At the end of July/beginning of August, Google updated its page quality guidelines and initiated a broad core algorithm update – a significant alteration of how it chooses to rank pages in search results. This represented one of the most significant changes to Google in years.
It has been nicknamed the “Medic Update” because the most notable changes have been seen in the health care sector. However, nearly every industry has seen some degree of impact from the algorithm update since the beginning of August.
Google utilizes a significant number of ranking factors and does not make the majority of the public. As far as the changes that have occurred, Google has announced that there is no “official fix” for any effects from the algorithm change. That requires TB to research, analyze, and conclude based on patterns that are being seen within the SEO industry.
OVERVIEW OF UPDATED
SEARCH QUALITY RATER GUIDELINES:
What is it?
Google utilizes over 10,000 search quality raters across the world. These individuals are meant to be a manual, human element to complement Google’s algorithm. While the algorithm and AI systems are extremely efficient, they do miss things. That’s where the individual raters can help.
Why Make Changes?
Google’s goal is to provide quality search results to consumers. If those results provide clickbait content with little value and high on spam, advice from people that are not experts (and potentially dangerously wrong), or fake news, Google gets bad press and consumers become less trusting of its search engine.
The story above is an example of exactly this. By updating guidelines and refining its algorithm, Google hopes to only have the most qualified search results and prevent stories like this from appearing.
What’s New to the Page Quality Guidelines?
Increased focus on not just the website but the authors of the content themselves. Google labels this as “E.A.T”
Expertise. Authority. Trust
This is particularly important for sites that fall into Your Money or Your Life sites (sites that influence lifestyle, health, places you spend money or invest, etc.).
In other words, they want to be able to say confidently that the site is an authoritative source on the topic that is being discussed based on the content itself, not simply because it’s on a major website.
In addition, raters are being encouraged to decide whether the content that was created serves a benefit to its users, and is not simply being created for nothing but search queries.
In summation, Google is looking for professionally-toned content that is well written, is well-sourced from people with a good reputation, as well as providing a quality user experience.
The Power of A Quality Rater’s Scoring:
Quality raters do not impact your site directly. Oftentimes certain elements of style, rhetoric, and website design can be somewhat subjective, so putting everything into the hands of the quality raters is not Google’s intent. Instead, quality raters will be utilized as quality control to see whether an algorithm change is successful towards the batch of search queries that is under the rater’s review.
GOOGLE ALGORITHM CHANGES OBSERVED:
Today’s Business has spent significant time this month to study and ascertain the changes that have occurred and what is influencing them. As part of our September review of August, we will be attaching an accompanying document that goes into more detail. However, here is a summary of many of the different factors that we believe are contributing to initiate action sooner.
Google revised its algorithm in an attempt to more accurately provide search results that match a user’s initial intent when searching. This seems to be one of the biggest factors that has changed for many search queries. Some sites may see reduced traffic but improved behavior scores of the users; this is because ideally sites are more effectively reaching their target demographic.
Content length, quality, and authoritativeness have all been upped in standard relative to their niche. A piece doesn’t have to necessarily be a certain length, but it will be held to the standard of its competitors. Content should be professionally well written, use quality imagery/graphics/videos to improve engagement, and be well structured for readability.
Content has always been a major part of SEO, but a few tweaks may be required to content strategies, particularly for linking and visual elements.
Google has an increased desire to feel comfortable with knowing that the creators of the content are authoritative in what they’re writing about. Despite all the press that has been written about the E.A.T aspect of the page quality guidelines, there has been limited effect seen within the algorithm change.
Still, adding about the business/author information to pages, further fleshing out bios, adding links to noteworthy publications about individuals or their research, etc. is worth exploring. For E-commerce websites, a review of customer service site elements, such as privacy policies and return policies, should be conducted to improve consumer trust.
Making sure that the links to the website are from trustworthy sites has been given more emphasis. Bad links are potentially seeing greater penalties. In addition, many sites that are part of a large network of sites have seen those network links potentially be devalued. This was originally designed to even the playing field for smaller sites that are being boxed out by major publishers. Just 16 companies control a significant number of search queries within their niches and do so by linking to each other. But there may be a trickle-down effect that hurts other networks of businesses.
Linking can be utilized for both improving your website’s trustworthy-ness and raising domain authority. If a website has been potentially hurt because many of its best links come from within a specific network of sites, it is advisable to spend more resources on this area in order to diversify.
Social activity can also be beneficial in terms of improving credibility. The sharing of any news or quality content that can gain shares on social networks and forums can help provide added traction for a website.
Design and User Experience, particularly for Mobile
Websites with contemporary designs and features that ensure a great user experience are absolutely paramount now. Implementing modern website design typically brings other SEO benefits as well, as long as factors such as page speed and unique content are being followed.
Many websites in July were finally moved to mobile-first indexing. With that in mind, any design changes to a website should be prioritized with mobile experience first.
Technical and Semantic SEO
At this time, it is still early on in terms of fully understanding the implications of this algorithm change. It is also likely that rankings will continue to fluctuate in the near future. In the past when Google made changes this significant, it also issued a correction. With that being said, if a site has lost notable amounts of traffic, it cannot be expected that the numbers will bounce back to where they were.
However, Today’s Business will be applying what it knows and keeps learning to continually improve our client’s performance on search engines. We will be pushing at the core of our SEO tactics quality content, technical refinements to websites for SEO, creating engaging website pages and generating backlinks, continuing a focus on increased lead generation.