On the one hand, if you have an updated website that uses the latest marketing standards, you can gain ground over your competitors and steal customers from them. But if your website is out of date, your business can suffer significantly.
Your job isn’t knowing the latest about Google’s standards, however, so how can you stay up to date on the latest, make informed decisions about when to invest in your business’ website, and know how to prepare for your business’ future? It comes down to understanding what Google updates are and where to turn for help.
What are Google Updates?
Google updates are changes to the Google algorithm, or Google’s criteria for good websites. Popular search engines and some social platforms, like Pinterest and Facebook, use algorithms so it’s important to understand what it means for your business.
It is a constant battle between Google and the people who produce bad, useless websites. Google doesn’t want to send searchers to bad websites because we don’t like it when it does and Google could lose us as customers.
Google is constantly tweaking the way they rank websites to better serve us. And that’s what we call a Google Update.
Case Study: The Effects of the Google Mobile Update
Most recently, Google has started to place a large priority on mobile-friendly websites because searchers have moved to mobile-first lives. We want to get great results from Google when we’re on our phones, so Google released a big mobile-first update mid-April.
For businesses in industries where competitors don’t have mobile-ready websites, they might see big jumps in revenue because of increased search traffic. On the other hand, businesses with outdated websites can miss out on customers because of Google updates they’re unprepared for.
One client we built a responsive, mobile-friendly website for is in an older but highly competitive industry that’s tough to break into. With Google’s update, their website has moved up significantly in search, now appearing on the first page, simply because their website is mobile-friendly and competitors’ aren’t. Our client is stealing traffic and could poach potential customers from their competitors because their website is up-to-date.
Google cares about ranking factors for one reason—to best serve searchers with great search results that point them in the right direction. You want your business to be that right direction.
What is Google looking for in websites?
To give you an idea of how big some of these updates have been in the past, at one big update 40% of the internet basically disappeared for the average person. It just stopped appearing in Google. Sure, you could still get there if you wanted to. (But no one really wanted to because it was mostly spam.) But how do you find new websites? You, like most everyone else, use Google.
Your business really doesn’t want to be caught up in that 40% of websites that disappear overnight because of a Google update.
Since then, Google’s updates have been a little bit more gradual, only taking down smaller parts of the internet. The most recent string of updates in October of last year only changed about 1% of the internet. But that’s still nothing to scoff at.
So what does Google want from your business? Google wants answers to searcher’s needs that please the searcher
[Tweet “Google wants answers to searcher’s needs that please the searcher.”]
Google has figured out what kinds of things indicate when a website fits that statement:
- Good content that’s actively updated
- Lots of social shares and links back to it
- Words or phrases that are exact matches or similar to the searcher’s query
- Websites that have a bit more technological savvy to them to better serve content quickly, easily, and reliably
The one thing to remember is what Google wants in a website is the same thing your customers and leads want!
As long as you’re creating content that’s useful and relevant and don’t do any tricks to “beat” Google, your website should be safe from Google Update disappearances. This is just a general rule and it’s possible to get caught up in the crossfire, so to speak, but without getting into the specifics of SEO, this is the best thing you can do for your website.
How to tell when a Google Update affected your website
Google sometimes tells us when our websites have been behaving badly by alerting us about which specific issues our websites are creating in our Google Webmaster Tools. If you don’t have this set up yet, now is the time to do it! You can read more about these alerts in Google’s Help section.
The best way to tell, however, is to look at your search traffic in both Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. Did you see a sudden drop in traffic from Google’s search engine on a specific day? That’s a big indicator that you were caught by a Google Update if it corresponds with a known update day.
However, keep in mind that updates are becoming more gradual and we’ll likely see less and less of these sudden drops but more of a gradual decline in search traffic. If you’re doing the same things on your website as you’ve always done but are seeing quickly declining search traffic, it’s a good idea to see if a Google Update is affecting your website.