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2018: The year of non-stop Google algorithm updates

After working in the SEO industry for a number of years you soon get used to Google moving the goal posts in terms of what it takes to get a website higher up the rankings. Some SEO specialists will immediately start complaining after a significant update that Google is not playing fair, and that they are somehow acting inappropriately. Frustration is, however, understandable if Google diverts half of your site’s traffic or more overnight. Google, though, does not owe anybody a living. It’s a private company with its own objectives and goals. Primarily, to return the most relevant information for any given query. This means like any other company they need to be continually improving their service, which means continually updating their algorithm.

Most SEO experts expect to see at least two or three substantial algorithm updates per year. 2018, though, was an exceptional year. It started off uneventfully until about late March, early April, with the release of a core algorithm update. This type of update contains all the old heavy hitters, Penguin and Panda being the most (in)famous. Penguin penalises sites with unnatural or paid for links, while Panda is a site quality filter mostly associated with, but not limited to, duplicate content.

Then there was an unnamed update in May, and in early July we had the mobile speed update, but unlike most updates, Google had given a lot of warning about it. In August we had the Medic update targeting “your money or your life” sites. These are websites that can potentially have a major impact on your life, such as financial services, medical advice, legal, large purchase e-commerce sites and others of that ilk.

It didn’t stop there though. We had another one titled “the birthday update” which started on the 27th September on Google’s 20th birthday. We also had a Thanksgiving one as well. The funny thing was, though, that between all these large updates were smaller changes. Simply put, 2018 was Google’s year of continuous improvement.

The SEO MozCast shows the day-to-day changes in Google’s algorithm activity. The hotter and stormier the weather, the more Google’s rankings have changed. As you can see for 11th December (above), there was a lot of change that day!

All Response Media viewpoint
It’s fair to say that Google made a confusing amount of changes to their search quality last year. At least that’s what it looks like to the SEO community. Maybe though, this was exactly what they wanted to do. For years, every time Google made a change to their algorithm, SEO specialists were straight on it trying to work out what Google had done and how we needed to change our strategies accordingly.

In 2018, it felt as though Google wanted to unload lots of changes all at once, so nobody could put a finger on what they had changed. At the end of the day though, Google is a private company and it’s in their interest to keep the changes to their systems private. They definitely don’t have any obligation to make life easy for the SEO community.

A large enough Google update can have a potentially catastrophic impact on a website’s organic traffic. We’re talking wiping away over 50% of traffic overnight in some extreme cases. This is why it is so important to take a holistic approach to SEO with an agency that works within Google’s rules and guidelines. Thankfully, “black hat SEO” is definitely a thing of the past.

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