Saturday, January 16, 2016

Google Changes its Core Algorithm: What You Need to Know

Google's Webmaster Trends Analyst, Gary Illyes sent the SEO world into a tizzy earlier this week by confirming a suspicion of many webmasters: Google has made a change to its "core" algorithm. Illyes made the confirmation of Twitter:
The @Missiz_Z referred to in the tweet is Zineb Ait, another Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, who had earlier made the confirmation in French. And then, later, John Mueller, yet another Webmaster Trends Analyst for Google, confirmed that the change was, indeed, not related to a much-anticipated Penguin update, but instead a "core update."

For the casual SEO observer algorithm changes might seem like a whole lot of hoopla, yet these changes do have real world impacts. In this latest change, for example, thousands of famous websites were effected--specifically news websites, like Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and our favorite, The New Yorker.

The nature of the changes is hard to pin down, but the SEO agency, Goralewicz, posed an intriguing theory about "brand bidding":

"Google is now showing different results when we search for brands. Therefore now, when you search for 'YouTube', you will be presented with results that better (in Googler’s eyes) respond to your search query."

If this theory is correct, it would appear that Google is now eschewing news articles about brands for, as Goralwicz notes, more "timeless" pages about the brands. Why? Perhaps Google believes a search for a brand is, by definition, a search for specific information about the brand--and not topical information about the brand.

Of course, this is all speculation--the type of speculation that inspires chatter in the SEO world. What should be intriguing to the wider audience of website owners and casual SEO observers is the mere fact of the change itself.

As you might know, Google changes its algorithm up too 600 times every year--so we're talking daily changes. Most of these changes are relatively negligible, but a few times each year Google makes significant update that really do influence search rankings. Over the years, Google has named these updates--Panda, for example, Penguin, and more recently, Hummingbird.

Each of these updates effected major aspects of search. Panda (released in 2011), was the first update to truly distinguish sites with high quality, original content. Penguin, released a year later, focused on eliminating bad links. Hummingbird, released in 2013, attempted to better understand each user's query by analyzing more complex search terms (such as voice-based searches).

The difference between these updates, specifically, and the "core" algorithm is largely semantic. The "core" algorithm is the nature of the search engine itself, in Google's case referred to as PageRank.

Why do we note these distinctions? By learning how and why Google changes algorithm, you can keep pace with the exact type of website Google prefers. For this latest "core" update, Goralewicz offers some interesting suggestions for keeping pace when writing, specifically, about brands:
  1. Try to write fresh content that clearly targets lost keywords.
  2. Don’t make it too specific 
  3. Create a valuable category page about the brand 
  4. Focus on the universal value for users that search for the brand 
  5. Provide a lot of useful data or a large report about the brand that you are targeting
  6. Refresh and improve the content that dropped
Some of these suggestions align with the Organic SEO Blog's general advice to create quality content that is useful for your specific audience. However, some of the other suggestions might seem counter-intuitive. "Don't make it specific," for example is generally a bad content creation strategy. Yet, if this "core" update really does prefer more timeless information about brands, this advice might be spot-on. 

The upshot of all this talk of algorithms is simple: SEO is a complex, evolving affair. To keep pace, you need to study the changes daily. Yet, SEO is not obscure. With a little patience, you can understand the basics. Unfortunately, too many website owners, perplexed by SEO jargon, avoid SEO entirely. If you're promoting your own brand online this is a terrible practice. Instead, we suggest two alternatives:

1. Learn the practice for yourself, or...

2. Find an SEO specialist who can explain SEO in simple terms.

At the Organic SEO Blog, we pride ourselves on simplicity. We democratize SEO by explaining its elements clearly. If you ever have questions about our posts, please leave a comment. Or better yet, call our blog's sponsor, Alex Stepman.

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If you're looking for an SEO company who explains the process clearly and effectively, contact our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398.

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