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Why Your Local Website May Suddenly Rank Worse (or Better) on Google + the October 2019 Google BERT Update

Last Updated 12/16/2021Posted in Marketing Fundamentals, SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is something that regularly confuses and confounds small business owners think there's something mystical happening to make their site appear or not appear on Google… Often I think Google is actually out to get them.

The reality is it Google wants to provide the best results possible and they make a ton of money doing it - nearly $40 billion in the last quarter. As a result, the regular we making updates to their algorithm and often make major updates.

You may notice that you suddenly, or seemingly suddenly, are no longer showing it prominently or perhaps are doing much better than you previously. 

Quick Primer on Google... and Other Search Engines

SEO is a big topic and Google does a lot of advanced things however, at its core, Google tries to do just two things:

  1. Understand what someone is looking for based on their query (what they type) and other factors (mobile vs. desktop, their search history, their location, time of day, etc)
  2. Understand how well every webpage on the Internet addresses that person's search and show the results accordingly

Also, Google Maps uses different information than a traditional search result - though, clearly, it could include normal search data. As such, be sure to claim your Google My Business profile - this will also come in handy later.

Top Reasons Your Search Engine Rankings Changed

Keep in mind, rankings on Google change daily - seriously. So if you're concerned about a specific change, you'll want to track it over time.

You Changed Your Website, Started (or Stopped) Blogging or More

Obviously, changes to your website will affect your ranking on Google. This can happen quickly in some situations or there may be a delay.

Google doesn't crawl (visit) your site every day and if you don't update or post new content to your site regularly you've trained Google they don't need to come back often.

Your Competitors Have Changed Something or Become More Active

Competitors can be business competitors but they can also be competitors with respect to search results. If you have new competitors or existing competitors have made updates to their website, started blogging, or have done other proactive things then it's possible they have moved up and you moved down.

Google had a Major Update or a Minor One

Google pushes updates daily and major updates more often than you might think. The purpose of their major updates varies, years ago they pushed an update to add link farms, another address low-quality and duplicate content.

Major updates have gone by the name of Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. Most recently, in October 2019, Google updated its search to include:

"a neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training called Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or as we call it--BERT, for short." - Understanding BERT Google Blog Post 

The good news is that this means Google can better understand both queries and the content on your website i.e. less may be required to rank on Google. However, this also means some people won't rank as well.

Fresh Content Helps You Rank Better and More Broadly

As we explore in Marketing 3-4-5™ and demonstrated on the optimal way to post and promote content blog post, fresh content drives digital marketing including search engine optimization.

New blog posts on your website give you ways to tell your story, explain your services, and present information on your static webpages with a fresh spin.

When you share these to social media you can also share them to your Google My Business profile.

More than that, Customer Reviews are a form of content that you can collect and promote.

This, too, adds more content and a broad scope of keywords to help you rank - plus, social proof is always a good thing. People feel more comfortable when they see that other people have had a good experience.

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