Marketing FLASH briefing – there was a BIG impact this week around SEO … I’ll tell you what it is and if you need to worry.
Around November 8th, Google pushed out an algorithm update that has hit people with the biggest impact since the 2012 Penguin update (remember how that one impacted your site?); and is said to be the biggest update to how sites are ranked since the RankBrain update in 2015.
I always recommend that website owners don’t freak out and start jumping into their analytics immediately after a Google update. What tends to happen is Google continues finetuning their algorithm, so it’s usually several days to a week later when we see the results begin to regulate and level out.
But I’ve been keeping an updates on all of the websites that I have access to analytics, on a daily basis since then, watching trends.
What was really interesting with this update is that in those initial couple of days, people were noticing that black hat and gray hat SEO sites were actually seeing increases in their rank, and those doing white hat strategies actually dropped. There were a lot of spam sites showing up in search results those first couple of days.
However, that’s something Google watches closely since they know that those black hat and gray hat SEO strategies are not friendly to the user. That’s why they are making constant updates, and sure enough it looks like they’ve been tweaking their latest algorithm update. This is why I never recommend anything other than white hat SEO strategies.
So I ran a week over week comparison of all of the websites for which I can pull analytics, to pull this week versus last week. Note: Most of these are sites that I am NOT doing ongoing SEO work – I may have set up the initial site, or perhaps do some blog or copywriting, or even general theme updates, but only a couple are directly receving SEO services. Of course since I’m always working on THIS site, it gets ongoing SEO work.
All but one website I track had significant traffic drops in those first few days after the latest Google update. Most experienced drops in traffic of 25%-45% in the first day or two. The lowest drop was zero (my own site) and the largest was -75%.
Two of the sites are still lower than they were the week prior (but I have not compared them further such as to last year yet). All of the rest have now seen increases anywhere from 4% increase in traffic to a high of 66% over the previous period.
Google’s BERT Update
It’s believed that this update is building upon Google’s BERT update from October 22 of this year.
BERT actually stands for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers” … which sounds completely made up and I think a guy at Google named Bert just wanted it named after him and came up with the acronym to fit his name.
BERT update implemented NLP (natural language processing). The guys over at Search Engine Journal think it’s likely Google is rolling out updates relating to content, queries and backlinks tied to this BERT update.
This BERT update was expected to impact 10% of all search updates and was designed for “complicated search queries that depend upon context”. BERT analyzes the search queries themselves, not website pages.
How can you make sure your SEO is good?
The best thing you can do is continue to add content to your website that is based upon how people talk and search. We’ve gone over this already in past articles on Google’s SEO algorithms.
This recent update had to do more with relevance to the search terms being used rather than backend or server technical updates, although you still need to make sure those SEO pieces are solid.
I believe that a focus on solid content is also why the websites we work on have seen an increase (after that first initial dip) … because the content we add to websites was already being build around these reader-friendly concepts.
And the SEO training and services we provide is built around this concept as well.
Write your copy how your customers will voice search and you will likely be including content that is easily understood by BERT and Google’s recent and coming updates by default.
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