Notice anything different in your website traffic this week? If it seems like there’s been a noticeable uptick (or otherwise), it’s not your imagination. It’s the long arm of Google!
It turns out the search engine of record pushed out an update to their core ranking algorithm over the weekend. If that’s Greek to you, it means that the factors they take into account for ranking your website – which determines if, when and where it shows up in search results—have changed. How so?
Factors that are related to quality, such as domain authority, page speed, duplicate content, etc., now appear to play a much larger role in overall site rank. To understand a little more fully, it’s probably helpful to start at the beginning of Google’s semi-recent quest for quality, otherwise known as “Panda.”
Named for the Google engineer who developed the technology that made it possible, the Panda algorithm launched in February 2011 and promptly sent site rankings across the web spinning. Essentially, Panda was Google’s answer to spammy websites that were climbing to the top of search results via calculated trickery instead of good old-fashioned quality content.
Periodic updates have been introduced ever since but until now, Panda remained separate from Google’s core algorithm – operating more like an after-the-fact filter.
What’s Quality Got to do With It?
No one can say for sure, but it’s widely believed that Google uses factors like the average length of time visitors spend on site, bounce rate, conversion rate, social shares, inbound links and several other things, including the few I mentioned above, as indicators of a site’s quality. Finding a way to get this right is an important piece of the puzzle for them and for search in general, because the presence and frequency of keywords alone is simply no longer reason enough to assume that a site is appropriate and worthy of a visitor’s time. If people lose faith in Google as a source of good, useful information, the jig is up.
Though keywords will likely always play a big role in rankings (especially as long as Google is in the business of selling keyword-based advertising), this new update is proof that their position on the totem pole is falling.
What Does This Mean for Your Website?
Yeah, yeah. Ok. But what are you supposed to do with all this information? Calm down, I’m getting there! First things first, if you haven’t checked analytics in a few days, log in and see if there’s been an impact on your traffic levels this week. Regardless of how things have played out, this is a great time to do some optimization work.
Right now, at least, it’s looking like this update is working a little more in favor of sites with established authority. Think “brands” vs. independent blogs, review sites, etc. That’s good news for venues and trade shows who might be able to leverage this to get a boost in rankings for keywords that relate to sales opportunities.
For sites that have seen a bump in traffic or held steady, fine-tuning a few things now can help you take full advantage of the opportunity to pull ahead of competitors who haven’t fared as well. If you’ve taken a hit, then the incentive to make improvements is obvious.
Spring Into Action
You can start by heading over to Google and checking out what they themselves have to say about quality. Next, run your URL through a few free tools like SEMRush and/or Google PageSpeed. These sites will give you a better idea of where you stand on some of the important quality metrics and point out areas for improvement.
Bonus Tip: If your PageSpeed score is below 70, it’s worth having a pro lift the hood.
If you need a little help actually implementing some of the suggestions you receive or want a deeper level of analysis/guidance, you know who to call! (In case you don’t: it’s us).