This Week In SEO 110
Did you get your ass kicked in early June?
A lot of people did! Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you’re one of the lucky ones that saw keyword rankings and traffic shoot up.
But if you’re not in that category, then it’s time to start asking the hard questions like:
Why does Google hate my site?
Why do bad things only happen to me?
WHY DO ALL SNOOZE BUTTONS LAST 9 MINUTES?? WHY 9 AND NOT 7 OR 10?
Well, it’s been about a month since this update hit, which is barely enough time to start looking at the winners and losers and trying to piece together a Grand Unified Theory of WTF Google is Trying to Do Because I Swear Some Of These New SERPs Are So Terrible™.
Lucky for us, several smart people that are good at this (and way less emotionally involved than me) have put in the time to look at a sh*tload of data, and write it all up for us nice and tidy-like. Other smart people are still crunching data, and don’t release any analysis until months and months have gone by. Today, we’ll be looking at some of these early analysis in this NEW EDITION of This Week in SEO.
This Update Is Not Like The Others
There are a lot of important things to consider when data-deep-diving into sites affected by a new Google algo update. For instance: did a site that lost ground lose on one big page, or on rankings across the entire site? If two sites with a similarly terrible user experience and content experience opposite results, what does that tell us about what the update is targeting?
While it makes sense that Google would increase the importance of links in order to combat misleading and potentially dangerous content online, some false content can be very popular.
As such, Google focused on more than just raw link count and instead, focused on links that convey trust and authority.
That’s why you can have two very similar sites, with similar content and have drastically different outcomes.
Starting with the backlinks, we can clearly see that the results on the first page of Google have significantly more links post-June 2019.
That rings fairly true with what I’ve seen in the niches I keep a super close eye on (but of course, exceptions abound, as the actual data set AKA literally all the websites that currently exist, is just too large for there not to be exceptions).
The author sums up this very interesting post with the following, and this should be your TL;DR (but it’s an important issue, don’t be lazy–go read the whole post):
Essentially, this update has been a correction in the search engine landscape.
Sites that were previously receiving more traffic than their domain authority suggested they should have, saw a traffic drop and sites that were receiving significantly less traffic than their authority dictated, saw an increase.
Advanced SEO Strategy: Doing The Hard Things
SEOs hard at work testing things like
Glenn Gabe usually has some really great insights on algorithm updates, and this time is no different!
While he says the same thing after nearly ever update: there is never just one “smoking gun” reason for a site losing traffic, he also provided a roadmap for evaluating your site in ways you may not have considered before specfically for SEO: user testing.
So, the combination of quantitative feedback, qualitative feedback, and viewing recorded sessions provides the ultimate recipe for surfacing potential problems on a site. And that feedback can directly help site owners craft a remediation plan that goes beyond fixing minor issues. Instead, you can start to address deeper issues and problems. And that’s exactly what Google’s core updates are about… Google is evaluating a site overall and not just looking at one or two factors. Remember, there’s never one smoking gun.
If you have the money and the motivation (and the knowledge, I guess) to do this for your site, I think it could be very worthwhile. I’m honestly looking forward to running a test like this for one of my sites as well.
So while this wasn’t strictly about the June update directly, it kind of was, in that one could suppose that Google is trying to build its algorithm to interpret a site like the general public might, and to promote within its index sites that lead to a good user experience (to say nothing of whether that experience is genuine or faked–that’s a discussion for another day).
The Great Decimal Multiplier
This was… an interesting article. Feels like there could be a lot of hearsay in this one, but still absolutely worth your time to read, if only as a thought exercise (thought the article claims it’s much more than that). Basically, it seeks to illustrate how Google’s algorithm might score websites by multiplying the scores of various ranking factors.
It’s a topic not easily summarized, but I’ll try:
New search engineers at Google are taught about a “bidding” system, where the algorithm gives each of seven-ish main ranking factors a score, say… out of 10. Each number is multiplied against the others and that serves as a finally score. But if your site really F-s up one of the categories, it can get a decimal score like .8 or something, and just one score like that can reduce your overall score by several orders of magnitude, so that you lose out hard on a featured snippet placement. Here’s a hypothetical example with completely made up numbers:
So that is the best a quick summary can do–I really recommend reading the whole article!
Putting a Value on Various Links
Sort of building on the above post (in theory) is a great post by Cyrus on the value of different kinds of links. This is the kind of content you have probably internalized, and know by intuition (if you’ve done an ass-load of SEO), but it’s interesting to see it all spelled out so clearly.
Reading this post you’ll probably find yourself nodding along…
In this post, we’ll walk you through 20 principles of link valuation that have been observed and tested by SEOs. In some cases, they have been confirmed by Google, while others have been patented. Please note that these are not hard and fast rules, but principles that interplay with one another. A burst of fresh link can often outweigh powerful links, spam links can blunt the effect of fresh links, etc.
Good stuff. Highly recommended reading.