Yesterday's Google glitch sparked major alarm for SEOs across the globe.
It is an early morning routine of mine to spot check client rankings. There are a few bellwethers that I always check across eCommerce, B2B, not-for-profit and insurance.
Yesterday, was a morning to remember as I tried to make sense of these routine checks. Many clients (as well as their competitors) fell sharply.
Not-for-Profit sector: chart showing all three competitors dropping significantly
International B2B brand: chart showing sharp drop in visibility as some brand terms dropped from #1 to #6.
Most surprising was that the new top rankings seemed to be high authority sites such as Wikipedia, technical journals and eBay but with little specific relevance to the search queries. Though there was no clear pattern.
Alarm at the biggest Google algorithm update in years
Clearly, this was a major shakeup of the rankings, not a blip related to a particular website or individual keyword. SEO websites and social media were ablaze with alarm in US, Europe and Asia.
Barry Swartz of Search Engine Land wrote : “To be honest, this reminds me of the old days of when Google would release Penguin or Panda updates. The chatter in the time period is off the scales. Either this is a massive Google search bug or Google pushed out something serious with its ranking algorithm in search.”
Another anomaly was that some of these significant drops were showing on live search results and some were not. So, it was a difficult message to communicate to clients yesterday morning. We flagged that something big was happening but we were gathering more information.
Calm down its just a glitch
John Mueller who is Google’s liaison with the SEO-industry then put out a tweet – in his trademark low key manner – saying “I don’t have all the details yet, but it seems like this was a glitch on our side and has been fixed in the meantime”.
Indeed, by mid-morning UK, it appeared that live rankings were back to normal. Relief all around.
Lessons to take away
Google is run by humans and mistakes get made (and mostly fixed quickly). However, businesses have never been more dependent on being able to be found by their customers via the monopoly that is Google. An apology would have been appreciated.
Good SEO is about steady long-term growth
In 2020, Google rewards sites which are high quality and provide excellent resources to meet the requirements (aka ‘search intent’) of its intended audience. Whilst the Google algorithm is complex and sophisticated, in most cases, it is possible to diagnose why certain sites are being rewarded by with high rankings.
Good SEO is then about a balance of your website being technically fit for purpose and the deployment of excellent content that both adds value to your target audience’s user experience and is understandable by search engines. It is about being the very best on the web for your customers.
Of course, all websites are different but to help provide sustainable growth from SEO we would always recommend that a content and technical review against the needs of your customers is the starting point.
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