SEO updates in 2015: review

Google’s algorithm updates are about as unpredictable as the weather this winter, so we’ve shortlisted the most important updates from 2015 incase you missed them.

The mobile update

2015 was very much the year of becoming mobile-friendly. In April, Google released an algorithm update to increase the visibility of mobile-friendly sites, whilst those that weren’t suffered lower rankings.

Given that mobile has now overtaken desktop in 10 countries including the US and Japan, Google wants to offer its mobile users the best experience possible, and this will only become a bigger priority in 2016.

To make sure your business isn’t losing out on organic traffic, test the mobile experience of your site here and find out Google’s recommendations on how to optimise for mobile here.  You can also check out our blog post on how to beat the competition by improving your mobile strategy.

The quality update

2 weeks after the update actually took place in May, Google announced that there had been changes in how its search algorithm processed quality signals. This means that content of a higher quality is now rewarded with better rankings.

To benefit from this update, think about the following when writing new content:

·      Write copy that sounds natural, and do not start forcing in keywords for SEO.

·       Use as much copy as possible on each page; 400 words per page is a good benchmark.

·       Make sure that each page has unique content that is not shared on other websites. Copyscape is a good resource to detect if other sites are using your content without permission.

Panda 4.2

Panda is a series of Google updates designed to penalise low quality websites with duplicate content whilst improving rankings for higher-quality sites.

The latest update came in July, but will only affect 2-3% of search queries.

RankBrain

In October, Google announced that an AI system called RankBrain is the third most important signal out of hundreds when matching results to search queries. Annoyingly, Google won’t reveal what the first and second most important signals are.

RankBrain is able to work out the meaning behind complex long-tail queries, so that the results given are as helpful as possible.  For more information, check out Search Engine Land’s piece answering questions about the update.

What to expect in 2016

Penguin update

There has been a lot of talk about a major new Penguin update being released in the foreseeable future.

The first Penguin emerged in 2012 and aimed to uncover sites violating Google policy and spamming search results by buying links and stuffing keywords.

The new update will be a real-time update, which means that the algorithm updates automatically, and no longer needs to be done manually. In other words,

 if you are penalised but clean up your backlink profile, you can recover quickly and improve rankings before being hit too hard.

Clean up your link profile ahead of the new Penguin update by doing the following:

·      Remove bad or unnatural links pointing to your site.

·      Optimise the remaining links by assessing whether you have enough valuable links to rank well. If you don’t, think about building new links on high quality external sites.

 2016: The year of user experience

According to a number of SEO experts, updates this year are going to ensure that businesses are focusing on what’s most important for their audience.

Those who have a strong understanding of the entire customer journey and are useful to users by being there at the moments that matter will be rewarded with higher rankings.

You can find out more information on understanding the customer journey, by checking out our blog post, ‘Finding your way along the path to purchase.’

If you’d like advice on how to improve your organic rankings in 2016, please get in touch.