Each year Google changes its search algorithms approximately 500 times. However, not all of these changes are very large and most of them will not have a huge impact on SEO. This does not mean that you should not be aware of these changes and how they could affect your SEO strategy.
The Last Major Google Algorithm Change
The last major change to Google’s algorithms came in October 2016 when the second phase on Penguin 4.0 was rolled out. Penguin is now a part of the core algorithm that is used by Google to rank sites on the search engines. There were 2 phases to the roll out with phase one offering a gentle introduction to the new Penguin algorithm.
What Is Penguin 4.0 And How Does It Affect SEO
Penguin 4.0 was created to target the black hat link strategies that some webmasters were using to manipulate the search rankings. The new algorithm will look at known black hat techniques and penalize the websites that are found using them. There are some other changes that came with Penguin 4.0 as well.
These other changes include Penguin data refreshing in real time which means that any changes made to the site will be indexed. Penguin will also devalue spam and adjust the search rankings accordingly. This will relate to the spam page only and not the website as a whole.
The real time updates of Penguin are helpful for SOE practitioners because you will be able to quickly see what the effects of link removal are. Some experts in SEO state that the use of Penguin may make it easier for people using new domains when starting their website. In previous algorithms, a domain with prior link history would give you a better shot at ranking.
If you are focused on building links instead of a presence on the internet then the Penguin update will impact your rankings. It is recommended that more effort is placed into content and organic link building instead. Targeting your market through social media and paid searches will also help if you have been hit by the update.
The Last Minor Update By Google
So far in 2017 there has been one update to the Google algorithms, but is not a major change to the core algorithms like Penguin was. The update was rolled out on January 10, 2017, and is called the Intrusive Interstitial Penalty. This update is targeted toward mobile search rankings and is looking to punish websites with aggressive interstitials and pop-ups which are causing problems for mobile users.
The update will not impact any desktop sites, but if you have a mobile site then you will need to check this. The bad mobile interstitials that will be targeted include pop ups that cover the main content of the page when a user has navigated to the page or is reading through the content. If a user has to dismiss the standalone interstitial before accessing the main content this will also be penalized.
Google announced back in August 2016 that it will begin to devalue web pages in mobile search with intrusive interstitials as of January 10, 2017. Going forward, Google recommends using interstitials on mobile pages that only take up a “reasonable” amount of screen space.
Here is an example of what Google considers to be “intrusive”:
Google gave site owners plenty of time to prepare for the update, but in case you have not yet done so, I have rounded up 10 pieces of expert advice that will ensure your web pages are not affected by this penalty.
How to Avoid Google’s Mobile Interstitials Penalty
Advice from Google
The first piece of advice comes from none other than Google itself. Here’s how Google defines the penalty:
“To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”
Takeaway: Content on the pages you have indexed in mobile search must be readily available when a user clicks through to the page from Google.
Be Honest With Yourself: Do Your Pop-Ups Serve a Purpose?
Ben Silverman from Brafton Marketing shares this advice:
“The easiest way to avoid the mobile interstitial and pop-up penalty is to think like Google, whose main objective is to make the internet more accessible, browsable, intuitive and honest, especially for mobile browsers. This means there are some exceptions to Google’s pop-up policy: If yours serves a real, honest purpose, chances are you’ll be okay.”
Takeaway: Some pop-ups are still acceptable if they are either required by law, such as age verification, or if they don’t detract from the main content on the page, such as a small banner at the top.
Hiding Content With Ads is Now Against Google Guidelines
The Verge shares this advice:
“For the most part, Google is targeting overlays that gray out the content beneath them to prevent you from reading a website, either for a few seconds or until you find and very carefully tap a little X to dismiss them.”
Takeaway: Publishers may not be happy about this, but ads that are displayed over top of the main content are no longer acceptable. This includes ads that appear when you land on a page, as well as ads that appear as you scroll down a page. There should be no barrier preventing a user from reading content on the page at any time.
Ad Publishers Need to Adapt and Look Into New Strategies
HubSpot’s Senior Product Marketing Manager, Marcus Andrews, shares this advice:
“…if they haven’t done so already, marketers solve for mobile SEO first. The pain that comes with changing a revenue model is inevitable, but shorter-term – and businesses that rely on advertiser dollars, should figure out ways to make money that don’t totally disrupt the mobile user experience.”
Takeaway: Removing revenue-generating interstitials might hurt at first, but losing organic search traffic could hurt even more. Therefore, site owners must adapt and look for non-intrusive ways to generate revenue.
Develop a Content Marketing Strategy for Generating Revenue
Sitepoint shares this advice:
“The consistent creation and distribution of relevant content attracts users without beating them with a hard-sell stick. Use content—including blog posts, round-ups, guides, videos, infographics, and more—to educate audiences and guide them through the buying process.”
Takeaway: Since the goal of Google’s interstitials penalty is to make content more accessible, use that to your advantage. Develop a content marketing strategy to sell users on your products and services, rather than intrusive pop-up ads.