In just the last month, we’ve seen major changes in Google’s organic search results pages that are indicative of larger SEO trends we can expect to see in the future.
Because Google is constantly testing and changing its algorithm and organic search results, it’s incredibly important that your business stays on top of these updates in order to continue doing well in organic searches.
SEO Update #1: Panda 4.2 – July 17, 2015
What is Panda?
First introduced in 2011, Google’s Panda Update is a search filter that analyzes the quality of a website’s content. Websites with poorly written or spammy content will get filtered out of top search results.
So what changed in Panda 4.2?
Affecting about 2-3% of English language queries, Panda 4.2 is a slower algorithm roll-out that may take several months before it affects your website.
Google is basically re-analyzing your website content and seeing whether you have updated your content since the last update.
How does Panda affect my search rankings?
If not properly handled, Panda Updates can be extremely detrimental to a business’s online success. Recent studies have shown that organic search drives over 50% of all visitors to B2B and B2C websites.
Therefore, if your website drops from first page because of a Panda Update, this could severely decrease your online sales.
If your site has been hit by a previous Panda Update…
- Have you updated your content to be more user-focused? If so, you’ll probably see a boost in organic traffic within the coming months.
- If you left your content as is, then you’ll either continue to see the same amount of organic traffic – or less.
If you’ve never been hit by a previous Panda Update (that you know of)…
- Your content is probably great and Panda 4.2 will not affect you. If anything, you might see a slight boost in Google organic traffic, as there will probably be a reshuffling in the top search positions.
- You might have escaped the previous Panda Update, and if that’s the case, it’s best to consult an SEO agency to analyze your content and user metrics. This is the best way to create a sustainable content strategy that will benefit from all future Panda updates.
SEO Update #2: Local Snack Pack – August 7, 2015
In early August, Local SEO saw the biggest shake-up since Pigeon, the last local algorithm update which happened just over a year ago.
The biggest change to local search? The Snack Pack.
What is the Snack Pack?
Specific to local searches, the Snack Pack is a listing of local businesses in page 1 of Google’s organic local search results. It typically appears for businesses in the entertainment, recreation, travel, and food categories.
What changed in the Snack Pack?
Before, when you searched for local business like “Cleveland car dealers,” you would get a result like this: a list of 7 local businesses with their websites, address, telephone number, reviews, and Google+ page.
Now, when you search with the same query “Cleveland car dealers,” you get this instead: a list of 3 local businesses with store hours but no exact address, phone number, Google+ links, or reviews labelled “Google Reviews.”
When you click on “More car dealers,” you are directed to another page, where you get more local businesses but still no exact information. It’s only when you click on one of the businesses that you get more information, such as the exact address, phone number, reviews, etc.
Why did this change?
As mobile usage continues to grow, Google changed their desktop local search interface to look the same as the mobile screen, with the same information displayed. The only difference is that on mobile, you can call the business directly from the organic search result.
Currently, Google is also testing out sponsored ads on local searches. They’re only showing these sponsored local ads for people searching for plumbers or locksmiths in San Francisco. However, if/when they do roll out nationwide local 3-pack ads, Google’s local search results page will be even more competitive.
How does this Snack Pack Update affect my business?
This latest update from 7-pack to 3-pack is a huge change. If your business isn’t in the Top 3, you don’t just lose visibility on organic searches; you also lose valuable branding opportunity, click-throughs to your website, and phone calls from search.
Since Google is still testing out the Sponsored ads, it’ll be a while before businesses enter the paid local search. In the meantime, business owners should work on their local SEO strategy to remain in (or break into) the top 3 search results.
Is your SEO strategy working?
Regardless of whether you were affected by these SEO updates, you should still be analyzing your current SEO strategy and how it fits into your larger marketing plan.
Remember: SEO is merely one component of online marketing.
There are many factors that influence online purchases– some which are not even SEO related! This is why we always recommend an integrated digital marketing approach. To focus only on SEO will prove just as detrimental to your online sales as an unexpected algorithm update.
Therefore, the safest and most effective way to keep your rankings high and your website traffic consistent is to also utilize other best digital marketing practices, such as:
If you treat SEO as just one tactic in an overall digital marketing strategy, your organic SEO will inevitably improve because both people and search engines will recognize your business as relevant and reputable.
This holistic approach is sometimes called Inbound Marketing, and it is much more effective than one-off solutions or quick fixes because it drives consistent, relevant leads to your business by offering value.
So, if these latest SEO updates hurt your search ranking, it might be time to try an audience-centered, quality-focused approach that uses SEO as a tool to complement an overarching strategy – not as an all-encompassing solution.