GOOGLE'S MYSTERIOUS ALGORITHM CHANGES

By Jonathon Keane

Google’s algorithm updates, like Panda and Penguin, happen frequently throughout the year and are highly publicised but still poorly understood. Most recently Google updated its core search algorithm but it was not a Panda update as had been previously thought (but a Panda update is allegedly on the way). In a statement Google, keeping things vague, simply said the update wasn’t Panda related and it’s “going to continue to work on improvements across the board.”

Google has released a couple of updates in 2015 thus far, the most high profile of which was Mobilegeddon. In an uncharacteristic move, Google announced this update in advance to give websites a chance to prepare. The update simply prioritised mobile friendly sites with responsive design. If your site didn’t meet the criteria, a dramatic fall in traffic was evident.

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The response to Mobilegeddon has been mixed. Some analysts have called it overblown while others have said it’s made the impact anticipated. A report from one US digital consultancy firm claimed that almost half of all websites that weren’t mobile friendly fell in Google’s rankings, while on the other hand a column from Search Engine Land explains how the effects will be long term and we haven’t truly seen the effects yet.

This was just one of three major updates that Google rolled out to its algorithms so far this year. In February a number of search engine experts and webmasters noted significant changes to search engine results pages (SERPs) but Google wouldn’t confirm anything. It’s believed to be a Panda related update and it was mostly e-commerce websites that were affected in the aftermath.

Since Mobilegeddon, there has been another major change. In early May, a new update referred to as Phantom by analysts was confirmed by Google but it didn’t go into any detail beyond that. It would appear that it was a wide ranging update. Blogging service HubPages went public about it’s challenges with the update which it says had a profound effect on its traffic. “Imagine how hard it is to run a business when you see 22 percent of your traffic evaporate overnight,” said the site’s CEO.

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So far this year these are the only three major algorithm changes that we’re aware of Google making, never mind the subtle tweaks under the surface. Preparing for the next one in advance is a tough task too as we never know when one is coming.

Algorithm changes can be particularly devastating to small businesses and bloggers, who may not have the know-how to revamp their site’s back end to cater to the new search standards and as a result see a potentially crippling decline in traffic.

Predicting the changes that are coming up may seem futile but keeping an eye on trends in website design and content will help in keeping ahead of the game. Mobilegeddon for example seems like a logical step in hindsight with more people browsing on their smartphones than ever before. Some advice for the future, keep your site mobile user friendly as it seems to be a vital first step in sustaining a successful business that can withstand the test of time.

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