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Recent changes to Google rankings – the Quality Update

Recent changes to Google rankings – the ‘Quality Update’

At the beginning of May, we began to notice some changes to Google rankings. Since then, we’ve been working to identify whether Google had released an algorithm update

But a previous lack of confirmation from Google itself, and confusing speculation about a ‘Phantom II’ or other unnamed update being published across the search industry, meant we wanted to carry out further research before blogging about it here. However, now Google has confirmed that changes have been made and that match 100% with our analysis.

Has Google made an update?

Not as such (updates usually introduce new features or filters to the way Google ranks sites). However, there’s been a noticeable change to the way its core algorithm works in terms of assessing a website’s content.

This is the reason we’ve seen a significant difference in the way certain pages rank in Google. We need to understand what the change is and how to respond.

How does it work?

In short, Google has become less tolerant of information it thinks is low quality, manipulative, over-optimised or not directly relevant.

When it finds content that fits these criteria, Google applies a gradual penalty, causing the pages concerned to progressively drop down the rankings until the content issues are addressed. Once the content is improved and indexed by Google, the pages concerned will begin to move up the rankings at a similar rate.

This process has always been part of the Google algorithm, it’s just that Google has tweaked its criteria and therefore content that it had not identified as ‘low quality’ is being penalised.

The resulting drop in search engine performance is not an official penalty and merely a downgrading of the performance of particular page on Google; therefore some pages on a site will be affected and some pages not. There’s no current evidence of these changes creating site-wide penalties.

This process has always been part of the Google algorithm, it’s just that Google has tweaked its criteria and therefore content that it had not identified as ‘low quality’ is being penalised

How does it impact your SEO campaign?

Practically speaking, most of the pages we’ve seen impacted were already ranking in lower positions, so dropping further has had little difference in traffic generation or keywords.

The main issue will be whether Google’s latest change will present a barrier to future campaigns making gains in traffic, revenue and ROI.

What’s our advice at Click?

Our advice regarding the importance of quality content remains the same:

  • Create content of substance that focuses on customer needs.
  • Present content in an attractive way to the user.
  • Avoid over-optimisation and keyword stuffing.
  • Avoid ‘boiler plated’, duplicated, or automated content.
  • Avoid content that’s adds no or limited value.

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