Google Algorithm Update: August 2018 – What it means if you got killed in the Rankings?
Over the last several days there has been a lot of noise about a potential Google algorithm update, and for good reason. Most people either saw a huge drop in rankings, or a massive boost in the SERPs for multiple keywords.
Google tends to keep the world in the dark when it comes to their algorithm updates, but they did confirm a significant change to their core algorithm last week. Keep in mind that Google updates their algorithm roughly 500-600 times every year, so when they do announce a change, you can bet it is huge.
If your rankings went down, don’t panic just yet.
This article will help you make sense of what happened, and point you in the right direction through a step-by-step process to not only regain your online visibility, but move forward with a strategy that both accommodates how the search engine rewards content right now, and for future algorithm updates.
Step 1 – What Google Wants
Google’s goals haven’t changed. Since day one, the search engine has placed its focus on pairing the best possible search results to user queries. What has changed is how Google interprets search intention.
The 2013 Google Hummingbird update was the beginning to an aggressive shift in how Google pairs results to searches. It favored well-written, in-depth content that covered subjects using multiple keyword variations.
Three years later Google RankBrain was baked into the Hummingbird algorithm in which AI and machine learning technology supported by Hummingbird’s standards started collecting data on how people searched for solutions. Since then, Google has been self-teaching itself on learning how human emotions loop into search behavior, and the content that’s favored.
Google’s goal is to provide a quick, high-quality service where people get the answers they are looking for without having to click deep through the SERPs. And this new algorithm update has helped the search engine improve search result quality, while challenging the best digital marketing agencies from Los Angeles to NYC to truly put strategic focus on pleasing the customer experience.
Step 2 – Your Wakeup Call: Agency vs. Internal
Now more than ever, you need the right people in the right seats to fight organic traffic loss and a decline in lead conversion. If your marketing strategy is run internally, you may want to ask yourself if now is the time to work with a digital marketing agency known for running aggressive, custom strategies by the top people in the field.
In the past we used to help businesses with their internal marketing reporting and data analysis. This is a service we stopped offering several years ago, yet we still have a few remaining clients we continue to support with this task.
As of a few days ago, each has reached out to discuss a full engagement with our growth marketers. Considering their rankings dropped off the face of the earth, this is not surprising.
Here is a screen shot.
Do you see it? Where Google rankings took a hit, Bing and Yahoo rankings went up. And where Google rankings improved after the algorithm update, Bing and Yahoo rankings dropped.
Since more than 92 percent of people use Google, it makes sense to put your focus there. Now for the important takeaway: if your site’s ranking took a beating like this one, it is highly recommended you work with an SEO-forward growth marketing agency staffed with leading experts who know how to forecast Google’s algorithm changes in relation to high-converting content and other elements that been into a winning SEO strategy capable of braving any storm.
Step 3 – Determine if Your Site’s Content Supports Your Buyers
Let’s cut to the chase: if your content isn’t ranking on page one of Google its because the search engine determined your competitors are doing a better job at offering solutions to search queries.
Ultimately, this means there is a gap between how you understand your buyers and the content you share. If you haven’t created buyer personas, this is likely the main reason for the disconnect.
A buyer persona is a fictionalized representation of your actual customers. These can include gender, age, job position, roles they perform, income, and how job success is measured. Creating buyer personas helps prevent marketers from making assumptions about their target audience while providing a path for content creation that ranks well and converts.
Once you have your buyer personas nailed down, you can begin to create content that supports their psyche through each stage of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration and decision.
Step 4 – Creating Content Aligning with the Google Algorithm Update
Cody Kwok, Principal Engineer at Google said the algorithm update is meant to “protect more users from bad actors online”. A bad actor is someone who pretends to offer the best solution to a search query by manipulating rankings through a number of potential tactics.
The most common one (and the one often committed with the best intentions) is by using keyword power to replace valuable content.
Your goal is to take your buyer personas and map out topic-based content using keywords within a strategic, contextually powered framework and provide valuable results for the triggers that drive their search queries.
Step 5 – Engineer Content Google and Customers can Navigate
Creating a structure for hosting content both provides great UX for buyers while making it a cake walk for Google to crawl and better understand your site. Here are some constructional elements for providing a sound infrastructure that will play well with our post-algorithm update climate:
• Meta descriptions, titles and tags must accurately reflect the page’s content
• Schema needs to be in place (make sure it includes NAP)
• Blog model should follow a cluster system with a pillar page
• Blogs should address specific buyer pains with the best solutions
• Unnatural links should be removed (a 2017 emphasis made by Google)
• Address any errors displayed in Search Console
• Optimize content for Answer Box
• Run a local SEO strategy (if applicable)
• Share your content through social media groups and channels
• Remember that Gmail addresses send SEO signals; so button-up your email marketing if these addresses fill your pipeline
Be an Authentic Listener
So what did all the websites have in common that saw rankings increase after the algorithm updated?
Of the more than 50 sites we analyzed, the striking similarities were such: providing relevant, well-written content that addressed segmented buyer groups with linking and technical considerations supporting the main messaging.