Highlighting 8 of Google’s Biggest Algorithm Updates of 2018

Mar 06, 2019

Article ImageYear after year, we see numerous Google algorithm updates that improve the way users search for content on the web and the results they find. These changes often require businesses and organizations to refine their SEO strategies. Sometimes this calls for small, quick adjustments, while other times it requires a complete overhaul of current tactics.

2018 was certainly no exception to Google’s undying mission to match users with the best possible content based on their search queries. Experts saw some of these changes coming from a mile away, while others seemed to come out of thin air.

In a recent infographic, Jaykishan Panchal, SEO Specialist and Content Manager from E2M Solutions, has outlined eight of the biggest updates to Google’s search algorithms in 2018. In this post, we’ll take a more in-depth look at those changes.

Let’s dive in.

Confirmed Image Search Update (February 15)

The Image Search Update, confirmed by Google in mid-February was met with mixed reactions. The update removed the “Search by Image” and “View Image” buttons. To see an image, users must now visit the website in which it lives. The purpose of this change is “so users can see images in the context of the webpages they are on,” per Google SearchLiaison.

For webmasters, this update was good news – as it meant they would see more web traffic from image searches. Users, however, mostly saw this change as a pain and an added complication to the search experience. While nothing is certain, some believe this change was a result of a legal dispute with Getty Images.

“Brackets” Core Update (March 8)

Often times, core updates to Google’s search algorithms result in panic for many organizations, as they might see significant drops in their rankings overnight. The “Brackets” Core Update began making noticeable ripples across the web starting on March 4, with the biggest changes being felt on March 8 and in the following weeks.

In the face of a major core update, one of the common conclusions that experts come to is that they need to up their content strategy; it’s just a question of how.

Based on John Mueller’s explanation of the algorithm update, it seems the focus is more about content relevance. With this in mind, organizations need to put effort into creating stellar content that adds to their E-A-T Score, as well as build high-quality links with good relevancy to their messaging. Moreover, businesses should stop creating deceptive advertising and overly intrusive content.

Zero-Result SERP (March 14)

The Zero-Result SERP update wasn’t a big surprise to many. This algorithm change essentially made it easier for searchers to get answers to definitive questions related to queries about weather, unit conversions, calculations, time, etc.

Answers to these types of questions are displayed on Knowledge Cards above all the other search results—hence the name “Zero-Result.”

Mobile-First Index Roll-Out (March 26)

It’s no secret that mobile search has been on the rise for the past several years. In fact, mobile searches have outnumbered desktop searches since 2015!

With this in mind, many experts knew that the Mobile-First Index Roll-Out was long overdue. As the name implies, Google is now indexing mobile versions of websites before desktop versions. Webmasters need to take the time and effort to ensure their mobile sites run seamlessly and are intuitive for both users and Google crawlers.

Keep in mind, this change primarily impacts how sites are indexed, not how they are ranked on the web. In fact, Google publicly clarified this in the Webmasters Blog:

“Mobile-first indexing is about how we gather content, not about how content is ranked. Content gathered by mobile-first indexing has no ranking advantage over mobile content that’s not yet gathered this way or desktop content. Moreover, if you only have desktop content, you will continue to be represented in our index.”

Snippet Length Drop (May 13) 

The Snippet Length Drop update was definitely an interesting change we saw in 2018. This was mostly because it came just five short months after Google expanded snippet lengths.

On desktop searches, snippet lengths dropped from around 300 characters down to roughly 160, whereas they dropped to around 130 on mobile. The real reasoning behind these two changes in such a short span of time is a mystery—as is the case with most Google updates.

The good news is that webmasters shouldn’t fret too much over this change. Google has advised not to focus heavily on these snippets, as they are selected by their dynamic nature and not necessarily pulled from Meta Descriptions. 

Video Carousels (June 14) 

Video is rapidly becoming the preferred format of online content. Many experts, including Mark Zuckerberg, believe that most content on the internet will be video in the next few years. This is a concept that Google has fully accepted, and as of June 14, 2018, implemented into their search rankings.

Following this update, video thumbnails were replaced with video carousels on the search results. Now, only certain queries will prompt this format. For the most part, Google searches including phrases like how to, top ___, or best___ will trigger video carousels.

Following this update, searchers no longer have to go to third-party sites directly to find video content.

Mobile Speed Update (July 9)

As the world continues to shift towards mobile, it is only a matter of time before Google rolls out new changes placing more emphasis on searches from smartphones and tablets. The Mobile Speed Update in the summer of 2018 now factors in the speed of mobile sites when determining rankings on mobile searches.

The good news is that this update did not have monumental impacts; the only sites that felt the consequences were the ones with the slowest loading times based on a select number of queries. However, this update should be looked at as a warning sign that more mobile speed updates are in the pipeline and webmasters need to prioritize the speed of their mobile website version.

Medic Core Update (August 1)

The Medic Core Update of August 1 was one of the biggest Google algorithm updates of 2018. Like many other core updates, the purpose of this one was to help ensure that users were paired with the most reliable, high-quality content based on their search queries. The differentiator of the August 1 update was that the organizations hit hardest were ones in Your Money Your Life industries—including health, law, finance, etc.

To put it in perspective, if a user wanted to learn more about a juice cleanse, fitness routine, or how to navigate the stock markets, reading content written by someone with little to no expertise on the respective topic could result in detrimental consequences for the user.

In order for YMYL content to rank well on the SERPs, organizations need to prioritize their E-A-T Score, which involves practices like making sure their claims are backed with credible research, gaining high-quality backlinks from trusted sources, securing their website, and much more.

Over to You

As SEO strategies begin to take shape in 2019, it’s a safe bet that there will be plenty of Google updates in store. The most important mindset to get into is that you can never get too comfortable with your SEO playbook. There is always the looming chance that you will need to toss it out and start over after a big algorithm change!

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