Bob Dylan once sung “Oh the times, they are a changin’” and that still holds true today, especially when it comes to Google’s algorithms. We don’t see those yearly updates like we once did. However, it is not uncommon to see daily and weekly changes in rankings and visitor traffic. Unfortunately, Google rarely confirms them. Case in point: there have been 28 updates tracked this year and yet Google has only confirmed two of them. So if you’re an SEO specialist, what does this mean for you?

The Dilemma

As SEO’s, how do you react to changes in ranking or the possibility of getting penalized if Google fails to provide guidance or transparency? What does everyone need to be aware of where this dilemma is concerned? The SMX Advanced gurus answered many of these questions in “Dealing with Algorithm Updates: What Advanced SEOs Need to Know”, a recently held session that focused on these issues. Here are some of the helpful tips they provided so you could access drops in visitor traffic, identify penalties, and take action whenever it was necessary to do so.

Just because you saw a drop in the rankings and experienced a decrease in your visitor traffic coincidentally with an updated algorithm, it doesn’t necessarily imply that you’ve been penalized. There’s a good possibility that it wasn’t even a penalty to begin with. According to the experts, there are several factors that can cause a sudden drop in one’s visitor traffic including:

• analytics adjustments
• new website design
• updates to your website

What can You do?

It may not be Google’s fault at all. In some cases, it’s you. Before you assume that Google penalized you, you should do your homework. Discuss the matter with Google’s content and QA teams or check out the tech team’s recent activities. If you’re going to make any kind of assessment or speculation, you need to identify and examine the data in front of you. For instance, here are 4 things you can investigate:

• Check the search console – if a manual penalty has been assessed against you, this is where it will appear

• Examine ALL the data you have on organic traffic – if Google updated an algorithm, then that’s the only place you’ll see it

• Figure out which of your webpages saw a decrease in visitor traffic – if only one of your pages was affected, it wasn’t an algorithm update

• Look at the competition – look at your competitor’s rankings to see if they had any changes (normally, algorithm updates occur in similar industries and search results)

The bottom line here is that no penalty may have been assessed against you at all. Before making assumptions, there are other factors that you need to look at first. Thus, consider all aspects of the optimization feature before implementing it.