This update — dubbed “Florida 2” by WebmasterWorld, even though it doesn’t have anything of substance in common with Google’s first Florida update — doesn’t target one particular area. Instead, it appears to change how a search term is interpreted, which means the repercussions could be both widespread and hard to quantify.
While initially this Google algorithm update was seen as a possible fix for an update last year that hurt sites in the healthcare industry, it’s turning out that this is likely untrue, as the majority of those sites have not seen an improvement in ranking since the update. Which is to say, that, for many, the latest update from Google is as clear as mud.
For those who’ve worked in SEO a long time, nothing about this is particularly surprising. Algorithm updates from the search giant have a history of being complicated and opaque. This isn’t necessarily because Google’s done anything wrong. The intricacies of the algorithm have become so advanced that clearly defining every adjustment and its impact on the entire searchable internet has become an almost impossible task.
According to Google, the company relies on approximately 200 signals to determine its ranking, which means any update could have a domino effect that even Google can’t predict. It would be great if Google could say, “We’ve done X; therefore, you should do Y,” but that would only create an unrealistic expectation that undermines just how complex the system and ranking factors actually are.
For many businesses and SEO marketers who are focused on keywords and key performance indicators, this can be extremely frustrating to hear. There’s no magic bullet that will ensure a site stays at the top of the rankings — no black hat SEO tricks that can get past whatever updates Google might throw at it. That doesn’t mean, however, that there’s nothing that can be done to help a business’s search ranking.
How to Weather the Google Algorithm Update Storm and Come out Ahead
Rather than look at short-term solutions that could be undone by the next Google algorithm update, SEO marketers should look at paths toward long-term growth and stop sweating the small stuff. There are a few ways companies can do this:
- Assess your losses and gains after each update.
This in itself can be a difficult task, especially in the short term. One of the best ways to assess what happened is to look at your competitors’ rankings and try to uncover a common thread that would’ve led to their simultaneous increase with your ranking decrease, or vice versa.
This could be something as simple as a subtopic they mention in their content, or it might be something bigger. For instance, your competitors might have taken a completely different direction in relation to specific keyword queries that could help explain why their content benefited and yours suffered.
This sort of comparison is actually similar to what Google has been doing with its algorithm since its notorious Panda update. To determine quality, Google does more than analyze a website — it compares it to other sites that cover similar subjects. If you’re not doing the same, you might never understand the method behind the madness of your page rank.
- Don’t have tunnel vision.
Recently, we had a client that lost a No. 1 rank for a high-traffic keyword, which resulted in an initial dip in month-over-month traffic. But when looking at year-over-year numbers, it was clear that we were still on a positive trajectory and our client was closing more business even after losing that rank. In other words, it turned out that the quality of the company’s traffic wasn’t tied to a specific keyword — no matter how valuable it appeared.
If your entire SEO strategy is focused on the ranking of a single keyword, or moving only one KPI, then you’ll always be reacting to the effects on that specific metric rather than looking at the bigger picture and sticking to a strategy that provides truly sustainable growth.
Often, one KPI might be doing well thanks, in part, to other factors. If you’re not stepping back and looking at the whole landscape, you might be completely ignoring the underlying components that are leading to your success or failure.
- Reevaluate your strategy.
Even if you’re not seeing a negative impact related to the Google algorithm update, there still might be an opportunity to leverage changes and proactively set your brand up for further success.
This doesn’t mean you should mess with your messaging or code to simply address what just happened. Instead, you should consider any trends across a series of recent updates and what they suggest regarding the future. You should then assess your own strategy and see whether there are areas that could be improved. From there, you can begin to test enhancements to your content or code in order to be ahead of the curve instead of reacting to it.
- Avoid hasty reactions.
After every update, you’ll hear a lot from other marketers about what should be done as a reaction to the Google algorithm update. While this can be helpful, it’s vital to remember that the impact of each update will be different for every industry and even specific brands and sites.
While some information that market influencers provide can be useful for next steps, just because the community is saying it’s seeing a dip in ranking for pages with under 300 words doesn’t mean you should rush out and increase all of the content on your site to be over 300 words. Instead, you should step back and think about how your messaging solves (or doesn’t solve) a problem for a user’s query, analyze your competitors’ content, and go from there.
For a while now, Google has been making it clear to sites that the way to get ahead is not through tricks. Instead, Google has been giving the advantage to companies that are willing to go the extra mile and continue to analyze their sites’ messaging, update their relevance, and tailor them to meet the current audience landscape.
- Assess your losses and gains after each update.
While sticking with the long-term instead of flash-in-the-pan solutions doesn’t mean you’ll never hit a bump in the road, it does ensure you won’t lose your focus. While others might get bogged down with minute changes to keyword rankings, you can keep your eye on what’s truly important: your customers. A high-quality experience, it turns out, is perhaps the best path to better SEO.