Have you noticed a distinct drop in your rankings and traffic during March-April 2018? You’re not the only one. Many people worry that they have been issued a Google penalty when they see sharp downward movements, but this is not always the case.
Google makes major, broad updates to their algorithm several times a year. These are (officially or unofficially) named updates, such as Penguin, Panda, or Fred (my personal favorite).
However, the most recent updates are unnamed and, typically, unannounced. These are focused updates that affect the core algorithm, which typically happen more often throughout the year.
These focused updates tell us a few things in the internet marketing world:
- White Hat SEO will always pay off in the end
- You need an SEO company to keep up with frequent algo changes
- Content is still king, but user experience is more important
- If you’re affected negatively (and heavily), then you (or your current SEO company) are employing Black Hat tactics
March 2018 Google Update:
What Actually Happened?
While some websites did get issued official penalties, the majority of sites that saw a downturn in rankings and traffic were simply devalued.
Conversely, websites that have been practicing White Hat SEO saw an uptick in rankings, traffic, and overall website visibility.
The updates throughout March-April focused on the main thing that Google always focuses on: E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trust). By demoting websites that have little value to users, the websites with good E-A-T were improved greatly.
With every update, Google is getting better at closing those Black Hat loopholes that don’t improve user experience. These “tricks” that get used by SEO companies might have brought some immediate boosts, but will ultimately bring negative results.
As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded….
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) March 12, 2018
4 Possible Reasons Your Site Was Affected Negatively
1. You have good SEO, but a competitor has better SEO
If a site is seeing losses, it’s possible that it is not a problem with the website’s SEO value. A large part of this update simply favored higher value websites. Everything is relative in Google SERPs. Therefore, if a competitor went up, your site may have went down.
This is a pretty easy fix, if your SEO value is already good. If you are currently a SEO client with Logic Web Media, chances are we are already on it. However, this will be dependent on your budget and the overall state of your website. Increasing your service plan will help you gain back your rankings quicker. Additionally, updating your site’s coding and speed will help you get back on top.
Here is an example of a website that we did not build. It is using a WordPress template that is outdated and needs too many plugins in order to work. The plugins required on the website and the overall outdated coding makes it nearly impossible to make the changes needed to benefit SEO. As a result, this website is seeing a steady downturn in page visibility.
2. New Rich Snippets or answer box has shown up for your query
Even if you held the #1 spot for your query, you may have been bumped by the new “Ranking at 0” feature. Although this was rolled out over two years ago, it is taking time to catch on and show up on the regular.
So, you may have dropped on your top ranking keywords, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are in a bad place. These new features are simply helping users find quick answers.
In reality however, you may not want to rank at 0, depending on the query. This is because you want traffic to your website. If people are getting the answer to a query right on the results page, then they are less likely to click to your website. Through a diverse and well constructed SEO and content strategy, you can navigate this feature in a way that benefits you the most.
3. Your website has thin or duplicate content
This is a simple yet time consuming issue. Even after the work on the content is complete, it could take months (or even a year) for search engines to put a higher value on your website.
Thin and duplicate content has always been a factor impacting SEO. This recent update has just placed more emphasis on it, resulting in your website pages being devalued.
Again, if you are a SEO client with us, then we are already dealing with it. However, if you have a website with a ton of pages or have a website not developed by us, this may be more of a difficult fix.
4. Your website lacks depth and value
The term “Content is King” gets thrown around a lot in the SEO world. Simply having content does not mean that it is useful to your website visitor. Google is smart. Like, really smart. They have advanced algorithms that pick up on linguistic nuances and are able to understand your content and website flow the way a human would.
In simpler terms: they know if your content is BS.
A pitfall we see clients trip into is the idea that they can create and add content (usually in the form of blog posts) as they please and this will satisfy Google’s algorithm,. However, content and site structure needs to be a well thought out strategy.
Here is an example of a website that we built for a client, and then proceeded to provide SEO services for. Since we knew the code was clean and had full access to customize the strategy, the website was destined for positive results. The website had zero SEO value, so we optimized the flow and link structure, and continuously added useful and rich content. The strategy paid off, as you see the updates took effect and their visibility has been steadily increasing. This website is a clear demonstration of why you need employ White Hat SEO from the start.
If you have been tracking your website and are seeing steady downward movements, chances are you were hit by this update. While some will jump right to blaming a penalty or even your web company, the reality is that Google has simply devalued your website.
Even if you are not using Black Hat SEO, a lazy SEO plan will still affect you negatively.
What You Need to Recover:
- SEO Audit
- Penalty check (just in case)
- Content review; Adjustments to thin/duplicate content
- Improved site structure