Transcript for Exploring the May Algorithm Update and How It Affects Your SEO – 101;
Caleb Baumgartner: Welcome to Local SEO Tactics, the podcast where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I am producer Caleb Baumgartner. And in this episode, Bob, Jesse, and Sue will answer a listener question about Google’s latest algorithm update. You’ll learn the importance of keeping up with current best practices in SEO to minimize the effect of Google algorithm changes on your rankings. If you have questions, let us know at localseotactics.com/questions. Thank you for listening, and enjoy the show.
Jesse Dolan: Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics, where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I’m your host, Jesse Dolan, here with Mr. Bob Brennan and Sue-
Bob Brennan: Howdy.
Jesse Dolan: … Ginsburg.
Sue Ginsburg: Hi.
Jesse Dolan: All right, Sue, Bob, and I were just talking, but that’s pretty good-looking background there. We always like to talk about this to kick it off. Where are you pretending you’re at today?
Sue Ginsburg: Today? I get to be virtually in Laguna Hills, California, and I am there because the question we are discussing is from a listener and well-loved client who is in Laguna Hills, California.
Jesse Dolan: Perfect. Bob, where are you at? We never asked you. We never ask you.
Bob Brennan: I’m in my closet at home.
Jesse Dolan: Perfect.
Bob Brennan: My wife has the key. I can’t come out until we’re done.
Sue Ginsburg: Today’s question is how does the Google mobile algorithm change affect our clients? And I’d like to introduce today’s topic with a reminder or a mention of something that… a change that Google made a number of years ago, which happened to be a major change, which is not always the case. But several years ago, Google changed their algorithm to only rank those websites that were mobile responsive. This was around the time where mobile was becoming more and more important and Google’s algorithm change clearly affect a lot of businesses, and they may not always be that major. This one was, and there was a quick rush for everybody to get their website mobile responsive because ranking with Google is what everybody wants to do.
Jesse Dolan: Yeah.
Sue Ginsburg: So today’s quote of the day, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future,” from one of my favorite presidents, John F. Kennedy. And I will add an addendum. Changes the law of life, especially when you’re talking about Google.
Bob Brennan: Yeah.
Sue Ginsburg: Who changes algorithms regularly, changes everything else regularly. And those of us in the online world have to admit we are beholden, is that the right word.
Jesse Dolan: That fits for this, yes. Very much.
Sue Ginsburg: So. Yes. What they do does matter. So today, we’d like to have this discussion and explain how a change in Google’s algorithms, in this case, a Google mobile algorithm change, can or does affect you and your business and or clients. And why is this important to discuss? Most business owners are not every day checking, “Did Google’s algorithm change today.” Unless you’re Jesse Dolan in the SEO business, or-
Jesse Dolan: Sure.
Sue Ginsburg: … some other people in this area, but-
Jesse Dolan: Have to.
Sue Ginsburg: … for both business owners, not SEO, that’s for the techno-geeks. They’re looking day-to-day at what they have to do. And I say that with great respect, a busy business owner has other priorities, and business owners need to know these things.
And it’s important that they have a way of getting to know those. So on this one, basically what we want to get you to, I guess. The result we want to get you to is you don’t need to be doing this yourself. Make sure that somebody on your team or your SEO provider or your online resource, whatever they are is keeping up to make sure that it isn’t a major one like this. And you don’t want to be checking your rankings and all of a sudden find you are not anywhere to be found, and that your competitors are because they were keeping up with this and you weren’t. So with that, I will toss the question to Jesse and Bob, what can you tell us about your experience and your insights on keeping up with Google’s algorithm changes?
Jesse Dolan: So I think, Sue, something you brought up there is important to set the stage for everybody. This mobile algorithm update, if you will. It was, I think, in the industry referred to it’s mobilegeddon if I still remember correctly.
Sue Ginsburg: Yeah.
Jesse Dolan: In their mobile-first indexing initiative was pretty major because, at that time, the whole technology or concept of making your website mobile responsive and mobile-friendly was pretty big shift. We’d all had static websites that look great on your desktop, your laptop, whatever, but then the whole concept of when it shifts to a smaller screen, it rearranges and all this other stuff, right. Pretty big change for companies to invest in things like that because better part of a decade, you maybe have… we’re running the same kind of standard-looking website, right. So that was a big one.
But even more broadly, at that time, Google didn’t really release as many algorithm updates as they do now. The algorithms had names and varying in specific intents on what they did, and I made big news. Something that’s a little different nowadays today and just timestamp we’re recording this May 2021 is there’s a lot of updates that happen about going forward. Almost daily in a sense of a little micro-updates. Now Google will still release broad core updates, and they’ll announce large updates that they do and what the intent is. But going back a number of years ago, they didn’t even do that. Every update to the algorithm was intentional and released and, in most cases, announced.
This mobile one was a big one for the reasons that I just said the big lesson and takeaway from all of this is pay attention. Whether it’s this mobile in this case that we’re leading off with, or if it’s site speed or security. If Google is saying, “Hey, this is going to be something that we’re going to tweak our algorithm for to either weed out certain types of results that aren’t complying or to promote or enhance the rankings of sites that are” because they’ve kind of done both in different wordings. You should pay attention to that and that should be important.
And to your point, Sue, as a business owner or a marketing manager, you may not have the bandwidth or even know what resources to tap into to do that. Just make sure that someone in your team is paying attention to current best practices. That’s always the good thing to pay attention to. You don’t have to subscribe to some alert or our system on announcing when Google updates are happening. Just pay attention what are the good best practices particularly for user experience. Think about it from that. Bob, I’ll let you expand on this because I know we’ve talked about this number of times. When Google does these updates, their job, Google, as an entity and a brand was to make money, of course, but we think of them as a search engine, right.
So their job in that capacity is to keep providing us the best results when we go to do a search. We say it all the time. It’s pretty mind-blowing. There’s, I think, over a trillion pages now, if I’m not mistaken. In the Google index, you sit down, you type in a few words, and hit the search button. And within nanoseconds, they give you what they think are the top 10 results of all those web pages for what you searched for. Pretty remarkable. They have to keep tweaking that algorithm to make sure that they keep doing that and remain the place we go to for that search, which is all free.
So then that they can monetize that and have people advertise on that same page, right. Pretty mindblowing undertaking to be able to do this. And it’s literally transformed the world in what they do. So if they start talking about what they want to see websites do to show up in those rankings and what makes a good or a bad website, whether that’s a direct thing or reading between the line thing, you better darn well pay attention to what they’re saying, because this is where we go, right. And it makes a big difference.
Bob Brennan: I’ve said this before. It’s their board game. We’re just all planning on it. So we’ve just got to figure out the rules and follow them as close as we can. So algorithms don’t really get me… keep me up at night like they used to because basically they are designed to keep the black hat and gray hat people… designed this for them to suffer if you know what I mean if there’s all this black hat stuff going on. So if you’re within the rules, I’m not saying it won’t affect you, but you’re not going to see the effects probably right away. And then when you do just you tweak it, and you should be able to solve it. But the mobile piece is probably more mobile design. And mobile-first is more important to companies like towing companies or service companies where people just need to quickly see your site, see that you’re legit.
See that they have… that you have what they want, and then they can act on that. And ideally, they would tap on your phone number, and your phone number would auto-dial. And that’s critical for the conversion piece. So I know I’m going off in the weeds a little bit, but basically all mobile… all websites or services, it’s important they have a mobile-first type of switch in there. But basically, if you’re an architect or you’re somebody that’s a little more of a sophisticated site, it’s probably not as imperative for the conversion part of that because people are going to go to their desktop to look at your engineering information, for instance, if you’re an engineering firm. You know what I mean? You’re not just going to pick a random engineer off your mobile phone, I would assume. Other than to get the phone number, if they already have done business or doing business with you.
So it becomes more, in my opinion, it becomes more important that you’re mobile optimized if you’re a service-based business that’s under a certain dollar amount per transaction. The higher the dollar amount per transaction, people are going to slide over to their desktop and study who you are versus, “Hey, I just need a tow truck, or I just need a plumber, or I just need one of these services.” I don’t need to know their life story. I don’t need to see the colors of their eyes. I just need to know what their prices. So that’s my two cents.
Jesse Dolan: Right. I think with that too. There’s also the inverse. And I think we’ve mentioned it before, but maybe you’re a business that is more industrial or commercial or business-to-business serving where most of your clients probably are on desktop. And that’s cool. Make sure you have an desktop experience because that’s how most people are probably going to engage with your website, but you still can’t ignore the mobile part.
Bob Brennan: Right. Right.
Jesse Dolan: That’s how Google is going to look at it through that lens. And you’re still going to get people that are checking it out on mobile. You don’t want to turn them off, even if they’re going to come back later to the desktop like you’re saying, Bob. Something to share with everybody as a tool. If you are concerned, if you’re listening to this going, “Well, is my website… I know it’s been a few years, but are we good to go on the whole mobile thing?”
Two things you can do to check. One is if you’re using Google Search Console, there’s going to be a lot of tools already built into that. Google is going to be telling you if there’s a problem. So, A, check for that and look for that or check with your web person for that. But B, you can also go on outs or read it off here. We’ll also put it in the show notes. There’s a tool that Google has put out that you can run your website through to test it out to see if you’re mobile-friendly. It’s search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly. And if Google sees a problem with your website, rendering, and mobile, they’re going to tell you. Now that can be maybe things either didn’t rearrange automatically, which most sites should have this figured out by now. If not, definitely go fix that.
But then there’s other little things you might not think of. Are the buttons too close to each other when you… if you’re going to click on them with your finger, right. Is the text too small. Sometimes text doesn’t kind of render or scale up and down for mobile or desktop. They’re going to point these kinds of things out to you. In general, like you’re saying, Bob is it’s Google’s board, we’re playing the game, pay attention to the rules.
Bob Brennan: Yeah.
Jesse Dolan: React accordingly. And if you’re just doing a good job running your website, making your intent clear, and making it easy to navigate, you should be fine in any big headline you hear about a algorithm update. Again, Sue to your point, make sure you check in with your team and your people to look into it for you. But more often than not, as long as you’re adhering to kind of current best practices and not playing in the black hat world, you may just get a bump in your web rankings, right.
Because some spammy competitor now has gone off the page. That’s what Google is trying to do when they refine their results with their algorithm is to get rid of stuff that’s a bad result. To fine-tune their search engine, to keep providing better, more specific intent results for that search. If you’re playing the game the right way, you usually don’t have nothing to worry about. If you’re playing the game the wrong way, there’s probably a whole slew of topics that aren’t in this episode here that you’re going to want to start checking into. But I think that’s the main thing. So, Sue, we didn’t directly hit on this mobile algorithm update because it was kind of years ago. But I think the broader message is just kind of algorithm update in general, best practices, and kind of guidelines there. So I hope that answers the question for what was send in there.
Sue Ginsburg: It does. I think it does. And I will say if you remember one thing and one thing only make sure that you, the business owner have a system in place or a resource in place for knowing about Google’s algorithm changes. So you can adapt if necessary as necessary when necessary, or not just to know about it. You will know if you are resource is staying on top of it. If there is an algorithm change that affects you and suddenly you’re not ranking, or you’re falling off and you see your competitors rising, you need to know about those because yes, your competitors will.
And back to the quote, as JFK said, “Change is the law of life.” So change when Google changes their algorithms and look to the future. If you want to keep doing the things the way you have been doing them, you will fail. With that thinking, we’d all still be eating dinner by candle lights and typing instead of using a computer and resisting having your website be a lead generator. And that just isn’t what’s going to get you to the front of the line these days, and playing on Google’s game board you need to know what changes they’re making.
Jesse Dolan: I think even further, Sue, we’d all be using AltaVista instead of Google too, along those if we stayed that. So old-school search engine reference there. I think it’s a great question. Good points. Everybody else out there, if you’re listening, first of all, hopefully, this helps some people out there graph some of this. Not to be too self-serving, but if you do need a professional to help you understand these things and be on point for what should you worry about, or even to give your site a check over, of course, we do that kind of stuff. Just reach out to us if you’re having any questions here. But everybody else, as far as questions about topics like this, hopefully, that helps you.
If you’ve got a question, we’d love to hear it so we can answer it on the show here. Go out to localseotactics.com down the bottom left, click the button for submit a question. You can either send it over, like in text form, filling out the online form there. Or if you want to call it in to the phone number, we’d love to have you do that so we can play the audio on the show. And if you do that we’re going to send you off a free t-shirt. So check it out, localseotactics.com. Bob and Sue, thanks for hanging out. Good episode, and we’ll see everybody next time.
Sue Ginsburg: Yes.
Bob Brennan: Bye.