Google Updates March 2018

Yes folks it has happened again – Google have shifted the goal posts for the umpteenth time.

This Google algorithm change goes to the heart of the content of your site. They are always preaching “quality content” and this update underscores just how serious they are about controlling what you publish on your website.

So what was this change or update called, since they all have names don’t they?

Google “The Brackets” Update March 2018

According to reliable sources, this update has been labeled The Brackets Update. With this update, the powers that be at Google, or at least the ones with a public voice, a la John Mueller, we are told that there is nothing you can do if you have been affected by this most recent update. If you have “great content” good for you, if not you are going to see a significant drop off in organic search traffic.

He makes a underlined emphasis on the long term in the above linked content, which means that you can’t just expand your quality content and see changes immediately. What I am reading between lines here, is that if you have tarred with the Brackets brush, you are likely going to see your site quality score take a hit and your links are going to need to work harder. More and better high quality links are going to be required.

Apparently even if you acted today and fixed up the low quality (thin content in Google speak) pages on your site, it could take up to 6 months or more to see significant improvements.

Was All The News Bad With This Recent Change?

If you are one of the smart ones following the Google rules of high quality content (read: at least 2000 words per page or original well written text), then if these pages are your landing pages, then you will most likely have seen a positive boost to your site traffic over this past couple of weeks. This rule is not one across the board, ie in the case of eCommerce sites, you just need to make sure your product descriptions are original and not simply copied and pasted from the manufactures website or suppliers website, as this will get you into hot water. Good thing to know when you are planning a new eCommerce business.

Where Can I Find Out More Information On This Update?

You can head on over to this blog to read up on the full details or the “tremor” and “quake” happenings these past weeks.

If you need help with your site, then you may need to get in touch with me and I would be happy to take a look at your site, to determine what if anything can be done to improve your search rankings in Google

Are Backlinks Still Important?

If you ever hear this line from your SEO company, that “backlinks are no longer important“, then you are probably facing the “we aren’t ranking so well” dilemma at the same time.

Since the beginning of search and Google, backlinks have played the most important part of winning at the search game. Over the years, the elements that determine a top ranking, have swollen to include a lot of closer focus with the website itself but backlinks remain and as long as Google wants to function as democratic voting process of presenting the most popular sites at the top, then backlinks are here to stay.

So what exactly are backlinks and how do they work to produce top rankings for websites?

Good question.

What Is A Backlink?

Let’s begin with how they work and then we will have a deeper insight as to their co-dependence for quality search results and how they will be remaining a strong ranking signal for the foreseeable future.

A backlink is simply a link from someone else’s website, linking to your website. The way this works for example is someone may comment on a blog post on a third party website and make a mention about something posted on your website.

This can be helpful for people wanting to find out more about the topic of interest.

For example you may be an experienced plastic surgeon who has expertise in some new cosmetic procedure or have a good understanding of the complications of certain surgical procedures and your blog post adds great insight into the matters being discussed.

Since people are searching for information to solve their problems, this scenario presents itself as a typical way that links or backlinks are created. Google developed their search algorithm around the democratic voting system that links from other people’s website were acting as. With links counting as votes in the election process for who should be ranked at #1 and so, they changed the way search engines and people the world over, searched for and found things on the internet forever.

It wasn’t long before many savvy webmasters began to take advantage of this ranking method and the process of SEO or search engine optimization was born.

Backlinks Important In The Early Days And Still So

In the early days of my trade it was a simple process to rank #1, that involved amassing more backlinks than the guy ranked at #2. Yes it did involve a lot of work at times but if you put in the grunt work, eventually got you there.

Now Google saw that many people were onto their “super secret” algorithm, so they decided to mix up the process to penalize anyone seen to be over-optimizing their sites. The first of these changes rolled out in 2012 and were code named Penguin.

Fast forward to today, 2016 and Google have slowed down the aggressive penalties, as most people are now convinced that the search engine giant, can’t be messed with. There are many who believe that SEO is dead and you might as well give up trying anything as Google will just slap you sooner or later.

SEO Far From Dead

In reality, SEO is far from dead and many people understand and do SEO very well. The problem is there is great confusion in the SEO world, and many practitioners have jumped ship and become content marketers. Some have combined the two with varying degrees of success, which usually has a lot to do with the Google Webmaster Guidelines.

Google are very vocal about what you can and can’t do when it comes to SEO. Companies that tread the line strictly by the Google book, are those who will convince you that backlinks are no longer important, simple because Google say that you can’t build backlinks anymore. They want you to create great content and then some how magically people will find your content and link to it. The only problem is that without any links to your “great content” it is not going to rank. And if it doesn’t rank, meaning no one will find it, then how is it that they are going to link to it?

Agencies that stick by the book believe the lies about backlinks not counting, because they will actually not be building you any. They will encourage or help you build quality content but this alone is never going to produce the traffic that your site is needing to actually shift the needle.

Also with the right tools, anyone can see that the sites that are ranking at the top of Google are sites that have lots of backlinks. Content alone is not enough to get you there and give you the traffic flow you are looking for.

So What Do Google Actually Say About The Necessity Of Backlinks?

In finally smashing the backlinks are no longer important myth, one need only to listen to voice of Google themselves. In a recent video by the Google SEO spokesperson, Matt Cutts, they openly admit that they have a private version of Google that they refer to that shows the search results without any backlinking influence and they say it ain’t pretty.

Well there you have it, backlinks are here to stay and if you hear differently, it is probably because your SEO guy or gal is too scared to build them anymore. There are still ways to build backlinks that are very effective and will not get you into any Google hot water,  and if top search engine rankings are what you are looking for, then you first need to locate a top SEO consultant who can produce results based on what Google actually allow to rank, and not what they tell you they allow.