Google has rolled out a number of algorithm updates recently. The beginning of 2018 has been extremely turbulent for search engine rankings as websites still recovering from previous updates have been tossed up again by these newly rolled out updates. One of the most notable updates was confirmed by Google and occurred mid-March. This was a “broad core algorithm update” that impacted the appearance and rankings of some websites in search results. Glenn Cabe and others dubbed this update “The Brackets Update.”
Update One: Google Confirms Broad Core Algorithm Update
Google does not generally announce updates to its core algorithm because they happen several times a day. This update is different. It isn’t one of the usual daily Google updates.
This update is a kind of update that happens several times per year. Google calls them Broad Core Algorithm Updates.
For the past few years, the SEO industry has been operating as if Google’s algorithm was exclusively targeting low quality web pages. Google not only denied it, Google’s spokespersons actively discouraged such speculation. With The Bracket Update, Google stated it was not penalizing websites for low quality content, but it was actually rewarding previously under-rewarded websites with good content.
According to Search Engine Journal, this is what we know:
- The update was focused on providing better search results
- There is nothing wrong with sites that lost rankings
- There is no way to “fix” sites that lost rankings
- The improvements are focused on the content but it is not a “quality” issue (Google is not focused on finding bad quality content, just the opposite)
Update Two: Google Expands Mobile-First Indexing
Google announced it rolled out mobile-first indexing to more sites. This rollout is only for sites following best practices for mobile-first indexing. To be sure, mobile-first indexing began a while back, and a significant number of sites have already been migrated to mobile-first indexing. Some industry stalwarts noted a first significantly sized batch of mobile-first notifications went out to webmasters in late April 2018. According to many experts, it’s one of the most significant changes to Google search results for quite some time.
What Is Mobile-First Indexing?
Since there are now more searches being conducted on mobile devices than desktop browsers, Google adjusted its algorithm to ensure users find content that’s optimized for their screens. In an effort to deliver the best experience for searchers across all devices, mobile-first indexing means Googlebot will only crawl and index the mobile version of a webpage.
The mobile version of your website will be considered the primary version for ranking purposes, but information on the desktop version may be used to help rank your site. If you have no mobile version at all, Google will crawl your desktop site as-is, but eventually Google will stop crawling and indexing desktop versions of websites.
To clarify, there is no ‘mobile-first index’ separate from the main index. All content still lives within the same index, but Google now indexes and uses the mobile versions of websites first when they are available.
Expert Level Tip: When creating and designing websites, most people start by creating a desktop version, but with the prevalence of mobile devices, law firms should design the mobile version first. If your law firm has a separate mobile website that is not identical to your desktop site, you should change it and use responsive design. Having a single URL that adapts to all devices is better for your audience and search engines. This will greatly help your law firm’s search engine rankings.
When it comes to algorithm updates, it helps to keep Google’s goals in mind.
Google wants to:
- Understand user intent
- Understand content
- Provide the best and most relevant search results to its users
Search engine rankings are constantly in flux as Google continues to update its algorithms. If an update causes a website to experience a decrease in rankings, often the site will bounce back after a few weeks or months.
Keeping Up With The Algorithms
If you already have a fully responsive website – which we highly recommend – your mobile and desktop pages should already be equivalent. This means you don’t really have to do anything to your website for the mobile-first index. But, if you are like a lot of law firms we talk to, and your website has neither a mobile version nor is responsively designed, we need to talk.
Click on the embedded tweet below to find the original string of tweets from Google about the first update: