Beginning at the tail end of this past summer and continuing into late fall, Google implemented a number of updates and changes to their algorithm, with August’s probably being the most significant one.
In the course of the four-plus months since then you may have seen some drops in traffic to certain pages on your site, or for your site overall.
Let’s take a look at what these changes affected, ways you can work to remedy any issues, and what to do following future updates.
The August Update
In early August, Google representatives confirmed the implementation of an update, something that some businesses and digital marketers had suspected due to changes in their sites’ performance.
The update’s focus was on “general ranking” as well as relevance, with Search Engine Journal author Roger Montti pointing to “Author Intent” as being a good way to think about the changes overall.
As Montti describes it, Author Intent relates to the specific reason a page exists and what it is trying to accomplish. For instance, you could have keywords (accidental or purposeful) on a page that don’t really relate to, or relate strongly enough to, the content on that page.
The August update is seen as Google’s attempt to weed out such pages with questionable keywords that are either being faultily ranked in Google’s view, or those that are attempting to just “game the system.”
In this way, Google can then match a page’s Author Intent much more closely with a searcher’s goals, leading to a better user experience for those on Google.
The “Medic Update”
Following the August change, some began calling this the “Medic Update” due to some medical-related sites seeing drops in traffic and their strategists believing they had been “targeted” by Google.
John Mueller of Google addressed this belief in a video, however, stating:
“The update we launched… around the first of August, was more of a general ranking update. Like we always do. So, it’s not specific to medical sites. It’s something that could affect… any website out there.”
Along with Mueller’s denial of any targeting, Montti makes a case for why medical companies may have seen some drops (though they certainly weren’t the only ones):
- He argues that some sites may be using medical terms even though they may offer natural remedies, vitamins, or alternative medical practices, falling outside the bounds of established medical practices and recommendations by bodies such as the FDA
- These sites would have previously been getting traffic from such medical terms, but with changes to the algorithm zeroing in on relevancy, these terms may now be moot for them
- Thus, Montii argues, these sites were not “targeted,” but the practices they were engaging in have now been reevaluated and devalued
In late September, Danny Sullivan of Google confirmed further changes to the algorithm, which appeared to be a refinement and adjustment of the August update.
Some sites saw some recovery during this revision, something which is common after Google tinkers with a previously released update.
Then, at the tail end of November, some believed Google had implemented further revisions, while others surmised fluctuations in traffic and rankings were merely the result of changes in searches due to Black Friday. Either way, refinements to the recent update would certainly be in keeping with Google’s strategies and companies can expect additional alterations in the future.
Ultimately, the most important thing to learn from these updates is to ensure Google recognizes the relevancy of the pages on your site, and to boost that relevancy when it is lacking.
- Ensure that your keywords are relevant to the pages they appear on to make sure Google’s rankings accurately reflect your content
- We’ve also seen deeper pages of a website affected by these changes, as such pages are often created for a specific purpose and then left to sit without being updated or optimized, leading to Google viewing them as less relevant
- To remedy the issue above, we’d advise interlinking these pages to other key areas of your site, writing new copy on these pages, and trying to obtain external links to these particular pages. These tactics should boost their relevancy and therefore traffic
What to Do in the Future
These updates certainly won’t be the last for Google as the search engine’s development team is always looking for ways to improve performance and user experience.
Whenever the next update hits, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t Panic – If you see drops in traffic you’ll obviously want to remedy them, but until you know what an update is affecting by way of word from Google or, more likely, info from other digital marketers, you won’t want to make any rash changes
- Try Some Tests – Based off of the insights of others, or your own experience, you can begin to make some strategic changes on various pages to see if you notice any improvement
- Wait – As seen in the September revision, some drops will resolve themselves as Google works to refine prior updates. Definitely make an effort to try to improve in the meantime, but recognize that such drops are not always cataclysmic
Be sure to keep up with our blog for more insights on Google algorithm changes, as well as a variety of other digital marketing topics.