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More Google Algorithm Changes Are On the Way According to Experts

We’ve seen an end to named updates to Google like Panda and Penguin since Google switched to a continuously running algorithm. However, Google can and does still update its algorithm.

More Google algorithm changes are on the way, according to experts, though the company isn’t as willing to tell us what they are doing for fear others would try to game the changed ranking system. Let’s look at how Google has changed recently and will continue to evolve for the foreseeable future.

Featured Snippets

Google considers its customers to be the searchers, not websites. This is why it is altering its algorithms to reward sites with featured snippets, though it is your responsibility to find a way to use the snippet as a lead-in to the rest of your content. The end result of these Google updates in favor of featured snippets is that they account for about a third of Google search results. When you take into account “short answers” like featured snippets, direct answers and rich answers, about half of search engine results show an answer immediately instead of taking someone to a website for the answer. Expect Google updates to increase the percentage of results that take these forms.

Featured snippets are what you want to dominate, since they have a link to the answer and you can design a featured snippet that gives a short answer while suggesting they click the link for a more in depth answer. Rich answers don’t cite sources, so you shouldn’t try to create content to answer these queries. Knowledge panels are rich answers that are shown to the right of the search results; this is an ideal location to have your business information come up in response to a local search.

When you are designing featured snippets, note that it almost never includes tables and charts, but instead rewards content and, sometimes, video. Many knowledge boxes, though, do include an image.

Keywords and SEO

Keyword stuffing has been penalized for a long time. Google now ignores page descriptions altogether for SEO purposes, though your potential visitors still read that information. One recent change in the Google algorithm is recognizing bolded words and those in italics as keywords, unless your content is clearly optimized for some other search term. Expect to see more changes to SEO as Google shifts from using keyword density to other factors. However, some SEO tactics remain just as valuable today, such as putting the key search term at the start of your title and referencing it several times in the content.

Conversational SEO

Conversational SEO, also called voice search or voice SEO, optimizes content based on the questions and commands we give information appliances. Conversational SEO already takes advantage of long tail search queries, the long questions we ask of our devices. Google’s artificial intelligence has become smart enough to remember the context of a conversation, such that when you’re asking about dolphins and then ask, “What do they eat?” it knows to reply that dolphins eat fish. As the artificial intelligence behind search engines gets smarter, expect to see more “quick answers” to these casual conversational queries. There has also been work done to build a “personality” into many information appliances so that it has rote answers when someone asks how the information appliance’s day was, what it likes or what it thinks of the owner.

Don’t Market Too Hard Beyond the Content Itself

The Google Fred update in early 2017 penalized affiliate sites. An earlier update penalized sites that contained interstitials, pop ups that block the content entirely or gray it out while asking you to sign up or take an action. From both of these cases, we can say Google is penalizing any site that tries to add advertising to the site separate from Google ads or use interfering call to action screens; its greatest penalties were for sites with both weak content and heavy advertising. In the future, it is likely the algorithm will start to penalize sites that use half page interstitials and those that wait ten seconds before popping up the signup screen.

This advertising is separate from text and pictures on the page, which are unaffected by the site except that Google updates have been increasingly penalizing “thin” content. If you have an ecommerce site, the content on the product page must be more than simply the same product name from every other website, serial number and model number. Describe how long it runs on a single charge, the ideal age range for the toy, how long the warranty lasts and what it covers. Don’t make the mistake of using a product template and only changing out the part and serial numbers, since this can result in a spam penalty from Google. Fortunately, you only have to vary about half the content to avoid this problem, and it is easy to get around by adding user questions with unique answers to the product page.

Mobile Friendly

Google has been rewarding mobile friendly websites for years. It is now ranking websites that are lean and mean, lacking the code bloat that causes many sites to take a long time to load on a mobile device. If your site is slow to load, it may not be crawled at all, making it almost invisible to searchers.

At a bare minimum, eliminate the streaming video on your site and host embedded YouTube videos instead. And, cull stock images on every screen; you can replace them with one or two high quality images that show the product in use.

Security

Google has not started penalizing websites that don’t have HTTPS unless it is a login page or processes financial information. However, many browsers put up warnings if you lack secure HTTP, so you’ll want to ensure that your website has a working SSL certificate. If you process payments, take the time to add security badges on the product pages and shopping cart screens so that people don’t abandon the shopping cart for fear it isn’t secure.

Given the priority users place on security, expect to see future Google updates penalizing sites that have had some sort of breach.

Conclusion

We can expect future search engine updates to increase the number of featured snippets and conversational SEO answers. How search engines determine search engine optimization will continue to evolve, and keyword density matters much less than where keywords are used. You need to improve the security of your website and eliminate advertisements beyond the content and images that sell the product or service itself. And, make certain your website is as lean and mean as possible so it runs quickly and error-free on every type of device.

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