Google’s recent updates and how they impact international SEO
Over the last four months, Google has made changes to its algorithm used to rank websites. There have also been additional changes made around other elements which can impact international SEO and how websites are displayed. In this article, we will summarise these changes and the impact they might have on your international marketing efforts.
Core Algorithm Updates
Google released two Core Algorithm Updates in March and June respectively, which were focussed on making search results cleaner with a reduction of spam.
March’s update was confirmed by Google to focus primarily on quality and trust indicators as well as the power of established brands within SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). User signals such as time on site, bounce rate and pages viewed per visitor have become more important to Google than in previous years, despite being some of the harder ranking factors to justify. Following this update, some of the biggest impacts are being felt by websites related to health and medical topics who have experienced a drop in the rankings.
In June, the second update was confirmed by Google and focussed on content quality and trusted brands. There was also an increase in video carousels being visible in the SERPs for some search terms.
These core updates can take around a week to roll out completely due to Google’s huge collection of servers covering locations all over the globe. If you are looking at international results when a core update is rolling out, it’s important to be patient and check if Google has confirmed the update has rolled out across all markets. It could be the case that the country you are looking at has not been affected yet.
Both core updates were aimed at removing untrustworthy spam from search results. This will impact websites which have a high number of backlinks with keyword targeted link anchors as well as sites with poor quality content.
Google has updated the guidelines for how they review websites, which gives a good indication of what Google considers to be ‘quality’ and what they don’t.
Core considerations include:
- Quality and relevance of content: avoiding duplicated or thin content or anything too off-topic for your website. Content for the sake of content isn’t good.
- Trustworthiness: Google notes in their guidance that a page or website should look like it was written by an expert. Whether you would be comfortable giving your credit card details to the site is another consideration to keep in mind.
- Writing content for what users want and focussing new articles around user need, not just what might do well in the search engines.
This update was designed to ensure that there are less rankings for the same website appearing in the SERPs. This update was rolled out around the same time as the core algorithm update in June, so some people found it difficult to tell which update had affected them.
There have been several other updates focussed around this in the past so in this instance SERPs were less impacted. The most significant change people may have noticed from this update is a loss of duplicate rankings for certain (mainly brand) keywords – where there were previously a large number of sitelinks, you may have seen a reduction. This is something we have noticed across sites internationally – if you have noticed a dip in organic traffic around the first week in June, look into this as a possible cause.
Changes to Robots.txt files
Robots.txt files are used by all search engines to decide which pages should be indexed and which shouldn’t. Google made some clarifications about what it will and won’t allow in these files on their Webmaster blog earlier this month.
The biggest announcement here was that they are deprecating the NOINDEX command in Robots.txt files. This rule was used to stop pages being indexed in the search results. It is very similar to the Disallow: command and the NOINDEX Robots meta tag, therefore Google have suggested that these options should be used instead of NOINDEX in robots.txt files.
We recommend checking that you aren’t using the NOINDEX rule on any of the international websites you have live, as robots.txt files can differ from country to country.
Google makes tiny changes to their algorithm every day, but these are some of the larger items which have launched recently. If you need any help following changes to the algorithm and want to find out how Oban can help you, click here.
Emily Mace | Head of SEO, Oban International
Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion. Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.