4 Steps to Triage Your Fall in Rankings from the August 2018 Google Algorithm

Jen Saunders
Reading Time: 7 minutes

A few days ago, your rankings likely either shot way up, or tanked hard. Although Google rolls out anywhere from 500 to 600 algorithm updates each month, this is the first one in quite a while to have a significant impact in how sites rank content for users.

Google generally tends to keep things “hush hush” when it comes to these algorithm updates, yet this one was confirmed when last week the search engine announced it made a significant change to the core algorithm.

If your rankings were reduced from page one glory to page 10 distant memories (or if you no longer even rank at all), don’t hit the panic button just yet. This article will help you understand what happened, then lead you down a four-step path to triage the situation by making changes that both human users will love, and that will accommodate how Google crawls and values content in a favorable post-2018 August Google algorithm update landscape.

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Let’s Take a Step Back and Understand what Google Wants

What Google wants has never changed. Since day one, the search engine said its goal was to provide the best user experience for online searches. So what does this mean? Ranking content that best supports the needs behind every search query.

Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst John Muller was at Google Webmaster Central Headquarters addressing the world in a Hangout in which he said the following”

The updates that we made are more about relevance where we’re trying to figure out which sites relevant for certain queries and and not so much quality overall. It doesn’t means its a bad sign, we may just be finding that your site isn’t relevant for these particular queries.

As you can see, Google’s mission continues to stay consistent, but HOW they award ranking continues to evolve making SEO harder. So let’s understand why search engine optimization is becoming increasingly difficult, and why organizations need award-winning SEO Los Angeles agencies to help with growth marketing tactics more than ever.  So consider this: the biggest change to its algorithm happened back in 2013 when Google Hummingbird rolled out placing an emphasis on in-depth high-quality content addressing all the questions and topics surrounding a product or service. It favored content that used longtail keyword forms relevant to buyer needs within the right content. Three years later Google RankBrain was baked into the Hummingbird algorithm in machine learning technology and AI ran alongside Hummingbird’s standards collecting data on human intentions within search behavior. It looked at the search queries, sites people clicked on, bounced from, and engaged with. It continues to do this, self-educating itself along the way while building ridiculously large data banks of information that is dissected and used as rank food.

Finally. Google’s goal is give users a quick, high-quality service where the best content is presented on page one of the SERPs thus removing the need for people to spend time clicking page-after-page until they find what they are looking for.

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Step 1 – Start by Running an SEO Audit

Although we don’t know if the algorithm update partially focuses on technical matters, many of these issues can irritate users. Redirect loops, broken links, inaccurate meta descriptions and page speed issues are al things that provide for a horrible user experience, and that can be fixed quickly. There are a number of software options for running SEO audits. Moz is a favorite that most SEO agencies use. Once your errors are pulled into a spreadsheet, begin filling in the desired changes and put them into effect. Make sure any 301 redirects are relevant, and that your meta descriptions reflect the content on the page while enticing people to click with honest and accurate benefits.

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Step 2 – Decide if Your Content Truly Supports Your Buyer’s Needs

Let’s set aside the BS: if your content isn’t ranking on page one of Google its because the search engine places more value on your competitor’s websites because they are doing a better job at offering content more relevant to search queries reflecting user needs.

Basically, this means there is a gap between the content you share and how you understand your customers and target consumer audiences. If you haven’t created in-depth buyer personas, this is a huge red flag signaling one reason why your rankings likely tanked due to a disconnect from your buyers.

A buyer persona is a fictionalized representation of real customers. Their talking points can include gender, age, industry, job title, job roles and responsibilities, and how they consume information relevant to your products and services. Buyer personas are absolutely necessary for SEO services to work well because they help prevent marketers from making assumptions about their buyers while providing a creative outlet for content that resonates with target audiences, ranks extremely well, and converts leads into paying customers.

Once you have communicated with your sales team to better understand buyer pains, combed through email data looking for any telling information about their needs, and even send out surveys, you can finally begin to craft content that feeds their psyche through each stage of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration and decision.

inbound marketing

Step 3 – Do You Need Support from a Growth-Driven SEO Agency?

As SEO is becoming increasingly complex due to Google’s stringent quality-control, it may be time you seek support from a digital marketing agency that focuses on growth-driven SEO strategies. Despite their best efforts, there is a good chance your your internal team simply lacks the skills, tools and volume to produce game-changing SEO strategies that will generate revenue from organic traffic to high-ranking landing pages.

In the past WEBITMD helped organizations with their internal marketing reporting and data analysis. This is a service we no longer offer, however, we still have quite a few older clients we continue to do this work for.

Here’s the thing: every single client who creates their own SEO strategies and runs marketing from within, took a huge hit form this Google update; ALL of them. On the flip side, 96 percent of our clients who partnered with us to run their SEO and overall marketing saw HUGE IMPROVEMENTS in ranking. What does this mean? That we we understood Google and where its upcoming updates were headed while having a deep understanding of our client’s customers. Here are two side-by-side screenshots representing average rank drops for companies that did their own SEO, as opposed to results for our Growth Stack clients investing in our SEO strategies:

Notice that where Google rankings took a hit, Bing and Yahoo rankings went up, and vice versa. Since more than 90 percent of people use Google, it makes sense to dedicate ranking efforts to this search engine.

Now for the big takeaway: if your site’s ranking took a dive, it is highly recommended you partner with an SEO expert growth marketing agency with skilled digital marketers who know how to forecast Google’s algorithm changes, engineer high-converting content directed at your segmented buyer personas, and run an agile SEO strategy capable of weathering any storm.

SEO content

Step 4 – Creating Content Aligning with Google Algorithm Updates Customers Love


Cody Kwok, Principal Engineer at Google said the algorithm update is meant to “protect more users from bad actors online”. A bad actor is a website pretending to offer the best solution to user search queries by manipulating rankings through a various tactics. The most common “bad actor” are also sites run by people with the best intentions who never had the intention to manipulate rankings. These are the content creators who tried manipulating rankings with keywords. Sounds legit, right? After all, you aren’t doing anything black hat. However, people often substitute time-consuming amazing content that people would actually love with simple keyword strategies lacking meaningful content.

Remember, your goal is to take buyer personas and carve out topic-based content using keywords within a strategic framework of contextual and topical matter that provides valuable, high-ranking results that generate sales from organic traffic.

To do this, a number of considerations play into writing the right content. From how content is structured to creating a system that makes Google’s ability to crawl easy for the search engine, hosting content that offers amazing UX for buyers while giving them the ability to quickly find the desired information they seek is critical for your success. Here are some SEO points that all play into how people can find your content in our post August 2018 Google algorithm update:

  • Titles, tags and meta descriptions must accurately reflect page content
  • Schema needs to be implemented (make sure it includes NAP)
  • Use a cluster structure for your blog with a pilar page
  • Blogs should speak to topic-based buyer pains with solutions
  • Unnatural links should be removed (a 2017 emphasis made by Google)
  • Resolve ALL  errors reported in Search Console
  • Optimize your content to appear in Answer Box
  • Run an aggressive local SEO strategy (if applicable)
  • Use social media groups and channels for sharing content
  • Gmail address engagement with email marketing sends SEO signals; so button-up your email marketing.

inbound content

Let Your SEO Strategy Reflect Valuable Content to the Right Buyers

WEBITMD has access to tons of data, and we have been talking to other agencies in our space to compare results. So what did all the websites have in common that saw rankings increase after the algorithm updated? Of the more than 50 sites we analyzed, and the sites some of our partners studied, the similarities are telling. Providing relevant, well-written content using a cluster system with an agile keyword strategy focused on context while addressing buyer groups was key. In addition, natural linking and technical considerations supporting the main messaging were nailed down.

Were Your Rankings Slaughtered by Google’s Algorithm Update?

If so, and if you found these tips helpful, we invite you to download our FREE guide on the NEW approach to SEO below. Learn what it takes to rebuild, and prevent this chaos from striking again.
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