February 24 2016

2016 is moving fast and as always, so is the Search world. There’s been a lot of buzz going on around about Google algorithm updates and Webmaster guideline updates so far this year, so here’s what you need to know.

Google Core Algorithm Update

In mid-January Google confirmed that there was a core algorithm update. Initially thought to be Penguin and/or Panda related, Gary Ilyes and John Mueller of Google cleared that up on Twitter that it was not related to either.

But what does this mean?

It’s hard to tell without more hard facts from Google, but one thing we do know is that many webmasters reported fluctuations in rankings. Searchmetrics also pulled data on what they were seeing to understand the update and reported some familiar insights:

  • Quality content is imperative for indexation and visibility.
  • Relevant content that focuses on the user remains important.

Which leads to other news about content-related updates.


The Panda algorithm first made its appearance in 2011 and was (and still is!) about rewarding relevant, quality content and not rewarding thin or spammy content.

So why is this news?

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Google confirmed that Panda is now baked into their core algorithm and also released some detailed statements on the algorithm to The SEM Post in January. They put together an exhaustive guide on Panda, but here are some key takeaways to keep in mind for your website’s content.

Word Count

This is a question we hear often — “how many words do I need on the page?” or “how many times do I need to mention the keyword in my content?”

John Mueller of Google said it best:

There’s no minimum length, and there’s no minimum number of articles a day that you have to post, nor even a minimum number of pages on a website. In most cases, quality is better than quantity. Our algorithms explicitly try to find and recommend websites that provide content that’s of high quality, unique, and compelling to users. Don’t fill your site with low-quality content, instead work on making sure that your sit is the absolute best of its kind.


When it comes to content, the main question you should be asking is if you are meeting the searcher’s expectations. It’s easy to get wrapped up in keywords and visits which are important, but they are only important if you are meeting the needs of your users.

Best said from a Google spokesperson to The SEM Post

“At the end of the day, content owners shouldn’t ask how many visitors they had on a specific day, but rather how many visitors they helped.”

Updates to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines

While not an algorithm update, Google did update their Webmaster Guidelines which lists SEO best practices to abide by. Some new additions to the guidelines include:


Back in 2014, Google announced that HTTPS would become a small ranking signal, especially for sites that handled transactions or sensitive information. Now it’s made it officially to the guidelines:

If possible, secure your site’s connections with HTTPS. Encrypting interactions between the user and your website is a good practice for communication on the web.

mobile friendly websites

Mobile Friendliness

No surprises here either as last year on April 21, Google made mobile-friendliness a ranking signal and now it’s officially part of their best practices.

“Design your site for all device types and sizes, including desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Use the mobile friendly testing tool to test how well your pages work on mobile devices, and get feedback on what needs to be fixed.”

Visible Content

The alternative here is not hidden content, but content that may be not visible by default because of tabs or content accordions. If the content is important, make sure it’s visible so that it’s not discounted in any way.

“Make your site’s important content visible by default. Google is able to crawl HTML content hidden inside navigationalelements such as tabs or expanding sections, however we consider this content less accessible to users, and believe that you should make your most important information visible in the default page view.”

Read the full Webmaster Guidelines here.

While Google has updated their core algorithm and Webmaster resources, our strategies and goals for our clients remain largely the same — focused on what’s important for our clients’ businesses. Best practices like great content for users, responsive websites and HTTPS are all part our online marketing strategies and unique to each client.