As one would expect, a lot of big things get announced at the various Search Marketing Expos held throughout the year. Recently at SMX West, Google’s Matt Cutt revealed that the search giant is planning to launch an update to their Panda algorithm that should be more friendly to smaller businesses and websites. The “next generation” update, as Cutts described it, is supposed to “soften” the algorithm.
While this will be an update, according to members of Cutt’s team who were apart of the forum, there is actually only one specific algorithm change they are making that will help small websites and small businesses do better in search results.
“Matt specifically said this is aimed at helping small businesses that may be impacted by the Panda algorithm,” wrote Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable, who heard Cutts comments live at SMX West.
The topic of small businesses hurt by Google updates isn’t a small issue. Many small business owners have claimed they have had their businesses ruined by changes to Google search algorithms. Some groups claimed that the updates have cost SEO marketers their jobs, ruined webmasters who made money through Google Adsense, destroyed small businesses, and even driven some to consider suicide.
Though it’s only one change to the algorithm, Google is keeping quiet on what that change would be so webmasters don’t start to take advantage of it. In fact, it’s unusual for Google to be so forthcoming about upcoming changes to the algorithm. The company is clear that they won’t be announcing every update they make to their algorithms in the future.
This isn’t the first time that Google has tweaked their algorithm specifically to make it more small business friendly. In July 2013, Google released an update that was said to “incorporate new signals so it can be more finely targeted”.
However, if previous experience is any indication, business owners and marketers should expect to see the update change their current rankings dramatically. In a poll hosted by SEO Roundtable after the last minor update, more than half of the 500 people saw no change, 20 percent saw some improvement, and only 18 percent of the respondents reported they fully recovered their rank after Google softened the algorithm. There were 12 percent of the respondents who didn’t know one way or the other.
Since there will only be one specific change to the algorithm, there is a chance that SEO marketers will be able to determine what that change is with a little experimentation. However, comments made by Cutts at the end of the session strongly suggest that whatever the change is, it won’t involve SSL, the popular security protocol used to verify sites.
“At the end of the session, I asked Matt if this means Google is looking to give sites that enable SSL a ranking boost,” wrote Schwartz. “Matt Cutts shrugged his shoulders and explained that if it was his choice, he would make it so. But he said, it is far from happening and there are people at Google that do not want this to happen.”
Since the proposed update will only benefit small business and small websites, the best thing for marketers to do in the face of the update is to continue using good core SEO practices like link building and content marketing. If the update would benefit their ranking, using good SEO practices won’t will only make things better, and if the site was unaffected by the update, the site would still be heading in the right direction.