How Google’s Algorithm Changes Affect SEO

Algorithms are what search engines like Google use to retrieve data and deliver search results that are relevant to your inquiry. The results then appear on the SERP, or search engine results page, and are ranked based on relevance. Google makes changes to its search algorithm hundreds of times per year and while most of the changes are minor, there are certain updates that impact search result rankings, website traffic and SEO.

There have been around 12 significant algorithm changes so far this year, but they don’t necessarily impact every website and not all are related to SEO. The most recent update was a broad core algorithm update released by Google in August. The update appeared to primarily impact “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) websites, as well as websites offering medical, diet and nutrition products and services.

Some marketers believe the dips in traffic experienced by these websites is also associated with Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines. One of the areas these guidelines cover is the credibility of content creators – specifically, the authors of their articles. The belief is that Google gives higher ranking to pages with content created by an author with a good reputation; even the information in an author’s bio is used to establish credibility. If a bio is missing or not updated, or an author’s full name isn’t used, it’s more difficult to determine whether they’re a credible source.  All of this is speculative, but it does remind us of the importance of having good content that establishes authority.

This was a large and important update that impacted many businesses, but it’s not the only algorithm update that had a major impact on businesses and SEO.

2018 Google Algorithm Updates That Were Significant for SEO

In July, Google started flagging all HTTP websites as “not secure.” The security warning is displayed next to the URL and when users click on the words “not secure,” it shows a message warning people against entering personal information on the page. Once a business implements Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology on their website, the page URLs display as HTTPS as the warning is removed.

Earlier that month, Google also released a mobile speed update affecting mobile sites that were especially slow. The update was announced several months before the change took place to give people time to make improvements to their site. Once the algorithm took effect, mobile sites with extremely slow load times were given a lower search ranking.

In May, Google released algorithm changes impacting the character length of meta descriptions, which are the brief summaries listed under the URL of a search result. Google had previously increased the character limit to 320 characters, but this algorithm update lowered it back to 150-160 characters. Meta descriptions are important because many people use the information to decide whether they will visit the website. A lower character limit gives you less space to prompt people to click, but you can still get your message across by carefully selecting your words.

March brought us the mobile-first algorithm change. For this update, Google began indexing sites based on the mobile version of the site instead of the desktop version.  The goal of this update was to provide better search results for users. With an increasing number of people using their phone for online searches, having a mobile-friendly site that delivers useful content and provides a good user experience is extremely important.

Using SEO Best Practices to Keep Your Website and Content Updated

There’s no way to predict what algorithm updates Google will roll out next, so the best thing you can do is implement SEO best practices to ensure your content and website are kept up-to-date. If you are working with an SEO, they will regularly review and evaluate your site traffic and recommend changes to your content or website to increase organic traffic and search rankings. Your SEO will also stay on top of algorithm updates and how they may impact your website.

What to Do If Your Site Traffic Declines

If you see a sudden dip in your site traffic, don’t panic! The changes could be related to an algorithm update, but that’s not always the case. Contact your SEO to discuss the change and possible causes. They’ll then work with you on a resolution that may involve some simple on-page optimization or more involved changes that require the help of a developer. Whatever it is, they’ll help you make the necessary changes to get you back on track.

Don’t have an SEO? Contact Ecreativeworks to learn more about our search engine optimization and analytics services.

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