SEO Chatter: Algorithm Update in March?


Joe: This is the Being Found Show. We are going to make sure you are being found by more buying customers. Google has all kinds of weird things going on. They may have updated their algorithm, but we aren’t sure. Recently, we noticed clients of ours had strange changes in traffic. We have looked into it quite a bit, and we still aren’t sure, but drops in traffic have been talked a lot about in the SEO community.

We are going to talk about a recent article on Search Engine Roundtable called Google Algorithm Update March 23rd: Chatter & Signals. In this article, they point out that somewhere in the middle of March, all of us SEO’s started complaining that something weird was happening.

What is a Google Algorithm update? Google’s uses an algorithm to crawl the internet and then decides what shows up in Google search. They make hundreds of updates to their algorithm and their software, trying to get better and better at displaying what people want to see.

Some changes may just feature updates. Like one day all of a sudden you can buy airline tickets because in the search results it now allows you to link out. Others have an impact on who’s showing up and what rank they are showing up. I can tell you right now if you’re not in the top 10, you’re probably not going to get any traffic. Those dropping from 3 to 4 in ranking will lose 50-60% of their traffic because of this algorithm.

A lot of what we saw for a few clients was one or two important keywords would drop down in ranking just one place. There is no reason for that, as nothing had changed but we think there has been an algorithm update. We have been studying it and turns out there’s a lot of people talking about it. There are comments like, “Anyone else lost traffic today, March 23rd?” with replies of sites losing large chunks of traffic; 30 to 60 percent traffic drops. These are all comments that us SEO’s are making on these sites. I can’t say for sure that there has been an update, but you may want to check out your rankings

The little bit that I’ve been able to discern about what might be happening here is an update that’s related to the quality of your website and content, but not ranking you lower, not penalizing you, but instead recognizing other web pages that probably should have ranked higher there. There was some misalignment in the algorithm that wasn’t giving credit to web pages that should have ranked higher, and there’s some adjustment. Those pages that should have ranked higher went ahead of you; it’s not that you got kicked down although it is the same result. I don’t know that anyone’s sure that’s what it is, but that seems to be one of the leading theories on this.

Chauncey: There has been a lot of changes here lately having to do with natural content and that desire for natural content and a desire for clarity about where your content came from and where it originated. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were not necessarily an update but a tweak to a prior update. Fixing or improving on changes they have made in the past to do with content.

Joe: That sounds like as good of a guess as anything. The chatter among SEO’s is going crazy. I think one of the reasons the Search Engine Round Table article calls it chatter is because there are a lot of tools out there  that monitor Google’s algorithm changes, and most of them do it by monitoring of keywords, and if they see drops or changes in the rank of those keywords, they can associate it to algorithm changes.

One of the tools that monitor algorithm changes is called Moz Cast. This program detects the changes but has not seen anything recently.  A few other tools also say nothing has changed. Something is going on, and you should be watching your traffic on your sites. We wanted to answer some of the questions we have had or received throughout the week, and this was one we wanted to touch on.

Another situation we explored this week with clients was regarding duplicate content. What ends up happening is, a business will say, “I thought the duplicate content was bad,” so they’re afraid to do anything, right? They’re afraid to have a service on their service page, but then also maybe have snippets of that service on their homepage, or they’re afraid to bring blog posts in that might help support their service from another site because they don’t want to duplicate it. So they think they have to write everything. I want to ask, is duplicate content bad? What are some of the instances that are necessarily bad and how do you make sure they aren’t hurting you?

Chauncey: Let’s start out with duplicate content and stolen content. There’s a difference. Every website that you look at it has duplicate content. In HTML5, they changed this and that, and now they have headers and sidebars because when you look at a website, your header is always duplicate. Your sidebar can be duplicated, and your footer can be duplicated as well. So when they’re talking about duplicate content, a lot of the time what they’re talking about is what’s in the content area of what you’re reading, not necessarily your sidebar, your header or footer.

HTML5 is a markup language used for structuring and presenting content on the World Wide Web. It is the fifth and current major version of the HTML standard. Wikipedia

Now, Do you have the same snippet of information showing up over and over throughout your site? If that’s the case, you might want to consolidate it to one place and drive your traffic there, so you don’t have it everywhere in the content series. Stolen content, whether you know it or not, is bad. Now you can borrow content, and you can use people’s content if you attribute it to them, but if you take it, that can be very bad.

Joe: How do I borrow someone’s content and use it to help? In Redding Record Searchlight, there is an article about Project Hometown. We will want to put that on Cloud Wise Academy and Cloud Potential because it’s supportive of those two businesses. I am part of Project Hometown and taking that article for my other sites. Is this considered stealing content? If I do that, is there a way to do it, so I am not in trouble for stealing or duplicating someone else’s content?

Chauncey: So many people think of traffic as being SEO and nothing else. This is not going to help your SEO at all, but it’s also not going to hurt. You take their content, put it on your site, and then you basically use what’s called a rel=canonical tag. That basically says this content originally came from this web page and so any SEO weight that comes to your page that you just posted would really get transferred over to them, but there’s a lot of avenues of traffic. What about people who come to your site because they expect to find the newest, most interesting stuff? What about the people who got there from social media because you shared something they wanted to click on? There are lots of other ways to utilize content.

Joe: You nailed that, Chauncey. I think it important that people think of the content they’re putting on their website as having one purpose, and that is SEO. But what you are saying is that content might have another job. That content might be there to help sell or help explain something or help highlight an issue. As you said, it might be because you shared from social media and that’s a place you wanted people to land, on your website, and so what you’re saying is that’s fine.

It’s not just SEO content; it’s also got a job. But there’s a way to do it, so it doesn’t hurt your SEO or so you don’t look like a thief. You can, unknowingly, happily take someone else’s blog posts for your story and you’re not hiding that it’s theirs and it helps your business because it’s about your product. But did you give them the credit that they’re due and if you didn’t, you stole content, right? Is that what you’re saying?

Chauncey: Look at it this way, maybe somebody’s has gotten to your site by one of your SEO articles, but let’s say they spent the next hour and a half hanging out at your site, reading stuff that you had brought over and attributed back to the other person. There is one major benefit right there because you kept them on the site.

Thank you for listening to this segment of the Being Found Show, to hear the full show listen here: Being Found Show Episode #49 or subscribe to our podcast.