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Google is famous for its updates, search changes and refreshes as it constantly works to improve the search results for user queries. Some may go unnoticed and have little to no effect on your business, whilst others can massively impact your sites’ rankings. Here we look back at this year’s updates and how they have impacted the SERPs (search engine result pages).
Here’s a look back at this year’s major Google updates
Core algorithm update — January 2016
Tracking tools reported extremely large movements in rankings, which Google later confirmed as a “core algorithm update”. They claim this was not a Penguin update but marketers remain sceptical.
Mobile-friendly 2 — May 2016
Just over a year since the original “mobile friendly” update, Google rolled out another ranking signal boost to benefit mobile-friendly sites on mobile search.
“Possum” — September 2016
Possum is still unconfirmed by Google, however MozCast recorded extreme temperatures of 108°. There appeared to be a drop in local pack prevalence and the local SEO community noted a huge change in pack results. Read more about the Possum update here.
Image/Universal Drop — September 2016
MozCast recorded a nearly-record 111° temperature and a 50% drop in SERPs with image (universal/vertical) results. It’s likely that this was part of a much larger update.
Penguin 4.0 — September 2016
Google announced a long-awaited Penguin update; Penguin focuses on the quality of sites and reducing spam. They suggested the new Penguin is now real-time and built into the “core” algorithm. Initial impact assessments were surprisingly small, with almost no reports of Penguin recoveries.
Check out the full Google Update Timeline from MOZ here: https://moz.com/google-algorithm-change
Mobile Index Update – November 2016
Google has begun experimenting with a mobile first search index. As the majority of people are using mobiles to search as opposed to desktops and tablets, this should help to create more relevant results for the mobile user.
A closer look at Penguin 4.0
The algorithms take into consideration hundreds of unique signals, which make it possible to display the best results for what you’re looking for. These signals include the following:
- Words that appear on websites (keywords)
- Whether your content has been updated
- How much useful content there is
- Your location
- Your site’s overall Domain Authority.
Penguin largely affects which results the user will see and in what order. The update was first launched in 2012 and re-updated on 23rd September 2016. The main purpose is to eliminate spam sites from being displayed in the SERPS and to display higher quality and more relevant results for the user.
Key changes affected by Penguin:
Penguin now updates in real-time. Before this happened, the list of sites directly affected by Penguin was periodically refreshed and you’d have to wait for Google to eventually re crawl your site to see any kind of improvement in rankings. With this update, changes will be visible much faster. It also means Google won’t need to comment on future refreshes.
You can find out more about the most recent update by heading to the Google Webmaster Central Blog.
Google’s mobile first index
In addition to the mobile friendly updates of 2016, Google have also announced on the Webmaster’s Blog that they’ve begun experiments to make their search engine index mobile versions of sites first, as opposed to desktop results.
“To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.”
Research shows that most Google searches are now made on a mobile device over the more traditional desktop and tablets. Currently, their ranking system looks at the desktop version of a page’s content to evaluate its relevance, showing these at the top of the results. However, this may not always be best practise when the mobile version has far less content than the desktop version – resulting in the mobile user getting low quality results.
If you have a responsive site, or a dynamic site, where the content and markup is the same across both mobile and desktop, this shouldn’t affect you and no changes should need to be made. You can find out more information here and also recommendations to help prepare for a more mobile-focused Google.
If you are concerned about how the recent updates may have affected your website please get in touch on 01403 261491.