You may think that your website is absolutely perfect, and your web design team may assure you that it’s the finest website that they’ve ever created, but if visitors can’t find it, then it might as well not exist. And visitors will only discover your site if Google ranks it highly enough for it to appear on the coveted first page of its rankings – ideally, right at the top.
Search engine specialists employ a host of tricks and tactics to ensure that your site attains that coveted top spot, but as with so many things in life, there’s the right way of doing things, and then there’s the wrong way. So-called ‘black hat’ search engine optimisation uses shady techniques to achieve the desired results, and Google is determined to weed these out.
Google’s aim is to provide users with the best possible experience, directing them to ‘wholesome’ websites that fulfil various criteria to ensure that their codes of conduct are strictly adhered to. To achieve this aim, the company produces algorithms that update its rankings model. SEO experts must keep abreast of these changes to ensure that websites they are working on maintain their high rankings through thick and thin.
Google used to release algorithms with a fanfare of publicity, giving them names such as ‘Penguin’ and ‘Panda’, along with a breakdown of the features of the algorithm and details of how to ensure success in any SEO campaign. However, in 2017 Google seems to have moved the goalposts, releasing new algorithms on a more frequent basis with minimal publicity. This puts the onus on the website owner or SEO expert to try to assess whether or not their site remains attractive to the web crawlers.
On January 10th 2017 Google rolled out the Intrusive Interstitial Penalty algorithm, designed to reduce pop-ups and interstitials that mobile users find so annoying. The company gave advance notification of the impending update, but this was the last time that it made such an announcement.
February 1st saw the introduction of further algorithm changes, with a flurry of changes occurring at the beginning of the month. Web professionals are unable to ascertain whether this was a single algorithm updated rolled out over an extended period or whether it might have been a number of algorithms released within a few days of each other.
February 6th appears to have been a significant date for algorithm changes, although some web commentators believe that February 7th was actually the date of implementation. The confusion surrounding the event confirms that Google is keeping a low profile over announcements about changes.
On March 8th a further update was implemented, once again with no fanfare and no information forthcoming from Google about the purpose of the update. When queried about the lack of a name for recent algorithms, a Google employee referred to it as ‘Fred’, with the name quickly becoming a byword for unnamed algorithms. Web experts believe that it was designed to penalise websites that were more concerned with profit than user experience, but once again, the purpose of the update has had no official confirmation.
Clearly, the world of SEO is experiencing major changes, with the onus on web developers to ensure that sites comply with Google’s best-practice guidelines.