Huge changes at Google – What are they and why?
The SEO world has been running around frenetically for the last two months. After what seemed like a relatively quiet 2016 on the Google update side of things, the company slammed on perhaps their biggest changes to their algorithm ever. One of the changes is a new change of an old friend – Penguin – whilst the other is completely new entirely (dubbed “Possum”), and makes a huge difference for small businesses looking to enhance their local SEO stocks.
We’re going to provide a quick rundown of exactly what’s been going on, breaking the article up to focus on the two separate changes that have been made. We’ll also investigate how this is likely to affect both small-to-medium sized businesses, and what changes are needed for you to stay afloat as the ongoing changes continue to roll out.
Prior to this, Google’s spammy backlink algorithm Penguin was consigned to a yearly refresh. The biggest change now is that Penguin has been amalgamated into its real-time process, meaning that Penguin is always on the prowl for bad linking networks and dubious strategies.
One good aspect of this, however, is that it now targets specific pages, rather than hurting the ranking of entire websites. Some businesses prior to this were unlucky to have been penalised by Penguin, either owing to them not having the nous to disavow bad links, or unwillingly getting caught up in the bad link trade.
Penguin being upgraded to real-time has been the major cause of all of the activity in the SERP’s in recent months. It’s still going, too, meaning that you could see your own ranking jumping up and down in numbers of up to 5 rankings. For some, it has seen them rocked massively up in the results, as spam websites above them cop the full brunt of Penguin’s new powers.
To make sure you stay at the top, you will have to take your backlinking much more seriously. Any link from a spam website must be removed, and you should only pursue reputable off page strategies.
For those wondering why it’s in quotation marks, it’s because Google has rather been silent on this update, refusing to let much on apart from the local search algorithm has seen a major shake up.
Some of the few major changes that have occurred are the way that Google looks at the definition of the boundary of a suburb, same addresses, and the actual location of the searcher. The aim seems to be to deliver more accurate local results for searchers looking for a specific suburb (I.E. “plumbers in Bayswater”), and directly affects the “three pack” – the immediate listings that come under Google Maps searches.
It has made businesses based near the suburb boundary, yet outside the suburb itself, much more likely to rank for any suburb specific keyword. It has also clamped down on practices that share an identical address, yet appearing under different monikers. This will have a big impact for medical clinics that offer more than one service, or for marketing and lawyer practices in one building that operate individually from one another.
In our next few articles, we’re going to dive even more deeply into what these changes mean going forward. They are still ongoing, too, so webmasters will need to be vigilant and make sure that the practices that they are using to rank highly are ones that are approved by Google themselves. If your ranking has been severely affected, it may not be time to panic just yet either, as Google appears to still be conducting quite a few tests on these new changes.