On September 27, 2018, many webmasters experienced a gain or loss of traffic after the latest Google Algorithm Update. This was another “quality update” in an effort to provide better search results to people searching the Internet. While the algorithm is not perfect and it has indeed whacked some sites it shouldn’t have, I feel it is moving in the right direction by evaluating site quality.
We caught wind of this update with a possible split test beginning September 21, 2018, which took place outside of the US, then the real action took place here September 27, although I’ve seen sites move on September 28, 29 and 30th as well, and earlier today someone asked me if there was an algorithm change on October 1.
Below I will provide some screenshots and observations, but first, let’s talk about quality.
How is Google evaluating quality?
This article will be short compared to my last analysis where I take a comprehensive look at the last major “core algorithm” change. If you were negatively impacted on or around September 26 or September 27, 2018, stop here and read about the August 1, 2018 Google Core Algorithm Change.
As mentioned in that article, I believe that Google is paying special attention to:
Just listing these 3 items is very misleading though.
Authority: Many people are confused about “authority”. Let’s say you have a site which gives out medical information. Just having the content authored by a doctor is not enough. This site needs solid references from real medical organizations. Dozens of psychologists, mental health experts, owners of drug rehabilitation facilities, skin care experts, dermatologists and dieticians have asked me about “Expertise” since the last update. It’s just not that simple. Anyone can simply add “Dr.” to their name. For example, I could call myself “Dr. Len” throughout the rest of this article. Building an authority site takes time and requires links from other authority sites. I believe much of how Google evaluates authority comes from the links, who links, how they link, etc. That said, Google evaluates different sites differently. A website about skin care will have its authority measured differently that a website which tells you how often to feed your fish or the best time of the year to plant grass seed. I do have an additional article coming up in the near future about author authority – although unless you’re in a highly competitive niche or reaching a LOT of people every month, this is overrated. Not everyone agrees with it, but I stand by my claim of the importance of links for determining authority.
Trustworthiness falls into line with the above as well. The bottom line here is: does Google trust your content and authority?
Content! This one is my favorite. People are easily offended when it comes to their content. Content must be written comprehensively, expertly, and it will still fall flat on it’s face if the website it’s placed on doesn’t have the authority and trust factors. I could write a book on this topic, but if I had to sum it all up, the above is how I’d best describe it. There are a plethora of other ways content can go wrong as well – for example – sites can have “thin content pages” which negatively impact the entire site, not just those pages.
Here’s on of my legal clients who has a true authority site. I’ve been with them for years and it’s been a very cost effective relationship. They were rewarded during the September algo update:
A Recovery from the August 2018 Core Algorithm Change
To be perfectly clear here, I’m not sure if this site recovered just because they improved their site or if they recovered simply because Google tweaked their algorithm and how it evaluates quality.
I can say that after this webmaster came to me in August, we came up with a few things to do. Here are a few of the actions taken:
- Eliminate medical advice. This was a small portion of their site which is mostly about dating.
- Eliminate celebrity content. This wasn’t ranking well since there are so many sites about celebs.
- Removed thin content.
Google Medic 1.1 or Medic 2 Update?
Some people in the world of SEO like to name algorithms. I personally go by dates, but there’s no problem naming them.
One thing is for sure, many of the factors which were given new weights in August were once again tweaked in September. In other words, Google is turning the same knobs to tune their algo to their liking. While the algo did impact lots of sites which dish out medical information it didn’t necessarily target medical sites. I won’t beat that dead horse though.
On that note, here’s a medical website which did not make any changes and got whacked again:
Here’s TheRecoveryVillage.com. I had mentioned them in my coverage of the August update. According to estimates, they have lost some traffic. Maybe they were given “too much” on the last update (they had a huge surge):
Many people had mentioned a site me called Dr. Axe. I looked at it and I’m just not seeing the “authority” here that the content requires. I haven’t been to the site and it could be full of awesome content, but from a quick 2 minute look at their links I am not 100% satisfied. I could be wrong and could probably spend a month looking at the site. Anyways, they got slaughtered in August and in September Google is kicking them while they’re down. I would love to know what their strategy is to fix this…
Update March 01, 2019: Here’s a screenshot of a new client we are working with who got whacked on 9/27/2018. In this case, he only fell a couple of positions in Google UK search, but his competitor took the Featured Snippets from him:
Update March 14, 2019: The client listed above has now recovered in the March 12, 2019 update!
Conclusion on the September 2018 Google Algorithm Update:
Google has made changes evaluating website quality once again. It appears to me that they’re rigorously evaluating important “YMYL” sites which dish out legal, financial or medical advice. We should expect these quality updates to be a permanent fixture of the SEO world.
If you were negatively impacted, positively impacted, or saw no changes, please feel free to share in the comments section below. If you have a question you’d like to ask privately, please feel free to email me here.
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