In episode 5, Mike King and Zach Chahalis of iPullRank discuss how your organization should respond to the frequent updates to Google’s algorithm.
Mike and Zach share insights on how SEOs should evaluate whether or not their site has been impacted by an update and what steps you can take to mitigate negative impact from happening with any updates in the future.
They also give their thoughts on whether these updates have any real impact on larger enterprise brands at all.
A lot of people when they hear an algorithm update is coming, they’re so quick to start changing things right away, but what a lot of people don’t understand is that Google’s a software company and it’s governed by the same things of any software company. And so in the case of Google search, it’s not just one team.
There are numerous teams that compose the Google search team. And so when there’s an algorithm update, think of it as like a release for any other software product. That release may be composed of a variety of components from various teams, and so they roll it out and then they may roll back pieces of it because they’re not happy with how it worked.
So I always tell everyone, wait at least two weeks before they start making any decisions. Wait two weeks until you even start doing any real meaningful analysis of what’s happened. Because more often than not, those dips may be temporary. And so acting too quickly, like jerking the wheel back and forth, you may end up doing something that messes up your site’s performance rather than fixing it.
I wouldn’t stop.
In theory, hopefully you’re not pushing something that’s extremely nefarious or poorly implemented to begin with. But that would probably be the biggest factor I would see of that having a negative impact, but it shouldn’t stop you from evaluating your site or improving your site.
Some of these algorithm releases from Google are taking weeks to push, right? You can’t completely pause your entire business to account for something like that. You should be operating as if the improvement or the change you’re going to make is going to be an improvement to your site and to your user experience.
So it shouldn’t have a negative impact in theory unless you’re doing something wrong, in which case you need to be rethinking a lot of things about your business strategy to begin with before you worry about pausing a site release during an algorithm push.
The best way to determine it is to layer a bunch of data. So pull your crawl activity, pull your visibility scores or however you’re looking at your rankings, pull your traffic, pull search volumes related to the keyword that you are ranking well for, because typically there is seasonality with search volume.
Just pull all the data that you can that’s related to organic search and layer it. We actually have a tool for that. The tool is specifically for that. And typically what we see is that there is a pattern, a big spike in crawl activity followed by a big drop in crawl activity and the subsequent drop in your visibility, which is a leading indicator, which then impacts your ranking or your traffic down the line.
So look at all of those things. And again, you’ve gotta look at them in context. You can’t just be like, “Oh, my rankings dropped. I must have gotten hit by an algorithm update.”
That could be just that your competitors have done more than you. So really it comes down to looking at all the data together in order to get a better sense of what likely actually happened.
My main point was gonna be the competitive landscape that comes into things. So just to expand on that idea real quick. So, a lot of times I see, and having been in the agency side of SEO for over a dozen years at this point, the amount of sites that I’ve worked with that freak out after an algorithm update.
“We started seeing fluctuations, what’s going on? We’re down a little bit.” It’s not that you were directly hit by an update, it’s that your competitor is doing something better now.
Either they got negatively impacted by an update before and they started fixing things and looking at things the right way, and now suddenly they’re doing better than you in some cases.
Or you might actually be going wrong with it and you went downhill. But always look at what the competitors are doing. Did they suddenly go up? Did you go down? Did you know it? It’s not just in an isolated bubble of just you, because you can’t say the algorithm impacted me if you’re doing the right things, but a competitor suddenly jumped ahead of you.
There’s other factors that play here.
Don’t be dumb, don’t do dumb things. Frankly, aside from Penguin and Panda, what algorithm update has made us dramatically change how we do things? If anything, these algorithm updates act as an opportunity for the SEO person to be like, “Hey, remember that thing I told you you should have been doing? Why don’t you do it now?”
So really from my perspective, it’s all about staying the course, making sure that you have strategic alignment that allows for your organization to be good at SEO. Continuing to create content of value, not just creating copycat content like most people are doing.
But also thinking about this concept of information gain, like what can you add so that it can support the diversity of results? Cause I suspect most of what Google is trying to do right now is give more diverse results. Especially with so much content being out there that’s saying the same thing as everything else.
I hate to say it, make great content, that’s all you really gotta do.
It might be blunt, but think actually do some things that are good for your site.
I hate to say best practices stuff, but continuing to improve your site, adding good content, improving your internal linking structure, cleaning up all your errors, adding structured data, doing all these things sets the proper foundation and it will prevent you, theoretically speaking from getting negatively impacted, specifically you from an algorithm update. Doesn’t necessarily prevent your competitor from doing better.
But if you are improving your site, adding content, going out to the keywords that you’re talking about and providing that good user experience, it’s almost a mute point, right?
That’s the thing is, I’ve been in the SEO game long enough. I’m implementing quality strategies for my clients. I’ve known people that ranked number one for this phrase, but suddenly got killed by this algorithm. Cool, well obviously you weren’t doing something very well or it worked momentarily and now suddenly you got bit by it and now you’re trying to figure out how to recover from it.
So there is kind of a little bit of a game that goes on there too. But as long as you’re kind of doing those right things and improving, it’s not something that you should be staying up all night thinking about.
I do think that’s true.
But you’ll also find that reflected in their authority. So it’s not like it’s this conspiracy.
I think this is also where entities come into play. I think this is also Google just trying to make sure that, again, you have the best search experience possible.
Former president of Google, he wrote the book and he said, the web is accessible, entities or brands or whatever is how you sort it out. So of course they’re gonna orient towards that because again, that’s how things are reflected in the real world.
So yes, it’s always gonna be that way, because again, that’s a good search experience.
From my perspective, I work with a wide variety of large scale e-commerce sites, enterprise level sites. The brand is always gonna be a factor, right? It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t fix the basics or up level your site.
It just means that you’re probably gonna be in a better spot than some mom and pop business that’s trying to make a website down the street.
I’ve worked with sites in the electronic space, for example, and I will say working with that site, they got away with a lot of things that were fundamentally wrong with their site because of the brand and who they were.
But then when they fixed those things that we identified during an audit, they started going up in the rankings. Now, there’s kind of that floor that they may not go below unless they’re doing something completely nefarious and get removed from the index for some reason. But, you’re still gonna have to do some of the things to beat the 800 pound gorilla in the room, for example.
I have been able to outrank Amazon, but it’s by doing more than just coasting along with this site because we’re a big brand. You actually have to up level that. You have to add structure data. You have to fix your errors. You have to add good content. You have to add internal linking.
You can’t just get away with it, but it sets you off to a good start point.
Title: Founder and CEO
Bio: An artist and a technologist, all rolled into one, Mike King is the Founder & CEO of the enterprise SEO and content strategy agency, iPullRank. Mike consults with companies all over the world, including brands ranging from SAP, American Express, HSBC, SanDisk, General Mills, and FTD, to a laundry list of promising eCommerce, publisher, and financial services organizations.
Mike has held previous roles as Marketing Director, Developer, and tactical SEO at multi-national agencies such as Publicis Modem, iAcquire, and Razorfish. Effortlessly leaning on his background as an independent hip-hop musician, Mike King is a dynamic speaker who is called upon to contribute to conferences, webinars, and blogs all over the world.
Title: Director of SEO
Bio: Zach Chahalis has over a dozen years of experience in digital marketing focused on developing and executing SEO strategies for Fortune 500 brands including Genuine Parts Company, GameStop, Michaels Stores, Sodexo, CoStar Group, and Global Payments Inc.
Zach also has experience working both agency-side and in-house with companies of all shapes and sizes ranging from local universities and regional home builders to national hotel groups and multinationals. Additionally, Zach leverages his experience and degree in business administration to develop data-driven marketing strategies beyond SEO, including developing several national loyalty rewards programs as well as leading analytics implementations and PPC campaigns for large brands.
Zach is also the co-founder of the ATL SEO organization.
Referree: Garrett Sussman
Title: Demand Generation Manager