On March 12th 2019, Google released a different kind of algorithmic update outside of their usual series of smaller, more incremental updates we are used to seeing. This update, officially called the ‘March 2019 Core Algorithm Update’ is a fix of sorts to the August 2018 ‘Medic’ update, but also a significant improvement for websites focused on ‘User Intent’.
To back it up a bit, Google’s August 2018 ‘Medic’ update mostly affected websites in the health, wellness, and self-improvement verticals, the so-called ‘Your Money, Your Life’ (YMYL) categories. YMYL services are often discretionary purchases that deal with your money or your life, wellness, fitness, well-being etc…
Google’s intent was to give searchers better, more accurate, information by forcing the use of higher quality source information. It’s the response given to tune out the proliferation of ‘fake news’. In our view, this was a small step in the right direction of forcing misleading or fraudulent websites off search results in some critical categories like wellness (IE – weight loss pills) and financial services (IE – payday loans).
The March ‘Core Algo’ update builds upon the August ‘Medic’ update by reiterating and weighting more towards 3 primary signals – Expertise, Authoritativeness & Trustworthiness (E-A-T). Coincidentally or not, this is also how Page Quality is determined for paid advertising keyword bids.
The Core update also expands the algo update to nearly all verticals, instead of just the highly sensitive YMYL categories. However, the healthcare category seems to be the most noticeable of a change. It’s safe to assume the goal here is to increase the qualifications for determining accurate and, ultimately, helpful information, away from inaccurate, and potentially hurtful information.
Low-Authority Pages Lose
An analysis by SearchMetrics showed that the March Core update affected niche sites the most. In the Search Metrics report, one hypothesis is that Google is looking to further increase its priority to user signals and search intent, to determine authority. This means boosting sites that have higher pages per visit, low bounce rates, and all-around better engagement once on the page. Niche topics that deal with a specific subject without a deeper connection to the core topics presented on the website will suffer the most from this update, as those topics can appear fragmented, opportunistic, and aren’t created within the expertise of the subject at hand.
The goal here is to use niche content to build upon a narrative, and create a story about your brand that each piece of content then supports. If you are a dentist, make sure your website content deals specifically with dental-related terms, not ideas, terms, and issues that are not really related.
This update makes older techniques like SEO keyword stuffing on a throwaway domain even more obsolete. Your brand must sweat authenticity!
How To Win From Google’s Update
Build Trust In Your Brand
We predict ‘brand experience’ to be the renewed focus in 2019 (as it was in 1960, 1980, etc…) However, the explosive growth in digital has led to a land rush in new ad space. This has often led to advertisers forgetting about the fact that digital should fit into an overall brand strategy, and not have the brand built around digital marketing. Sure, it worked for a long time, but after 20 years of data collection, the dominant search engines now have more of an ability to decide and select what they want to show. Your brand message, colors, look style, and feel should be on-point across all print materials and online graphics. The result should feel to the end-user like a seamless transition from the world in their phone to the world under their feet.
Follow The Quality Rater Program
Calling all book worms, this one is for you. The best way to win? Study and prepare! Crack open the 164 page quality guidelines document and get ready for a thrilling read! Inside you’ll find nuanced search engine ranking guideline updates that will just make the time fly by. Or you can do what you do well and let your marketing consultant study up and remain current on the latest digital marketing tactics.
Optimize For User Intent
Does my page do what my users think it’s supposed to do?
Think critically about this point. Does my site do what people think it should do…
Does my site easily navigate visitors to a centralized contact point? Can I book appointments online? Does my site customize the page to each user? Can I log in somewhere to view my records? If it can’t, is my customer expecting it? If so, it’s now a priority. If your competitors are making investments in the user’s experience, you should consider it as well.
Most of these issues deal with back-end website coding and may be very complex undertakings to organize and execute within the organization. Years of investment in specific strategies can easily and quickly become obsolete overnight if the goal isn’t to enable the end-user to take action on useful and accurate information. This is a rationale for our reasoning that we need to be flexible in our application of the marketing strategy. Both to fit the goals of the business but also to meet the changing needs of a search engine that changes the rules, without warning, overnight.
Digimatiq’s ‘future-proofing’ approach allows us to adapt our client’s marketing strategies in response to the constantly evolving rules around ranking expert, authoritative and trustworthy content that results in profitable website traffic. For more information on our approach or to get more information on Google’s latest update, contact us and set up a time to chat.