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Google Kicks Off 2016 With Some SEO Shakeups

We look at the updates Google made to their search algorithms at the beginning of 2016 and what this means for your search rankings.

Where Google goes, so goes the web. The internet’s most popular search engine is the portal through which most people find what they are looking for online, so every move that Google makes is closely scrutinized by the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) community. As the search giant continues to regularly refine and update the algorithms it uses to determine how websites rank in search results, site owners are often left wondering what they can do to keep up.

What’s New?

So what’s the latest news from the Google trenches? While the next version of the Penguin algorithm, which was expected to be released at the end of 2015, has not yet been implemented, SEO industry watchers saw what appeared to be a change to search rankings around January 10th. On January 12th, Google confirmed that they had made an update to their “core algorithm.”

What Does This Mean?

While Google didn’t provide any details about exactly what was changed, they only rarely release confirmations to news that they’ve updated their core algorithm. This potentially means that major developments have gone on behind the scenes, but it’s difficult to determine exactly what those changes might be.

One change that was confirmed is that Google’s Panda algorithm, which attempts to rank sites according to the quality of their content, is now part of the core algorithm. While the ramifications of this change are not yet fully clear, it seems likely that updates to Panda (which will result in positive changes to search rankings for sites which have fixed any quality issues) will occur more frequently, but that they will not be announced separately from other updates to the core algorithm.

How Does This Affect Me?

Whenever Google announces an update (or the SEO community discovers that an unannounced update has been made), the temptation is strong for site owners to change their site to attempt to improve its search rankings. However, we feel that this is ultimately a less-than-ideal way to approach SEO. After all, Google’s goal is to help people find the information they are searching for, as well as to encourage high quality content and sites that provide good experiences for users no matter what device they are using.

Rather than trying to reverse-engineer Google’s complicated algorithms, it is better to make sure your site provides your users with a good experience, provides them with the information they need, and helps them meet their goals. If you want an idea of what this means, Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines can help us understand what Google thinks their users want when they are performing online searches. It is also incredibly important to ensure that your site is accessible to mobile users, since more searches now take place on mobile devices than on desktop computers.

If you’re not sure whether your site is meeting Google’s standards, we can help! Please contact us to speak to a SEO expert, and we’ll work with you to determine whether your site has any issues that need to be addressed and provide guidance on how to ensure that your content meets Google’s standards for quality. If you have any other questions, please feel free to leave a comment below. We look forward to hearing from you!

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