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Google 2017 algorithm changes - Aqueous Digital Services

What do we know about Google’s algorithm updates so far this year?

Google’s updates in 2017

With Google keeping the details of any changes to their algorithm firmly up their sleeve, we’ve rounded up some information on what we know or suspect has happened so far this year.

Here at Aqueous the last couple of months have been a mix bag when it comes to SEO ranking.  Google refused to comment on whether or not there had been any changes made to their algorithm earlier this month, but evidence suggests that there has been some upheaval, with some websites noticing significant fluctuations in traffic whilst others remained unaffected.

Let’s take a look at the three potential dates so far this year when the SEO community suspect Google may have made changes to or tweaked their algorithm.

Google's algorithm changes in 2017 - Aqueous digital marketing services UK

 

January Update

After Google made a very rare announcement about a future update to their algorithm back in August 2016 the SEO community prepared themselves for the worst and waited with baited breath to see what the effect would be.

Said update was the January 10th Mobile pop-ups update which it was said would penalise websites making it difficult for those browsing to access the content on the page due to intrusive pop-ups.

The SEO community looked on with interest on this date and then during the days and weeks that followed but saw very little (if any) change to rankings as a result of this update.

 

Potential Update in Early February

It wasn’t until early February when we really started to notice some unusual fluctuations in rankings, but there hadn’t been a peep from Google, so as usual we were left to investigate possible causes ourselves.

Minor changes to website rankings began to get picked up around February 1st and these fluctuations became even more apparent around February 7th.  Google have kept their lips sealed and refused to either confirm or deny if they have made any changes but we suspect that there has either been a new update or a tweak to an existing one.

 

Who has been affected?

The cause and effect of any algorithm change is still unclear, but research and talk amongst the SEO community suggests that the changes may be related to backlinks and so could have been caused by a tweak to the Penguin update.

Amongst a number of huge changes that aimed to improve the quality of search results, the Penguin update cracked down on websites that had gathered ‘spammy’ backlinks (eg. paid for links or links to their website from unrelated websites that weren’t seen to be genuine).

Although most SEO companies have now moved away from this kind of activity, some websites may still have some remaining ‘spammy’ backlinks out there pointing to them.  It has been reported that some websites that have backlinks from PBNs (Personal Blog Networks) seem to have been negatively affected so there is speculation about whether Google may have implemented a tweak to stamp out the effectiveness of backlinks from these kinds of websites.

 

Have you seen any changes to your website’s ranking over the last couple of months? If so tweet us @AqueousDigital.

Need some help recovering your rankings? Get in touch with our SEO team by giving us a call on 0800 285 1424.

Need a plumber?

Is Google testing advertising in Google My Business listings?

We have warned about this for some time and here’s the first UK based evidence that Google will be monetising the Google My Business listings.

google-my-business-advertising-1

This appears to have been a test as it isn’t possible to recreate this on a mobile since this screenshot was taken but it substantiates our earlier reports that Google is looking for more ways to drive advertising revenues through its search results pages.

This is not the first time we have seen Google looking at different options to generate money from search results. You may recall an earlier test example from the Bay Area of San Francisco, where we reported that a search for a plumber was bringing back a new set of listings. This was billed as a trial but is still running leading us to believe that this ‘trial’ is sufficiently successful to warrant continuing, at least for now.

Here’s how it currently looks if you search for plumbers in the Bay Area of San Francisco;

google-my-business-advertising-2

You will notice that this ‘Pre-Screened Plumbers’ pack actually replaces the Advertising which normally sits at the top and it pushes the Google my Business listings underneath the map like so;

google-my-business-advertising-3

This brings up another issue which is, of course, that of ‘pre-screening’. Can Google effectively do this? Are they capable of policing it? On what basis can they say a firm is good or bad? And what determines your position in the list? The amount you pay Google or the quality of work you do?

If current form is anything to go by all it would take is one complaint from a customer and a business could be removed from this list, at least temporarily. If that is the case and assuming it is the dominant form of advertising, they may well face legal challenges if they deny firms the right to be included in the list.

In short, it appears to be a minefield.

Elsewhere in the States the same search still displays a standard results page;

google-my-business-advertising-4

Meanwhile, back at the ‘Pre-Screened plumbers’, this has changed slightly since the first screen shots we took earlier this year and if you click on the ‘More Plumbers’ link in the bottom left it opens up with this;

google-my-business-advertising-5

As soon as you click on the ‘Request Quote’ button on the right hand side it pushes you to refine your query so you can be sure that the Plumber actually wants this type of work. You need to put in a valid zip code and type of plumbing job;

google-my-business-advertising-6

Then you are asked to input the job details;

google-my-business-advertising-7

Then finally you enter your details and your request goes off to the Plumber, who of course gets charged by Google for delivering a real live sales lead to him.

google-my-business-advertising-8

The problem of course with this is that the system allows you to enter up to three contractors at a time which essentially means that whoever gets back to the customer first is pretty much guaranteed the job, particularly if it is an emergency.

This will lead to some major changes in the way that businesses answer their phone calls in the future and could lead to a rise in the ‘mobile landline services’ or call handling services. Will you need to have someone monitoring your inbox on a minute by minute basis waiting for these leads to arrive?

Whilst still a trial in the USA it is highly likely that this, or something like this, will become a feature in the near future. Serious thought should be given now to ways in which this will affect your business and how you intend to adapt to meet this new way of advertising.

2ndclassstampGoogle

Google knowledge boxes are still experiencing problems

I’ve written a lot about how Google knowledge boxes are a more and more frequent visitor to our search results and in a lot of cases they are a welcome addition. As an end user if I am searching for the current time in Sydney for example I am happy when the box pops up showing me the exact time.

Of course if I were a website owner that derived a lot of revenue from visitors to my ‘what time is it anywhere in the world’ website I might not be quite so impressed. Even less so if I found that Google was taking the result it showed from my website.

As this is an automated service it will get some things spot on and others will be wide of the mark. As time goes on more and more results are accurate but there are still some notable examples where they are missing the mark.

Here’s another one that arrived today. Ask Google for the price of a second class stamp and it happily shows the price to be 62p…

2ndclassstampGoogle2

If you read further down the answer box you can see that it really does know the answer, it just doesn’t know which if the four figures to pick out.

So nice try Google; nearly there…..

But to be fair, Yahoo is no better. Its top answer proudly boasts that it is 53p which is also wrong. I knew that Royal Mail’s pricing in proportion was a little bit more complicated than the old flat rate but not that hard.

PS – The actual price is currently 54p

Google

Google knowledge boxes are not always the authoritative answer…

Of later there have been more and more instances of Google dominating particular search results with what are supposedly the ‘definitive’ answers.

As an example when you search for ‘weather in Australia’ you get this sort of result;

Australia Weather

 

This week however we searched for ‘UK Average Temperatures’ and above the Met Office, and Wikipedia came this result;

Google Knowledge Box

Naturally we’re delighted to see a result (even though it didn’t actually answer our question at all) but we would question whether Woodlands Junior School is more authoritative in this respect than the Met Office?

On the brighter side however I know I can now rely on the answers from my nine year old when I want to know anything. Kids are so bright these days I sometimes wonder why we need Google at all….