Canonical Chronicle - Episode 48 - First Algorithm Update Casualties

In this video

In this week's Canonical Chronicle we discuss the recent algorithm update as well as the first casualties from it, including:

  • Chrome plan on badging sites according to speed

  • Google Algorithm Update

  • Google confirms Update

  • Our SEO Advice Regarding Google algorithm Updates

  • Possum 2.0 Affecting GMB Profiles

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- So what is the hottest thing in SEO right now?

- Hansel is so hot right now.

- No, not quite. What is an SEO topic that's really on fire?

- Wait, no!

- Let me give you a clue, it's something that a themed WordPress site is very well known for.

- It's Blue Steel.

- What's that look like?

- Of course, I'm actually talking about the terrible site speeds. Well, Google Chrome have recently come out and announced that they're looking to apply a badge to websites based on their site speed. So, if your site is subpar, then you may start to see this little red bar when Chrome is loading your site. So site speed is gonna be a massive factor for SEO in 2020. So if I was to apply the tinfoil hat for a second and dig into why Google is pushing this, it would be for three major reasons. So a faster site means savings for Google. So when they crawl and download your site, and you can reduce that, then they can actually rip more and more information from your site at a much greater speed. Now we've seen moves from Google to slowly replace the URL and have as the main place for all web activity. And speed as a ranking factor makes a much better case for the use and inclusion of AMP. They want a better user experience for people, so they get results faster and keep using the Google service. And the thing is, websites are an extension of Google and vice versa. If you're number one, you kind of get the brand value of Google to your site. Now imagine if someone clicks on that site that's number one, and has a terrible experience. That bad experience reflects badly on Google. Search Engine Journal are reporting that there is currently a large algorithm update taking place. And SEOs are like--

- No, God! No God, please no!

- And unlike the BERT update of a few weeks ago, this one looks like it's actually taken a couple of casualties.

- In particular, it seems that food and travel sites have really been negatively affected, with some food bloggers reporting 30% drop in their rankings. And boy are they upset. They're crying like the kid that dropped his ice cream.

- Ice cream and sprinkle.

- Now, with all algorithm updates, they realize, keep calm and do not panic.

- Don't panic! Don't panic, don't panic, Mr. Mainwaring! Don't panic, now don't panic, anybody. Don't panic Mr. Mainwaring! Don't panic!

- These things have a way of working themselves out. And the sites that get hit tend to be doing things that are not deemed as high quality activity. Talking about high quality activity, you should definitely subscribe to the email newsletter, link in the description below. That's everything for this week's Canonical Chronicle. As of filming last week's Canonical Chronicle, more massive news has come out. So without further ado, again, let's get into it. So earlier this week, some SEOs were talking out potential, major algorithm update. And they were all kind of like--

- I can feel it. I can feel it like it's right in my neck!

- And today, Google have confirmed there was a broad core update. So, we took to Twitter to question them, like-- Excuse me, I'd like to ass you a few questions.

- And when we asked Danny Sullivan and the Google search team for a little bit of an idea about what happened, they were like--

- Your request is not unlike your lower intestine, stinky.

- So here is the full Twitter thread, if you want to read through it. But let me save you ten seconds, they've essentially said, "Broad core updates are often broadly noticeable. "That's why we have shared about them "since last year and even pre-announce them, "plus provide the actionable guidance "that there's often nothing to fix "and emphasize instead having great content." Now they keep banging this "have great content" drum, which is so frustrating. On one hand, they have 200 algorithmic factors that are always changing. And on the other hand, we're crazy for digging deeper than the advice of "create good content." And I'll be honest with you, a lot of use are really like--

- Call my crazy one more time.

- Coo, coo.

- So here's our actual advice for SEOs. Firstly, they release all of these updates at the exact same times, with multiple parts to the algorithm. So it's actually impossible to work out what's going on. Anecdotally, it looks like food and travel sites have been affected the most. But looking at the SEMrush Sensor, arts and entertainment is really the only SERP with any level of volatility over the last 30 days. Other than that, not really any major SERP volatility coming from any of the tills. This suggests that there's very long tail queries that have been affected, as these tools tend to only focus on broad core sections of head terms. Also, looking at people complaining, which is food and travel, it makes a ton of sense, because BERT and machine learning are much more at play in those SERPS. And you've got to think that when they change it, when machine learning kicks in, it's gonna change the URLs in the SERPs quite a bit. Other things that you need to look at, is the anchor text distribution on these SERPs. Think of a recipe SERP, and how you change a new link to it. The prevalence of exact match anchors is incredibly high, Because when you link to a recipe, you link to the name of the recipe, which is an exact match anchor. And then if we take it a little step farther, Google wants to rely less on the link graph and more on user signals. So do you remember a couple of weeks back, the update of rel="sponsored" and rel="ugc" stuff, into the link graph? So think about this as well, they've just recalibrated the entire link graph as well. So when you're link building, remember, the URL and the title are the new anchor text. The context around the text, where the link is, gives a huge weighting. Think about things like brand to generic ratios. A lot of the sites that had zero brand presence or brand search, have been affected. Therefore, it makes sense that this is probably part of this algorithm. In this day and age, it's really weird for a large site, with a lot of generic traffic, to have zero brand traffic. Also, check the entities on your page. Just because you think this particular page about this particular topic, a lot of times that's not true. When you run Natural Language Processing over it, use tools like Spacy, which is the Python NLP, or Google Cloud NLP, to actually get the entities out and see what it's all about. So as well as a broad core update, we've also seen a large update for local listings in Google My Business. That's right, a local update for local people.

- Are you a local?

- There's been some great work done on Search Engine Land, that details most of the casualties from this update are to do with proximity. So now searches are getting businesses that are much closer to the location that they're physically searching from. Now there has been corroboration by a bunch of local business SEOs, and they're anecdotally saying things like, "You'd have to do something a lot more rigorous "than some quick Excel work to work out a full picture, "but it does seem that a number of results that were ranking "from farther away no longer are." Previous competitors, ranking around 60 miles away from the search, don't rank. And the ones that are now about 17 miles away, do rank. So you might be thinking, "Well, how do you optimize for this?" And the answer, you don't. So if anything, this looks to be a correction, so that the user gets a result that's a little bit closer to where they are. So with GMB, the same rules apply. Have a single GMB profile, and have your service area inside of it. And do not have multiple GMB profiles with a bunch of silly locations to try and game the system. So that's everything for this week's little special interjection Canonical Chronicle. We hope you've enjoyed it, and we really hope you've not suffered any algorithmic penalties. If you have, please DM me or put your details in the comments, 'cause we'd love to analyze it further. But until next time, as always, we will see you later.