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Google has just rolled out a major "algorithmic improvement", designed to improve its search results.
Search Results Changing for Some Search Queries
The company indicates that 11.8% of search queries have been "noticeably" updated. In other words, if you were ranking in the top of the search results for a given phrase earlier in the week, there's a chance that you are no longer there. In some cases, reputable sites with good content have found some of their pages dropping 5 to 10 places in Google search results.
Of course, the total number of searches in Google is not immediately impacted by the new algorithm, and search is a zero-sum game. For every loser, there is a corresponding winner. You may have dropped to #10 in the results, and your competitor may now be ranked #1, where you used to happily sit. Alternatively, you may have jumped into the top rankings and your competitor may have been banished from the top of the search results.
Has My Site Been Impacted?
In any case, it's time to take stock of where you are in the search rankings relative to where you were a few weeks ago. Sites that have content that has dropped dramatically may need to take proactive steps to make their sites more valuable to Google. To Google's mind, that means offering good useful content to end users and playing by Google's rules of good conduct -- e.g. not buying or selling links, not scraping content from other sites, etc.
As is often the case with Google algorithm updates, some great sites will be adversely impacted by the algorithm change. Given the vast number of sites that Google monitors and indexes, it is impossible for them to get it right for every site, and, accordingly, some excellent sites are afflicted by "false positives" that suggest poor site quality. In our experience, it can take a few months for Google to correct these mistakes in its algorithm changes.
What if I’ve been Impacted?
Sites that are in this situation of having great, legitimate content but that have experienced a substantial drop in Google search traffic may need to be prepared to deal with less SEO-powered traffic for a few months. It's a good time to push on other lead generation levers, such as pay-per-click advertising or traditional marketing programs. In addition, it's a good idea to reach out to Google and explain your situation.
It's not well known but senior Google engineers can literally look at your site, tell you why your site has dropped in the rankings and take action if you can justify your existence to them and convince them that you are doing right by Google users. I've seen this happen at an industry SEO conference. A high-powered web publisher talked to a high-powered Google engineer and asked them why they had dropped in the rankings. The engineer showed the publisher some links that he said were "sold links" -- a Google no-no! -- but the web publisher explained and effectively proved that the links were not sold links. "OK, I get it. I'll take care of it," said the Google engineer.
While you may not have easy access to a senior Google engineer, Google will no doubt create a way for sites to communicate to them that the new algorithm has treated them unfairly. When they do, we will post that information in the comments below.
Long story short, for those of us who do business online, the landscape has been altered in the last 48 hours. We've seen some sites that are winners and some that are losers. For our SEO clients, we are monitoring the situation very closely and taking appropriate actions, if needed.
Although some webmasters and marketers may be experiencing severe depression today as a result of the new Google algorithm change, there's no need to panic too quickly: often when Google rolls out a major algorithm, the results will fluctuate considerably in the first week or so. In other words, if you find yourself lucky today that traffic boost may not last, and for those hurt by the change things may not be as bad as they seem.