It’s changed like this that people in the industry refer to as an algorithm shift, a significant change to the equation Google uses that ultimately determines how any site ranks within their search engine. Now, let’s clarify: Google makes hundreds of changes to their algorithm every year, roughly equating to at least one a day. Many of these a minor; fine-tuned tweaks and adjustments and we would never notice, even if we were looking. When we say algorithm shift, we’re talking BIG changes like the one above, similar to when you woke up one day and realized that mullets were no longer cool and you needed a haircut stat.
There have been some fairly significant changes in the search engines recently that have changed how a brand appears online if it still appears at all. Ads were removed from the right-hand side of the SERPs, desktop-only sites got buried underneath their mobile-friendly counterparts, users were no longer able to change their location for searching purposes… these are fairly significant changes that noticeably shook-up the order of search results, or even the SERPs themselves. While these can be massive elements to keep track of, fortunately, we tend to only get a handful of massive algorithm shifts a year.
Except for this year.
Where we got two massive shifts.
That came within thirty days of each other…
Now, before you call your lawyer to see if you can sue Google, relax. While these changes may have had an impact on your brand overnight, it’s not an impossible journey to reclaim your ranks or, if you were fortunate enough to have your rankings improve, to keep your site at the top. We’ll detail each of the algorithm shifts below, specifying what has changed and what you can do to use these shifts for your brand’s benefit. Just like Sun Tzu said, you need to lay plans before you can wage war. By better understanding how the machine works, you can better understand how to use it yourself.
Penguin – As Strong as Your Weakest Link
Those in the SEO field have been waiting nearly two years for this: Google announced that Penguin, the algorithm that judges the quality of links pointing to your site is not only live, but is now part of the core algorithm and will update in real time. Great, cool, awesome… but what does that mean? Well, two things: results will come in faster, and will be more specific.
Previously, when Penguin didn’t like your links, it would penalize your entire domain, not just the specific page the spammy links are pointing to. Now, Google says this update is more “granular”, meaning that entire websites may no longer be penalized for bad quality links. Also, now that the update is in real-time, every time that Google crawls and reindexes your site, a process that happens often, Penguin will check your links shortly thereafter.
So, what does that mean for you? Check your links. Go into your Webmaster Tools and see who is pointing towards your site. Do they have a decent Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA)? Chances are those links are fine; if Google trusts those sites, you can as well. If you have any links relating to pornography, gambling, payday loans, or irrelevant foreign language sites, then you need to get your hands a little dirty. Check out this Blog for further details on how to clean up your backlink profile and prepare for Penguin.
Possum – The Talk of the Town
Are you the President of Best Buy? Then your local business was likely affected by Possum, whether you realize it or now. If you are the President of Best Buy, give us a call. We’d love to do business.
Now, when we say “Local”, we mean two things: how a site appears within typical Organic listings and how it appears within Maps listings. For these Local results, the results are directly tied to a location by either a geo-modified term in the search query (Googling “plumbing Morton Groove”, for example) or by performing a searching within a physical area (Googling “plumbing” in the city of Morton Grove). Your business would also have to be located directly in or very close to the city the search is being performed in or about.
So we know what Local results are now. Great… so how did they change?
First off, a business used to not be able to rank in a city they were not physically located in. The reason for this was obvious: no one would want a Rockford business ranking in a Chicago search. But for small cities or towns right outside of a major city, this could be a major downer. For example, Morton Grove, a small suburb minutes outside of Chicago, could not rank for Chicago terms, even though they are incredibly close together. This has now changed, and towns right outside the area could rank for terms in nearby locations.
Also, as Mobile continues to dominate online searches, the physical location of the searcher matter much more than it did before, as Google is more likely to show results within close proximity to where the search took place. Finally, the Local and Organic filter seems to be running a little more independently from one another. For example, let’s imagine a plumbing company has twenty identical sites, each one built for a specific major city. It used to be that the Organic filter would notice that these sites are identical and not index both versions. Now, the Local filter understands the importance of the cloning site and, even though it’s the exact same as a different site, understands the Local importance of the site and is more inclined to rank it.
There’s more to the Possum algorithm, which you can read here.
By knowing what you’re going up against, you can better improve your site, make it stronger, and get it as close to “futureproof” as possible. Want some assistance? PeakQ Chicago SEO has a team of Local SEO experts, as well as PPC and Social Media tools that will help your brand dominate the web. Contact us today for a free quote!