Google Algorithm & SEO Updates – What Businesses Need to Know

Google operates by using specific algorithms to rank websites within their search engine. They pride themselves on delivering the best possible results for a query, so they regularly update their algorithms to ensure that they are capturing the data that they need from your website. 

Though Google will never say exactly what is included in their algorithms, updates can cover everything from the quality of your content to the usability of your website, as well as a range of other factors.  

We know that these updates and changes can often be a worrying time for business owners as they may potentially see their website take a ranking or organic traffic hit. To help you recover from any past algorithm changes and prepare your website for any future SEO updates, read on.  

Before we startnote that there are three types of Google algorithm updates 

Minor algorithm updates – Slight refinements to micro-algorithms 

Thousands of these minor updates are rolled out on a yearly basis and happen daily. They’re too small to notice but aim to improve the relevancy of search results over time.  

Broad core algorithm updates – General adjustments to the main algorithm 

Typically occur three or four times a year, during which Google revisits which ranking factors, such as content or backlinks, contribute most to overall success in search results.  

Major algorithm updates – Adjustments to micro-algorithms to address a specific issue, such as low-quality content or keyword stuffing  

Usually occur once or twice a year. Luckily, Google will often release a statement to give you a heads-up on any upcoming updatesproviding you with enough time to prepare and make any relevant changes.  

Recovering from a past algorithm update and preparing for future SEO changes 

If your website has felt the impact of a recent update then Google has made it clear that there are no quick fixes that businesses can put in place. In fact, most digital marketers expect that any changes will take months rather than weeks to come to fruition, and they recognise that it could take a long time for your site to recover. This is because Google wants to see a real focus on improving quality over the long term, so changes will really need to be established before your place in the search engine rankings can be restored. 

Whilst this could feel disheartening, the good news is that there are lots of positive changes that you can make to ensure that over time your website ranking does improve again. We are certain that if you put the following initiatives into place then not only will it help your site in the search engines, but it will also help your business and marketing strategy overall. 

High-quality content  

High-quality content which adds real value to your users and gives them the information that they are searching for is an invaluable tool for boosting your site in Google’s rankings. Websites that only have low value or thin content will not be rewarded in search engines 

Past algorithm updates:  

Google now assigns a quality score to websites. Those with a high percentage of duplicate plagiarised and thin content, as well as those with a high ad-to-content ratio, are scored lower and are not rewarded in the search engine result pages. 

One aspect of this update highlights that getting expert authors, copywriters or industry insiders to write your website content – pages, blogs or how to guides etc, will help the search engines to view your site favourably.  

To deliver the best possible results for a query, Google now uses natural language processing (NLP) to better understand searcher intent. To help Google understand the context of your content, it should not be poorly written or lack focus.    

It’s really important that you review all of your website content, including updating, consolidating and removing underperforming content. 

On a quarterly basis, consider revamping your content if it is 

  1. Thin on content – less than 500 words (dependent on the type of content and topic, studies have shown that on average, 2,000-word blogs / 1,400-word pages dominate position one in the rankings).  
  2. Outdated – includes misleading information or facts.  
  3. Duplicated – from another page on your website or from an external website.  

Top tips 

Secure high-quality backlinks 

Along with great content, Google also wants to see that credible high-value sites are linking to yours. This is a key indicator that your site is trusted and that it provides valuable and recent information for its users.  

Past algorithm updates:  

Google penalises low-quality SEOs who use spammy tactics to gain backlinks, including buying links from link farms and PBNs (a network of websites linking to a single website). 

Review all the links that are pointing to your site on a quarterly basis and if any come from low quality or spammy sites then take steps to try and remove them if possible. 

Top tip:  

You can also work on a strategy to increase links from high-quality sites to your own website. Remember though, it’s all about quality, not quantity!  

Some tactics to consider as part of your link building strategy:  

Trade media – 

 Research – Take the time to research key influencers who have high-value sites. Interact with them on social media and use effective PR to encourage them to link to your website. 

Broken backlinks – Monitor any backlinks your website gains and check-in quarterly to make sure that the backlink is still pointing to your website and not a broken page. If pointing to a broken page, work to replace the backlink or 301 redirect the old URL to point to a new, working one.  

Linkless mentions – Identify which websites might be mentioning your brand name but not linking and reach out to them to see if they’ll include a link to your homepage or another page  

Top tip: Type (intext:”inputyourbrandname”) into Google and it will return a list of websites where your brand is mentioned, but isn’t linked to.  

Competitors – Found a website that’s linking to a competitor? Pitch an email to the website or editor with some industry expert copy improvements and see if they’ll consider swapping out the competitor backlink for your own.  

Directories – Set up listings for your business on directories that are relevant to your niche and location.  

Work to improve user experience  

Those visiting your website should be able to easily find what they are looking for. Sites that are not considered by Google to be usable will be negatively impacted by the search results. Review your site and ensure that it is clear fast loading and usable for your customers.  

Past algorithm updates:  

Websites are now ranked on how fast and user-friendly their mobile experience is. 

Websites with intrusive pop-ups are penalised. 

One for your radar! An upcoming algorithm update:  

Google will now combine previous UX-related signals with three new benchmarksmeasuring:   

All three benchmarks must be met in order to qualify for a ranking boost.  

Top tips:  

Use HTTPS 

Ever landed on a website and had a message pop up to flag that its “not secure”? That’s because they’re using the non-secure HTTP protocol (used to communicate between two systems over your computers network – the browser and the webserver).   

example of a site with no https

If your website hasn’t upgraded to the secure version yet, you’re at a disadvantage as both Google and users will see your website as non-secure.  

Past algorithm updates:  

Google now gives small ranking boosts to websites that are secure.  

Top tips: 

example of a site with https and ssl certificate

If you are concerned about a recent algorithm or SEO update or want help preparing and responding to the nexthave a chat with us. We are SEO experts who can advise you on the steps you need to take to safeguard and improve your website. Call us on 01727 260187 or email info@wagada.co.uk.  

 

Black Friday Marketing Ideas: Quick Tips and Tricks to Prepare Your Website

As a direct result of COVID-19, consumer behaviour has seen dramatic changes, including a significant increase in online shopping. With Black Friday fast approaching on the 27th November, closely followed by Cyber Monday on the 30th, brands will be keen to drive sales even further this month.

An effective Black Friday marketing strategy stretches far and wide, with many big brands and agencies strategising and planning at least three months in advance.

But if you’ve found yourself at the beginning of November and still keen to jump on the event, we’ve pulled together some Black Friday marketing ideas that you can implement on your website in the weeks leading up to the big event to help maximise your brand’s exposure.

Black Friday SEO tips

Keyword research

In the run up to, and during BFCM (Black Friday Cyber Monday), the keywords that users pump into their Google Search bar are likely to differ from normal.

For example:

‘Dyson hair dryer Black Friday’ – monthly searches rose from an average of 2.4k in October 2019 to 40.5k in November 2019.

Dyson hair dryer Black Friday searches

‘Black Friday tablet deals’ – monthly searches rose from an average of 320 in October 2019 to 33.1k in November 2019.

Search trends for 'black friday tablet deals'

The desirability for specific products has shifted significantly as a direct result of COVID-19 also, with huge year-on-year growth in home appliance and home gym equipment sales.

For example:

‘Home gym equipment’ – monthly searches rose from an average of 8.1k in February 2020 to 90.5k just a month later.

Home gym equipment searches

Your keyword research and pricing plan should take this into consideration. If you’re a fashion retailer for instance, there’s no point in discounting flipflops, but you might want to consider a flash sale on face masks.

Additionally, target those in the research stages, by offering gift guide inspiration in the hopes that shoppers will return to your website and purchase from you during your sale.

For example:

‘Black Friday gifts for her’ – monthly searches rose from an average of 880 in November 2016 to 2.4k in November 2019.

Search trends for 'black friday gifts for her'

Top tip – You can use Google’s free Keyword Planner tool if you’re new to keyword research.

On-page copy

Once you’ve finalised your keyword targeting, write detailed descriptions for key product pages. If your website is lacking in this department, then your chances of ranking and being found by users are going to be pretty low.

Tweak your metatags

Based on your keyword research, optimise your product title tags and meta descriptions to boost your website’s visibility in Search Engines. The competition will be tough, and you’ll want to stand out from the crowd, encouraging users to click on your listing.

Mention things like free shipping and returns, next day delivery and include discounts etc. Additionally, mark-up product pages with structured data (special code that gives Search Engines extra information about your merchandise) to give users additional snippets of information including price, average star rating and stock availability.

Dyson hair dryer Black Friday SERP

Top tip – You can use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to debug any schema issues / SEO Mofo’s Snippet Optimiser to review your metatags before pushing them live.

Achieve that Black Friday FOMO feeling

Nobody likes missing out on a bargain. Use these Black Friday marketing ideas to trigger FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) when users land on your website.

Price alerts

Implement a simple form or popup on your website that encourages visitors to sign up for price alerts, with options to receive alerts and updates on all of your Black Friday deals. You could drill this down even further for specific products, product categories and brand-based deals that are tailored around individual customer interest.

Take a step further and plan pricing activity throughout the day to encourage repeat visitors. Save your best deals for early morning, lunchtime and later in the evening for those who will be working a 9-5.

Wish lists

As an alternative to price alert forms and popups, ensure that your website is setup with ‘Wish list’ functionality to allow customers to create a unique list of desired items. If you’re clued up on email marketing, you could push out an email to these users highlighting specific discounts on products that you know that they’re thinking about buying – “Unmissable Black Friday Deals on Products You Love!”

Website banners

Repeat customers and new users will be visiting your website in the run up to, and during, Black Friday. As soon as they land on the website, spark their interest with a homepage banner that’s on-brand but pops – “Coming Soon” or “Black Friday Sale Now On!”

Popups

Similar to your website banner, consider adding an automatic popup to the website to remind your website visitors of your sale. This could fire after a certain number of page views or at a specific time during their session.

Additionally, consider implementing an exit intent popup – “Don’t Miss Out – Get 15% off all products with this discount code!” – a last minute attempt to retain the interest of those users who are about to bounce away from your website.

Top tip – Think about the frequency and visibility of your popups. Google advises against popups that cover the main content of a page and there’s nothing worse than having to click out of a popup multiple times when browsing a website. One popup upon visiting and one popup upon exiting is more than enough! Additionally, don’t devalue your brand with mixed messaging. For example, if you’re a luxury brand, avoid pushy, SPAM-like popups and implement them with care.

Countdown timers

Add a countdown timer to your website to let users know when your deals are about to expire. This could be across all of your Black Friday deals or product specific – “Hurry! Only 20 minutes left to get 50% off the Dyson Hair Dryer.”

Stock availability and viewing statistics

Show the number of items in stock at your specific discount price – “Only Dyson Hair Dryers left at 50% off. Don’t miss out!” – and highlight how many other users are currently viewing a specific product – “196 others are viewing this product”. The two combined is a great way to spark an impulse buy.

Top tip – Check out software platforms such as Taggstar who can help integrate this messaging on your website.

Add an interactive game

Drive engagement on your website with a fun, interactive game offering users a chance to win varying discounts or free prizes. Think Wheel of Fortune style or something similar.

Mystery and gift boxes

Offer a Black Friday deal on a mystery box or bundle up products for a gift box style offer – a great way to offload unused stock.

Discounts vs freebies

COVID-19 has been tough on all businesses, so if your profit margins have taken a hit in 2020 and you’re reluctant to discount your products, offer a free gift on all sales as an alternative. Shoppers love a freebie, and again, it’s a great way to offload unused stock.

Consumer trust is a must on Black Friday

Those keen to grab a bargain in the past may well have fallen victim to cyber criminals and we expect to see an explosion in SPAM and phishing attacks in the run up to BFCM.

Reassure online shoppers whilst they’re browsing your website by highlighting:

Top tip – Trustpilot’s widget allows you to embed review star feature boxes across your website. Consider adding this to your header so that this information is visible to users on every page that they visit throughout their session.

Top tip – Make sure that the information above is easily accessible by including links to the specific pages within the footer.

Improve your website user experience

Providing a seamless shopping experience is the key to maximising conversions.

Think about:

Top tip – Use free tools such as GTmetrix and PageSpeed Insights to test your website across desktop and mobile. Installing WordPress’ WP Rocket plugin is a great way to maintain ultra-fast load time.

Avoid common pitfalls by user testing price alerts, wish lists, popups, discount codes, your checkout process and more across both desktop and mobile. Ideally, those testing won’t have visited the website before, so start pinning down friends and family for shared-screen Zoom calls to gather qualitative data in the run up to BFCM.

Start planning your next seasonal marketing strategy

The growth in online shopping shows no sign of slowing and it’s important that you review your traffic and ranking data from this year’s Black Friday push to better inform your next seasonal marketing strategy.

In the run up to the festive period where online shoppers will be on the hunt for deals, check out our top tips for planning your Christmas marketing campaign or find out how to make the most of seasonal events.

What can Leonardo DiCaprio teach us about Google SERP Changes?

Do you ever take for granted how easy it has become to check the opening times of your favourite restaurant, find the latest news updates on your ultimate celebrity or discover the answer to that impossibly hard question in the latest virtual team quiz? Yes, me too! We certainly have a lot to thank Google for – even if us SEOs have trouble admitting it sometimes…

Google’s motto has always been to offer its users the best and most relevant results, so it’s no surprise that the functionality and features of its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) have changed dramatically over time. It’s made it easier and easier for us all to search, and find exactly what we’re looking for, in a matter of seconds.

Organic vs paid listings

Google officially launched in 1998, only initially offering up organic listings – no ads to compete with, nada. Soon after, in 2000, came the introduction of Google AdWords (now known as Google Ads), allowing businesses to bid on the chance to appear at the top of SERPs for highly targeted search queries.

The same basic concept has applied overtime – ads displayed in the upper half of the SERPs, above the organic listings. That being said, the number of paid listings, position within SERP and the look / feel of ads has evolved since its inception – and Google continues to roll out changes.

Blurring the line between paid ads and unpaid organic listings

More and more we can see the line between paid ads and unpaid organic listings blurring, making it even harder for businesses to compete without an all-encompassing marketing strategy that utilises both PPC and SEO.

Up until late 2013, Google used to display ads with a shaded background colour, making it easy for searchers to decipher between the different listings. Now, with Google rolling out changes from January 2020 onwards, the only feature differentiating the two is a small “Ad” icon. Even then, these look almost identical to the favicons that seem to have cropped up in mobile organic listings!

Do a simple search for ‘Leonardo DiCaprio merch’ on your mobile for example.

The Knowledge Graph

A study by Statistic Brain back in 2018 highlighted that the average person’s attention span was just 8 seconds, with only 28% of words read on an average web page.

Users want answers to their questions as quickly as possible – no-frills attached – and Google certainly looked to capitalise on this by rolling out the Knowledge Graph back in 2012.

The Knowledge Graph forms a base of entities (objects and concepts) and the relationships between them, which Google stores to better understand the intent behind a search query.

All three of the ‘People also search for’ listings are so closely related to the searchers’ original query it’s scary:

  1. Kate Winslet because of Titanic
  2. Brad Pitt because of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  3. Jonny Depp because of the very recent Amber Heard “pumpkin-head” scandal (I’ll let you Google that one yourself)

You might also see the above Knowledge Graph accompanied by the Carousel display.

Increasingly, Google is providing answers to users’ queries right there on page one of the SERPs. Businesses should take note as this might just negatively influence their click-through-rate (CTR) and Organic Search traffic.

An increase in mobile search

Mobile technology has advanced two-fold since Google’s launch in the late 90s. Forget beating that Snake high score on your Nokia 8210, now, mobile Search Engine browsing has become an integral part of our everyday lives – and Google is privy to this too.

Desktop vs mobile UX

Of course, user behaviour differs drastically between desktop and mobile and brands should be factoring this into their PPC and SEO strategies.

For example, at an estimated $168k, you might search and book your ‘submarine trip to the Titanic’ on desktop, but catch-up on Leo’s latest whereabouts during your commute to work on mobile.

An interactive mobile experience

As SERPs become more and more interactive, Google now even allows searchers to view some listings in 3D using augmented reality – a feature that we imagine more and more eCommerce brands will be adopting in the near future.

 

 

SERP change is inevitable, so businesses must remain vigilant

As user habits have changed, the functionality and features of SERPs have also naturally progressed. We’ve barely scratched the surface here. In fact, Google is modifying things all the time, regularly testing changes on small user groups before scrapping or rolling them out for all to see.

Even in the last few months, global matters such as COVID-19 have led to some significant changes, including:

  1. Sticky menus – try a search for ‘coronavirus tips’
  2. ‘Temporarily closed’ status updates in Google My Business profiles – see the ‘Odeon Hatfield’ for example
  3. ‘Takeaway’ and ‘delivery’ information on local listings now appearing in SERPs – Google ‘italian St Albans’ to see for yourself

I wonder what Google has up its sleeve for my next 2030 Leonardo DiCaprio search? Predictions on a postcard please…

If your business wants to compete in Google’s desktop and mobile SERPs, the key is to understand the way in which the platform categorises and priorities searches. By keeping up to date on this, and working hard to improve your website and its content, you can improve your ability for getting listed in the right SERP feature, for the right user query.

Still not sure how to optimise your website to make it as searchable as possible? Get in touch with Wagada’s team of SEO specialists to find out how we can support you and your business.  

 

person using google search to find keywords
SEO New Year’s Resolutions for 2019

Forget “new year, new me” – we much prefer “new year, new SEO strategy”! Check out our top six SEO tips for 2019 and improve your websites ranking, traffic and conversions.

1)     Use a fully functional CMS

Ideally, your content management system would aid you in your SEO efforts. It needs to be intuitive and fully functional. For example, can you easily make URL, H1 heading and meta tag changes? Can you add 301 redirects? Do you have access to the robots.txt and XML sitemap? These are all essential elements of any SEO strategy and shouldn’t be ignored.

The majority opt for a WordPress CMS, who dominate the market with 58.55% of market share – users benefit from an intuitive interface/dashboard, can choose from thousands of free design templates, integrated plugins and more.

If you haven’t yet launched or are in the development stages, we strongly recommend building a website with SEO in mind. For example, your URLs should be clean and optimised for the keywords you’re targeting, the website should be secured using an SSL Certificate and function well across all devices – be it desktop, mobile or tablet.

WordPress logo with hand

2)     Ensure your meta tags are optimised to encourage clicks

One of your quickest ranking wins is going to be optimising your title tags and meta descriptions. This is the first thing a user will see when searching in Google, so you need to make sure that these are spot on in order to drive click-throughs to your website.

Title tags

– These should include a keyword (relating to the corresponding page) and your brand name. Follow the format ‘Keyword’ | Brand Name’ and stick to 30 to 65-characters.

Meta descriptions

– Craft a meta description that is representative of the page in question, useful and engaging.
– Make sure you include a keyword (again, relating to the corresponding page) and a strong call to action.
– Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed that there is no fixed length for meta descriptions and that it varies on what their systems deem to be most useful. At Wagada, we stick to a 70 to 230-character limit.

3)     Stop Googling yourself!

A big no-no for four main reasons:

  1. Google listings can be personalised based on past activity, so Googling yourself is a guide but will not be 100% accurate.
  2. You may end up clicking on one of your own Google Ads and spending click budget!
  3. Google uses search activity to see how successfully your website is engaging searchers. If you Google yourself regularly and don’t click, click a competitor or click through to your website and then bounce away immediately this is likely to negatively impact your ranking.
  4. General activity in SERPs fluctuates from one day to the next, so what you see one day might be outdated then next.

Set up a de-personalised search in your default browser to avoid any issues in future.

Magnify over the Google Search bar

4)     Audit regularly

Conducting mini audits on your site every month will flag up any issues such as broken links and missing meta tags. We also recommend performing a full SEO Tech Audit annually, which will uncover more significant issues concerned with crawl budget and indexation for example.

If you don’t have the time or in-house skills to conduct the audits yourself, Wagada are expertly positioned to complete the work for you. For long-term clients, our Tech Audit service can be factored into your annual budget or conducted as a one-off project.

5)     Blog more often

Writing and uploading an interesting, engaging blog that’s in-line with your brand and related to your industry is key! You should be aiming to upload at least one blog per month.

Google loves fresh content and it provides an opportunity to:

  1. Have more pages indexed in search engines – meaning more chances to rank and increase traffic.
  2. Target long-tail keywords – consumers are more likely to convert as they are using more targeted search queries.
  3. Enrich your social media by linking to your site’s new articles.
  4. Gain valuable backlinks.
Adding a new blog post in WordPress

6)     Stay up-to-date with the latest SEO trends

Google is constantly tweaking its algorithm – striving to improve the quality of search results. That being said, Google doesn’t announce all of the updates they make which means businesses may see a significant drop in their websites ranking with no real explanation. Annoying right?

Luckily there are free search industry news sites that can help you respond to any algorithm updates accordingly.

Learning from others and sharing ideas is the best way to get your SEO on track in 2019, so we recommend subscribing to at least one of these newsletters for daily updates on all things SEO.