What to do about recent Google updates
There are many companies out there who think twice about making investments in SEO because they feel that trying to climb the ranking mountain is at the whims of Google. This fear strikes me as a type of online marketing agoraphobia, because there is never much risk if you are doing things the right way. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep track of what’s going on.
The Google search engine updates their algorithm constantly throughout the year, yet not many updates have an effect on web development and SEO strategies. Even then, only a few ever become “named” updates. Those that do are usually named by the SEO community because of the behaviors they exhibit, as Google rarely makes much of an announcement when they make algorithm changes.
In the spirit of staying up on what’s going on, here are two of the latest updates that are worth paying attention to if your website depends on traffic from mobile web users or any type of local business search – and those probably affect just about everyone.
Google Playing Possum in Local SEO
Local SEO is a practice that has historically had significant limitations for businesses who deliver services in areas outside of their own cities. There are best practices to follow and local landing pages to build, but you really need to be honest to succeed in Local SEO. If your business has been following the rules but is just missing the cut because of your address, Google may have just given you a reward.
The possum update occurred at the beginning of September and has been identified as an update that mainly began to rank businesses who fall just outside of a city in the “Local Pack” results for keywords that include the city’s name. So, if your business is in Edina, MN (a suburb of Minneapolis), it is now more likely to rank for searches using the word “Minneapolis”.
There are other aspects of the update, including filtering based on businesses within the same category that share the same address, but what’s clear is that Google has become more sophisticated than ever about how they manage local rankings.
It’s Officially Time for Mobile-First SEO
Web designers and conversion optimizers have been preaching mobile-first design for years now, but it’s been a gradual transition for SEO to focus so intently on mobile. Only after Google’s Mobilegeddon update of 2015, which penalized non-mobile-friendly websites in their search results, did Mobile SEO begin to be a business-driven focus of SEOs.
Now Google has actually made an announcement about their latest update, which is rare and means *Hey everyone, you’d better listen up!* The announcement makes it clear that they have begun to work on a mobile-first index that will judge mobile versions of pages as more authoritative than desktop pages. Other experts have found that Google could already be testing this change as there have been movements in search results that correlate to mobile-friendly signals already announced by Google.
This means having a responsive site is still a great decision, and that maintaining content consistently and with quality if you have a dedicated mobile site is more important than ever. Another announcement earlier this year that Google is highlighting AMP results in their search results is a guiding factor for mobile-first as well, because site speed on mobile is one of the most important features.
Long story short, when Google speaks, SEO people listen, and we’re listening to these messages as a signal that it’s more important than ever to continue to develop fast, technically sound content that works as well as possible for mobile users.
Bonus! Penguin Goes Full-Time
A bonus update for our readers - the Penguin update is one of the most well-known algorithm updates because it placed manual penalties on websites which were stuffed with keywords and had numerous spam links. While before it was a filter that didn’t update very often and took a long time to get penalized sites reconsidered, in late September, Google made this a part of their algorithm. This means that it is constantly evaluating and reconsidering sites based on their spam criteria, which is a good thing for sites that need to recover, and for sites that are doing things the right way in general.
All told, it’s been a busy fall for the Google algorithm, but we still come away with the same conclusions – do SEO the right way, and your business will be fine.