Villing & Company

Google is Still Freaking Me Out:
How to Get Over The Freak and Use it to Your SEO Advantage

In March of 2016, I wrote an article discussing a couple technologies that Google had rolled into the algorithm used for their search rankings: Hummingbird and Rankbrain.  With these technologies, search continued to evolve from a simple keyword lookup into a conversational, predictive, highly advanced process.  Using this process, Google seems to know exactly what you are thinking and that freaks many of us out.

However, if we get over that initial creepiness and better understand how the Google algorithm works, we can better utilize that knowledge in our ongoing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts.

Let’s look at some of the major updates to the algorithm over the last several years by breaking them down into three loose categories:

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO covers anything that is, well, on-page.  That includes content, keywords, design and layout.  Developing a keyword strategy and implementing that strategy is a big part of on-page SEO, but there is so much more.

On July 1, 2019, Google pushed an algorithm update to prioritize mobile first indexing.  With the update, Google started to predominantly use the mobile version of an organization’s website content instead of the desktop version for indexing and ranking.  As a result, marketers should make sure that the mobile version of their site and desktop version have the same content: content, metadata, structured data, etc.  

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) have been around for a while, but in September of 2017, Google started to favor these results in their featured snippets.  While technically this has not been confirmed by Google, data shows that AMP pages are more and more being favored in Google Knowledge Graph.  Adding AMP to your site as well as other structured data will definitely help your SEO efforts. 

Technical SEO

Technical SEO covers many different aspects, but it is really just the optimizations of your website to make it easier for Google and other search engines to crawl and index your website. 

On July 9, 2018, PageSpeed scores started to be used in the search algorithm.  PageSpeed scores are calculated using a speed tool from Google called Lighthouse.  You can test the speed of your website using this tool.  If your organization’s score is low, there are many steps that can be taken to boost results such as image optimization, asset consolidation, script deferment, and more. 

One of the most significant updates over the last five years was pushed live on April 21, 2015.  It was the prioritization of mobile friendly pages in the Google algorithm.  It was so significant in fact, that it was labeled “Mobilegeddon” by much of the SEO community.  If your website is showing as “Not Friendly” using Google’s mobile-friendly test tool, it would definitely be beneficial to consider making it so.

Off-Page SEO 

Off-page SEO involves any functionality that supports your website but is not actually on the site.  This includes actions like social bookmarking, social media activity, back links, content marketing, and more.

When discussing off-page SEO, it’s impossible not to mention Penguin.  On September 23, 2016, Google announced that Penguin 4.0 was part of the core algorithm.  That was a long time coming since Penguin 1 rolled out back in April of 2012. 

One of Penguin’s main objectives was to cut down on black-hat SEO activity such as artificially increasing the ranking of sites using questionable back linking techniques.  Back linking from legitimate sources is a great way to build SEO, but it is important that no steps be taken that could be considered questionable. Otherwise the SEO results you are trying to achieve may actually scuttle your search rankings.

Where Do We Go From Here

While this article covered only a fraction of the algorithm updates that Google has working on over the years, it does provide direction on how to use these updates to improve your website’s SEO. 

Need some assistance with any of these topics or your overall SEO efforts?  Please feel free to contact us.  We would love to help.

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