Last week we talked about the bare basics of search engine algorithms. This week we’re looking at three of the most significant algorithm updates for 2015 so far, and how they might have affected your website.
What do we mean by ‘affected’? Major algorithm changes tend to jiggle the search results around, shunting some sites off page one to page two or even lower down and surfacing others whose search positions were previously poor. If you’ve seen a major drop or rise in your natural search visibility and you haven’t done anything likely to bring it about, it’s probably a search algorithm at work.
Google Mobile Update – AKA Mobilegeddon
The mobile update rolled out from April 21st 2015, and it was one of the few updates Google announced in advance. They revealed long before the update happened that mobile search positions would be better for mobile-friendly websites.
After a lot of kerfuffles, with millions of websites rushing to become mobile-friendly in good time, the impact was pretty small, a bit of a damp squib. No dramatic falls and rises, just mobile search results delivering more genuinely mobile friendly websites.
The Quality Update
May saw a mysterious probable algorithm update. Experts had been seeing large-scale ranking changes for some time, leading to the update being christened Phantom 2. While Google acknowledged a core algorithm change affecting what they call quality signals, they didn’t specify what those signals might be.
All we know is that there was an update, and it had something to do with the quality of websites, which could mean any number of things, probably a mix of factors. Not exactly helpful, but that’s the way the Google search cookie crumbles.
It’s that Panda again. The original Panda update trashed the search positions of thousands if not millions of websites and the upheaval it caused was legendary.
Designed to suppress poor quality ‘thin’ websites, those with very little content or crap content, when the tidal wave withdrew it revealed an entirely new search landscape. Things were never the same again, and top quality content has been an essential element of white hat search marketing ever since.
This time around Google was coy, hinting there may be a new Panda refresh on the way which might take months to roll out. It apparently kicked off on 17th July. Whatever the real story, the immediate impact wasn’t clear and nobody has seen any real signs of a major update… so far. On the other hand Google says the change has affected 2%–3% of English language search queries.
What’s on the cards next?
You won’t be surprised that we don’t know! But most experts feel it’s reasonable to expect a couple of things:
- A continuing focus on surfacing good quality content over poor content
- An ongoing interest in maintaining a good user experience across multiple devices
As website designers we create beautiful sites for our clients. We insist on design excellence, content excellence, on-site SEO and search marketing excellence. Unless the search world turns on its head, it’s unlikely the websites we create will ever fall foul of a Google algorithm update.