Google Updates: Keeping SEOs on their Toes!

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Google Updates: Keeping SEOs on their Toes!


The parameters of internet search are constantly shifting, and as an online marketing company, Easy2Access needs to remain abreast of industry changes if we’re to offer our clients the most current approach to deliver the best results. In the last few months, there have been two key developments – the Google Phantom update and changes to the way in which Google AdWords are delivered.

The Google Phantom Update

Clients often experience a dip in their web traffic around November, as South Africa logs off and shuts down for the month-long December holidays. But could there have been an added factor at play for the slight downturn this year? Search engine optimisers are all abuzz about what could have been another Google core algorithm update – an event which some have termed Phantom 3. Industry authority Search Engine Land seemed to confirm the update, calling it a ‘quality update’ specifically to weed out what Google determines to be low quality websites. And American SEO software and research company SEMRush pointed out that the update takes into account the increasing shift to search, and provides some sobering data gleaned from a survey of websites on their US database:

  • Organic traffic has dropped by almost 50% for some domains
  • 40% of domains they sampled experienced at least a 10% change in traffic since the update was initiated
  • 20% of domains experienced as least 20% organic traffic change
  • 10% of sampled domains experienced over 30% drop in organic traffic
  • The update seems to particularly affect product category web pages.

SEOimage source: integrity mc seo

Furthermore, there’s rumoured to be a Penguin update in the wings (Penguin’s the algorithm that targets linking). But that’s not all – in January, Google confirmed an update to its core ranking algorithm (but not Penguin), but hasn’t specifically named Phantom 3. Again, leading SEO resources company Moz reports ‘historically significant’ drops in traffic across the web.

So what can we do? Google reminds us to look carefully at their Content Guidelines – particularly pertinent is this tip: Content quality is determined by how much time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill have gone into the creation of the page!

Updates to Google AdWords

But that’s not all to change on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)!  Last week, Google also announced a major change to paid advertising. In a nutshell:

  • Google ads will no longer be featured on the right-hand side of the SERP
  • Ads will be limited to two at the top of the SERP and one at the bottom
  • In effect, this ramps up the competition for ad spots, driving up the average cost per click (CPC)
  • For commercially viable keywords, an exception may be made, increasing ad space. This will be at Google’s discretion.
  • For businesses, this means the organic space is even more precious and will therefore lead to an even bigger focus on SEO.

What can we do? While AdWords certainly does drive traffic to site in the short-term, and can be effectively used to boost sustained organic efforts, it makes more and more sense for businesses to invest heavily in building a strong online brand and in an organic strategy. If you want to know more about how to do this, speak to us!