So you hear the words ‘new google ranking algorithm’…

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In years gone by, the words ‘new google ranking algorithm’ would have had even the best SEOs worried that a shake up in rankings was imminent that would, seemingly overnight, change the way in which we approach our work. The majority of these updates are minor and so aren’t picked up by the SEO community, but once in awhile there’s a major update that gets everyone’s tongues wagging. Google’s most recent update, the one that has everyone who is anyone in SEO talking about of late is Penguin 4.0.

Search Engine Land’s Ryan Shelley wrote a great article this week ‘3 things to do after a major Google algorithm update’ which inspired me to add some of my own tips for responding to Google’s inevitable updates.

Keep calm and carry on

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Although I like to imagine a Google employee pressing a big red button to launch an update, I don’t think this is the case. Often, details of the changes are speculated about in the days following an update. So don’t panic. Your immediate time and energy is best spent checking the online chatter from credible sources, for example, the comments on Search Engine Land’s posts are always a good read but more on those later. Similarly Shelley recommends that predicting what updates are imminent is ‘really a waste of time and energy’ Shelley continued ‘when you learn a major update is looming, don’t panic.

Don’t jump the gun

In a similar vein and in light of an update, it might be tempting to scrap all your hard work and start over. Instead, wait to see if your site has been impacted by the update. An update doesn’t necessarily mean your site will be impacted negatively. If you’re putting resources into creating a great site, with a fantastic user experience working alongside quality content, you may see a boost post-update. Shelley recommends waiting a few days or even weeks to see if there has been an impact on your site suggesting that you ‘make a note of where you are at the beginning and compare the metrics after a few weeks. If your site appears to be impacted, that’s when it’s time to make changes.

Don’t follow the crowd

If you’ve done exactly that – compared metrics over time and your site appears to impacted – now is the time to react. And this is where it can get a bit tricky. There will be an awful lot of information (some true, some not so true), covering the topic of a recent update. As Shelley suggests, head over to Google Webmaster Blog for concise and digestible posts, which are great if you’re in the throws of making important changes to your SEO strategy. Alternatively there’s no harm in picking up the phone to your local SEO agency for a friendly chat about the state of play and perhaps next steps.

Simply throwing the obvious search terms into Google; ‘SEO news’, ‘inbound marketing updates’ etc. will show credible sources in the search results. Sites and sources we love:

And of course

Sometimes, Google hits the big red button without telling us: ‘changes are made to the algorithm without direct admission from the team at Google’. Thanks, Google! A great example of this is the recent “Possum” update. When Google doesn’t give you a breakdown, this is when you need to head to the aforementioned credible sites for accurate insights.

Here’s another top tip from Shelley:

When making adjustments to your site after an update, make sure you make one change at a time. That way, you can see the impact of the adjustment and have a better idea of what is actually going on.

To add to Shelley’s suggestion I would recommend adding annotations to your Google Analytics account. This will allow you to mark down exactly when an event took place. As an example, you could tag the date the algorithm update was believed to have come into effect, or make a note of when you made a change to your site as a reaction to said update. By doing so, you’ll be able to see patterns in traffic before and after the update happened.

And finally

Don’t take it personally. Google hasn’t set-out to directly crush your site – unless you’re exercising black-hat SEO techniques. These algorithm updates help drive better answers to users’ search queries by forcing you, the webmaster, to create great content and earn credible links.

Key takeaway

If your immediate reaction to hearing the words ‘new google ranking algorithm’ is panic, then there is something fundamentally wrong with your SEO strategy – alarm bells should’ve already been ringing.

Still not sure? If you think you’ve been affected by recent Google algorithm updates and would like some advice without the bullsh#t then please get in touch. Alternatively head over to our blog for more useful advice and some funny stuff too.