Bernard May is the CEO of National Positions, a 5-time Inc. 500 company, award-winning marketing agency and Google Premier Partner.
The only thing we can count on in life is that things are ever-changing — and this is truer than ever when it comes to Google and its broad core algorithm updates.
Google’s never-ending updates can be the bane of existence for SEO specialists, marketers and business owners alike. They are unpredictable and opaque at best. In fact, it’s rare to receive any specific insight (from Google) about what exactly is being updated and how brands can prepare.
Google’s broad core updates impact many businesses — for better or worse. So here’s my advice on what you can do to adapt when a new update is rolled out.
Check Your Analytics Data ASAP
You can’t patch a wound if you don’t know where you’re bleeding. In this case, the body is your website and the bleeding could be diminishing traffic, rankings, conversions or even all of the above.
The first thing to find out is this: Was your site even impacted by the update? Remember, updates can work for you or against you.
Look at your overall site traffic to see whether you had any measurable changes in traffic and site sessions. Compare the traffic you had before the update to your traffic afterward. And consider the traffic you had during the same time period last year.
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Here is what this high-level data can tell you:
• If your traffic has taken a dip, there is a high probability that Google’s update has negatively impacted your site traffic.
• If your traffic has increased, then the update may actually be working in your favor.
• If your traffic has stayed consistent or you’re seeing normal seasonal changes, there is a chance that the update has not affected you positively or negatively.
• If your traffic has been on a continuous decline and this trend has continued after Google’s update, there is likely a more serious issue going on that you need to address.
Whatever impact you’re seeing (or not seeing), be sure to check your traffic data daily for changes. Google’s updates have been known to take weeks to completely roll out to everyone.
Next, follow these three steps.
1. Check Out The Competition
Whatever your current feelings toward Google, the search engine does give everyone the opportunity to “spy” on their competitors. It’s called Google search.
If you know roughly where you usually land in the search results, open an incognito window and start doing some common searches to see where you show up. Better yet, see which competitors are showing up above you on the search engine results pages, and have a look at what they are doing on their sites.
Some of the most common things we look for as an agency are: content that shows E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness), website customer experience structure with clear calls to action and fluid navigation, fast site load speeds on all devices, and media like videos and imagery.
All in all, you want to see who is outranking you and what they have that you don’t.
2. Use Lighthouse
I completely understand that just looking at websites for these elements is not everyone’s forte. Luckily, Google has another tool called Lighthouse that allows you to see your site’s “report” on a variety of ranking factors.
The simplest way to use Lighthouse is to use the Chrome extension. Once you run your report, you will have a better idea of where to focus your attention. Better yet, use Lighthouse on your competitors’ sites to understand where their sites are performing better than yours.
Is their loading speed better? Is their overall SEO better? Are their Core Web Vitals better? Lighthouse will pull back the curtain and help you compare — fast.
3. Focus On Content
Focus on providing the most valuable content possible — this is one thing that seems to be consistent when it comes to Google’s broad core updates. The only problem is that there is no “perfect” content.
Why? Because the tastes of consumers are ever-evolving, and Google attempts to track consumers’ preferences and adjust algorithms to give them more of what they want.
Over the past couple of years, Google has put a focus on E-A-T content. This does not equate to just having more content or more words on a page.
If your content keeps visitors on your site and inspires them to navigate around, watch your videos and convert into a customer, there is a high likelihood that your content is checking the E-A-T boxes. If not, it may be time to see what content on your site you can improve, swap out or modify to fit the E-A-T framework.
Overall, this is a great opportunity to check out your competitors’ websites and see whether they are leveraging specific types of content that you are not.
More Updates Are Coming
Google has reasons for its actions — reasons that mere mortals like ourselves are not privy to. One thing we do know is that the updates will never stop, and all we can do is adapt.
I get that most brands have poured their blood, sweat and tears into their websites, and sometimes these updates can feel like a kick in the teeth. You can’t take these updates personally — but you also can’t ignore them.
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Author: Bernard May, Forbes Councils Member