Though nobody in the digital world is a stranger to Google updates, their latest core algorithm update came as somewhat of a surprise. After saying there was ‘nothing to fix’ Google’s recent change left some sites down on rankings and feeling pretty peeved.
What was the update?
Unlike the usual core updates that Google conduct very frequently, sometimes daily, this one was slightly different and what’s known as a Broad Core Algorithm Update. These are bigger updates that happen several times per year and focus on wider changes.
This particular one looked at providing better search results for users, so there was a big focus on site content.
Danny Sullivan who runs the SearchLiason Twitter handle posted this tweet which gave the biggest clue as to how to succeed:
There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) March 12, 2018
Who will be affected?
Google have been criticised for targeting low-quality web pages in the past, but the sites that lost rankings this time did not do so because of signals of low quality. Sullivan also stated:
‘There’s nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded.’
So, it’s hard to pinpoint any exact reasons why you might have lost rankings. The focus here should be on improving what you already have to optimise your site and get those rankings back up.
What should you focus on?
We already know that the reason behind this update was that Google wanted to give users better search results. And, according to Search Engine Journal, user intent is key to page rankings for certain keywords. They said:
‘In this update, it is clear that Google is trying to rank the sites that best meet users’ expectations when they make a search query.’
What this means is that Google will use data to show the types of sites users are clicking on for any given search term to establish the user intent and show results that match it.
For example, the search term ‘laminate flooring for sale’ has a very clear motive – I want to buy laminate flooring. However, the search term ‘laminate flooring’ might have a much higher clickthrough rate on pages that offer advice surrounding this flooring type, how to fit it, when to choose it etc. If this was the case, then Google may favour the pages that answer those questions and rank them higher.
Improving your content
If the sites fulfilling their user intent are reaching the best spots, top marks for guessing what you need to do? Yep, identify your own user intent for key search terms.
This might sound tricky, but it’s all about competitor research. The best way to find out what’s ranking on your landscape is to Google it. Then you can pick apart the results on page 1 to see what they’re doing that you aren’t.
Pay particular attention to the type of pages that are ranking – are they e-commerce, resource or blog posts? This will be the big factor that helps you find out whether you’re attempting to rank with the right pages for the right terms. If not, you should reconsider what your pages are optimised for to try and grab those Google rankings.
As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to have between 300 and 500 words on all site pages to help them rank higher. There are ways of doing this, even on product category pages, to grab people’s attention and offer value.
Many retailers are now wise to the importance of high-quality content and have taken the initiative to improve their page copy. Answering questions that customers might have such as which size product you should buy, which styles will suit your needs and the benefits of certain items vs. others gives users a helpful guide without having to look far. As the copy is located at the bottom of the page, it doesn’t hinder the user experience but also provides information if they should need it.
Answering these types of questions in your copy also shows Google that you understand your customer and what they want. And the proof lies in the rankings, with Dreams’ wardrobes page showing promising improvements in just a couple of weeks.
So, when Google says you need to make great content, they don’t always mean spectacular assets – sometimes you just have to pay attention to the basics, like your page copy, to make all the difference.
Want to know more about how the update could have affected your site? Book your free Digital Marketing Health Check here.