It’s been a busy few months in the enigmatic and glamorous world of Google search engine algorithm updates. Google has quietly announced or released a number of new patches in the past few months and now the entire SEO world has been looking for the effects of the updates.
Keeping in mind that the nature of decoding SEO updates is inherently speculative, let’s dive in and see how some of the recent changes might be affecting your site…
1. Meta Description Expansion
According to industry authority Moz, back in the spring of 2015 the long-held 155-character cap for meta descriptions started to waver. Little by little, the average length of displayed meta descriptions started to increase and it became evident that Google was testing displaying longer meta descriptions. By the end of 2017 the data showed that, with a few exceptions, the 155-character limit was now indeed dead. Moz now recommends a 300-character limit, a great relief for anyone who has ever tried to write strong meta descriptions in a stifling 155-character count.
The character limit change is a great opportunity to revisit and expand upon meta descriptions on your core pages. We recommend starting to draft longer meta descriptions that both expand the keyword focus and act as a piece of value proposition defining text. As Moz explains, “For critical pages, writing a good meta description is like writing ad copy — there’s real value in crafting that copy to drive interest and clicks. There’s no guarantee Google will use that copy, and that fact can be frustrating, but the odds are still in your favor.”
2. Keyword Permutations
According to research from SEO expert Barry Schwartz, it appears that part of a Google’s December update entitled Maccabee was aimed at devaluing sites with large quantities of landing pages that systematically target every possible keyword permutation. This suggests that Google has found this practice is being endemic of primarily lower-quality sites aimed at creating an artificially large keyword net to drag in traffic.
This practice is somewhat similar to the old practice of ‘Keyword Stuffing’ whereby content was awkwardly drafted to include the highest density of keyword and keyword permutations possible in an attempt to trick earlier and more primitive search engine algorithms into thinking the content was of high value.
Mr. Schwartz points out that the sites that are being penalized are sites with, “tons and tons of landing pages targeting massive arrays of keyword permutations. So for example, if they are a travel site, they would target all the destinations they service and also add landing pages for [destination sub name] + [activity name] and sometimes even go beyond that. If they were a service business, they would target [city name] + [service A] and then [city name] + [service B] and so on. There were many styles and types of sites doing this across blogs, travel, e-commerce, directories, and more.”
Due to this patch, we recommend altering any SEO strategy that relies on creating a large number of landing pages for the same service or offering.
3. Mobile Speed Update is Imminent
It should come as a surprise to no one that Google continues to put the squeeze on sites with slow mobile load speed. Google announced that starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for all mobile searches. Google claims that this update will be aimed only at sites with the very slowest mobile load speeds, but it should serve as another wake-up call for everyone with sub-par mobile load speeds. Furthermore, Google noted that there would not be a ranking boost for fast load speeds, only a downgrade for the slowest.
If you’re worried about mobile load speed (and pretty much everyone should be), we recommend regularly using Google’s own PageSpeed Insights tool. The tool gives not only a general prognosis on mobile load speed, it provides individualized recommendations on speed-improving optimizations.
Conclusion and an Evergreen Strategy
Keeping up to date with Google’s technical SEO is very important for any business that relies on organic traffic. As more and more SEO tricks and hacks are outsmarted by Google, it’s important to remember the golden evergreen SEO strategy. From the start and forevermore, Google’s long-term strategy is to deliver the most relevant and highest value results for every single search query. Each technical or structural update in Google’s search engine algorithmic structure is an attempt to improve the quality of results.
Therefore, your long-term SEO strategy should always be to be the most relevant and highest value website for the keywords you’re seeking to rank for. Work to create a website and web content that is better than your competition. Always seek to provide value for your users/readers with a combination of high-quality information and resources. Go forth and rank!