Google Updates in 2017, Delete This

by Jim March 29, 2017

This is a follow up post to Feb 7 Update and the Google Fred Update


Welcome back Rankers! Coming to you from a Balinese paradise today. Incidentally, if you are new here to the show, hit subscribe on the YouTube channel if you want to keep up to date. We’ve been doing the show for about thirteen years and during that time we’ve helped a lot of people. If you find it helpful please share, please subscribe. If you’re a blogger, you can head across to where we run a BloggersSEO support group.

Quality Quest

What I want to talk to you about this week is quality. On Feb 7th there was an update that certainly looks like it was quality and on March 9th there was an update. Both seemed to be quality related. On Feb 7th we had a client drop from page one for one of their key phrases down to the bottom of page two. Now we fixed that and got their rankings back on to page one simply by removing a ‘Read More’ tag on their homepage. ‘Read more’ if you’re not familiar with it have been used by SEO’s for years. In fact, Brett Tabke, from Pubcon, had a question on Facebook the other day where he asked what the consensus was on the ‘Read more’ tab. I said that I was now fully in the camp of remove it. Because on this one site, this homepage, we removed the ‘read more’ tab and then I had a page of text. So that page of text was pushing all our premium links on the site down. Basically we had all our products beneath the fold, and the products are what we wanted people to find us for. So when we removed the ‘read more’ tab, nothing happened. Rankings stayed the same. So I think Google is now ignoring that. What I did then was I removed half the copy on the page and that took us up a few spots, around the top of page two. Then I removed even more copy so that we could get the products even higher on the page above the fold, and that’s when all the rankings came back. Then I removed all the copy and it got a little higher. It’s counterintuitive I know, but there you go.

Delete "read more"
Delete “read more”

So that was the Feb 7th update. The March 9th update that we’ve been talking about these past couple of weeks has meant us trying and investigating many different things. It does seem to have hurt people who are using, or building sites, purely for affiliate linking. Unfortunately, we don’t know whether it was designed specifically for that, but one of the reasons that’s happened is because the content is a quality issue. If the content has purely been written to get people to click on an affiliate link, chances are it’s not going to be great content.

Less Is More

Unfortunately however, sites that had great content and weren’t doing affiliate linking, also were hit by this. So it is a wider quality issue. What we’re looking at now is basically making copy read better. In one case, someone on HardBoiledBody had an excellent article but it was littered with affiliate links. The affiliate links were somewhat deceptive because they were in the copy and there was no reference to being an affiliate or anything like that. What I got that person to do in the first instance was to remove the affiliate links. They do that and the rankings jumped by fifty spots. I then got them to reduce the number of instances of the main key phrase on that page. They had a lot of them, in the headings and everywhere. It was obviously there to rank higher.
The reason I suggested that was that it’s something I’ve been working on for our own site as well. We’re about to launch a new site and we’ve been going through all the clean-up sessions of culling content for better rankings, which, incidentally, I will be talking about at Pubcon this year. Stay tuned for more details on that. So I went and removed instances on one of my own pages. I jumped one spot on the front page (I’m not saying what the phrase is as I’m sure you can work it out!) before removing more key phrases which caused it to go a bit higher. Then I removed further key phrases and it dropped like a stone! I don’t mind as it’s an SEO phrase and SEO phrases for us, unless they’re long tail, don’t typically attract the right sort of traffic. They tend to bring in price-sensitive or start-up type customers. So I broke it.
It reminded me of an article that Bill Slawski from SEO by the Sea did years ago, around 2009 (UPDATE: 2012 actually) I think, about a patent that Google had put out there that was designed to mess with SEO’s. The patent basically said to drop a site, or drop a ranking, if people were trying to make changes in the hope of ranking higher. It was a really interesting patent and an interesting story. So I was a little paranoid about that. Pretty sure that’s not the reason we dropped though. I actually think the reason we dropped was a hosting issue. What it showed to me was that by removing key phrases that might have been a bit too heavy handed, a bit too over the top, you would rank higher. That’s why I’m looking at how I can cull content now. How can I cut down and get to the point quicker and still have a great article and think even less about SEO. I know it’s counterintuitive but that’s what we’re working on at the moment.

Trial and Error

So if you have this March 9 problem, I just wanted to share that with you because we have seen some rankings come back and those tend to be the ones with long-tail phrases and not the short ones. Not the more competitive, or highly contested, phrases. So what we’re looking at now is that if we remove affiliate links off a page, you go up because the page is no longer just trying to get advertising click-throughs. If you have a problem, take a look at those two things. If you are an affiliate site, remove your affiliate links. If you’re not an affiliate site, and this is just a test obviously, you don’t want to remove all your affiliate links and lose all your money, this is just a test. You can go and put it back later once we’ve worked out that that is part of the issue. Then we can work out what’s next.
The other thing is to reduce the instances of your key phrase. What I did on my own page is I went through and said, “How can I remove every instance of the key phrase and it still read well?” So I basically went through and removed a whole bunch of key phrases and I left the ones there that made the sentence make sense. So for instance, I wasn’t going to remove the word if there was no other synonym to replace it. Have a go and try it. What I do is firstly is go and see how I’m ranking, making sure I’ve got the town that I’m in as I use a VPN no matter where I am. I need to make sure I’m checking Melbourne rankings. I also do that incognito as well. I find that if you use a VPN, in Chrome, incognito, Chrome will think you’re in that city. Sometimes it doesn’t if you don’t do it incognito. Check where you are incognito for that phrase, go and make the changes to the page, fetch the page, go back and have a look and see where you rank now.
For some sites and for some pages, it may take a little longer to see a change in rankings. So for instance, I’ve just done one this morning and it hasn’t changed, but it also hasn’t picked up the new page title yet, hasn’t picked up the new description tag yet, and the cache hasn’t updated yet either. Usually what will happen is the cache will update in the Google cache and then finally the SERPs will update and you’ll see the changes take effect. So for the one this morning, the rankings haven’t changed, the new page title hasn’t been picked up, so I’ll leave that one just to rest overnight and come back in the morning and have a look.
Hopefully that’s helpful and we’ll see you next week. Gosh, this is hard here! See you then. Bye


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