Google Algorithmic Changes that Rocked January

SEO

Something that digital marketing always need to watch out for is Google’s process of launching updates, some of them core updates and others that are minor and often unannounced. With the start of the New Year, Google again got to work with its algorithm updates.

The Early January Update

On January 5th and 6th there was an update noted that continued through the 9th. Google does sometimes have fluctuations in search results from hour-to-hour or day-to-day, but this was extreme. The fluctuations were such that a website would rise up to no. 2 in SERPs ranking for the usual keywords one day and then drop all the way to 10th or below the next day. Conversely, a site which ranks 12th or so could suddenly jump to 1st.

While the SEO community was discussing this, the various ranking tools did confirm the shifts felt in the Google search results. Fluctuations were particularly noticed in long tail referrals, based on the forum discussions mentioned in Search Engine Roundtable, as mentioned below.

Google

What the Tracking Tools Said

Here’s how the tracking tools reported the changes, as Search Engine Land reports:

SERPMetrics

Google Algorithmic

SEMRush

Google

RankRanger

Google

Focusing on January, these tracking tools show volatility increasing from around January 5 to January 8, 2019. But Google hasn’t confirmed this update, and indeed Google makes plenty of updates and not all are broad core updates. The small updates aren’t always announced.

Based on what these results tell us, the algorithmic update was an impactful one. The New Year had just started and the updates kept coming. This early January update is reported by SEO analyst Sean Si to have targeted certain industries in particular. Websites in the automotive sector, those that deal with pets and animals, some government and law websites as well as sites in the food and drink industry seem to be affected. This is somewhat similar to what the Medic update of 2018 was targeting.

The News Update Later in January

Following this update, news publishers saw their sites and blogs targeted by an update whose effects were felt by the start of the third week of January 2019. News sites and blogs belonging to different niches were affected. On January 16 Google did seem to acknowledge the presence of an update, in the form of some advice on Google’s Webmaster Central Blog to news sites to help them get more success in 2019 in the Google News search.

On deeper observation it is revealed that news sites that were rewriting content or taking material from other sites – a practice referred to as scraping content – were being affected by the update. In the blog post too, Google recommended against rewriting content or borrowing it from other sites. So, the algorithm update noticed in the second week of January was perhaps targeted at news sites that followed these practices.

Some of the news and other sites that were affected, according to the Algoroo algorithm tracker were 5starshandyman.com, Macys.com, Techcrunch.com and even CNBC.com. Along with news sites, we saw some retail sites too affected by this news update.

Google’s Crackdown on Duplicate Content

As Google mentions in its Webmaster Central blog, this is part of an effort to crackdown on “duplicate content”. The advice to block rewritten and scraped content was included under this category in Google’s blog post. It stated that Google News intends to reward original and independent “journalistic content” by crediting “the originating publisher”. Google News therefore ensures that duplicated content that is “scraped, rewritten, or republished” does not perform better than the original news content.

Among many other factors, Google also clarified its repugnance towards practices such as impersonation of any organization or individual by news sites, concealing primary purpose or ownership, link schemes such as major “article marketing programs”, and engaging in coordinated activity with other sites or accounts.

So January did have its fair share of activity. It isn’t always that Google announces its algorithmic updates, and ensuring your website is user-friendly, authoritative and high quality with content optimized for conversational search phrases and long tail keywords can help you stand firm. An experienced Long Island SEO company can help you weather the algorithm update storms.