APPROVED” warning at the bottom of your screen. On the flip side, imagine a blog that has dieting do’s and don’ts, featuring interviews with certified nutritionists and dieticians, and statistics with links back to numerous studies conducted by universities. The second page is obviously the more trustworthy of the two, but because the first one has the words “juice diet” in it more times, it might appear first in a search, even though it clearly isn’t as steeped in fact. The update made it so this will not happen anymore.
In fact, Google is actually trying to protect us from misinformation that could “potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users.” So really, Google is just looking out for us (thanks, Google).
In light of this, it’s almost not surprising that websites dealing with dieting, nutrition, and medicine are feeling the brunt of the update. There are a lot of sites and blogs that don’t give accurate or scientifically based advice. Websites that do not have contributors with a good reputation, don’t have important information such as a location or an “About” page, and/or offer illegitimate or not scientifically backed products or solutions, decrease the E-A-T of the site and therefore where they rank on a search.
If your startup deals with women’s health, keto dieting, at home medical equipment, health and nutrition, or is considered a YMYL website, you may want to see where you rank on a search and act accordingly.
The bright side? If your site and/or blog is based in fact with reputable contributors, you shouldn’t have been affected…in fact your site may even be ranked higher than before (#win).
No, You Can’t Fix It (But You Can Focus on Quality Content)
It’s natural for people to want to just fix the problem. Once we know what changed, it’s just a matter of making some adjustments and poof, your ranking will be back to normal.
As we mentioned before, it’s not that simple. Because of the nature of the update, it’s not a matter of changing a word or two on your home page. All we do know was that it was a big update and that multiple things changed. So, no, you can’t just fix it.
But what you CAN do is focus on the quality of your content. Google puts out guidelines that you can follow to help you understand how they rank and what you should be focusing on in order to rank better.
Given the observations of the recent update, you should focus on the E-A-T of your website. Make sure your site comes across as reputable and professional, and be consistent across all of your pages. The purpose of the content on your website should be to inform others rather than just try to sell a product or service. Especially in the startup world, you need to become an expert in the field that you’re going into. Let that carry to your website and drive your content. If you start to become an authority in a field, your website will get more traffic.
Another way to start to boost your authoritativeness and trustworthiness as a page is to get Google reviews. Reviews tell Google that people have used you before and you exist as a company, making your site more legitimate in the eyes of the search algorithm. Especially for new and small businesses, getting some reviews could boost your ranking by a spot or two.
If you have a blog as a portion of your website (which you should, content is king after all), research, research, research before you write anything. Not only will this increase your authority when it comes to certain topics, but it will increase your trustworthiness. People will see that you put in the time to give them the most accurate information that you could. List your authors and their credentials so Google can see it’s not by robot9324. Plus, it looks more professional if you contribute a piece of writing to an author.
If your website’s ranking was negatively impacted by the updates, take a look at the sites that replaced you, what they do for content, and the set up of their page. You may be able to learn more than you would guess from your competition.
Overall, startups and small businesses shouldn’t have that much to worry about. Unless you’re a YMYL site, in which case sorry…
So take a deep breath, no need to panic (this time around anyway).