Google’s done it again. So let’s talk about the latest Google core SEO algorithm update, and how it may impact your search results.
This update happened around the beginning of May, and I’ve been watching clients’ website traffic since. I’m going to tell you how to quickly check the impact it may have had on your website traffic; plus some specific tips on what you need to check and change:
1. Check Your Website Traffic
To check your own traffic, you want to do is go into Google Analytics and check your traffic, under Audience > Overview. I suggest doing April 1 to end of May, and then run a comparison to both the previous period (which would be Feb 1 to end of March) and the previous year – which you can do very easily because those are presets.
Use the week or month setting option, so that you’re seeing less of the up and down squiggles and just the trend. I don’t want you to look at only data right at the time of an update, because it’s pretty common for some traffic swings to happen in the week or so surrounding those updates, which can freak some people out. The algorithm tends to steady itself out, so what I’m wanting you to see is your overall trend.
Hopefully your traffic has gone up. For all of our clients (and us!), some increase in traffic has been the case. Of course we’re making sure we follow the newest SEO practices, which are the things we teach you how to do in our New SEO Accelerator program.
Yet we also know that traffic isn’t everything, and isn’t the first metric you should measure and follow unless you don’t have any other goal in your business.
This particular core update was also preceeded by a change in the local SEO algorithms in April, so that has also had an impact on search results, especially on Google maps.
From my research it appears that some of the industries seeing the biggest impact are travel, real estate, health, pets & animals, and people & society.
If you’re in one of these industries, you definitely should have seen an increase in your traffic. This may not be a huge traffic spike, but an overall upward website traffic trend.
One of the marketing myths that we always hear is that if your website has a high DA (domain authority), that you won’t be impacted by these types of updates. What we’ve seen this round is that simply isn’t true, as some very well-known websites – some with traffic exceeding 1 million monthly visitors, such as LinkedIn and the New York government site – have seen a dip in their traffic.
Some of the traffic patterns have also been impacted by the pandemic … for example news sites seem to be getting more traffic, as do online communities and game-related sites, so it’s unclear if these increases are all because of the core update or simply because these are some of the sites that people are visiting more often while they’re staying at home.
2. Learn the New, Enhanced SEO
Go take a look at our New SEO Accelerator program – where you can learn what you need to know. We’re opening another round of this program soon, and we cap the number of participants each session, so you’ll want to get on the waitlist for when this session opens.
We teach you all of the newest and overall best strategies in this program – it’s the best white-hat SEO strategies that we’ve seen proven to work over the past few years.
What’s best about it, we don’t focus only on those confusing technical pieces of SEO that you have to hire out … because that isn’t where the focus of the last many updates by Google have been aimed. Our SEO strategies are encompassing some of the best general marketing and content practices that improve your bottom line, that are carefully coordinated to work in partnership with your SEO.
So even if you aren’t doing all of those really techie pieces of SEO, these strategies will still help you … and if you are doing those techie pieces (or having them done), these strategies will still benefit your business.
3. Update Your Old Content
There is a very focused and strategic process that we have you go through to update your old content into pillars or categories for user intent. And updating older content in general is still a good practice.
You hear a lot of talk about content marketing, and how you need to regularly be producing new content, and this is still true because Google prefers new, up-to-date information. Yet one of the best practices – that most SEO agencies who only focus on the technological side of SEO fail to teach you or do – is that you also need to be regularly updating and refreshing your old content.
We teach you how to prioritize you existing content, so that you start work with the places where you will be likely to see the biggest results, and walk through how to edit this content so that you actually flow a visitor through from the page that they land on, to converting into a customer by making a purchase. There is a strategy to this that works hand-in-hand with your other SEO strategies, and is actually very important to Google (which means the other search engines will follow along as well – eventually.)
This is one of the strategies that we’ve actually used for client content for years, so when those updates have occurred, they were already well positioned to benefit.
4. Use a Gap Analysis to Fill Thin Content
We have a five-step process that we walk you through to take a piece of your existing content, research your competitors and see where the gaps are that others aren’t filling, and then edit your content specifically to fill that gap.
When you’re filling out this type of thin content, you will also want to consider making it friendly for the Google answer box and for voice search. We discuss these in more detail in articles on our website, plus walk you through the exact how-to in our New SEO Accelerator program.
5. Fix Your Technical SEO Errors
While we know you don’t always have to focus on the technical side of SEO first, there are some SEO errors that can be pretty critical to your site.
One technical SEO error that we see pretty often, that I’ve had more than one client come to me with, is that they had settings in their robot.txt file that was actually preventing Google, Bing, and other search engines from being able to crawl and index their sites.
Their “web developer” had put those settings in there – one for sure because they didn’t really know what they were doing; and the other one because it can be a way to be able to set up the live website and let your team be able to view it, without the general public being able to find it in search before it’s all pretty and finalized and ready. Yet the developer also should have known to go back in and remove that – and they did not.
But technical issues can happen to any site, and they can creep up over time. Remember above how I said LinkedIn has seen a traffic dip? Well, it turns out a large part of them missing from search engines for a couple of days was likely because they actually had these same settings in their robots.txt file to disallow search engines! They have theirs set where you have to request the ability to crawl, but unless they whitelist specific domains – like Google – it can have this impact. Google likely had made a change during this recent update that also changed the exact URL or domain that was making their crawl so that it was no longer whitelisted.
If you don’t know what you need to fix, we can run a complimentary SEO audit for you which will outline what issues you have and how critical each one is. You can always find the request for that SEO audit on the Free Resource tab of our website.
These audits you need to run regularly, or little issues can creep in over time that you’re not aware of until you see a major drop in traffic. This is why we do these SEO audits regularly – usually quarterly unless requested more often as part of their package – for our ongoing clients.
Recovering From a Core Update Drop in Traffic
It’s important to understand that a Google SEO core algorithm update isn’t just updating one ranking factor.
If you’ve been negatively impacted by a core update and seen your traffic drop (and stay dropped, not just a bit of up and down activity over a few days that then levels off) … you likely won’t see your rankings improve again until the next core update. These update usually come 3-4 times per year – but all is not lost! The good news is that you have time to make improvements.
SEO requires a long-term strategy, not a short-term fix. Although if you do have a lot of technical SEO errors on your website, making those fixes will likely result in an increase of your rankings and traffic in the short term.
But you shouldn’t stop there … you need to develop a long-term SEO strategy.
I’ve seen cases where sites that experienced a significant drop in traffic due to one core update (that was known to specifically impact their industry), after working through all of the improvements needed plus ongoing SEO strategies, saw the noticeable uptick in traffic resume about a year later. This type of long-term strategy isn’t what most people want to hear in a technology-based culture where we all want immediate gratification, but it can be the reality. Keep in mind, without that year of fixes, their traffic would have likely kept tanking and be much closer to zero, instead of seeing a nice uptick after last year’s update.
The SEO best advice is to keep producing quality content, and continue with consistent improvements to your site – and your entire online presence – such as the practices we cover in our New SEO Accelerator.
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Vicky is the CEO and Chief Creative Strategist of Vicky Wu Marketing. She draws from 30 years of experience at the CMO level, the CEO level, marketing for Fortune 500 companies and multi-million and multi-billion-dollar organizations, PLUS strategies learned helping startups and nonprofits with limited budgets … now focusing on providing SMBs with effective and efficient marketing strategies – giving them access to the same level of expertise as the really big guys with deep pockets, that they may not otherwise be able to access.