SEO never stops and it’s important to keep up to date with developments.
I like to do that on a daily basis by checking out Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Land. However, when a new algorithm update hits the industry, it can take weeks or even months before we really know enough information to change our SEO strategy.
Every so often it’s good to look back on the previous months’ worth of updates and see how they have impacted the organic search market.
Here is an overview of recent Google updates, what are they targeting, how they affect your SEO performance and how to make sure your site can cope. If you have found your website has taken a hit in search traffic over the last few months, then perhaps you can look for some clues in this overview.
Even if your site has not been affected, it’s still worth knowing about recent updates, as many of these are rolled out on a niche-by-niche basis – and perhaps your niche just hasn’t been hit yet.
EAT stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trust, and it was first nicknamed the Medic update by the SEO community, since it hit health websites first. However, it quickly rolled out to legal and financial advice websites, and to a lesser extent the update also affected travel, gambling, finance, home goods, food and drink.
This update changes how Google ranks so-called “YMYL” pages. YMYL stands for your money or your life, so particularly affects websites related to wealth and health.
Let’s look at the specifics of what the EAT algorithm looks for when it judges a website:
EXPERTISE: does the content of the website serve quality content backed up with data? Does it quote experts in the subject, and include quality links to authoritative websites? Does it use good grammar, and avoids gossip and misleading data?
AUTHORITATIVENESS: Is the content on the site respected by the niche community (quality backlinks from other trusted sites)? Does it include the authors credentials, as well as unbiased reviews and testimonials?
TRUSTWORTHINESS: How much can we trust this website? Can we make contact with the site owner if we need to? How trustworthy is the design and security (HTTPS over HTTP)? Are there lots and lots of pointless pages all trying to score for the same keyword variations? Or is there one quality page which answers the user’s intent and satisfies them?
So how can your site prosper in a world of EAT?
Make sure to review:
- Your Backlinks and delete/disavow obviously spammy links
- Get quality and authoritative links pointing to your website
- Produce original, well written and well-presented content and link to other authority sites to back up all your claims
- Delete pages with redundant or random content, pages with thin content, pages with spammy content
- Review the technical SEO of your website and sort out 404 pages, clean up redirection chains
How to avoid or recover from getting hit by EAT:
- Get rid of thin content pages, pages with duplicate content and irrelevant content
- Rewrite your main landing page to emphasis trustworthiness
- Make sure you clearly state contact info: email, phone, and ideally a physical address
- Have a quality about us page: your history, introduce your team, any certifications you may have
- Use citations in your text, link to quality sources of information, and authoritative websites on the given subject
- Include research, surveys, statistics and quality data if you can
The good news is that it is possible to recover from EAT. SelfHacked.com is a medical blog which lost a lot of ranking early on, but they overhauled their site, especially adding citations from respected medical sources. By the start of this year, SelfHacked.com was back to where it was before EAT.
Research from whichbingo.co.uk shows that the Bingo search market was significantly affected by the EAT update, with affiliate sites losing out to the big brands.
I see a big opportunity now for affiliate sites to introduce truly honest reviews of casinos/sportsbooks, backed up with data.
This is relatively new but has been officially confirmed by Danny Sullivan of Google and is known to be a broad update.
What is a broad update?
- This update is not targeting any particular niche
- It is not targeting any special ranking signal (such as links or on page quality)
All broad updates in the past have been aimed at improving user satisfaction, and it’s likely that this one is no different.
With a broad update such as this one, it is a bit difficult to know if there is anything to fix, and if yes, what to fix and what should be the best approach.
We know what Google wants to see long-term though from their Webmaster Guidelines (here’s a good resource).
In general, it is always the best to adhere to SEO best practices:
- Make your content as good as possible, and focus on quality over quantity
- Check technical SEO issues using diagnostic tools like Screaming Frog
- Check your backlink profile and make it as authoritative as possible
And as always, stay on the safe side.
The neural matching algorithm aims to match search queries to web pages in a more natural way, and seems to be specifically aimed at voice search queries (predicted to be 50% of queries by 2020). With this update Google tries to understand user intent much better, by linking words to concepts.
What do we know about Neural Matching, and how to protect your site from the change?
It’s important to understand that this method does not rely on links as ranking signal, as this is purely about on-site SEO.
But one thing is for sure: Quality content is of the essence, and it has to be well-written, so that Google can understand it.
I am doing my own research with voice search queries for Google, Siri and Alexa. Watch this space for when I have some insights!