Sometimes, no matter how hard we work, things go wrong or just don't go the way we had planned or hoped.
Even one of the biggest companies on the planet can sometimes have an off day and get things wrong.
For those of you, that know a thing or two about Google and Algorithms, will know that Google updates it's algorithms all the time. According to the website Moz, Google updates it's algorithms hundreds of times per year with an incredible 3234 updates made in 2018 alone!
In SEO, we see rankings of websites move around all the time and this is the joy of SEO, it keeps us on our toes and keeps us learning about SEO every single day.
If you see rankings jump up or slide down there is always a multitude of reasons why, and finding out why is half the fun.
Ranking changes could be due to -
Changes to your website
Changes to other competitors websites
Changes to links pointing to your website
Changes to links pointing to your competitors' website
Google/Search engine algorithm updates.
Websites and algorithms are constantly changing and updating all the time and therefore so do the search results that are indexed and ranked.
Unless you monitor all of your ranking keywords and pages, and all of your competitors ranking keywords and pages, it's often very difficult to pinpoint why the rankings of a website suddenly change.
However, one thing that is fairly common, is that if Google makes a big algorithm update, the SEO community will be talking about it. If you know any of us SEO geeks, then we actually get quite excited by changes to Google's algorithms, especially when they are big.
To be honest, personally, I feel gone are the days of game-changing algorithm updates like Penguin and Panda, as Google has now got a well-oiled machine and makes tweaks and changes on a daily basis with a system so slick, that updates so regularly, that these updates go completely unnoticed. Whereas ten years ago, so many people were gaming the system and spammy tactics worked until Google got wise and developed an algorithm to combat people gaming their system.
However, on the 10th of August 2020, chatter amongst SEO's got rather excited as many websites and SEO agencies saw huge traffic shifts. This is a typical reaction to any previous Google update but things seemed different, with many people claiming that low-quality sites were ranking much better than quality websites and even big brands were struggling to rank for their own branded keywords?
When rankings change suddenly, it is a hot topic for SEOs. If you base your business model solely on sales and revenue from organic search and that suddenly disappears, it can be a complete disaster for many businesses.
Many SEOs see gaining traffic via search engines like a game. Some slightly more black hat SEOs, who gain lots of rankings from less than savoury methods in Googles eyes, can see huge ranking movements when search engines make an algorithm change that tackles that particularly overused tactic.
What is Black Hat and White Hat SEO?
For anyone that isn't a geeky SEO like myself, let me explain a little further.
Fundamentally, there are two types of SEOs, black hat and white hat.
Black hat SEO's tend to find tricks and tactics that work well within a niche, that often go against Google guidelines and abuse it entirely. This often works in the short term, and rankings are very often achieved.
However, you are at the mercy of those search engines and if you suddenly find an algorithm update targets that particular method you've been using to gain rankings, you can suddenly see all your rankings totally disappear. Known as a churn and burn tactic with many black hat SEOs starting new websites when old ones get caught out.
White hat SEOs, on the other hand, tend to abide by Googles guidelines and not use any get-rich-quick schemes to build search engine rankings, although it will take longer to get your website ranking well, it will also remain ranking well when updates are made to algorithms.
Google can and will ban you from their index.
Having worked in SEO for over ten years, I have seen so many examples of different SEO methods used, abused and penalised. Sometimes an SEO agency has been hired and the company hiring them doesn't understand enough about SEO to know what the company are doing and whether what they are doing goes against Googles guidelines. All the company sees is a top-level positive result, until one day it all comes crashing down.
A really good example of a website being affected by big search engine algorithm updates means rolling back 7 years to 2013 when the well-known mail-order florist Interflora got affected massively and was completely removed from the Googles search index.
In February 2013, Interflora suddenly stopped ranking for all their top-level keyword terms 'Flowers' 'Florist' 'Flower Delivery' etc and it was a huge blow to the company right before their main trading period of mothers day in the UK.
There was so much speculation within the SEO community about what Interflora had and hadn't done and everyone started to analyse their website and their backlinks and everyone had their own ideas on what they thought caused the complete removal of their website by Google.
One theory was that Google had updated its Penguin algorithm, an algorithm designed to target webspam and manipulative link building tactics.
If you started looking into the Interflora rankings drop, it suddenly became very obvious that they were panicking and quickly removing a lot of their recently built backlinks.
Interflora gave hundreds of bloggers free gifts in the return for links back to their website, cementing their chances of ranking number one for their main trading period. It was a tactic and it worked, right up until Google changed their algorithm to stop tactics like this working.
It seems as if Interflora gave bloggers free gifts for blogging about the site. - https://searchengineland.com/google-says-no-comment-on-why-interflora-was-penalized-149308
Except, when Interflora lost all of their traffic to their website from organic, Interflora was suddenly seen to be asking those same bloggers to start removing those newly acquired links, assuming that their aggressive link building tactics had landed them the removal from Googles indexes.
Another theory to the banning of Interflora was that they overzealously used advertorials within newspaper publications to build links back to their website.
"Interflora were exceptionally aggressive throughout January, preparing for Valentines, placing we estimate 150+ Advertorials on Regional News Sites all over the UK". - https://www.davidnaylor.co.uk/interflora-what-really-happened.html
David Naylor believed that Interflora was actually -
"being punished by Google for paying newspapers to publish advertorials on their websites with links back to Interflora".
"Interflora, paid newspapers to run stories which were only there to get links to improve their Google ranking,”
"Google doesn’t want people buying links to influence Google search engines, it makes a mockery of search." -
Building links from newsworthy sources is still a practice used today. However, it has changed a lot in the last 7 years. Now, if you pay for links within an advertorial they must be clearly marked as #ad #advertorial #sponsored and any links included will certainly be nofollowed. Interflora appeared to have built hundreds of paid links from newspaper websites and didn't declare that they were paid. This was seen as violating Googles webmaster guidelines and therefore a punishment was sort from Google.
A company shouldn't knowingly build hundreds and hundreds of paid links and hope that Google doesn't notice that you are trying to game the system. This is potentially a black hat SEO tactic and should not be favoured in the eyes of Google.
With Interflora completely removed from Googles search index, Interflora quickly went to task to undo the work that was done and after 11 long days were finely seen ranking back on Google.
Going back to the start of my article, talking about Google having a bad day. It was thought on August the 10th 2020 that there was another huge Google algorithm update that had affected websites on a scale not seen in years. SEOs were excited at what they were seeing and there was a lot of chatter about what might be going on.
However, within a few hours, Google actually announced that this wasn't an update at all, and in fact, it was actually a glitch with their indexing systems.
If something hasn't gone right for you today, don't worry, even huge big companies like Google have days where they have glitches.
Although, there's probably no other company in the world as big as Google that could make a mistake and it affects hundreds of thousands of other businesses.
If you need help with your SEO in Cornwall and want to have a chat about all things Google, algorithms, link building or rankings then do not hesitate to drop me a line.