An unannounced Google algorithm change may have been implemented last week, adjusting site rankings that could affect your SEO.
Have you noticed any shifts in your Google search rankings?
Many SEOs in the industry are talking about ranking changes in the past week, both good and bad, and trying to piece together the big picture. We know that Google algorithm changes have affected websites big time in the past, and are doing some digging on our own. What exactly was affected by this mysterious SEO update?
Here’s what we’ve noticed on our end.
SEO Case Study #1
This is data from a client that we’ve worked with for many years, writing blog posts and refreshing on-page SEO to keep their site relevant and fresh. How have they been affected by this “algorithm change”?
Here are our findings, sourced from some of the SEO tools that we use:
We often use SEMrush for keyword research, as it pulls related keywords based on semantics and will track a website’s organic search performance over time. Here we see that our client did indeed see a projected increase in traffic that spiked on February 7th.
SEMrush doesn’t actually pull website traffic data in real time, so we have to verify that these results are accurate.
Do we actually see the traffic predicted by an increase in keyword rankings?
Google Analytics will track the actual traffic going to a website in real time. Here we see that traffic did not increase on February 7th – in fact, traffic seemed to decrease on that day. Why is that?
One thing to consider, for this client in particular, is that due to seasonality of the business we expect to see fewer searches during this time period. An increase in search ranking isn’t as valuable if there’s no-one searching in the first place!
For that reason, we tend to improve SEO during the off-season and draw traffic to the site through blog posts, shared via social media. You can see a spike in traffic indicated by the yellow arrow – this is when we shared a blog post on our client’s social media, resulting in “free” inbound referral traffic.
So, from what we can see – there isn’t much change going on.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
When you filter the above results by “Organic” Google traffic this is what we see:
This filter segments out any referral traffic we may have received from social media, isolating the data to only what we want to see – Google (SEO) traffic.
The red arrow indicates February 7th. Although we saw a small increase in traffic going into February 8th, we had a significant drop in traffic on February 9th.
This is peculiar, because this happened in the middle of the week, and did not occur as a slump going into the weekend.
This tells me that, yes, something happened around the time of February 7th.
For this, we use RankTracker to identify the individual changes that are going on, and which keywords were affected.
RankTracker is a tool we use to monitor our client’s keywords, their positions on all relevant platforms, and their differences in ranking on a regular basis.
For this client in particular, we noticed quite a few increases in keyword SEO rankings:
…but we also noticed some keyword losses as well:
We’ve excluded the actual keywords we’re tracking for privacy reasons.
By digging into the data we were able to see which keyword(s) were negatively affected, or positively affected, by this algorithm change.
Google tends to be rather fickle, so a keyword on the first page can drop to the third page on one day, and back to the first in the next. What matters is our average position over an extended period of time – are we consistently found on the first page of Google results?
What have we learned here?
We know that a shift likely happened, impacting our traffic on the 8th. However, as our keywords bounced up and down, we seemed to settle at a position that averages out slightly higher than we were at before.
Organic traffic has not been impacted drastically.
Some of our keywords went up. Some of our keywords went down. What matters is – what happened to the keywords we want?
These are our next steps:
- Identify the keywords that have improved that we want to KEEP
- Identify the keywords that dropped we want to REGAIN
Not all keywords are made equal. We would rather have 10 visitors to the site that would potentially purchase a product, than 100 visitors to the site who are only there to read the blog.
The most important keywords are identified ahead of time in our client SEO Keyword Research, which we conduct for every website we build.
From here, we would write blog posts that are optimized for the keywords we want to improve or keep, and track progress over time.
Conclusion: Yes, a shift seems to have happened around February 7th. No, it did not impact this client in a drastic way. Why?
We noticed a drop in website sessions, but quickly regained our traffic within the following two days. We believe that this is due to the strong SEO foundation of the website – it has been active for a number of years, has plenty of engaging copy, and posts regular content to ensure that the content is relevant.
Our Verdict: If you’ve followed good SEO practices and you have a smooth mobile experience, excellent content and frequent updates, we don’t believe you should encounter any serious repercussions from this algorithm change.