Just in time for the holidays, Google has confirmed on December 20th that a suspected updated had taken place between the 12th and 14th of December. Now being dubbed the Google Maccabees Update by Search Engine Roundtable.

The update was discovered when SEMrush Sensor data started spiking towards high during this time.

According to Ilya Onskul, the product owner for SEMrush Sensor, the sensor follows all changes that occur on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) in 6 countries for both mobile and desktop.

Sensor tracks scores for different industries and indicates the change in 15 features and percent of HTTPS and AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages).

The update started with three main business categories: autos & vehicles, law & government, and references.

Then on December 19th, industries such as hobbies & leisure, science, jobs & educations, home & garden, internet & telecom had also been affected by the update.

Google Algorithm Update

Image credit: Search Engine Land

After the 19th, the effects of the update started to spread outside of the US and make their way towards the UK, Germany, France, Australia, and Spain.

Although the updates to the various industries and countries may not affect you, we can be certain that this will be a lasting update.

What Sites Have Been Affected?

Barry Schwartz from SEO Roundtable collected responses from 100 site owners and conducted his own analysis to shed a better light on which sites have been affected.

Based on the results, the sites that had been most affected were sites using doorway and many keyword variations to capitalize on traffic regardless of frequency and volume.

A doorway page is a page that is targeted for a specific keyword and typically only exists to funnel a user to a different part of a site. An SEO gray hat technique.

Typical business or organizations that use this tactic create multiple sites with multiple pages that ultimately lead to the main site to maximize digital market share for a keyword.

Another time you’ll see this are travel sites. Travel sites can have hundreds of pages directed at multiple locations and keywords.

For example, a travel site may have multiple pages for the same city. We’ll pick Chicago for this example. The site would have a page for the keywords:

  • “Art Galleries in Chicago”
  • “Museums in Chicago”
  • “Attractions in Chicago”

Three pages for essentially the same thing all targeted for specific keywords. Although this may have been a great tactic in the past, it seems Google has caught on and realized this isn’t the best way to engage users.

Remember, Google is in the business of providing a good searching experience to their users, and if the experience starts to slip…

Well, just Ask Jeeves….

Ask Jeeves Logo

The bulk of the sites affected from this update were travel sites, like above, e-commerce sites, directories, and review sites.

So How Can This Affect a Landscaping and Lawn Care Site?

Suppose you service multiple areas, and just for an example, you’re located in Kansas City, Kansas. You have listed on your site that you service the cities of Lenexa, Prairie Village, Leawood, Shawnee, and Kansas City.

If your marketing team or agency is pretty gung-ho about creating landing pages geared towards location based keywords for your local SEO strategy, they’re going to want pages for “Fungicide Treatments” for each of the above locations.

  • “Fungicide Treatment in Lenexa”
  • “Fungicide Treatment in Prairie Village”
  • “Fungicide Treatment in Leawood”

Multiply this process for all your services and you have yourself a doorway-based site now affected by Google’s December 2017 algorithm update.

What’s the Best Solution Then?

It’s always best to stick to Google’s SEO Best Practices, which by the way have just updated. But right now it’s a good idea to stick to keyword metrics in your Google Search Console as well as monitoring user behavior in Google Analytics.

Focus on creating pages and content geared towards specific keywords that have a good amount of search volume as well as competition.

If you’re getting hundreds or thousands of impressions a month for a service, but not showing up until the 2nd page, create content geared towards that keyword. Don’t spam pages for any keywords you can think of.

Target your market and your customers. See what paths they’re taking in Google Analytics and figure out which content your market is looking for.

It’s always best to create your website in a “pillar” of pages format. Have one centralized page that branches out to multiple subsets.

Pillar Pages?

Example, your services page lists all your services in a general sense. Not too descriptive but gives your services in an overview.

Each service should then link to a page specifically about that service and certain parts of it should link to blogs written about that portion. One word is pillar, another is pyramid, it just depends on how you want to look at it.

Cluster Model for Pillar Page Content

Here is a good article from HubSpot on Pillar pages if you want to take a look at it in more depth.

Not all marketers follow Google’s updates closely. It’s important to arm yourself with knowledge of these updates so you can prevent changes being made to your site that may affect it negatively.

I mean we still have agencies out there using techniques based off of PageRank and Link Schemes.

Let’s Recap

Q: What did Google want marketers to do originally?

A: Create high quality content related to targeted keywords which included keywords plus locations.

Q: What did marketers start doing?

A: Duplicating the same page content over and over again for various locations with the same targeted keywords but different locations.

Q: What did this do to the search market?

A: It over saturated the world wide web with watered down content that was simply duplicated but worked its way around the original design of Google’s Panda update.

Q: So What is Google doing about it?

A: Ranking sites that follow this page duplication scheme for the same content with different locations lower in search results.

Q: What should I do?

A: Call Evergrow Marketing.