While December and January are usually slow months for the digital marketing world and us SEOs get to focus on strategy, a whole onslaught of updates has kept the Blue Compass team busy evaluating SERP rankings and algorithms as we enter the new year.
We’re three weeks into 2018, and we’ve already seen impactful digital marketing updates. We decided to save you some time and crunch all of the major headlines together so you don’t have to scour the web looking for answers.
Now that’s enough from us, let’s jump into the headlines!
SEMrush Updates Their Keyword And Search Volume Databases
Approaching their 10th anniversary, SEMrush, a popular SEO and PPC tool, rolled out an update to their keyword and search volume database.
SEMrush stated, “old and untrendy queries” will be phased out with more relevant and traffic-driven keywords taking their place. This should make it easier to find high-quality long-tail keywords to target when using SEMrush’s keyword analysis.
The search volume database update comes equipped with a machine learning algorithm for better search volume forecasting and validation. While volumes will still be updated monthly, the algorithm and architecture should raise estimation accuracy.
This update began rolling out on January and has already started with smaller databases. As larger databases are updated there is warning of spikes and drops within SEMrush’s analytics and reporting. These spikes and drops should level out as databases are updated, so no need to worry about them in the long term.
We are extremely excited to hear this news from SEMrush. Anything that provides us better, cleaner data for our SEO work makes us happy.
Chrome Malware: 4 Popular Google Chrome Extensions Aren’t Safe
This time around, security firm caught the malware after an unusual traffic spike from a client. Altogether, the four Chrome extensions had over 500,000 downloads. The first extension identified was HTTP Request Header. , Stickies and Lite Bookmarks were caught, as well.
Currently, it’s believed these extensions were only used to boost click rates and manipulate search engines — no malicious intent to users.
Google has taken the extensions down from the Chrome Web Store, but it’s important to remove these extensions if downloaded — as Google has no power to do so. Though typically a safe source, this just goes to show that it’s important to be cautious when downloading extensions to any browser.
You can read more about the malware and how caught it on their blog here.
A New Facebook News Feed Update Is Announced
In case you missed it, Facebook announced an overhaul their News Feed and the algorithm behind it. This has caused some uproar in the marketing community, as one of the announcements declared a decrease in organic views for professional/business pages.
The announcement comes with that Facebook will engage users and bring about more social interactions between users — heralding back to a Facebook circa 2006. This push to emphasize “more meaningful, person-to-person interactions among friends and family” will not necessarily shift the way Facebook is currently but means fewer posts from pages and videos in the News Feed.
As we see the new Facebook update take , expect organic reach of pages to drop. Dollar-spend and promotions will be necessary to increase page reach or active engagement (think comments) to drive content to the top of the News Feed.
For those who’ve spent years curating their audience, keep pushing out genuine content and interacting with your users. Replying and engaging with users will be more important now than ever and will directly affect how your content is displayed in the News Feed.
Google Temporarily Bans Addiction-Related Advertising from AdWords
On January 12, Google temporarily halted AdWords targeting for addiction and rehabilitation-centered keywords worldwide.
An increasing rate of opioid addiction in the United States coupled with a new industry preying on individuals via deceptive led to Google taking action in the United States in September 2017.
To avoid the complexities of managing different degrees of regulation in various and a growing practice across the globe, Google decided a complete halt of advertising was necessary.
Ads won’t disappear immediately, but as Google works through regions and languages rehab-related keywords will be removed. Of the keywords removed, we’ve seen those that are labeled as broad match go first with “rehab” and “substance abuse” taking large dives in ad impressions.
Keywords focusing on “treatment” and “recovery” haven’t seen a large decrease in ad impression, possibly because of their terminology, and may not be removed at all. Long-tail, specific keywords have also been somewhat unaffected by the ban, as well.
While Google still hasn’t released any policies regarding display ads through the Google Ad Network or Youtube in-stream ads, this move from Google will hopefully lead to a crackdown on predatory advertising and the practices behind them.
Google Unofficially Launches Maccabees Algorithm Update
After some persistence, Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable and Rusty Brick put a name to the flux-period/algorithm change from Google and Maccabees was born. This mid-December update caught the SEO community off-guard and left us wondering if there was even an update at all.
Google denied any single update and we originally looked at Schwartz with some skepticism — outsiders don’t usually name Google algorithm updates. But it turns out that the Maccabees update is more than another Fred update and is largely affecting some reputable sites.
The worst part? Nobody really understands the extent of what’s fed into the new Google algorithm update and why it’s causing some sites to drop in rankings.
When Google rolls out an algorithm update, we go through our due diligence to learn all about the change but rarely see the repercussions of the updates. This comes down to our strict, white-hat practices that are user-focused — in-line with Google practices. But with Maccabees, we’re seeing other white-hat focused SEOs losing visibility.
Just take this blog from Moz for example. While the SEO community is running around trying to figure out what Maccabees is all about, our guess comes down to site relevancy.
We’ve seen sites without Schema lose ground quickly since the algorithm update, and our Schema-loaded site hasn’t seen any difference. It’s just a hypothesis for now, but keep your eyes on analytics and try testing out Schema on a few pages to see if there’s a change.
RankBrain Is The New, Hot SEO Buzzword
Heard of it?
If you’ve read any SEO blog in the past two months, we’re going to guess you’ve stumbled across RankBrain. It was recently announced as the third most important ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm.
So what is RankBrain?
It’s an artificial intelligence, engine that processes search results. What makes RankBrain unique is its ability to understand the relationship between words and determine what to display to user intent.
Ultimately, RankBrain focuses on behavior metrics and how people interact with their search results. These user experience metrics largely affects how the site ranks in SERPs and RankBrain disregards /anchor text.
Search Console Delivers 12-Months of Data in Beta
Google may have finally heard the plea of the data-obsessed SEOs and delivered. Confirmed mid-December, Google started beta testing a 12-month backlog of organic data in Google Search Console.
If you’re anything like us here at Blue Compass, you may also be jumping for joy after hearing the news. It’s not yet clear if Google will notify those who are granted access to the beta, but you can check Search Console at any time to see if the “12-month” option is available.
Staying Ahead of The Curve
Working in digital marketing means functioning in an ever-changing environment. While sometimes hectic, the constantly-varied game keeps us moving forward and learning every day.
If you’re looking to always stay in-the-know on digital marketing and SEO, visit our blog periodically and feel free to reach out if you need any help understanding the relentlessness that is the digital world.