By Michael Bertini
In order to maintain website rankings, SEO professionals and digital marketers feel that they need to monitor when and how search engines are testing their algorithms in case of a permanent update that could drastically affect site rankings and website traffic, but how is that possible when search engines don’t like to talk about what they’re testing and how it’ll affect us? Over the years, I’ve learned a few tips that can help companies understand what to pay attention to when Google is testing and how to forecast the impact on site rankings.
Tip 1: How to identify there’s even a test
Google has a random testing sample that starts with big companies so if you’re a small business or a business in general and you want to identify when Google is making changes to the algorithm, one of the things you should be doing is tracking a major player’s ranking within your niche. For example, if you’re a small business and you sell clothing online, what you should be tracking is their rankings specifically for highly authoritative clothing websites and monitoring their backlink profile. Normally what you see when Google makes a change or is testing changes you’ll see major fluctuations in THEIR rankings but you’ll very rarely see a fluctuation when dealing with a site that doesn’t have much rankings to be begin with.
The best way to start is by selecting the top ranking websites and then creating a checklist on their website changes. Here are a few points to include:
- Competitor Rankings and fluctuations they increase in their keyword densities
- On-page changes:
- Keyword densities – the percentage of times a keyword or phrase appears on a web page compared to the total number of words on the page
- Meta descriptions – which are generally appear under search engine result pages and display a preview/description for a given page
- Backlinks profile – look at the websites that link to your competitors websites
Tip 2: Avoid immediate reactions
Many people ask how to react and lessen the risk but there are two things to keep in mind. First, changes don’t affect all websites. In fact, they usually only affect a very small group so we don’t advise companies to immediately react. Second, Google’s major updates haven’t strayed away from their original principles which are about unique, quality content and a good user experience. If you’ve already taken a proactive approach up to this point in keeping your SEO to Google’s standards, then you’ll be more than in a safe spot when Google updates or makes any small tweaks.
Tip 3: Know the importance of monitoring fluctuations
Ideally, you should always be monitoring Google’s algorithm because if you’re not, Google could be making changes that you’re not aware of and you suddenly lose ranking. For example, many years ago Google decided that bolding all the primary keywords on one page resulted in a poor user experience and thus penalized webpages that did this. If you missed the update, then your site risked losing authority and ranking.
With all that being said, the biggest lesson here is that even though SEO can feel like a mysterious world, the intents of search engines have always been clear and consistent: service site users with a great user experience and high-quality, relevant content. If you have that nailed down, then testing becomes more added knowledge than a cause for reaction.
Michael Bertini is a search marketing expert at iQuanti.