Recent updates say: “Stay on top of your brand, keep thinking about content, and don’t be complacent”
Every month (sometimes every day) Google launches updates to subtly tweak the way it processes search queries. These are called algorithm updates. Sometimes they don’t even warrant a sentence. Other times, they can drastically change the way businesses of all sizes approach digital marketing.
What are search engine algorithm updates? In essence: they are a reflection of how search is being used, they are search engines adapting to change, and they are an indication of how you should think about the future in relation to digital marketing.
Remember back in 2011 when J.C. Penney got a wrist-slap from Google?
You’re forgiven if you don’t, but it was big news in the search world – especially when the story was exposed by the New York Times . What happened was this: By creating thousands of unrelated websites that then linked to various sections of the J.C. Penney website with keyword-rich links, the company was able to powerfully influence search results in their favor.
But that’s not all they influenced – they also helped change search engine optimization and digital marketing forever. Soon after, Google launched a series of algorithm updates, largely focused on encouraging real, relevant content as a ranking factor. Those updates were called “Panda” and “Penguin”, respectively. While they weren’t created for this one particular offender, the department store become a bright, shining example of the type of manipulation that you simply can’t get away with anymore. Content must add value – and Google is keen to remind us of it.
So what can you expect from Google’s updates in May and June of 2019?
So far, there have been a few changes to the way Google processes and displays search results in the last couple of months, starting with a new look for mobile search at the end of May, a “search diversity update” on June 6th and a “core update” that finished rolling out on June 8th.
A new look for mobile search
As we’ve come to expect, the layout and quantity of information available on search engine results pages (SERP) changes all the time. Recently, Google announced more changes in their May update about mobile search , where they outlined how search results are changing to add each website’s branding (or ‘favicon‘) to the left of their page title. This won’t have any major technical SEO impact, but is more focused on helping searchers scan for and find the results they can trust faster.
Why it matters to business owners: Do you have a good logo? What about a recognizable ‘favicon’ – which is essentially a “micro” version of your logo that your customers can immediately recognize online. While small, this little bundle of pixels can really help your brand recognition across the web – and for this reason, it’s often included in most modern ‘brand kits’. If a potential customer saw your logo on social media or in a previous search – seeing the same logo directly from search can do a lot to help encourage them to visit again.
More diversity in search results
The search diversity update from June 6th will impact what you see on SERPs in a much different way by answering a frustration many companies (and SEOs) have had over the years – the same websites dominating too many links in core search results. Sometimes, 4 or 5 of the top results come from the same website. This isn’t Google’s goal – so June’s update aims to fix it by promoting more diverse results. In general, you shouldn’t see more than two listings from the same domain.
The announcement from Google’s own @searchliaison Twitter account:
This site diversity change means that you usually won’t see more than two listings from the same site in our top results. However, we may still show more than two in cases where our systems determine it’s especially relevant to do so for a particular search….
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) June 6, 2019
“What about sub-domains?”
In general, Google treats sub-domains as part of the main domain. For instance, if you have blog.mysite.com or mysite.com – the two would be considered the same domain, and would count towards your two results.
Important Caveat: this is about core results, not search features. This change only impacts core search results – the “classic” smattering of 10 links you’ve grown accustomed to finding on Google over the years. Search features like “top stories”, video snippets, answers, map-pack, image carousels, and Google My Business results will remain unaffected.
An example of a search feature:
Why it matters to business owners: This update could help level the playing field for smaller businesses with a smaller digital footprint, but it also underscores the need for good and highly varied content. What does that mean? It means articles, it means videos, it means audio, it means images, galleries, FAQs, maps, and everything in between. Everything you can do to gain extra spaces outside of the two google is allotting for you will give you an edge over your competition – locally and nationally.
What did the June ‘core’ update change?
Google’s June 2019 core update finished rolling out on June 8th – and while some of the internet’s larger publishers are reporting negative results – it will still take time to assess exactly how it’s affecting businesses. That said, it’s helpful to make a note of the date when these updates roll out to be able to track traffic increases or decreases in Analytics. Did your traffic increase or decrease? It’s helpful to make note of these dates using Google Analytics ‘annotation‘ feature.
As is typically the case with Google’s more broad-sweeping changes, Google engineers remain fairly tight lipped about the specifics. What they do offer, however, is a reminder to stick to best practices: good content, fast sites, and great usability. Danny Sullivan, of Google, had this to say:
Want to do better with a broad change? Have great content. Yeah, the same boring answer. But if you want a better idea of what we consider great content, read our raters guidelines. That’s like almost 200 pages of things to consider: https://t.co/pO3AHxFVrV
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) August 1, 2018