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Google Maccabees: What It Means for You

Last month, Google rolled out some updates to their ever-evolving algorithm. While they say there was no single update, it is obvious that their search algorithm saw a shift around mid-December. Danny Sullivan, Google’s public liaison, called it a ‘general flux period’. But whether it is an update or a period of flux is irrelevant if it has negatively affected your search rankings.

The SEO community has dubbed this update Maccabees. The name originated from Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable and was named for coinciding with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. (I was mildly disappointed that the name didn’t refer to Google dropping the hammer like Judah ‘the Hammer’ Maccabee.)

So, we know there were some algorithm updating and volatility during this period. And Google again confirmed this fact to the Search Engine Journal, saying, “We released several minor improvements during this timeframe, part of our regular and routine efforts to improve relevancy.” So far, so good. But when you actually try to figure out just what the Maccabees update did things get a little murkier.

What Does It Mean?

Dominic Woodman did a deep dive into this latest update for the Moz blog – but still came up short of any definitive answers. So, what are we to make of this latest update? Short of getting into the extremely tall weeds of technical SEO, there is little we can say for sure. But any Google update is a good time to pause and take stock of the health of our websites.

Good practices are good practices, and building your site around honest, white-hat SEO tactics will never come back to hurt you. Google’s continued efforts to improve their algorithm are unlikely to shift courses overnight. Even as they make tweaks to improve relevancy in search results.

SEO Best Practices

So, how do you build a website that will stand the test of evolving algorithms? There are four ways to ensure that you won’t be hit hard by the next change: quality content, fast load times, a positive user experience, and clean links.

Quality Content

I’m a huge proponent of quality content. As Google’s machine learning continues to improve. It will get better at separating content that provides value from content that is just taking up space. Building your site around the highest quality content will ensure that you don’t get hit hard as Google gets better at matching searcher intent with informative answers.

Your first step should be to remove or improve any thin content of your site. First, look for pages with under 300-400 words. These should be beefed up with better and more in-depth content. Second, scour your site for content that is clearly just targeting search engine bots and rework it to appeal to real humans. And finally, make sure that all new content is natural, useful, and thick.

Site Speed

Google loves websites that load quickly – and to be honest, so do I. This will continue to be the case as Google shifts more toward a mobile-first index. While slow loading sites are an inconvenience on desktop, they are a killer on mobile. If you’re worried about site speed, you can run a free test at webpagetest.org.

As a general rule of thumb, shoot for a load speed of three seconds, but anything under five won’t hurt you. The test will give you information about your load speed – and what might be slowing it down. If you are looking to improve your speed, the easiest place to start is to ensure your images are not oversized. From there, you can worry about things like scripts and CSS.

Smooth UX

User experience is vital to converting customers – but it also matters to SEO. Nobody like a confusing, difficult page and that will increase your bounce rates and drop your rankings. User experience can be a more subjective measurement than site speed, but there are still ways to optimize it for SEO purposes.

The most important thing you can do, especially given Google’s latest messaging, is to remove disruptive advertising. Sites that have heavy pop-ups, auto play videos, and full-screen ads are all likely to see a decrease in their rankings. My best advice here: ask a friend to browse your site and see where they get stuck, frustrated, or confused and start by fixing those issues.

Dirty Links

No, not those dirty links. I’m talking about spammy, black-hat stuff here. This should be old news to anyone who pays attention to SEO – but I’m continually surprised by the continuing market for low-quality links. The short-term gain of low-quality links is questionable (at best) and the long-term results should be clear – penalties and lost rankings.

If you have bad links, they need to be dealt with asap. If you don’t have any, then don’t get sucked into a cheap link scam – it’s not worth it!

Play the SEO Long Game

Finding success in SEO requires patience. There are no shortcuts or cheats here. Instead, you’ll need to put in the hard work of crafting quality content, optimizing your site, and building honest links. If you’re sick of spinning your wheels trying to move up Google’s rankings, consider going with a professional SEO provider. Fusion Group USA has been around long enough to see trends come and go – and we’re still here. Instead of riding the latest wave, we build for the long-haul. Contact us today to see how we can help your business!

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