SEO practices change quickly and a big part of the job is keeping up to date and adapting to every new progression or announcement that we hear coming from Google or from the wider search community. This way of working has resulted in SEO professionals trying to predict where they think Google are going to go next, based on data, research and reading into what Google are doing and what they may be planning.
At the time of writing (early March 2015), Google have just announced a huge change in their algorithm. This has again moved the goalposts and set the industry alight; they announced on 26th February, that from 21st April this year, they will be deindexing websites from smartphone search results if they don’t conform to Google’s own Mobile Friendly guidelines. This will come in the form of an algorithm overhaul, factoring in the calculations for its rankings whether a site is responsively designed, or has a mobile specific alternative.
This is going to have a huge impact on search and is an exercise in forcing the world to progress with the times. As the levels of mobile search sit around 40% of all search traffic (as of the end of 2014), Google are making it unacceptable not to have a website that not just works on a mobile phone, but works well and creates a user friendly experience. And if you don’t comply? Well, you’re not going to show up on any searches made from a smartphone anymore!
This was predicted with the onset of the “mobile-friendly” tag that has been appearing on mobile search results since last autumn, indicating to mobile searchers if a site was going to work properly on their phone or not. This, coupled with a series of guides on how to make sure your website is mobile friendly that were introduced by the Webmaster blog, was all the information that was needed to know that a big change was coming at some point.
This announcement was an unusual departure from Google’s usual method of introducing algorithm changes, which is to give no warning whatsoever and then release a brief press release explaining what happened after everyone’s visibility and rankings have nosedived!
Google is constantly updating and tweaking its algorithm, as well as making slight changes to the search results page. These days it seems like Google wants the user to spend as much time as possible on the results page without clicking onto any sites. They’re doing this by providing a wealth of information to answer user queries on the results page itself.
A good example of this is their Rich Answers box, which pulls useful information from a trusted page, and displays it at the top of the results in its own box. The Knowledge Graph to the right hand side of the page displays lots of information about institutions and businesses so searchers can get essential details without having to click onto the site. This can be quite extensive; from maps to the nearest branches, links to social media profiles, names of the CEOs to stock prices. All this information serves to give the searcher the information they are looking for in the quickest possible time and without having to navigate through Google to other sites to find those quick answers.
Perhaps the biggest change to search is yet to come; researchers at Google are currently working on a new ranking system which rates the trustworthiness of a website, and ranks sites by how many facts they contain, rather than how many links point to them.
Google’s current algorithm decides the popularity of a website by monitoring how many other sites link to it, and how much activity based around it is happening on social media platforms. The issue with this is that sites containing little useful information can still rank well, despite all the changes Google has made over the past few years to ensure this doesn’t happen.
This new algorithm, still in its early development phase, will count the number of incorrect facts on a page in order to rate its trustworthiness. So the more false information a page contains, the lower its score will be. The software will use Google’s Knowledge Vault as the data source. The Knowledge Vault is a vast database of facts about pretty much everything, which Google has been building up for years by pulling information from the internet.
This system is still in its early stages and won’t come into effect for a long time, but it will be something we will be keeping our eye on, as it will mean another complete overhaul of the core fundamentals of how search works.
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