Google’s April Search Changes: 50+ Reasons Why April Was A Tumultuous Time in Search
2 rollouts of Panda and 1 rollout of Penguin created an atmosphere of anxiety and tension among many in the interactive marketing world last month, with many of those sentiments carrying over into May. A multitude of people saw their sites drop in rankings, not knowing whether it was a Panda hit, a Penguin hit, or both.
Now, as site owners, SEOs and business owners work to correct their mistakes and recover their rankings, other search changes during April come to light. On Friday of last week, Google revealed that more than 50 changes occurred in search during the month of April (including the larger scale ones mentioned above), with some of them concerning international search functionality, but with many of them affecting search results here in the US. Let’s go in-depth with a few.
Google has tweaked the algorithm such that search does not, in the future, return too many results from the same domain. The tides are certainly shifting, and some strategies that allowed certain sites to dominate the first page of Google with multiple search results on one page may no longer be applicable (or possible). How to mitigate this change? With Google focusing on local so much more, with people using their phones to search while on the go all the time, you might restrategize and try focusing on hyper local keywords, and, instead of dominating the results for only a few queries, rank your site for as many hyper local keywords you can. If all goes well, you could rank for your general service area, plus all the areas surrounding it – and gain more reach this way.
Local Navigational Homepages
Speaking of local, Google made some tweaks to the way local navigational searches return results so that searches that include locations (like, for instance, “Buckhead bakery”) return results that are more likely to top rank local navigational homepages (even if those pages don’t mention the location!). It does make sense that Google would want to return results that display a site’s localized content, as the person searching with a keyword that includes a specific location is obviously looking not for general content, but rather for content that is locally focused. How should you respond to this change? If your site isn’t already structured in such a way that local navigational homepages are prominent and prepared for search engine consumption, stop reading this and go make some changes! Make sure your local navigational homepage is existent, relevant, that the content might encourage users to take action or, at the very least, stay on your site by clicking on a hyper-local link that brings them to hyper-local, helpful content.
A vague improvement to how search terms are scored is mentioned, and it is based on whether and how they appear on the pages users are searching. However, and perhaps more importantly in light of the Penguin update, an additional keyword stuffing change is also listed (interesting note – the codename for this project is “Spam”): “We have classifiers designed to detect when a website is keyword stuffing. This change made the keyword stuffing classifier better.” While the relevance of links and the diversity of anchor-text is incredibly important with the new Penguin update, this little change is a reminder that the over –optimization portion of Penguin targeting spam has a wider span that includes the quality of on-page content and the links within it. How to respond? This little tip should not be new to you at all: If your keywords don’t flow naturally with the content on your site’s pages, remove them. Use them a max of 2-3 times if possible, and only use them if they make sense in context! If you are going to link internally to another page, or even if you are going to link to an external site, do not stuff links with your keywords, either.
Google made some changes so that the freshest content is delivered for users’ search queries. You might remember back in November that Google announced an algorithm change that ensured the freshness of results; April’s update applies a more “granular classifiers” that works to promote fresh content in the form of more breaking news. On the other side of the coin, Google also made some changes so that low-quality content does NOT get promoted via the freshness classifier – even if breaking news is identified, if the site is low-quality, it will not show up in the fresh results.
This change, according to Google, sharpens the process that goes into selecting a Title to show with each search result. Google’s goal is to return more concise/informative titles by making a change to the factors that are used to decide what is used as the title of a particular result. Only time will tell how this change will affect things; some sites do experience this at work already when the Title they created for their site is changed by Google to something the search engine takes from the site and feels is more relevant. This seemingly will become a more widespread phenomenon. Obvious takeaway: The title you create for your site should be not only relevant, but also easy to read and should make sense to the reader. Google places heavy emphasis on user experience, so when creating your Title, try moving away from ones like: “Atlanta Bakery-Bakers in Atlanta-Cakes in Atlanta| Atlanta Bakery Co.” Try replacing it with something that would capture the interest of a user like “Try The Best Cakes in Atlanta | Visit Atlanta Bakery Co.” Most importantly, if you have some evidence of having the best cakes in Atlanta, include it in the copy on the page for which you created this title. Keep the title relevant to the copy, but also intriguing to the searcher.
Speaking of content, Google mentions: “We’ve tweaked a signal we use to surface more authoritative content.” How do you prove your content is authoritative? Blogging often, posting on Google Plus, gaining comments and connections there (and also doing so on other social networks, though obviously these would carry less weight than Google’s own social network), having an abundance of trust links, having quality links coming into your site (it’s less about quantity, as you likely know, and more about quality), etc.
Previous Searches Impacting Your Current Searches
Creeped out? And if you’re thinking now that Google is out to change the world (if not destroy it), you ain’t seen nothin’ yet…the first self-driving cars may hit the roads of Nevada soon, courtesy of the search engine giant.
Google: “We’ll watch your every move online, but you can watch ours on the road.”
Want to learn more about the Penguin or Panda updates? Interested in SEO? Check back with our blog for regular updates about what’s going on in the interactive marketing worlds or give us a call at 770-481-1766.