Did you see a recent blow to your rankings this holiday season? Google had planned some surprise gifts for our vacation. The recent Google algorithm changes affected mostly blogs and affiliate sites. Because of these recent changes in the Google algorithm, the search results were drastically affected. While there is no official announcement, the search community has reported many insights that prove certain tweaks in the search engine results page. With this blog, I hope to bring the important updates to your notice and help you adjust your website to these changes.
1. The Maccabees Update:
Google recently made an unofficial update to its search algorithm. Many sites saw up to a 30% drop in traffic to some of their posts following the update. The worst fluctuations were noticed between 12-14 December. Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable named the update Maccabees in recognition of Hanukkah and the webmasters’ community followed on.
While it is still not a major update, it did impact many sites. For businesses relying solely on SEO, it is a big deal. The change is highly selective. Where affiliate sites have seen a severe drop in rankings, eCommerce is hardly affected.
A key trend highlighted in further research shows that the sites that targeted multiple keywords permutations on different pages were the ones facing the worst hits. For instance, if a travel site had multiple pages with similar content to target keywords like, ‘trip to Colorado’, ‘cheapest trip to Colorado’, ‘package trip to Colorado’ etc. then these all pages were de-ranked. If you are using the same strategy, then it is time to move to genuine content creation. The sites with relevant content for different keyword permutations didn’t suffer because of the update.
2. Longer Meta Descriptions and Snippets:
This might not be breaking news for many webmasters. In case you missed it, Google has officially increased the length of meta descriptions and featured snippets. It was a popular nomenclature to adjust the meta description between 160-180 characters. While the effects became noticeable on 22nd November, they became prominent in December. Although the meta description and featured snippets are now extending up to 300 characters yet, normally you will notice them between 250-280 characters.
This is both an opportunity and a threat to your site’s SEO. With an increase in the length of meta description, the pages at the lower end of the search results will see much less traffic. The top pages will gain more real estate on the results page, thus enjoying a better click-through rate.
The good thing is that many have yet not updated their meta descriptions. This allows the early bidders to ensure a better click-through rate to their website by securing a larger portion of the search results. If you haven’t updated your descriptions, then you must do it as early as possible.
3. Knowledge Graph Eating Up Featured Snippets:
According to the MOZ report from the analysis of 10,000 keywords, the Featured Snippets have shown a growth of over 16% over the period of two years. Before the last few days of October, everything seemed normal. Then Brian Patterson and Chris Long on SEL noticed a sudden dip. In about 4 days, a 10% drop was seen in searches with Featured Snippets.
What happened was that these snippets were replaced by Google’s Knowledge Graphs. A lot of high traffic keywords observed a knowledge graph from Wikipedia that focused on the topic. This may be noted as the bursting of the bubble here.
These keywords included a wide range of variations. ‘HDMI cables’, ‘Halloween costume’, ‘credit score’, ‘ovulation’ etc. all saw such changes in search results. It is evident that the change is a kind of universal and does not show a specific trend or correlation. Even some brand keywords like ‘Ray-Ban’ were affected. We can’t do anything about it, but it can explain the reduced traffic from high-volume keywords (if you had any).
I too have noticed some changes in the traffic to the sites that I manage. If you think high-volume that there are any other reasons for changes in traffic to multiple sites, then please let me know in the comments.