On Wednesday, April 15, 2020, Jake Renter (Intertwine Interactive) and Wes MacLaggan (Marin Software) will host the webinar COVID-19 Response Checklist: 10 Questions Digital Marketers Should be Asking Right Now. The webinar will cover a range of topics about how COVID-19 has affected the digital marketing industry, from tough budgeting decisions to preparing for an unexpected traffic increase.
Whether you’re already dealing with the aftermath of COVID-19 or you’re preparing for a possible digital fallout, this webinar will help you choose your next steps during this global pandemic and power through with positive results. Renter and MacLaggan will answer 10 questions from a variety of topics, including:
- Is my messaging correct?
- Should I change my bidding strategy?
- Should I be reducing my budgets?
- Is there an opportunity to build my brand?
Interested in watching the free webinar and learning how you could use the impact of COVID-19 to improve your business? Follow the link below to sign up for Wednesday’s webinar:
COVID Response Checklist
Every year Google comes out with a variety of large and small updates to its algorithm. The search giant’s algorithm includes a complex system of formulas and ranking signals that retrieve data from keyword searches and instantly delivers the best possible results for the keywords searched. In its early years, Google publicly shared their core algorithm updates to those in the SEO community; updates such as Hummingbird, Panda, and Penguin.
In recent years, Google has been much more secretive about their updates. Below I’ve outlined the larger and more impactful Google algorithm updates from 2019. One of the most helpful ways to see if your site has or will be affected by an algorithm update is to approach the update with a set of Google-provided questions about performance, quality, and other aspects.
Known among some in the SEO community as the “Valentine’s Day Update,” this update centers a website’s content quality.
- Does the website have Experience, Authority, and Trustworthiness?
- How relevant is the website search keywords to the website’s content?
- How good is your website’s content?
- How well does the website’s content answer a visitor’s question or search keyword query?
March 2019 Core Update
While the March core update doesn’t target any specific niches, it does change how Google interprets a user’s search query which can affect how a webpage is ranked on search engine results pages (SERPs). The March update also affects a webpage’s content relevancy of a user’s search query.
June 2019 Core Update
The June core update was one of the first updates in 2019 to turn the search algorithm’s focus to webpage content. The update included four different categories that websites should focus on improving: 1) content and quality, 2) content expertise, 3) presentation and production, and 4) comparative content.
- Content and quality: all content published on your site should be original, insightful and comprehensive. Your site should avoid the use of clickbait headlines that exaggerate the quality of the topic.
- Is your webpage the kind of page you would bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
- Content expertise: content on your site should be truthful and the content’s author should not be mysterious about providing their credentials related to the content.
- Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
- Presentation and production: the content should be visible to all users on any platform or device.
- Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with main content?
- Does content display well when viewed by mobile devices?
- Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- Does the content serve the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
September 2019 Core Update
There was very little information regarding this update by both Google and SEO publications around the web. Speculation and general consensus is that links played a big part in September’s core update; the more “black hat” or bad links a website has in their backlinks the worse their site ranked on Google.
The BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) algorithm is a deep learning algorithm related to natural language processing. This update is a stepping stone to more updates on the journey to better understand the context of keywords in search queries; previously Google’s algorithm focused on processing words one-by-one in order. This is important because different words can have different meanings based on the location of the user searching or the context of the query.
Do you own a smart phone? Have you ever asked it a question and received a very helpful answer? If so, you have most likely participated in vocal search, an alternative to the traditional finger-to-keyboard method of search. Do you know how much the two search methods differ?
What is voice search?
Voice search occurs when you speak into your phone or device, and an application searches for the words you spoke. The main distinguishing factor between voice and regular search is that regular search requires the user to actually type in the search terms with their fingers or device pen.
According to a Google report, approximately 55% of teens and 45% of adults use voice search on their mobile phones. The study was originally taken at least two years ago, with numbers more than likely to increase as mobile devices improve and get easier to use.
There are a couple of ways voice search is capable in the world today: 1) Google or another search engine provides a “voice search” button option on its site which is activated when pushed; and 2) mobile devices provide virtual personal assistants (e.g. Apple Siri, Android Cortana) that search for terms spoken by the user.
How does voice search affect SEO?
Traditional search and SEO focuses on keyword terms and how your website ranks for them. Voice search tends to focus more on searching in a conversational way, sometimes making a keyword focus less important in search. Using voice search could potentially cause completely different websites to rank than if a user searched the traditional way.
As voice search becomes more popular, search engines are working to include better-optimized results. In 2013, Google launched the Hummingbird algorithm update, which provided a new “conversational search” activity with the search engine. While some people would search for only a few specific keywords, Google’s Hummingbird update worked more with searches spoken in a conversation (such as with a mobile app). Since their algorithm updated toward semantic context, Google has made big strides to improve voice search for users.
What Is Panda?
Google Panda is an update made to Google’s search results ranking algorithm. First released in February 2011, Google Panda was originally created to filter out of low-quality websites from search engine results, and to make higher-quality websites rank better. Unlike common belief the name “Panda” was less named after the gentle panda bear animal, but instead after Google engineer Navneet Panda, who originally developed the technology that created and implemented the algorithm update.
There were a variety of search engine updates leading up to February 2011, but Google Panda was one of the leading algorithm updates that paved the way to a new and better Google search tool. Affecting approximately 12 percent of search engine results, Google Panda helped push the importance of developing quality websites and content.
Birth of Panda
For more than four years, Google has pushed almost 30 different Panda updates for their search engine. In 2011 alone, Google pumped out almost 10 updates to Panda. These updates included:
- Crackdown on US-based thin website content, content farms, websites with high ad-to-content ratios (original Google Panda update, February 2011)
- Stretch of original Google Panda update to all English queries worldwide (Panda 2.0, April 2011)
- Rollout of Panda algorithm internationally, for both English-language and non-English queries except for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (Panda 2.4, August 2011)
- Site recalculation and data refresh of previous Panda updates (Panda 2.5 “Flux”, September–November 2011)
Many of the Panda updates have been minor in the last four years, affecting less than 5% of websites across the internet. Several of these “minor” Panda updates have been new or revised algorithm signals meant to detect the low-quality content on websites and filter then out of the search engine results. Despite affecting so few websites at the time of the updates, Panda updates have brought light to the importance of quality content on websites.
The Panda Aftermath
Most of the websites negatively affected by Panda provided content that had little-to-no value for users; their content included duplicated, thin, or machine-generated content (such as game or lyrics-related websites). For a more complete list of affected websites, refer to SearchMetrics’ detailed list.
So what happens if your site was negatively affected by Google Panda? If Google finds your site to fail the Panda update test, then it will block your website from being indexed and appearing in search results. If your website only includes a couple webpages with low-quality content, then Google will focus on blocking those specific webpages from being indexed. As Google continues to make unpublicized Panda updates to its algorithm, there is a strong possibility that a few blocked webpages could eventually lead to an entire website being blocked. Further updates will also focus on thickening the low-quality site filter, thus affecting more websites in the future.
Next Step: Improve Your Website
If you think your website has been affected by the Panda updates, it’s very important to start writing much better quality content for your website visitors immediately (like published-in-a-professional-journal quality of content). Also be sure to replace any of your old content that might be considered low-quality to Google (e.g. duplicate, thin, or machine-generated). The sooner you remove hazardous content and replace it with high-quality content, the better your site will perform on Google.
In our last blog post, we discussed why fresh content is so important to your website, and the different kinds of content to implement. But do you know where to update your website content? The following points provide more details on where and how often you should update your content.
Content Update Score
A common theory in the SEO world is that Google and other search engines measure your website pages for freshness, then scores each page according to type of keyword used in the search. Whenever you implement a website update, the update is given a score based on when it was implement which deteriorates over time.
Where Should You Update Content?
Search engines like to score your content update based on where you make your changes, especially if it’s an update to an important or popular page of your website. Generally, search engines give better scores to text content updates on these pages, as opposed to updates with a site’s navigation menu, ads placement, and/or comments section. The size of your website update also plays a big role in how search engines score it; updating two sentences will make much less impact than if you updated the main body of text on a page
How Often to Update Your Content?
An important factor is how often you update your website. If your website regularly updates its content (e.g. daily news articles or blog posts), you’re going to score differently than a site that only updates its content once every couple of months. It’s inconsistent to make several website updates for two months, then wait 4–5 more months before making the next change. If you’re inconsistent, then search engines are more likely to be inconsistent with how they score your website.
Another important factor is how often you create pages and/or blog posts. The more pages you add to your website, the better Google scores your site for freshness. Websites should create 25–35% webpages every year (if not more).
How To Know When To Update
Now you know how to optimize your website’s content with quality updates. But how do you know when you should update? One way to track how fresh search engines consider your webpages is by measuring the time users spend on your pages (aka average session duration in Google Analytics). Older content tends to see a drop in average session duration compared to updated content. If you see a page that is getting less and less viewing duration, that’s a hint that you should update that page with quality content.
“Chapter 2: Content & Search Engine Success Factors” (SearchEngineLand)
“Freshness Factor: 10 Illustrations on How Fresh Content Can Influence Rankings” (Shepard, 2011, Moz)