Google Algorithm Updates

Google is constantly making adjustments to its search algorithms as part of an ongoing effort to refine the search results and improve user experience. There are about 500 - 600 changes made each year, and most of them are never announced, officially or otherwise. According to Google’s John Mueller, Google doesn’t announce every update because it just isn’t practical. Google doesn’t deny algorithm updates either, they just don’t always confirm them.

Moz is one of the SEO industry’s leaders and authorities and they’ve been compiling a history of Google algorithm updates. In 2016 Moz documented 11 major updates to the Google algorithm. This list is great for marketers and SEOs because it can help explain changes in rankings and organic website traffic and ultimately improve search engine optimization.

So far in 2017 there’s been 4 major updates added to the Moz history. These updates have targeted a couple of key areas:

  1. Google cracks down on websites with intrusive interstitials. Basically, if your website is using a popup, like one you might use for a newsletter sign up, the search result for that page may not rank as highly if that interstitial interferes with the content.
  2. Google takes aim at low-value content. If your goal is revenue, but your site content offers little value to users you could see some changes to your ranking - some sites have seen a 90% drop in organic traffic.

We know that updates are always being made, most are minor, but some of them are major and have a notable impact. Generally speaking, the updates are aimed at improving the search experience, and delivering the most relevant and useful content. This isn’t new news, the technology is just getting more effective at discounting websites that aren’t offering real value to searchers.

Key Ingredients for Top Ranking
Thanks to great industry studies, like those conducted by SearchMetrics, Backlinko and SEO PowerSuite, we know that there are key ingredients that go into making it to the top spot in Google. For most organizations a very useful way to look at SEO is to break it down by the following categories:

Backlinks continue to be one of strongest ranking signals - not surprisingly. Essentially you want more backlinks and you want them from websites that are authorities in your space, and you want to incorporate keywords and search terms into the anchor text - but don’t overdo it. Keep your anchor text diverse and natural sounding.

Content is king, but many marketers don’t show the sovereign due respect. Don’t neglect your keywords. Using keywords and their variations in your Title tag is still very important in 2017. Length and comprehensiveness of your content are key factors and it’s something that Google has been public about in its search quality guidelines.

Technical SEO is more important than ever and if your website suffers in the area of page load times or in mobile-friendliness you will see a decline in your organic traffic. In fact if your pages aren’t optimized for mobile you won’t show up in mobile search at all. Google has been very public in their commitment to a mobile-first world.

Learn more about how to practically address these Google ranking signals for your website via Search Engine Land.

Drupal 8 SEO Checklist

Like most CMSs, Drupal is SEO-friendly, and the Drupal community is active at ensuring that the latest release, Drupal 8, has the modules and support to serve the needs of marketers.

One of the more important Drupal modules for marketers is the SEO Checklist module by Ben Finklea. The module is Drupal 8 ready and actively supported and maintained for Drupal 7 & 8.

This module provides marketers with:

  • SEO best practices to check for proper search engine optimization.
  • SEO to-do list to optimize your Drupal 8 site.
  • Comprehensive list of modules you need to install and tasks to complete.
  • Links to enable, set permissions, and configure each module.
  • CLI commands for Drush, Composer, and Drupal Console.
  • Support links and tasks for helpful third-party tools like Google Analytics.

The SEO Checklist module is also supported by Ben Finklea’s book, Drupal 8 SEO - The Visual, Step-by-Step Guide to Drupal Search Engine Optimization.

This visual guide covers everything you’ll need to know to get started with SEO for Drupal 8:

  • basics of SEO & search engines
  • content & page optimization
  • security & site performance
  • mobile & social.

My goal with this book is to show marketers how to achieve SEO results with Drupal 8 with a minimal need for developer help. From checklists that help you work faster to Metatags, XML sitemaps, and beyond—this book is exactly how I would execute on-page SEO for a client. If you’re trying to achieve high rankings and get more leads and sales from a Drupal website, then this book is for you. - Ben Finklea

Conclusions About SEO for Drupal

The key ingredients for top rankings apply to any website, regardless of the CMS.

While I’m not new to SEO, I am relatively new to Drupal, and I believe the SEO Checklist module and the Drupal 8 SEO book are the best place to start (and just maybe, the only resources you’ll need) if you’re executing SEO for a Drupal site.

Main photo credit: Benjamin Dada on Unsplash