Google is always updating its algorithm and adapting to trends. As consumers behaviors evolve, so do their search habits, causing Google to make hundreds of updates since back in 2000. While some of the updates have had little impact on SERPs and the way businesses bring in traffic and drive clicks, others have completely altered the way websites do SEO.
Google updating its ranking factors is nothing new; by this point, most companies should be used to Google rolling out a continuous wave of updates and tweaks to constantly offer a search results page that fits user’s behaviors and wants. Over the past year it has become increasingly evident that page speed will play an even more dominant role in determining mobile rank. In a January 2018 blog post, the 180Fusion team discussed the speed factor and even offered insights for companies to get ahead of the update before it officially becomes a ranking factor in July of 2018. From implementing tools like PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse, organizations have an array of options to choose from to improve the performance and speed of their sites. As evidence in this blog post, one of the most important takeaways about Google’s ever evolving rank factors is that they typically give organizations time to adjust and revamp their strategies.
Since the start of 2018, Google has done two major updates that have already taken effect. From a core update to a mobile-first index roll-out, these updates are already affecting SERPs and, in turn, the businesses which depend on website clicks to thrive. Whether you’ve already noticed a change or simply want to stay ahead of the game, here are the 2018 updates, what they mean for you, and how to optimize your campaigns and make the most of the changes.
Major 2018 Updates (So Far)
Brackets Core Update – On March 7, Google released a core update named Brackets. The core update covered a number of smaller updates which cause some volatility and disruption—some sites reported gaining or losing rich snippets, for example.
Mobile-First Index Roll-Out – On March 26, Google started rolling out the mobile-first index. While the roll-out had been anticipated for a year and a half, it wasn’t until now that Google started migrating sites to the mobile-first indexing.
What These Updates Mean for You
One of the biggest changes you’ll notice from the Brackets update is the switch to rich snippets. Rich snippets consist of information other than the meta title and description. Rich snippets will sometimes include a photo, star rating, more in-depth description of a page, etc. Because it provides more information, having a rich snippet can improve click rates and the number of page visitors.
When it comes to rich snippets, Google looks at quality, so when the Brackets update (which focused heavily on quality) rolled out, a lot of people saw rich snippets appear or disappear on their listings. Rich snippets aren’t the only thing affected by the update, though—content, advertising methods, user-friendliness, and anything quality-controlled could be affected.
When it comes to the mobile-first roll-out, nobody was taken by surprise—as mentioned, Google has been working on it for a year and a half now. It could have a serious impact on those who have been slow to make mobile a priority, though. In their announcement, Google said, “To recap, our crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have typically used the desktop version of a page’s content, which may cause issues for mobile searchers when that version is vastly different from the mobile version. Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking…”
The mobile-first roll-out will shake things up in a big way and could result in businesses which were not previously in the top search results to attain a high rank because their mobile site was well-optimized, while businesses previously dominating the top search results could drop significantly.
How to Optimize Your Campaigns and Make the Most of the Updates
Optimize site speed. Nobody likes waiting for a page to load. In the day of ultra-fast Internet, nobody has time for that, especially on mobile. Go through your site and fully optimize it to increase speed and responsiveness so your site visitors won’t have to wait.
Redesign for mobile. With mobile becoming the priority, redesigning your site to optimize is imperative. This means getting rid of flash and pop-ups, making sure text is large, legible, and clickable, incorporating readily displayed calls to action, and so on. Instead of designing a mobile site as an afterthought, put mobile first.
Revamp your content. The shift to mobile means there will need to be a shift in content. The length, keywords used, and way you word things all need to change. Mobile is a whole different ball game compared to desktop, and it will take some work.
Focus on quality. If there’s anything to be learned from the most recent Google updates, it’s that quality (along with mobile) should be the biggest priority. This means your content, images, marketing techniques, and everything in between should be high-quality. If that means you have to go through your entire site with industry experts to revamp from the ground up, it will be worth it in the end.
While some Google updates won’t have a noticeable effect, others change the way businesses market completely. The most recent updates have already had a big impact on businesses across all industries and are causing a shift in focus from desktop to mobile and quantity to quality. If you haven’t already, now is the time to optimize your site for both to make the most of the recent updates and those to come.