Google are famous for constantly implementing new updates in order to improve their search result listings for users. They do this by punishing spam or low-quality websites, and promoting those websites which provide valuable, authority content. Of course, there are a whole load of other factors that come into play when it comes to Google’s closely-guarded algorithms. However, marketers and business-owners can try to stay on top of these changes by following announcements and updates released by Google and well as through ‘unconfirmed’ sources.
2017 was certainly a big year for algorithm updates. From increasing meta description lengths to penalising interstitials, we reveal the biggest algorithm changes for 2017 along with their implications for the coming year.
The first announced update of the year, which Google provided fair warning for, was the penalising of interstitials. This applied mostly to mobile searches; websites viewed on mobile devices were penalised if they had ‘intrusive’ interstitials. This led to many websites choosing to remove them all together, although it provides more difficulty for age-appropriate websites that need a verification check. Many focused on creating more enticing opt-in boxes on their website as a way to get more people to sign-up without the need for a pop-up.
Around the start of February there was an unconfirmed update which got users speculating about the way that Google detected links. Many people reported that they noticed a change in the effectiveness of PBNs. Others said that perhaps the Penguin update was the reason for more efficient detection of spam links. Whatever the case, Google refused to comment on this one. Despite this, it’s always wise to invest in high-quality links and avoid any sort of black-hats techniques whatsoever. Even if you think you can get away with now, it will only be a matter of time before new algorithm updates will penalise your actions.
This is another unconfirmed update, that one of Google’s employees jokingly called ‘Fred’ on Twitter – and the name stuck. This is supposed to be an update which affects low-quality content. It’s believed that it targets those websites which focus more on generating revenue through ads on the content. While Google had been going down this route for some time, you can further stay in Google’s good books by providing high-quality, authority content that’s not laced with adverts.
One of the major confirmed updates was Hawk. One of the big changes this made as that it prevented local businesses that shared a building or an address from appearing in similar results. This is bad news for businesses that are located in a building with multiple other businesses (particularly competitors). One way around this is to update and improve Google Business Listings, and the focus more on introducing local keywords in the listing.
The Big G also made another change which greatly affected the way that local results were sought and displayed. They did this by offering search results that are independent of the country specific domain, and instead more relevant to the location of the country that the user is searching from. This has a big knock on effect on search results, as users will no longer be able to change the Google ccTLD to get country specific results. Marketers jumped on this change by increasing AdWords ads for businesses.
Meta Description Length
December bought with it a change in the meta description length. SEO specialists began to notice an increase in SERPs. Google confirmed this, and said they were pulling more data from content in order to provide more high quality and relevant results to users. Meta Length description has since grown from 160 characters to 230. This change can be taken advantage of by increasing meta-length descriptions and including search-relevant keywords.
Another major confirmed update is the Maccabees change which dropped in mid-December. Again, this change was done to further punish low-quality, spam sites. Sites which put too much of a focus on keywords were most affected by this blow as well as those who used a lot of advertising on other websites. This change is yet another reason to focus on providing excellent content (for free), while avoiding any tricks or gimmicks which will only be penalised.
Implement some of the above-mentioned changes, and you’ll be sure to notice and increase in the effectiveness of your SEO strategy. Remember, Google are continuously making updates and will continue to make whirlwind updates on a regular basis. If there is one main takeaway from the 2017 updates, it would be to continuously work on creating the highest quality content, limiting advertisements on your website and also removing any unnecessary pop-ups. If your website is able to cater to your visitors needs and provide answers to their questions, then these updates are only going to assist you. Good luck.