The SEO world has been buzzing with tweets, reports, and speculations about Google’s activities since February 2020, when many people observed a marked spike in the volatility of search results. While it is true other factors influence the fluctuation of search results, these sudden and severe spikes in overall volatility often point to an unacknowledged Google Algorithm update. Is a Google update wreaking havoc on your results? Let’s find out.
To date, Google has not confirmed an update occurred in February 2020. A second part of an update addressing “nofollow” links was purported to be coming on 01 March 2020, but that fails to explain the spikes in the volatility of search results mid-February. We know Google algorithm changes and search updates aren’t always announced or acknowledged, so how can we know if an update has occurred and whether it affects our SEO?
Google updates can impact many websites or few, depending on how the changes play out. If you’re running a small business, changes that result in a lower ranking can have serious repercussions. Many businesses rely on ranking one ahead of competitors to rake in more clicks and sales. That is why it’s important to keep track of any changes and work to determine the reason for the changes.
According to Google’s John Mueller, it isn’t always because of your links or content. Consider external factors like competitor page updates, new competitor websites, and link rot as possible influencers in changing search results. One of your competitors may be running a promotion that has dramatically increased their clicks. In so doing, their ranking will increase and influence the rankings of their competitors (that’s you).
Another factor to consider would be what, how, when, and why users are searching. Users’ search habits change and evolve with time. Our SEO cannot remain the same and assumed to remain effective. Some keywords gain or lose popularity, while methods of searching change and influence your results. Long-tail keywords highlighted by on-page snippets in your content are now more popular because voice-based search has increased so much. In fact, more than 50% of searches is executed via voice.
The evolution of technology, world views, and mindsets means your content may become irrelevant or unattractive over time. People may expect different things from your content than they did in the past. What the user is looking for is what your website should offer. Google’s aim is to give people access to information easily, readily, and accurately. If we can provide this kind of information, our rankings should improve regardless of whether an update occurs.
Online rank checking tools showed a significant spike in volatility, as you can see in the below screenshots. While some people have blamed this sudden change on user interface changes and featured snippet deduplication, these tools do not take either element into consideration. This, then, is the spike without these other influences.
The most likely explanation is an unannounced change to Google’s search ranking algorithm. Based on a three-month overview, it’s easy to see this activity was abnormal and not isolated to one industry, website type, or something like snippets and links. If you are unsure whether there is an update influencing your search results, you can go to one of the below websites to observe their measure of the current search volatility. This can help you determine whether an update is influencing your results and what you can do about it.
Advanced Web Rankings: This screenshot for South Africa shows how severe the spike in volatility really was based on a three-month window.
During the outbreak, products and services satisfying fundamentally rooted needs will see unprecedented demand. Priorities driven by the need for belonging and love are constrained by limitations put in place during lockdown. These are predicted to return to normal after lockdown ends and include things like eating out and alcohol consumption. You can learn about how to digitise your business by getting in touch with us at P.tch Digital, our team of experts is ready to assist and guide you on this digital transformation journey.
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Sources: Search Engine Journal; Search Engine Journal(2); Search Engine Land