In the second week of November 2019, a Google algorithm update went out and disrupted the SEO-verse. Some websites reported drops in traffic of up to 40% in just one week. If your site has suffered a knock with the most recent update, keep reading. Even though Google’s recent algorithm update is causing headaches for many site managers, there are ways to regain some of your lost traffic.
Sites Affected by The Google Algorithm Update
Many businesses have come to rely on organic search traffic for results. If you’re one of these businesses, a marketer, or SEO techie, we’re sure you have had your eye on any changes showing up on Google. You may have already noticed the changes that began in the second weekend of November this year. For many companies, this update was very disruptive, and it has affected many reputable sites.
What Did Google Have to Say About Their Recent Algorithm Update?
According to Google, however, the update was routine. Google did not offer any specifics when discussing the algorithm update, leaving Search Engine Optimisation teams guessing at what changes occurred. Here’s what Google had to say:
“Some have asked if we had an update to Google Search last week. We did, actually several updates, just as we have several updates in any given week on a regular basis.”
Google’s webmaster trends analyst, John Mueller, confirmed in a live chat in November that Google viewed this update as “business as usual” even though a dramatic effect on many sites could be observed. John stated that the update did not represent massive changes.
What Changes Have Been Observed with This Latest Update?
Although Google insists the update was routine, many sites have come under sudden pressure with large losses in organic traffic. SEO teams and content creators must now fumble for answers and adjust the strategies they have been using until now to try to recover. Further, we have observed some search queries offering results where most of the top ranked sites are spam, where before high quality query results ranked. This indicates that high-quality content like blogs are more likely suffering with the latest update.
What Can We Do to Improve SEO Results After Google’s Latest Update?
The good news is, even if Google isn't telling site owners exactly what changed, there are a few things you can do to make sure your content continues to reach your audience.
1. Make Relevance Your Aim Above Optimisation
So far, Search Engine Optimisation and content creation has centred around a few key points designed to optimise results so that Google’s algorithm favours your content. These include linking and a heavy keyword focus. This year, Google made it clear that what matters most to them is offering users content that is relevant to their search and that easily gives them access to the information they want.
In line with Google’s vision, they have begun rolling out an update called BERT (bidirectional encoder representations from transformers) that uses deep learning to better understand natural language. This means keywords matter less and relevance matters more. This update can discern intent by assessing natural language and phrases, so it’s going to see through your keyword-heavy piece easily. Unfortunately, genuine content is also suffering. For example, how can one write a travel blog about the city of Johannesburg without mentioning the word Johannesburg a few times?
You can make this update work for you. When creating content, simply aim to make the most relevant content for your audience possible. Instead of focusing on optimising your content solely to satisfy the algorithm, taking a “relevance” approach can revolutionise your SEO.
You can use tools and research to anticipate the questions your target market is asking and give them relevant answers. If your content offers accurate, relevant information designed to cater to the needs of search engine users it is more likely to do well. The old way of doing things, in other words forcing keywords into every sentence possible, is probably going to knock your organic traffic.
2. Keep Up the Good SEO
Does it sound like good SEO is being punished? That isn’t the case. We aren’t being penalised for using good SEO practices, it’s just that they are not supposed to be our end goal. We can keep using keywords, linking, and all our SEO strategies, but it is important to change our mindsets. Good keywords and links are not the point. Good, relevant content is the point. We need to give Google what they want in order to rank, and Google wants to give search engine users what they want: Quick, easy access to the exact information they want that is relevant to them.
We can continue to optimise our sites for faster loading speeds, write content focused on our keywords, and continue all our SEO technical practices because they still matter. We should keep up our good SEO. The thing is, this update is about relevance. We are not replacing our good SEO practices with relevance. Instead, we should add relevance to what we are already doing.
3. Source Traffic from More than just Organic
Organic traffic is important, but as we’ve seen this November relying solely on your organic traffic can really affect your business if your traffic takes a knock. We suggest using other platforms and paid advertising to add streams of traffic to your website. We call it a holistic approach to gaining traffic for your site.
A great example would be including Facebook paid advertising in your marketing strategy. We have found that sites using social media platforms to increase their brand presence and to advertise their website have seen marked increases in direct traffic and organic traffic. That means people see you on Facebook or Instagram and become familiar with your brand. Then they go onto Google and search for your brand or type in your website domain directly into Google’s address bar.
When you create content that is relevant on multiple platforms, including social media, your traffic has the potential to increase through paid and unpaid pathways. You can also take advantage of virality that often occurs on social media if content is extremely relevant, and if you’re lucky. One viral post can earn you tons of traffic!
Don’t let the latest Google update get you down or cost you precious organic traffic. By using these three tips, you can improve your digital presence and increase results for your website or business. Don’t drop the SEO basics, aim for relevance above optimisation, and diversify your platforms to increase your traffic.