Guidelines from Google.

Guidelines from Google.

In a series of posts on the Google Search Central Blog, Google announced recommended best practices, distilled into 3 key steps for business owners:

1. Businesses needing to pause operations – don’t remove any content.

Guidelines from Google.

If your business needs to pause, it’s best to avoid taking down any pages or content, this will have negative impacts on search performance in the future. If your site has shopping cart functionality, simply disable the cart and leave the rest of your content visible to both Google and users. If your site doesn’t have shopping cart functionality and you need to pause operations, don’t remove any pages, and instead leave a small notice as described in the following section.

2. Businesses still operating – create a site-wide notification.

If your business is operating with different conditions, such as different trading hours or extended delivery times, Google’s recommendation is to put a brief notice on your site in the form of a small popup or notification bar. Popular software includes Hellobar or Optinmonster, easy to set up in under 30 minutes… Business as usual? Still a good idea to do the same, and link to a page outlining your new practices for keeping customers and employees safe. Make customers understand how you’re handling the situation and how they can continue doing business with you.

If you use a popup or notification bar on your site, make sure it follows Google’s best practices as covered in the earlier section “Google’s Interstitial update – A.K.A. “Death to mobile popups.”

If you’re experiencing business as usual, it’s probably a good idea to use social and email channels to let customers know how they can safely do business with you. It’s also a good idea to update any structured data on your site where relevant.

3. Don’t take down your site or any pages.

Taking down your site or pages is a big no and Google made it clear doing so would make it difficult to recover traffic at a later stage.

If you want to read up on the official documentation in full detail, check out the following link.

Pause Your Business Online – Search for Developers

Overall best practices for handling marketing during a crisis.

1. Change your tone.

Right now, it’s safe to say, everyone’s going through a difficult time—including your customers— if you’re unsure, it’s a safe bet to assume so. Overly cheesy marketing making light of a serious situation, will probably fall flat. The best approach is to communicate to customers you’re taking the crisis seriously.

2. Scale costs smartly.

During crisis mode, when sales are getting low, it’s a common urge for business owners, executives or marketers to take a sledgehammer to their expenses—with marketing often one of the first items on the chopping block. This is a risky move, making it difficult for the business to emerge after the crisis. In the words of the godfather of advertising, David Ogilvy:

“Studies of the last six recessions have demonstrated that companies which do not cut back their advertising budgets achieve greater increases in profit than companies which do cut back.”

If you need to cut costs, do so intelligently. Following are examples of common expenses easy to scale back:

– Have a handful of subscriptions you only use once every blue moon? You can probably pause those for a month or two, or request a cheaper price.

– Paying hefty hosting fees and traffic’s lower than usual? Temporarily downgrade your hosting to a smaller package, and later when traffic picks up, upgrade your server again.

– Use the detailed reports provided by Google Analytics and Google Ads to laser in on low-to-mid range performing ads and pause them, and keep high performing ads running.

– Open a dialogue with your supplier on how to safely scale down marketing temporarily—instead of pulling the plug completely, making it difficult to recover later.

Being human, we have a natural tendency to accumulate expenses and subscriptions like unwanted receipts and parking tickets, there’s always plenty of unnecessary expenses we can opt out of. Instead of putting your marketing at the start of the chopping block, put it at the end.

3. Invest in the future.

Ultimately, companies that emerge winners after any crisis aren’t the ones stuck in survival mode the whole time. It’s companies who double-down on innovation and invest in new capabilities.

Need to get a better grip on social media or video marketing? Now’s the time to invest in training and learning. Need to build up followers on social media? Advertising costs on Google, YouTube and Facebook are at all-time lows. Looking to streamline operations with automation software or moving more operations online? Set aside a week or so and do research on new software and how it can fit in with your business. Now is the time to double down on innovation, learning new skills and building for the future—guiding your company through a difficult time and emerging stronger.

Where does SEO fit in with all this?

Like all marketing, it can be a difficult time for SEO, but not entirely. In many ways, with the longer lead times associated with SEO than other marketing channels, it’s not a bad time to be doing SEO. While sales and link outreach response rates may be down temporarily, you can continue building SEO by focusing on the following areas:

– Updating your keyword, competitor and market research.

– Technical site audits, optimizations and improvements.

– Creating content plans and outlines for blog posts for the future.

– Improving the load speed on your site.

– Improving the user experience and mobile support on your site.

– Improving trust factors, privacy policies and terms and conditions pages.

Work on the above areas and hit the ground running when business is back to normal. If you work hard enough, you could find yourself running ahead of competitors.

Google’s January 2020 Core Update

On January 13, 2020, the Google Search Liaison team jumped on their Twitter megaphone to announce the “January 2020 Core Update”, in a move to be more open and transparent about search engine updates. When site owners asked what to do about it, they received closed and ambiguous statements along the lines of, “there’s not much to do besides focusing on improving content quality and providing a better user experience”…

Fortunately, ambiguous statements don’t sit well with the professional SEO community, a ragtag group of analysts with a burning itch for getting to the bottom of how search engines work. So once again industry analysts pulled their sleeves up, did a deep dive into the data and uncovered the following insights…

Sites affected by the January 2020 Core Update.

– The update generally appeared to be an adjustment to the E-A-T, or trust, part of the algorithm.

– Niches hit included health and pet health sites, specifically those without a very high level of authority on the topic being discussed. Want layman’s terms? Authors pretending to be experts on sensitive topics when they aren’t qualified.

– Sites with heavy use of display advertising above-the-fold, and light on valuable content, were also affected.

– Sites with affiliate links embedded in content without making the financial relationship crystal clear to readers.

Action steps if affected by the January 2020 Core Update.

– Look over site traffic around January 13, 2020. If you see any drop-offs in traffic and rankings around this time, you could have been affected by this update.

– If your site is heavy on image advertising, dial down above-the-fold ads, ensure main content isn’t buried under excessive advertising.

– If your site relies on affiliate links embedded within content, make sure financial relationships are made unmistakably clear to the user, not buried in the footer of your site.

– If you’re blogging or writing about a sensitive topic, and you’re not making it clear to users or Google why you should be a trusted source, make your name, credentials and contact details clear (especially for financial and health-related topics). Follow the techniques in the Google’s Quality Guidelines section in the On Page SEO Chapter. If you need more details, check out Google’s official documentation on the updates below.

What Webmasters Should Know About Core Updates – Google

More Guidance on Building High-Quality Sites – Google

Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines – Google

Google’s May 2020 Core Update

May 4 is a very special day for many SEO technicians who choose to wake up at the crack of dawn, drape themselves with earth-colored robes, dust off their lightsabers and head outside to celebrate one of the most important days in the SEO industry—International Star Wars Day. Only in 2020, their hopes and dreams were shattered upon discovering Google had the nerve to release another broad Core Update on the very same day.

Once again, the hardworking folk in the SEO industry put their heads together to dig through the search rankings and look for clues, and they didn’t even have time to change out of their Star Wars costumes—myself included.

Sites affected by the May 2020 Core Update.

Industry analysts and Star Wars enthusiasts noted there wasn’t a single smoking gun in this update by Google. In other words, several parts of the algorithm were updated at the same time, making it difficult to pinpoint a single factor. However, there are commonalities between sites affected…

– The update appeared overall to be less focused on E-A-T factors and YMYL (financial and health) websites than previous updates.

– Sites negatively affected include websites with gray hat or artificially acquired links. Sites with organically acquired relevant links appeared to get a boost.

– Other sites affected include smaller sites with greater relevancy or expertise content getting a well-deserved boost when compared to bigger sites with less relevancy or expertise.

– Search intent also appears to be a factor in this update. In some cases, directory and recommendation sites appeared to get a boost for local business searches.

What to do if affected by the May 2020 Core Update.

With this update being broad and non-specific, it’s important to ensure you don’t fix things that don’t need fixing. Only progress through the following action steps if you see severe drop-offs in traffic and rankings within 2-weeks of May 4, 2020.

– Isolate specific pages affected by looking for traffic drop-offs in Google Analytics. Assess if the pages have link quality, expertise or relevancy issues.

– If you are a small business and you were affected by directory or aggregator type sites eating up your search results, you may need to target additional rankings by rolling out more content.

– If you don’t have link quality issues and are not affected by business directory sites gobbling up the search results—you may need to improve your websites overall expertise, authority and trust.

– To do this, follow techniques in the Google’s Quality Guidelines section in the On Page SEO chapter of this book. Google’s blog posts on Core Updates and Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines also provide recommendations, listed below.

– If you make any changes, wait until the next Core Update is live before reviewing changes. Google stated in its official documentation, remedies to Core Update issues won’t be reflected in search results until the next Core Update is released, generally every 3 or 4 months.

What Webmasters Should Know About Core Updates – Google

More Guidance on Building High-Quality Sites – Google

Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines – Google

Google’s December 2020 Core Update

While most business owners and marketers were dusting off their Santa hats for Christmas, the busy elves at Google HQ were working on a Christmas holiday surprise—another Core update. Fortunately, once again, the SEO community pulled up their sleeves to find similarities among sites affected.

Like all core updates, several aspects of the algorithm were updated at the same time. Which means, if affected by a core update, there isn’t one cause and it’s best to take a wholistic approach and improve your site overall. That said, read on for insights into sites affected and how to recover if affected.

Sites affected by the December 2021 Core Update

– Business and industrial, internet and telecommunications, and beauty and fitness industries experienced the most increases in search engine traffic and rankings.

– Online communities, shopping, and news industries experienced the most decreases in search engine traffic and rankings.

– Websites providing high-quality and relevant content appeared to get a boost in rankings, especially pages with specific content providing solid answers to user’s questions.

– Websites providing low-quality, generic and thin content experienced decreases in traffic and rankings.

What to do if affected by the December 2021 Core Update

– Look over your site traffic within 2-weeks of December 3, 2020. If you can see significant changes in traffic or rankings, it’s possible you’ve been affected by this update.

– Review your content strategy and old content. If you have a large amount of low-quality, generic type content, you may need improve your content so it provides more value to users.

– Complete a technical audit on your website. If your site has lots of technical issues, it’s possible Google might view your website as providing a poor experience for users. Examples include 404-errors (links to dead pages), pages with aggressive pop-ups and ads (especially on mobile), and pages with slow load times. Review techniques in the on-page SEO chapter, and the SEO checklist, for examples.

– Remember, core update remedies require a wholistic approach and likely fixing several areas on your site. Read official documentation by Google and consider hiring an SEO professional if your site has high traffic and was hit by this update.

What Webmasters Should Know About Core Updates – Google

More Guidance on Building High-Quality Sites – Google

Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines – Google

Google’s Page Experience Update and New Ranking Factors—The Core Web Vitals

Ever waited for a slow page to load on your mobile, moved your finger to tap where you want to go—and BAM—an annoying ad appeared under your finger and you’ve accidentally tapped to a page you never wanted to visit?… Annoying, right? Well, thank goodness Google decided to send the Page Experience Police to put an end to this ghastly behavior.

On the Google Search Central Blog, May 2020, Google HQ laid out the master plans for the “Page Experience Update”, a major upcoming update to the algorithm, which will include three new signals known as the “Core Web Vitals”, measuring user page experience.

Google announcing a change to the algorithm is rare. It’s time to sit up and pay attention when this happens. It is something that will affect most websites, an opportunity to get in early before competitors and get an easy rankings boost.

The update is scheduled to roll-out gradually in the middle of June 2021. The update will only apply to mobile devices at first, and desktop is scheduled to happen sometime in the future. But it’s a good idea to improve these areas for both mobile and desktop, if you have the resources. You’re going to have to do it anyway and you’ll be two steps ahead of competitors. Read on for details on taking advantage of the update to boost your rankings.