Did you know that Google owns nearly 73% of the search engine market share? If you’re focusing on your website’s SEO, knowing how Google ranks your website is key.

But Google constantly changes its algorithms. If you’re not keeping up with their updates, all of your SEO hard work may be for nothing.

Knowing how Google ranks your website as soon as they update their algorithms helps you maintain your high rankings. And it’s estimated that Google updates their algorithms at least 600 times a year!

Not sure what’s going on with Google this year? We’re here to help you.

Read on to learn the Google algorithm updates you should know for 2017.

Google Update in Early January

Popup ads are one of the many annoyances of Internet users. And Google plans to penalize mobile websites that incorporate large ads that take up the whole screen.

Remember that this year Google is focusing on the user experience. In January of this year, a new Google algorithm update was implemented to keep those annoying, large ads from ruining the user’s journey on a website.

There are a few different types of popups that this Google algorithm update is focusing on:

  1. Intrusive popups – These are ads or popups that immediately appear on the screen while a user is scrolling or clicking through. They generally do not take up the whole screen, but they require the user to exit out of them by clicking or tapping on a small “x.”
  2. Interstitials – These are popups that a user would need to dismiss before they are able to look at the content on the web page.
  3. Other interstitials – These are also popups that make a user dismiss them before viewing content. But they require the user to scroll through the ad in order to view the main content on the page.

This doesn’t mean that all intrusive popups will be penalized under this Google algorithm update. Those popups that are needed for legal reasons, like explaining that a user must be a certain age before they enter, will be allowed.

Not only do the ads slow down the speed of your website, they also make it harder for your users to see the content on your website. If this is the case with your website, Google will start ranking you lower in search results. Focus on keeping your ads smaller if you do add any type of popup advertisement when a user enters your website.

Google Algorithm Update in February 2017

If your SEO strategy incorporates lots of backlinks, your ears may perk up with this new Google algorithm update that dropped in February of this year. This update will focus mainly on black hat SEO strategies that use spam links to increase their rankings on Google.

As is the trend with this new Google algorithm update, quality over quantity of backlinks is more appreciated by Google. Choosing backlinks that link to quality sources of information are ideal. Using anchor text that refers to the text of the links is preferred over stuffing links into keywords.

The Google update that dropped in February of this year focuses on private blog networks or PBNs. Google is going after these PBNs to ensure that black hat techniques aren’t being used.

For example, website owners will purchase domains that are already established as authoritative. They then add content and links that go back to their main website. While Google has been working on stopping the use of this technique by penalizing websites, this Google algorithm update has hardened their grip on black hat techniques.

Google Update “Fred”

In March of 2017, Google dropped an update affectionately and unofficially called “Fred.” This update focused on increasing quality sites and reducing ranked sites that have low-value content.

Factors such as ads, links, and content are all considered with this new update. This does not mean that all websites packed with advertisements are affected. Remember that this is an algorithm that looks at patterns to determine which sites are considered low-quality.

This Google algorithm update takes a look at websites that bring no value to their users. Instead, these types of websites are focusing on getting as many clicks on their advertisements as possible. It’s nearly impossible to differentiate between the main content and the advertisements.

In essence, Google is punishing those websites that take priority with search engines over the human user. Many webmasters are more focused on promoting their website and gaining more traffic, hence the use of black hat SEO techniques being used all the time.

Google took notice and realized these websites aren’t focused on the user at all. Because of this, Google had to take action against low-quality websites that were not valuable to the human visitor.

Some of the websites affected followed a similar pattern. Almost all of the websites affected had the following factors:

  • Keyword stuffed content that brought no value to the user
  • Content that was used was geared towards generating income versus assisting the user or reader with a query
  • Large ratios of ads and affiliate websites and links

Was Your Website Affected?

How do you know your website has been affected by this year’s Google algorithm update? There are a few ways you can check to see if your website was touched by the update:

  • Google Analytics – Take a look at your organic traffic on Google Analytics. You’ll notice if you’ve been affected if your traffic has significantly declined.
  • Valuable Content – Look at your content. Ask yourself whether or not the content you have on your website is valuable for Google or other search engines, or if it’s information that your visitors can use.
  • Individual pages – You should also take a look at your individual pages. See which pages have a large drop in traffic. Do you notice any low user engagement? Do you see lots of ads that may affect the users’ experience?
  • Backlinks – Check all of your backlinks. And maybe even consider checking them twice. Ensure you’re using white hat techniques like using authoritative backlinks from reliable sources.

What Can You Do if Your Site Was Affected?

The key to keeping up with this Google algorithm update is to ensure that you’re producing valuable, quality content for your users. Instead of focusing so heavily on gaining higher ranks, you should gear your website’s focus to the user.

If you’re not sure how to create quality content, take a look at Google’s guidelines for quality.

Other Factors to Keep in Mind to Prepare for Future Updates

As stated previously, Google is constantly changing its algorithms. As a marketer to businesses owner, you have to stay on your toes to practice the best SEO tactics. While the Fred update and the early February update are the first two updates to launch this year, there are rumors that more are upon us.

We’ll take a look at some of the things you should focus on before these algorithms are implemented.

Mobile-First Ranking

You’ve probably heard the many statistics on mobile-first searching. According to SearchEngineLand.com, almost 60% of searches are now being done on a user’s mobile device. There’s nothing worse than pulling up a search and clicking on a website that isn’t optimized for mobile. Most customers will simply choose another website.

Many experts believe that Google will start tracking how mobile-friendly websites are when ranking them. While this hasn’t launched as an official update yet, it’s best to be prepared. What are some of the ways you can prepare for mobile-first ranking? We’ll take a look at a few options.

First and foremost, you should make sure that your website is responsive to mobile devices. This is the type of web design that Google prefers. What this means is that your page will adapt to each device as the screen size increases. So if a customer views your website on their smartphone, your page will adapt if they take their viewing to their desktop computer.

This type of web design would require you to use CSS3 media queries within your code to ensure it can adapt to each screen.

Remember that having a mobile-first website means that you’re working with a smaller screen. The more (and larger) files you have on your website, the slower it may be on a mobile device.

Things such as images should be reduced in size. You should also reduce the number of redirects that a user has to go through. Make sure that your page buttons are also small enough for a user to tap on their smartphone.

Also, think about how search result will show up on a mobile device. Your titles, URLs, and meta tags and titles should all be shorter in order for users to see them on their smaller devices.

Consider Technical Issues That May Affect UX

All of the updates so far this year have been user-focused. And chances are, Google isn’t done with us yet. Another Google algorithm update could be upon us. So aside from creating quality content and backing off the ads, what else can you do to prepare?

Have you considered looking into technical issues that may be affecting user experience? SEO is a tricky tool to use, but it can’t work if its engines aren’t also running smoothly. Take a look at performance problems that may be occurring unnoticed on your website.

Run a few crawls through your website to ensure that there’s nothing happening behind the scenes.

Google’s Project Owl

On April 25 of this year, Google announced that they would be dropping a Google algorithm update that attacks fake news sources. With fake news spreading like wildfire in recent months, Google is trying to stop that flame. So they’re revamping the search tool of Google with a new algorithm.

Google is making it so higher quality content will be made available to its users. Fake, misleading, or offensive content will be driven down in rankings. They have updated the quality guidelines (see above) in order for them to take this issue head on.

As Google reported in its statement, they are attempting to deliver users authoritative content. So what does this mean for your website?

This means that if you’re not providing quality content, or if you are not meeting the quality guidelines that Google has revised, you may be seeing lower numbers of traffic. Unless you’re posting offensive, false, or misleading information, you shouldn’t have much to worry about it.

It does, however, circle back to the Google algorithm update we’ve seen so far this year. Your website should be using authoritative backlinks and producing quality content.

Conclusion

A Google algorithm update comes without warning. Often times marketers and SEO professionals will notice trends that are occurring around the time a new update is going to launch. But just like tracking the weather, it’s never possible to know exactly what will happen in the future.

Knowing what Google may be unleashing on the world of SEO each year can give you a heads up. And keeping up with the updates that have already been launched can give you a headstart on those websites that may not be as keen.

So far this year, Google is showing they are focusing on the user experience with each Google algorithm update. In order to make sure you’re following best practices, focus on quality content that brings value to your users.

This may include reducing the number of ads you have on your page to prevent aggressive ads from lowering your rankings and annoying your users. Create original content that your users can actually use (and want to engage with!).

Need a bit of help with your SEO strategy? Not sure how to execute your strategy with all of these new updates? Contact us today to see how one of our marketing services can help you!