Adjusting to Algorithm Updates

Search engines are continually evolving. New functionalities, new technologies, and new ways of ranking websites are added to improve the accuracy and relevance of search results. Google, the search engine powerhouse, recently announced updates to its search algorithm. These updates will impact websites in many different ways, and may positively or negatively affect rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). SEO professionals need to understand these changes and how they might affect websites; in this article, we will discuss shifting rankings in the face of the December 2017 algorithm update.

Mobile Search Results and Schema Integration

SEO industry analysts do not have exact information on what was changed in the December Google algorithm update, but careful analysis of trends and site rankings have provided insights. Studying patent applications has also been a tactic that many experienced SEO professionals employ to gain an understanding of the algorithm and its updates.

First, mobile SERPs: for the past year, Google has indicated that it would steadily favor mobile-friendly websites over those that weren’t optimized for mobile computing devices. Among its recent announcements, the company stated that it would create a mobile-first index, displaying websites with mobile versions higher in SERPS than websites created for desktop environments. A analysis tool called SEMrush Sensor, tasked with observing and reporting on SERP changes, noticed that SERP volatility increased just before the December holiday, a departure from Google’s usual algorithm update model. Most industry categories saw these shifts in SERP rankings, with a particular emphasis on sectors such as automotive information, legal resources, and reference sites – three sectors that have not implemented mobile-friendly features to the extent of other markets. A few days later, other markets were affected in SERPs, this time impacting SERP rankings for businesses in the telecom industry, hobbies and leisure category, and home and garden resources. Once again, the biggest volatility was spotted in the mobile search space for these industry categories.

Next, integration of Schema.org markup language was another area that saw massive changes in search visibility. Schema is a metadata tagging vocabulary developed in a partnership between major search engine providers. This microdata can be added to a site’s HTML to help the search engines index and interpret content more accurately. It also enhances the description or “snippet” that appears below the URL and page title for a given site in SERPs. When Google rolled out its algorithm changes in December, sites that previously performed well in SERPs but didn’t have Schema markups in place suddenly found themselves losing ranking or disappearing entirely from page one SERPs. Site developers are scrambling to understand if this is a long-term change or simply a symptom of growing pains as the algorithm updates take their place with existing functionality.

Thoughts for SEO Professionals

It is too early to tell what, if any, things SEO professionals can do to stabilize search rankings for client web properties. Most analysts agree that beefing up mobile-friendly features and ensuring responsive page designs will go a long way in preserving performance on SERPs. Adding metadata tagging according to Schema.org markup is another way to help ensure good search visibility, and this tagging can provide a more relevant and accurate user experience in SERPs.

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