In the last two months alone, two significant updates have occurred to the Google algorithm — creating volatility in the search results. The second update happened around March 15, and was a major update — a Core Algorithm Update.
These core updates occur several times a year. Recovering from rankings drops created by a core algorithmic change is not about fixing a page. I contend that just fixing a few pages is an exercise as fruitful in arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Instead, you site owners should ask yourselves, honestly, does Google really need the website? The answer is often “no,” so Internet management teams avoid the question and pour their efforts and funds into fixing pages in response to algorithmic updates.
The way to avoid making fixes is to think like long and big. Think like Google, and use its learning on search and user intent to make your site valuable.
Why Should Google Want Your Site?
With its proclaimed intent to index all the world’s knowledge, it could be argued that Google needs your site to fulfill this mission.
But just being included does not mean showing up in the top results. What brings a site to the top of the results? It is the user and whether your site answers the intent of the user’s query.
If a page and, by extension, the entire site addresses the user’s intent per the query and provides clear expert, authoritative and trustworthy (E-A-T) content, then it will show up in the top results.
There is an added wrinkle. With Google moving to a mobile-first, mobile-focused environment, your mobile site must meet the user’s intent.
As I write this post, I am working at a laptop linked to a large monitor, the typical configuration of an Internet worker. This is not where the searchers are. They are on mobile devices.
If your analytics don’t show more than half your visitors are mobile, then you are an outlier.
If you are looking to fix your search results, think mobile. I would suggest getting away from the monitor at your desk and using your mobile device to conduct a series of searches your typical user might perform. You may find yourself frustrated. If you typically chase rankings, you may find lots of reasons why you are not in the top search rankings.
How Do You Fix the Problem?
Because SEO success is tied to meeting the user’s search intent, then it is imperative to attach more significance to a creating successful user experience for mobile users.
This does not push aside all of the other elements of good SEO, it simply creates a delivery system for meeting the user on the user’s terms.
Getting there goes beyond simply doing searches on a mobile device. It forces a rethinking of how and why data is presented. Begin by reading. Here are several points of departure. If you love deeply technical information or suffer from insomnia, spend some time reading Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. (Opens as a PDF) These are the guidelines that Google’s team of human evaluators use to determine the quality of sample pages. The results from the evaluators are used as part of the training data that flow into creating the algorithm.
Here, you will quickly see what makes a page good. This is just the first stop on the tour.
Then, check out the much more user-friendly and readable UX Playbooks available for various types of sites. The retail playbook is eye-opening. (Opens as a PDF)
First, all of the examples and screenshots are mobile.
For an even longer view of where Google Search is headed in the future, read Ben Gomes’s blog post on “Improving Search in the Next 20 Years.”
Instead of worrying about fixing pages in response to updates, consider how well you and your site will fit with what Google wants now and into the future.