Everything You Need to Know About Google in 2019

The rules for ranking on Google search results pages seems to change all the time. Understanding these rules and trying to stay ahead of them seems impossible. But if you don’t make that attempt, you can find yourself panicking over every rumor and doing damage control after an update destroys your website traffic. It’s important to understand Google, be prepared for updates that are sure to arrive in 2019, and stay up-to-date with current information.

 

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How Well Do You Understand Google?

Understanding Google and its algorithms is the first step to being prepared when updates hit. The major updates are announced about once every few months, but it’s important to remember that Google is constantly making changes to the algorithm. This occurs every day, sometimes more than once per day. This doesn’t mean you be flipping out every day, worrying constantly about how to keep up, and feeling completely overwhelmed. Most of these changes will not affect your traffic in a big way. It’s simply a good idea to be aware of the fact that they are happening.

There are many different types of updates, and it’s essential to understand the difference between them. These are the updates you should be aware of:

  • Official updates: These are the big ones that marketers tend to pay attention to. They can boost your traffic or send it into a nosedive. Google typically announces them and gives them a name, usually one that starts with P, such as Penguin, Panda, and Pirate. They get plenty of coverage in business publications and marketing sites. Each of these major updates is intended to address a problem with the algorithm. For example, Penguin devalued link spam and Panda penalized low-quality content. These updates are continually revamped and improved upon.
  • Broad core updates: These are smaller updates that occur several times a year. There may be an announcement, but often no details are provided about the specifics of the update or what it was designed to accomplish. They make a mild impact and are referred to by broad names like Fred, Medic, and Pigeon. Because no details are provided by Google, it can be difficult to discern the purpose of the update or what may be affected.
  • Smaller functionality updates: These are updates made frequently. They are related to a specific purpose, such as speed, mobile functionality, and featured snippets. Sometimes they are announced, but often they are done quietly. SEO experts that notice the changes may announce their own findings on their sites.

 

What's Coming in 2019?

2018 saw a number of updates, including:

  • A broad core update in March that most call the Brackets update. It seemed to focus on improving featured snippets, though this is an educated guess by SEO experts. It encouraged sites that are aiming for featured snippet spots to create more high-quality content.
  • The mobile-first index, which also launched in March. Prior to this update, Google’s algorithm had used a site’s desktop version first when determining ranking, but with the update’s launch, it switched to using the mobile version first. It primarily affected sites that had both a desktop version and mobile version, rather than a single site with a responsive design that looks good on any device.
  • A speed functionality update in July. Google had announced this update months before implementing it. It focused on mobile speed and made it clear that this is a ranking factor for both mobile and desktop ranking.
  • A broad core update in August that has been called Medic by the SEO community. It was announced by Google and primarily affected sites that provide information about finance and health. It specifically affected rankings for sites that focus on nutrition and medical devices.
  • A broad core update in October that remains unnamed. It caused changes in rankings for a large number of websites. It placed many sites at high risk for changes in SEO rankings.

Some of these updates, like the mobile-first index, continue to influence SEO in 2019. However, SEO experts are already seeing new changes popping up.

An unnamed update appeared in January that has primarily affected sites associated with businesses in the automotive, food and drink, and pet and animal industries. It has also had some impact on law and government websites. The update was focused on the quality of content being delivered by these sites. Any website with lingering low-quality content would have seen changes in their rankings.

If 2018 was any indication, we will be seeing many more updates and changes this year. Expect Google’s algorithm to focus on high-quality, long-form content, as well as mobile-ready sites, voice searches, and providing answers via featured snippets.

As far as exact updates go, there are likely to be many rumors swirling around online as the year ticks by. Most content marketers cite Google algorithm updates as their number one concern that causes them the most stress and worry. This means that every time someone sees an unusual spike or drop, they will panic, thinking that Google has switched things up on them. In reality, this may not be the case. There may be other things happening with their site, and instead of analyzing their data to identify issues, they flip out and announce an unconfirmed Google update. The best thing to do for your own site when you hear these rumors is to check your analytics for problems. If you do notice changes, don’t panic. Try to be objective and determine if there’s a problem with your site that is causing the problem - a low-quality page that is lingering or a problem with your site’s speed. If you can’t identify a problem on your end, then do some investigating and find out if anyone else to talking about the update. Pay attention to what high-authority sites are saying.

 

How to Keep Your Website Ahead of the Curve

It can be difficult to deal with these updates after the fact. Rather than try to play catch up, you should be trying to stay ahead of these updates so you can be prepared. Here are some general tips for keeping your site up to par so updates won’t matter as much:

  • Keep an eye on your analytics. Check out the pages with the most traffic and lowest bounce rates. If you notice a huge change or even just a minor change that seems unusual, a Google update may be to blame. This also helps you determine the parts of your site that need improvement - if your site is making the most of SEO best practices, you will notice a minimal impact from Google updates.
  • Make sure you are mobile-friendly. If you are still using two versions of your site, switch to a responsive design for your site so you are not suffering under the mobile-first index.
  • Check the speed of your site. This means checking out your site on all devices and measuring how fast the pages load. Site speed affects your ranking in search results.
  • Continue to create high-quality content. If your content is consistently checking all the boxes in terms of quality, updates will have minimal effect on your site’s rankings.
  • Avoid sketchy techniques. Any tactic that promises quick results or guarantees top spots probably is not going to go unpunished at some point. There will eventually be an update that will throw you for a loop.

 

In regards to the updates themselves, it’s better to be forewarned than to be surprised when your analytics indicate chaos. The following resources will help you to stay on top of updates before and as they happen:

  • Google Webmaster blog: The best way to know what’s going on is to get information straight from the source. The Google Webmaster blog provides updates on updates. However, there are some tidbits that Google keeps to itself, so you won’t find information on every update, just the significant ones. But you will also find other information about the algorithm and how it works, which will help you to define and improve your content and SEO strategies.
  • Google Search Quality Guidelines: These guidelines inform Google’s network of search quality raters about how to judge content. They contain examples of high- and low-quality sites. They won’t tell you what’s new in Google updates, but they will help you make sure your own content is satisfactory.
  • Ultimate Google Update List: The HOTH, a site that focuses on link building and content creation, has compiled a list of all of the Google updates that they are aware of. It’s a good place to check in on to see if there’s anything you have missed.
  • Google Algorithm Change History: Moz, a site focused on SEO software, tools, and resources, has a list of Google updates on their blog as well.
  • Other authoritative blogs: Follow sites that have authority in the SEO industry. You may not find specific lists of updates, but they may share information on changes they have noticed, as well as their own studies and research.
  • Social media accounts: Follow major voices in the SEO industry on social media as well.

 

Is it Time to Hire Experts?

You can struggle with figuring all of this out on your own, or you can turn to an expert in the field. A white label team, specializing in SEO and SEM, can help you stay ahead of algorithm updates and develop a sound content strategy. 51Blocks focuses on custom websites, SEO, pay-per-click, and marketing automation. We will help you build a website, fill it with content, guide that content towards top rankings, and increase the site’s ability to generate leads. Contact us today to discuss your white label needs.

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