This Week in SEO #114

Google Refuses to Admit There Was a Massive Algo Update in Early Feb

Historically, Google mostly (and eventually) confirms massive core algorithm updates.

Hell, this January they gave everyone a heads up BEFORE the update dropped:

February 11th (ish) there were some MASSIVE fluctuations, as reported by Algorithm tracking tools and individual webmasters:

Even MORE fluctuation than Jan 2020 core and featured snippet update!!

From SE Roundtable:

There may be a really big, maybe even massive, Google search ranking algorithm update going on right now. Starting on Friday/Saturday the chatter within the SEO community as well as the signals from the automated rank checking tools began to explode. Based on what I am seeing right now, I decided to post on the weekend as opposed to holding the story for Monday morning, like I would normally do.

People have been hammering Danny Sullivan @SearchLiason on Twitter with questions about this, but they remain oddly insistent upon not admitting anything:

The best response I’ve seen to this is from Dr. Pete:

This refusal to admit anything has a weird Pleasure From the Pain of Others vibe like the Comcast support staff and managers from that creepy South Park episode. It’s not a stretch to think of the Google team reading everyone’s hot take on the largely unacknowledged Feb Algo Update like:

Fresh Content Isn’t Always Better Than Older Content

When ranking pages, Google will use various different signals to understand the date it was published, but it is not necessarily the case that content that is fresher will be considered better than something that is older. This will be differ depending on the query and search intent.

A good video to check out if you are really focused on creating or optimizing content.

Basically, there are some niches where having recently updated content helps you outrank your competitors, like this search for “best toaster oven” where the top two (non-featured-snippet) results have been updated in January, and if you check back on this keyword, I bet that content and the date is updated once-a-month because Google values freshness here:

Compare that to “how to tie a tie” (ignoring the video featured snippet, which FYI was published in 2013 and a few other results that didn’t have a date present an important clue about the value of freshness in the SERPs, btw):

Not really a topic that changes drastically, you know… century to century, so no need to have absolutely fresh content here. Generally review-heavy topics seem to benefit from recurring freshness updates, but… check the SERPs, dawg.


Google Support for Review Snippets

Here is a new thing for you to obsess over: Review Snippets in Google Search Console!

Today we are announcing support for review snippets in Google Search Console, including new reports to help you find any issues with your implementation and monitor how this rich result type is improving your performance. You can also use the Rich Results Test to review your existing URLs or debug your markup code before moving it to production.

Just thought you should know.


A Study on the State of Search Intent

We recently surveyed over 500 respondents, aged 25-60, to find the answers to these questions:

What do searchers look for in the search results, and how accurately do those results reflect search intent?

Some interesting results here, like:

  • The majority of respondents are not receptive to ads in the search results. Most (85.2%) preferred to click on organic results, and 66.7% responded that if Google added more ads to the results, they would want to use the search engine less.
  • Written content is still king. Despite the growing emphasis on video and image production, 55% still prefer to see written content in the search results.

And this one, which is a soothing stat for you poor unfortunate souls not ranking #1:

Ranking #1 isn’t everything. Yes, ranking higher is better, but most respondents looked at more than three search results before deciding to click.

I’m not gonna reward IgniteVisibility’s hard work with spoiling ALL of the takeaways (though we DID link to them…) so I’ll stop giving away the highlights. Go check the post out yourself!

And yes, the sample size wasn’t huge, but it’s still more work then YOU’VE (probably) done in researching this stuff, so simma down na.

Also! If you’re looking for some link building advice, this post is a pretty great case study on publishing some VERY linkable content that will probably rank for various “SEO statistics” results in the future so when some big-ass media site is writing about search statistics for whatever reason, they’ll find this post, find a statistic, quote it, and link it. See how well it has done already (since Jan 30):


Something to Be Aware of If You Use WordPress

A word cautioning against changing the category of an already-published WordPress post, as it just breaks all your internal links and you have to change them manually.

Not a huge issue, but in a game where every little thing can matter, you might as well be aware of the little things you may not usually think about. Some smart thoughts here, recommend you checking them out if you run a site on WordPress.

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Sean Markey

Sean Markey

Obsessive consumer of SEO news and strategies, writes the This Week in SEO column. Loves playing drums and writing fiction. Bets you he can throw a football over them mountains.
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