Due to recent global events, the first quarter of 2020 has been understandably rough for Google SERPs. Search results are experiencing huge changes to both layout and algorithm. Which explains why your rankings are suffering lately.
Google released updates on February 7 and 8, which has been reported to have created massive changes to search rankings and web traffic for many publishers.
The February update was not announced, and Google denies rolling out any Core Updates.
However, reports from SEO observers have contradicted this, suggesting that Google has indeed made changes on the sly and numerous websites have borne the brunt.
But it did not stop there.
March 2020 saw even more changes, even with Google denying such notions. Meanwhile, they have been sending out notices on the Search Console about event markup issues.
We can expect even more changes down the line, and they will certainly impact search rankings even more.
2020 Google Algorithm: Why the Quiet Updates?
There is a bit of a divide between developers and SEO professionals, mostly for understandable reasons.
Google keeps the inner workings of the 2020 Google algorithm a secret so people can’t completely exploit and take advantage of it, especially those who may be considered “black hat” SEO professionals.
However, by being absolutely opaque with how the search engine works, those with honest intentions in delivering high-quality content are at the mercy of the algorithm. They might be getting good traffic one day, and then they may not get squat the next.
The unpredictability of their updates makes the industry itself somewhat unstable.
But the SEO world does its best to survive and thrive, no matter what the situation may be, even in a world that is now being shaken up by the COVID-19 outbreak. Whenever Google updates its algorithm, it’s to better serve users with the best search experience possible. While the going may be tough, you can’t really fault them for that.
Effect of COVID-19 Outbreak
Suffice to say, much of the recent upheaval is due to the current COVID-19 outbreak. This unfortunate event forced Google to act, in order to stave off fake news and misinformation.
They’ve made algorithm changes and added tools in Google Search Console to help users in this unusual time.
Google has put down guidelines for content that may mention anything regarding the current COVID-19 outbreak. At first, when Google started to restrict mentions of COVID-19, not saying the word was the solution.
Only verified content – with proper information on the disease – was allowed to have any mention of COVID-19.
However, Google has since loosened that restriction, so it’s now more about the context, so people can now say COVID-19 when they have to.
Navigating Your Campaigns Through COVID-19, According to Google
The main advice they give is to “…consider the context and tone of the message, being careful with double meanings in words, and think about whether it’s actually helpful or not.” – Google
Google is doing its best to filter out the inconsiderate and inappropriate content like fake news, misinformation, and trolling that inevitably come up during a time like this.
They did mention that these changes are mostly around searches related to health. However, many owners of non-health websites are reporting decreases in web traffic as well.
Why the Algorithm Is How It Is Now
To understand how all of this works, you must first learn why the 2020 Google algorithm is the way it is now.
Much of that history comes to a head when the Google Panda algorithm was created and implemented.
Panda was the seminal event that changed the landscape of SEO from how it used to be to what it is now.
Before the current system, there was Google PageRank, which dictated how a website stacks up in search rankings.
The problem with this was low-quality web content could rank high in search results, as long as they have the right keywords. This made it problematic for legitimate content to get the ranking it deserves.
When Panda was released in February 2011, it sent shockwaves through the SEO world.
It even cost a big company, Demand Media, many millions of dollars. But in the long term, it helped legitimate content rank over lower-quality content that used “illicit” SEO tactics to get ahead.
But it did take tons of updates to get it to where the current Google algorithm is now, and it’s still evolving as the world turns.
Panda was, for all intents and purposes, the first machine learning system that Google rolled out, so it was bound to change as time goes on.
While Google claims it doesn’t take metrics like clickthrough rates into consideration, results suggest that user behavior does matter.
Panda changed the way SEO was done, from just focusing on content and links to more about the user experience.
However, it’s not yet able to “know facts” just yet, so fake news and misleading content can still get through. As long as users are behaving in a way that suggests that the content is definitely answering their questions, it may rank in search results.
Google’s Push for Artificial Intelligence
This use of machine learning and artificial intelligence by Google to augment their search algorithm was made more prominent in 2015 with the introduction of RankBrain.
This now five-year-old system aimed to push more relevant search results to users.
They’ve recently added another one with the Bidirectional Transformers for Language Understanding, or BERT, which is a neural network-based system for natural language processing.
This means that Google is now getting better at understanding language, and, thus, understanding content that’s created by humans for humans.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, and as information progresses, Google will make more changes to keep up with the relevancy of the published content, most likely including this very article.
In the end, the purpose of running your own blog is to keep your readers informed.
New SEO Best Practices for 2020
Getting on the search engine result pages (SERPs) can be a daunting task nowadays with all the competition and Google’s constant updates. Since ads are dominating Google SERPs, you’ll most likely need to pony up some cash in order to get your foot in the door of the upper ranks.
However, that option should be taken only after doing everything you can to shore up your SEO, including the practices listed below.
Optimize for Voice Search
When voice search first blew up in the mainstream, most thought of it as a novelty that would get left in the dust.
However, it’s now a technology that more and more people are using due to both convenience and the increasing number of devices that include the feature, including smart speakers that use it as a primary function.
That’s why it’s important to optimize for voice search however you can, using schema markup, Speakable for Google Assistant, and/or Google Actions.
Topics and Semantics Over Keywords
As mentioned above, Google has been putting less and less priority on keywords and links.
While they’re still important, they’re no longer the primary focus for SEO. The content and its relevance to the topic that the keywords indicate should take precedence.
With Google’s current systems, it has become better at understanding what users are searching for based on just a few words.
That means semantics involved with keywords are important now as it’s how the 2020 Google algorithm now understands what content should drive search results.
Keep SEO Strategies Flexible
Because of everything mentioned above regarding how the 2020 Google algorithm works and the way Google likes to make constant updates to it, you have to keep your SEO strategies flexible and adaptable to change.
If you put all your eggs in one SEO basket, you might get disappointed later on if Google happens to implement an update that negatively affects whatever is in that basket.
Both experience and open-mindedness go a long way here. You shouldn’t have a problem as long as you keep one ear to the ground and stay vigilant to whatever happens across the SEO landscape.
Content Still Rules
As usual, Google’s recommendation when it comes to most of its updates is to focus on creating high-quality content. That does indeed ring true most of the time, but you may be looking for more specific advice after the last several Core Updates.
Google does have its guidelines for webmasters, which are indeed helpful, but things may be getting desperate now with how the world is at the moment.
If your search rankings and web traffic were impacted, you should consider updating your content to stay relevant.
Other than that, it’s the usual race between Google updates and SEO that’s typical of the constant quest for more web traffic.
Additional read: What Is CCinsight and How Can It Help Your Amazon Business?