So, we will just start by mentioning that what we are about to tell you may definitely land us in some hot water from certain SEO “specialists”, but luckily for you, here at Made Neat we believe every website should be performing at its best and that is why we want you to be fully aware that Google likes to change things up from time to time, keeping us all on our toes. Plus, Mitch is a bit of a nerd when it comes to SEO (well he is a nerd in general actually – do not get him started on SEO, mobile responsive websites or Liverpool losing on the weekend).

Okay, so here are the 3 most recent changes:

RankBrain

Launch date: October 2015

Hazards: Lack of query-specific relevance features; shallow content; poor UX

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How it works: RankBrain is part of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm. It is a machine learning system that helps Google understand the meaning behind queries, and serve best-matching search results in response to those queries. Google calls RankBrain the third most important ranking factor. While nobody actually knows the ins and outs of RankBrain, the general opinion is that it identifies relevance features for web pages ranking for a given query, which are basically query-specific ranking factors.

How to improve:  Optimize content for relevance and comprehensiveness with the help of competitive analysis. With the help of WebSite Auditor‘s TF-IDF tool, you can discover relevant terms and concepts used by a large number of your top-ranking competitors: those are a brilliant way to diversify your content.

Possum

Launch date: September 2016

Hazards:  Tense competition in your target location

How it works:  The Possum update ensured that local results vary more depending on the searcher’s location: the closer you are to a business’s address, the more likely you are to see it among local results. Possum also resulted in greater variety among results ranking for very similar queries, like “dentist Hervey Bay” and “dentist Hervey Bay co.” Interestingly, Possum also gave a boost to businesses located outside the physical city area.

How to improve:  Expand your keyword list and do location-specific rank tracking. Local businesses now need to be targeting more keywords than they used to, due to the volatility Possum brought into the local SERPs. As you check your rankings, make sure you’re doing this from your target location (or, better yet, a bunch of them). You can do this in Rank Tracker under Preferences > Preferred Search Engines. Click Add Custom next to Google. Next, specify your preferred location — you can make it as specific as a street address.

Fred

Launch date: March 8, 2017

Hazards:  Thin, affiliate-heavy or ad-centred content

How it works:  The latest of Google’s confirmed updates, Fred targets websites that violate Google’s webmaster guidelines. The majority of affected sites are blogs with low-quality posts that appear to be created mostly for the purpose of generating ad revenue.

How to improve:  Review Google Search Quality Guidelines and watch out for thin content. If you show ads, make sure the pages they are found on are high-quality and offer relevant ample information. This is basically it: Don’t try to trick Google into thinking your page is about something when it really is a gateway page full of affiliate links. Most publishers make money off ads, and that’s totally legit as long as you are not cheating.

Well, I guess we all noticed the dates on these previous updates and can presume that we are almost due for another one. As to what this update will be, we could speculate all day about it but here at Made Neat, we believe in only dropping relevant and useful content (this is why we are not journalists).

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Mitch Brunke

Mitch is Made Neat's Marketing Manager. He takes a special interest and a Bachelors degree in the area of digital marketing. If you have any questions at all about how your business can improve their online presence the Mitch is your contact.