At the beginning of May 2015, thousands of webmasters noticed significant changes in their Google rankings – some rising, some falling. Search marketers speculated it might have to do with Panda, Penguin or a new Google update. However, Google later announced that the temporary search volatility wasn’t Panda-related.
It took some time before Google officially confirmed that some significant changes had been made to its search core algorithm. In essence this most recent update is a quality update. Dubbed as the Quality Update or the Quality Algo, and formerly referred to as the Phantom Update (since there was no advance warning and Google wouldn’t confirm it either) – this new update is all about rewarding quality content with higher rankings (and, as a result, more traffic).
Now, no matter the updates and algorithm changes, one thing we know for sure: Google wants to provide users with the best information possible. So if you continue to create high quality content you will be able to keep or even increase your rankings for your main keywords and drive traffic to your site.
Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know about Google’s quality update, what you can do if you’ve been impacted and what other updates you should watch out for.
The new quality update
Unlike Panda and Penguin, which were meant to eliminate or penalise spammy content that was ranking well and making it harder for people to find useful content, the quality update takes a different approach. It’s not so much about punishing low-quality sites (although that’s a side effect), it’s more about getting quality content to show up at the top of Google’s search engine results page. This obviously means pushing low quality content down further in the search results.
So the changes in Google’s algorithm are intended to help the search engine process quality signals and understand how authoritative a site based on the content found on it. Basically, Google’s new factors help it to determine how worthy a site is of ranking.
What should you do now?
If you haven’t noticed sudden ranking changes or a significant decrease in traffic, then keep up the good work as more quality updates will follow and you’ll want to be ready.
However, if you’ve been hit with a ranking drop, it means that Google no longer finds your site as authoritative as it used to. This means that you need to step up your game and improve the quality of your content if you want to get back to your previous rankings, or even higher.
The best way to assess the content on your site to decide if it still meets Google’s quality guidelines is to do a content audit. Check out this guide on how to do a content audit.
You might also want to read Google’s quality guidelines for more information on the factors the search engine uses to determine quality. Also take a look at this article where Google explains what counts as a high quality site. To save you some time, here are the key things to keep in mind when it comes to Google’s quality signals:
- Don’t publish redundant or duplicate content in an attempt to rank higher. It won’t work and it might hurt your site on the long term.
- Create useful content that contains the information your audience is looking for. Thin content won’t get results.
- Put your audience first, and search engines second, by always providing content that meets your visitors’ needs.
- Use content to build trust. When visitors land on your site, they should feel comfortable giving you their personal details and credit card information.
So what Google wants to see is unique, trustworthy, visitor-centric, purposeful content. The idea is to create content that answers your visitors’ questions and concerns, and that provides them with the best information possible to help them make an informed decision.
Bottom line: as long as you’re following general best practices and focusing more on real human needs than anything else, you’ll only be rewarded.
Upcoming updates to watch out for
As you know, Google is updating its algorithm on a regular basis to serve more quality content to searchers. Here’s what you can expect from Google in the near future:
- A Panda refresh at the end of June confirmed by Google’s Gary Illyes. Illyes mentioned it would be a data refresh and not an algorithmic change. This means that sites that have been hit by the recent algorithm changes may recover by this data refresh.
- A continuous update of the Penguin algorithm. Illyes said that the team at Google is still months away from rolling out the Penguin update.
The most important thing to remember is that your work on your site is not done the moment you’ve launched it. You should still be aware of Google’s algorithm changes and respond by making the necessary improvements. If you don’t, you risk losing the all-powerful organic search engine visibility that is make-or-break for any online business.