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Algorithm Updates & Their Impact.

Meghan Burton, Head of SEO Operations

The author

Meghan Burton

Head of SEO Operations

Why do algorithm updates seem to play such a big part in understanding modern SEO, when we’ve moved beyond the tactics that they punish? 

The reason algorithm updates gain so much attention is because they tap into a fundamental concern at the core of what we do as organic search specialists; they demonstrate that Google is capable of consistently changing the game. While this is something that we all as experts know, that demonstration feels like it has the ability to “make” or “break” the efforts we’ve put forward as specialists in the weeks, months and years prior to the update. Every time we see a shift in results, there’s a race to put out theories and confirm with Google what’s actually happened, even when there probably hasn’t been nearly enough time to determine the impact.

This thinking, however, is flawed, if we’re doing our jobs correctly. As SEOs in 2016, we shouldn’t be chasing the algorithm. We should be setting the standard of site that the algorithm wants to favour. We should be putting best practice, and creating the right kind of experience for our clients’ customers and clients, ahead of a rogue algorithm change. 

Does this mean we should ignore algorithm updates?

Of course not. Experimenting and understanding these results can help inform our decisions as educated marketers. We might know that creating remarkable content, clean and fast-loading site builds, and brilliant PR and outreach will always be a reliable tactic, but we don’t want to bury our heads in the sand and pretend Google *can’t* change the game.

There has been plenty of chatter in the SEO world around what the latest algorithm update means, both before and following its reveal as a core algorithm update. While a “core” algorithm update just means that the signals Google normally looks for are refreshed, it also masks a lot of things the algorithm could be doing, and which Google may not want to reveal. Of the theories we’ve read regarding this particular update, they do pinpoint a couple of concerns, but they ultimately fall under the heading of Google attempting to provide the best answer itself, rather than rely on external websites. This is nothing new; as SEOs we’ve watched Google introduce more paid search results, the knowledge graph, and continually more instant answers.

What should I do about it?

The best way to cover yourself for all algorithm updates is to make sure your site is genuinely the best answer to the query you want to answer. More importantly, is your business model something Google can replicate and serve instantly?

Our reason for chasing the algorithm has changed; we’re not looking for the next big thing Google will penalise, because our strategies are advanced enough to help our clients become the best in their fields. We’re looking for the next way that Google will take its own piece of the pie, and using that data to help shift our strategies. Just looking at that list of ten blue links isn’t good enough; increasing the eyes on the prize and helping clients become that best answer is our actual job, and one we’ll continue to progress in the next few weeks, months, and years.

If you think the latest update may have affected your website or if would like a review of your search strategy, please get in touch.