The Google Algorithm Update: What’s Happening & Why?
Ross Miles - 14.08.2018
There is a tonne of buzz right now in SEO circles after Google’s latest “broad core algorithm update” was publicly acknowledged by the @searchliason account on August 1st. In fact, Marie Haynes went as far to say,
“I have been covering algorithm updates for a long time and this is one of the biggest updates that I can recall. It is important to note that most sites that I monitor did not see any significant changes. However, the majority of those that did see changes were very strongly affected”.
The sites seemingly most effected by the change in the algorithm are medical, health, fitness and healthy lifestyle sites, also referred to as Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) websites by Google because they can “potentially impact the future happiness, health, or wealth of users”. However, the deeper that SEO analysts are delving into the data they are uncovering a shift towards some of the guidelines Google have been explicitly publishing, rather than a punitive step taken against YMYL content.
Back in July Google updated their Quality Raters’ Guidelines (QRG), a 164-page document that is designed to help Google’s own ranking evaluators do their job. This guide offers important information about what Google is looking for in high-quality pages and how websites can perform better against Google’s algorithm. One of the key metrics identified in the QRG is another acronym, E-A-T, which stands for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness, and it’s this triumvirate of attributes that appears to behind the flux in rankings.
Haynes’ research into exactly what is happening centred on the SERPS for “keto diet” (a low-carb diet), where she saw the previous #1 ranked site, ketodash.com, fall victim to this algorithm change. Leaning on the QRG and its focus on E-A-T, she identified the following issues with ketodash.com:
- There is no About page – this means the website isn’t being upfront about who, what, where and why. This fails to meet Google’s declared E-A-T criteria.
- The site hasn’t generated external appeal or reputation – the site’s primary and overt function is to sell its system for the keto diet. As it’s not widely known or recognised, it’s potentially seen as a sign as a lack of authority.
- Going against the consensus – the keto diet has not reached a medical consensus as to being sustainable, or even a long-term health benefit, which means it’s banging heads with the E and T in E-A-T.
So, while ketodash.com has suffered in the rankings, dietdoctor.com has jumped into the #1 spot for “keto diet”. So how have they overcome these E-A-T issues that have hurt ketodash.com?
- Author authority – the author of their now rankings topping article is one “Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD” who has their own Wikipedia page, and is a published writer and well-known figure in low carb, high fat diets.
- The website is a resource, not a sales vehicle – ketodash.com was an advert in itself, full of promotions pushing their system, whereas dietdoctor.com only provides information, and even went as far as to dissuade reader’s from buying ketone supplements promising weight-loss.
- Wisdom of the crowd – the site has thousands of user comments that are helpful to people as well as reviews of their advice which legitimises their opinions and reinforces their authority.
Taking all this into account there are several clear takeaways that can benefit all websites and content creators.
- Display your E-A-T – don’t be scared to show your awards, experience and the such. This isn’t time to be humble.
- Display your author E–A-T – your authors now need profile pages or bios that list who they are, their expertise and accreditations. The more you can reinforce their “expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness” the better.
- Improve your reputation – Go out there and encourage positive reviews, generate positive press releases, garner client testimonials and even guest blog on other sites in order to boost your authority.
- It wouldn’t hurt to read the Quality Raters’ Guidelines – I’m aware it’s a 164 page document, but, it wouldn’t hurt if you had a decent grasp of the criteria Google is literally telling it’s employees to use to evaluate websites.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day – White hat SEO has never been easy. It takes time and effort. You’re not going to earn links and mentions from well-known sources without publishing great content, working hard and doing things right.
The last 12-18 months have seen ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ enter the lexicon, and this very much feels like Google’s response to produce more trustworthy search results. The provenance of websites is now being placed under closer scrutiny by the world’s leading search engine, and it’s this focus on E-A-T that is driving a change in rankings.