Google regularly changes and makes updates to the algorithms they use to filter out search results. The changes are made to keep search results competitive and make it more difficult to manipulate the results into showing pages that don’t accurately reflect what’s being searched for. These algorithm changes aren’t often announced or explained to the public and can result in sudden and unexpected increases or decreases to your site. SEO experts need to keep abreast of these changes and respond to them promptly to make sure clients are still getting the best results – that is to say, are still the top result – from google searches. There were plenty of changes made in 2019, too. Here’s what they were and what effect they may have on your business.
March 2019 Core Update: Broad Core Algorithm Update
On the 13th of March 2019, Google announced via its Search Liaison Twitter account that they had “…released a new broad core algorithm update, as [they] do several times per year.” This was the extent of the information regarding the update itself. There were no specific details given as to what that looked like in practice or the difference that it will make to website traffic. Websites that monitor search engine metrics paid attention to the trends and it was clear that the sites most impacted were related to health, particularly Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) websites. These are websites that provide quality information that can have life-changing consequences if inaccurate.
A survey of 500 sites found that the update did not appear to be targeting one particular issue on websites and that there was not one cure-all solution for sites that saw a decrease in traffic. According to Google, the best way to stay competitive with this new update is to continue to produce safe, reliable, high-quality content, saying “That’s what [our] algorithms seek to reward”.
June 2019 & Diversity Update
Unlike the March 2019 Core Update, on the 3rd of June google announced an update in advance of it being implemented. Similar to the update in March, however, the June update was very broad and no specific information regarding the nature of the update was given. Google’s Search Liaison Twitter simply referred to advice regarding previous updates, that is that there is nothing in particular for sites to ‘fix’ and that they wanted to avoid sites mistakenly trying to change things that aren’t issues.
The Diversity update was rolled out at the same time as the June Core Update but was an unrelated new feature. To maintain diversity, Google’s top search results will be limited to showing a maximum of two pages from one domain. Google noted that this is a flexible rule, and they may display additional pages (for example, from a subdomain) if they determine the content is particularly relevant to a specific search, or if the pages show sufficient variation in content across the domain. The Diversity Update had very little impact, both in terms of websites affected and how drastically they were affected.
September 2019 Core Update
Another Core Update from google was announced on the 24th of September just a few hours before rolling it out. Comparisons with the results of the June update showed that the September update had less of an impact on page rankings than the June update. According to sources such as RankRanger, the websites primarily affected were YMYL and travel-related pages, however other sources didn’t produce results that supported this finding.
October 2019 BERT Update
The BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) update was huge. Released on the 25th of October, the BERT algorithm is an open-sourced technique that aims to better understand longer and spoken queries. According to Google, it will affect 1 in 10 searches. A primary difference that BERT introduces is recognition of words within the context of a phrase: it looks at words in relation to the words that come before or after them, not just as a series of keywords. This means that people can use longer phrases or questions to search for specific information instead of trying to use keyword after keyword and hoping it will turn out the result they’re looking for. The update also applies to the snippets shown, not just search rankings.
The BERT update did not cause any significant fluctuations and there is little that can be done to optimize for it other than continue to provide high-quality content.
So what do these updates mean for you and your surgery’s website, and your business? Well, not a whole lot. Core Algorithm updates that affect YMYL websites may improve the standing of your website. These updates tend to impact sites that tout conflicting or misleading information. Google search is frequently updated and optimized so users get what they are looking for. Users don’t want their searches to return pages full of keywords that don’t answer their questions, so those pages are more likely to fall in rank. The primary takeaway is that the expertise, trustworthiness, and authoritativeness of your website will be favored by the algorithm and pushed higher in search results.
As for the Diversity update and the BERT update, neither should affect your website or business.
Navigating the changes that Google makes to its search algorithms can be confusing and frustrating – especially when Google doesn’t offer up explanations of what they do or the impact they will have. Surgeon’s Advisor understands these changes and has the expertise to ensure the ongoing success of your digital profile: regardless of the updates Google implements. With 17+ years of experience in delivering exceptional results, Surgeon’s Advisor is the professional digital marketing agency for plastic surgeons. Check out our SEO Information Page to learn more about Search Engine Optimization, and get in touch today to find out how Surgeon’s Advisor can advance the success of your plastic surgery business.