What Google’s 2018 Algorithm Updates Can Teach You About SEO in 2018

Search engine optimization is constantly changing.

It seems like yesterday that keyword stuffing was a viable SEO strategy to rank on Google.

As Google performs more algorithm updates to keep up with user behavior, we’ll start to see major shifts in how we do SEO.

What’s the norm or commonplace now might become the next keyword-stuffing tactic in a few years.

Google makes anywhere between 500 and 600 algorithm updates each year.

Sometimes, it can be hard to determine which updates will actually influence our SEO efforts and directly impact rankings.


In 2017, Google made tons of updates to their algorithm.


And a few of them were major, high-impact updates that had big effects on existing sites on Google.


Some sites saw huge drops in traffic and rankings.


In this post, I’m going to give you a brief history of the most important updates from 2017 that Google made and show you how these algorithms can prepare you for SEO in the coming year.
 
Let’s do this.

A history of updates in 2017

In 2017, there were a few major updates that can shed light on how the SEO industry will change in 2018.

In this section, I’ll lay out the biggest updates of 2017 in detail and what they mean.

On February 1st, Google released an unnamed (yet major) update. According to Search Engine Land, there was a heavy period of algorithm fluctuations from February 1st to the 6th.

Evidence from SEL shows that this update contained anywhere from one to two major changes.

SEL noticed that the black hat SEO community was complaining and taking notice that their tactics weren’t working as well.

Many have speculated that Google implemented the update to better discredit spammy links or links with relatively low authority.

Another update quickly followed this on February 7th that was dramatically larger in scale.

G-Squared Interactive reported on the 2017 Google algorithm update where they saw the visibility of some websites impacted in a positive way:

While some sites saw a positive impact, others experienced negative results from the update:

When Google implements an update of this magnitude, you can usually see shockwaves of the impact through keyword rankings.

For example, you could see a keyword jump five to ten spots in just a day.

G-Squared Interactive found that the update impacted tons of their keywords:

Some of those keyword rankings have massive jumps, moving more than 40 positions almost instantly.

So, what happened here?

Essentially, Google’s algorithm started sweeping sites that weren’t as high-quality as they initially thought.

Therefore, Google gave these sites lower rankings.

GSQi noted that Google began to demote sites with low-quality user engagement.

For example, sites with broken menus and poor user interfaces or sites that have deceptive ad placements and excessive monetization options.

This makes for a terrible user experience in exchange for better and easier ad promotion on sites.

But Google doesn’t like that at all. Google wants to provide the best search engine experience on the web.

That means that these tactics won’t fly anymore.

Similarly to the user experience, the update impacted low-quality, thin content.

Thin content is generally content that is short and only exists to drive traffic.

The goal is to direct that traffic to other parts of a site. Thus, the content is only a tool, not a step in furthering the user experience.

Another major part of the update included impacts based on the mobile usability of sites.

If your site isn’t perfectly optimized for mobile right now, your rankings are going to suffer.

If your mobile experience is subpar, you’re losing out on traffic and rankings.

This update was major.

But it wasn’t the only major update in 2017 that forecasted big changes for the way we conduct SEO strategies.

On March 8th, Google released an update that we now refer to as “Fred.”

The Fred update was Google’s latest confirmed update that targets websites violating their webmaster guidelines.

Specifically, websites that are low-quality blog-style sites focusing on generating ad revenue.

Search Engine Land said:

“If you show ads, make sure the pages they are found on are high-quality and offer relevant, ample information.”

Essentially, Google again addressed sites with thin content as well as those trying to game the system via affiliate-based pages.

If your content only contains affiliate links and the goal clearly isn’t to help users, Google is going to penalize you.

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