Once again, the search engine optimization (SEO) and online marketing worlds have been flooded with news of another core change to Google’s search algorithm. While the update came out at the beginning of the month, it only finished “rolling out” in the past few days. Now, the data is spilling in, rankings are fluctuating, and websites that lost ground are asking the all important question: How can we fix it?
New Changes to Google’s Core Algorithm
Back on August 1, Google announced that it was rolling out a new “broad core algorithm update.”
This week we released a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year. Our guidance about such updates remains the same as in March, as we covered here: https://t.co/uPlEdSLHoX
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) August 1, 2018
As usual, they were fairly tight-lipped about what was being changed, or even how widespread the effects would be:
No, not doing that.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) August 3, 2018
The only thing Google would reveal was that the updates were being rolled out globally.
What Changed After the Update Went into Effect?
Now that the data from the change is starting to trickle in, search engine marketing professionals are seeing widespread, but generally very slight, changes in the rankings—the new update has impacted a huge variety of search queries, but the results page has usually only been altered very slightly.
The online marketing company Moz uses a weather forecasting analogy to describe how much fluctuation there is in the rankings page and Google’s algorithm. In the days and weeks after the update rolled out, this “weather” was hot, dark, and stormy, indicating lots of turbulence in the rankings.
These rankings fluctuations, however, seemed to focus on the health and medical fields. Lots of health-centered lifestyle sites, like prevention.com and livestrong.com saw huge losses in their rankings, coining the name for Google’s changes as the Medic Update.
Google on What You Can Do to Fix Your Site: Nothing
When Google changes important parts of its search device, it often tells the sites that lose in the change how to get better. When Google’s Panda Penalty came out, Google told webmasters to focus on the depth of their content to readers, and to add value if the site suffered from the change.
With the new update, though, Google was far less helpful.
There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) March 12, 2018
What to Do When Google Says You Can’t Do Anything
Whenever a new algorithm change rolls out, there are bound to be winners and losers. As anyone who went to law school knows, that’s what happens when you’re graded on a curve—if the person ranked fifth moves up to second, it also means that the people who were ranked second, third, and fourth move down.
If your law firm owns one of these unfortunate sites and has seen a noticeable decrease in the rankings since August 1, the first step is to not panic. Unlike being hit with a penalty, suffering from an algorithm update is rarely catastrophic and can often be overcome.
The second thing to do is to review your site and its content while asking yourself, “is this something that is relevant and important for a search?” Relevance and importance are the touchstones of search engine marketing, and Google’s efforts—including its updates and penalties—are designed to ensure that only the best on both fronts are reaching the top of the results page.
It can also be helpful to find out which websites in your market gained ground, pushing you down. Peer through your competitors’ sites and look for things that you aren’t providing on yours. Is their website faster? Does it have more and better images? Do they use infographics? Do they maintain a legal blog? A newsletter?
The third thing to do is make the investment, whether of time or money, to improve your rankings. The internet is now where most people find a lawyer. Online legal marketing can be your highest return.