I’m sure we all know about Google’s love for random updates to their algorithms by now. So it should come as no surprise that, as well as the unnamed update from earlier this month, there may well have been another update as well! And once again, Google ae staying tight lipped about the whole thing! In fact, all we really know for certain is that there have been a lot of changes and fluctuations in rankings throughout the industry.

So what does that mean? Well, SearchEngineLand have stated that the algorithm seems more “Panda-like” than link related. So, it means it is time to start looking at your content!

As with all other updates, the first thing to do is look at your Search Visibility with SearchMetrics. Check to see if your visibility has fallen a considerable amount. But make sure you are thinking relative. If your search visibility was only 5 to being with, and dropped to 1, that’s still an 80% drop in visibility! And you should be looking into why it happened!

If there has been a drop in the last week, then you could have been hit by either the previous unnamed update, or this one! To find out what to do about the previous one, you can read this post, and to work out the problems with this new one, continue on down!

Ok, so going on the fact that this unconfirmed algorithm update seems more Panda related, it is likely that any issues you have are coming from your content. But that doesn’t just mean the actually text on the page! There’s much more to it than that! For example, there are Page Titles, Headings and even a slightly confusing little thing called canonicalisation! So, where to start?

Page Titles

A Page Title is the name of a specific web page that appears both within the search results and also the tab of a web browser. Page Titles as used by Google as the initial point of call to determine the relevance and topic of a page, with all other content on the page being compared to the topic laid out within the Page Title. Therefore, it is important that they are formatted and written correctly, in the best manner for each page.

As well as this, each page should have a unique Page Title, with no duplications across the website. According to current best practice guidelines, a Page Title should be less than 65 characters long, and be no more than 487 pixels in length, including spaces. Also, the following is considered the best practice for Page Title setup;

Main Keyword | Optional Keyword | Brand Name

The main keyword should refer to the main focus of a page’s content, in order to inform Google of a page’s reason for existence. The optional keyword, can either be left out or used to add further explanation of a page’s content, whilst the brand name should always be present and should be the same on every page.

Header 1s

Headings on web pages work in a very similar manner to Word Documents or newspapers, with Header 1 (or H1 as it is commonly referred to) acting as the headline. As such, it is used by Google in a similar manner to Page Titles, helping to define the relevance and topic of a web page.

However, it should not be the same as the page title, as it is meant to be a user-focused headline and not a Page Title. Also, as a web page is basically an article and the H1 is a headline, each page should only have one H1. It should be descriptive and relevant to the page, whilst also helping to drive a user to read and interact with the content of that page.

Heading 2s

A Header 2 (or H2), whilst not as important as an H1 to Google, is important from a usability aspect, which Google considers when looking at the quality of content on a web page. The H2 should be used to separate sections of content, in order to help users understand when the focus of the content has shifted, similar to the section headers within this document.

Therefore, as each page’s content should be unique with its own focus, duplications of H2s through a website should not occur.

Canonical Tags

A rel=”canonical” tag on a page is used to tell Google which version of a page is the correct one. This is because even Google understand that duplications of pages happen, whether it is through an issue with a website’s Content Management System, human error or something more technical.

For example, if a website use URL parameters to alter a product list within a category, such as “show all”, or “grid mode”, then the use of a canonical tag will tell Google to only look at one version of these pages. Therefore, it is highly recommended that all pages on any website utilise these tags, as duplication of content can occur in a myriad of different ways.

Great, So How Do We Find These Problems?

Well, that’s the trick, isn’t it? Now, what you need is a tool that allows you to crawl your website and see it in the same way that Google does, whilst also telling you what issues there are. And there is only one that I trust implicitly, and use on a daily basis; Screaming Frog. And I’m being serious! I have it on every computer and laptop that I have access to!

It even allows you to use it for free if your website is less than 500 pages large! So I would definitely recommend it! And for those of you with over 500 pages, it’s not actually that expensive, coming in at ¢149 per year (which is cheap for a high quality SEO tool).

Once you get it going, it’ll crawl through your entire site, finding out everything from Page Title length and duplication, to content issues and problems with the canonical tags! So, if your Search Visibility has dropped recently, I would definitely recommend giving your site a crawl and address any of the issues that the Frog croaks up!

Have you been affected by any of Google’s updates? Do you take an active interest in Google’s changes to the ranking algorithms? Let me know in the comments below!

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