WNSM17 Algorithm Updates

by Jim July 5, 2017

Welcome back Rankers! Coming to you from St Petersburg in Russia, and I’ve been at this awesome conference with forty different SEO and PPC experts from around the world. We’ve been talking about the SEMrush product. SEMrush put this conference together where they’re trying to improve their software and help SEOs understand it more. Some may call it a junket, but it’s a really smart idea doing this because they get great feedback from their customers to help improve the product.

Algorithm Changes

One of the elements of the product, or areas of the product, is a thing they call Sensor, which is about detecting an algorithm change. One of the questions they had us in round tables for and we went through these things, was to ask how we find, or what do we use, or how we know there’s been an algorithm change. There were a variety of answers, but for many of us at my table (Go Green Team!) it was a case of waiting to see what happens to rankings and traffic. Apart from any other announcement, I’ve never been one to go look at MozCast or any other the other ‘weather’ systems that are out there.

For us, we detected a change that happened in 2012, and I don’t recall it being in every database, but certainly in the Australian one, that certainly none of the predictions or temperature systems detected. Sometimes, what we find is that the changes can be different across different categories, silos or verticals, whatever you want to call it. For instance we had the Fred update right, and Kim, who we’ve spoken to before on the show, pointed out in his conversation with Gary Illyes from Google, is that sometimes they may be multiple updates, but the wide world is only seeing it as one as it’s clustered around a certain date. And certainly with the March 9 update that was the case.

So we saw the one site that we had, not actually a client as none of our clients were affected, we had more retailers that were affected by the February update. That was because it was a quality update back in February. For the retailers that had a slight downturn in traffic back then, it turns out it was from quality related issues. I’m talking about things like, and this is for the retailers, near duplication of content, or lack of faceted navigation, or having copy too far up the fold which is different for a blogger. A blogger needs its copy above the fold, but for a retail site the user’s trying to reach the product information, not your blurb about the product category or whatever it might be. The user wants the product information now.

Brand and Backlinks

So for different categories, these changes seem to affect them differently. We don’t go into too much algorithm tealeaf reading or anything like that, because really at the end of the day it’s about what affect can you have on a site right now if you’ve been hit by rankings. When an algorithm update happens, for us the rankings always go up, because typically they’ve been backlink updates, Penguin updates. Speaking of which, I had a few interesting conversations at this conference with people who are into backlinks. I don’t have a problem with that. I only have a problem with it if it’s my clients and if someone is doing backlink spam and they’re above my client, then I’m going to do everything I can to get my client above them. Stands to reason. Some of the conversations that we had, and there was one with a guy named Jono, where we were discussing brand, and how we think brand is the key. It’s not that you don’t need backlinks, no one is saying that.

Google talks about popularity. So if you can be popular then you might get some backlinks from that. I showed you the example from when I tweeted Trump back in January, and I showed you the spike in traffic from the Googlebot. We had over one hundred retweets and that was purely from tweeting Trump in the early hours of the morning. We then received a spike from the Googlebot on that day. I did a show on it.
I also did a show last year on this graphic. This shows a mirror image with increased crawlbot activity on the same day that we also have a spike in direct traffic. So that’s what we’re talking about with backlinks. Yes, you need them, but if you’re focusing on that then you’re leaving a lot of money on the table because you’re not focused on building your audience, building your brand, getting more traffic in, getting more people talking you, and remember, when you do that your brand search increases. So have a think about that. Who is Google going to send someone to? Who is Google going to put on top if everything is equal but for this one product? Let’s say it’s a Canon DSLR 7D Mark 2. Which one does Google put on top if everything else is equal? If the backlinks are equal and if the pages are equally weighted, then where is it going to get it? Surely the brand search? If more people are searching for that brand, of that retailer, that’s social proof, right? Anyway, that’s our theory.

When you are looking at your site and you see something happen, just remember that it could just be for the category that you are in with the Googlebot. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s affecting every site. Or just because you hear about a Google update that is say, Fred, it doesn’t mean that it is affecting everyone’s sites. It didn’t affect any of our clients’ sites. The updates can affect different categories and verticals differently. And that’s about it.

I had a wonderful time here in Russia. A big thank you to Olga and the rest of the SEMrush team. They did an awesome job and it was a lot of fun. It also doesn’t get dark here at this time of year. At midnight it feels like dusk. We are off to Portugal next week which is where the show will be coming from. Thanks very much. We’ll see you next week. Bye.

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