The core SEO takeaway has remained unchanged for years – the highest visibility positions in the SERP are paramount. While page 1 as a whole was once the holy grail; presently the top 3 organic spots plus associated Google ad placements, make or break success.
Lower rankings that once enjoyed lower traffic success are now nearly invisible to searchers. Mastering the elusive top results is the only path forward, using Video SEO, questions and interspersed alternative queries. If you’re just relying on a volume of backlinks, together with poor or non-existent on-page SEO, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Research shows the top 3 organic listings consistently account for major shares of overall traffic from rankings. My circles have mentioned the figure to be as high as 85% and being below the fold on Google page 1 offers a start difference in revenue or enquiries.
This is why eCommerce sites have a digital strategy that’s on point, consistent and evolving with each new Google algorithm change.
Beyond the dominant first page slots claimed by ads, followed by the leading trio of organic results, the remaining positions fade from opaque to invisible. The prominence of supplemental SERP features like ‘People Also Ask’ boxes, YouTube videos, and news links further bolster their way above companies that concentrate purely on linkbuilding.
What’s currently happening in 2023? Broad, ambiguous queries, are securing a top 3 primary rank will now not guarantee clicks. Google serves these searches, displaying AI-powered modules above the standard blue links. The odds of clicks rapidly diminish as users scan below these attention-grabbing elements.
Helpful Content Update (HCU) (September 2023): This update aimed to rank websites higher that provide helpful, high-quality content that gives value to users. Sites with shallow, promotional or spammy content focused too much on SEO may see declines.
Core Update (November 2022): A broad update to Google’s core ranking algorithm intended to promote higher quality websites overall in search results. Low-value pages with issues like poor expertise, writing, layouts or elements that frustrate users could be impacted.
Core Update (June 2021): Similar to the 2022 Core Update, this was a major refresh of Google’s overall ranking algorithm to surface better results. Heavy weighting on factors like E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) and user experience.
BERT (October 2019): This update to Google’s neural matching system aimed to better interpret the intent behind search queries based on context. Content that didn’t seem natural or conversational in tone, or lacked relevant keywords, may have been affected.
Medic (August 2018): Intended to improve rankings for high-quality medical/health information while demoting low-quality or inaccurate health sites. Google applied very stringent standards for assessing content quality and safety.
Fred (March 2017): Targeted low-value websites full of ads and affiliate links rather than good information. Aim was removing content focused solely on monetization over providing useful information to searchers.
Possum (September 2016): Focused on more closely matching local search results to a user’s precise location and proximity to businesses. Location and address inconsistencies could lead to declines in local SERP rankings.
RankBrain (October 2015): Launched RankBrain, Google’s first machine learning system for search, to better interpret meaning and context in queries. Poor query relevance or user experience decreased in rankings.
Mobile Friendly Update (April 2015): Massively boosted mobile-optimized pages in mobile search results. Pages without responsive design or mobile-friendly formatting were demoted.
Pigeon (January 2015): Aligned local results better with each search. Low-quality local business information, inconsistent location signals and other local SEO issues were penalized.
Hummingbird (September 2013): Moved beyond exact keyword matching to parse semantics and understand intent. keyword stuffing and repetitive content written for exact matches underperformed.
Pirate (August 2012): Demoted sites with pirated content and a high volume of copyright infringement reports to protect copyright holders.
Penguin (April 2012): Targeted over-optimization and manipulative linking schemes. Favored sites with natural, relevant links from trustworthy sources vs spammy/artificial ones.
Panda (February 2011): Decreased rankings for sites with large amounts of duplicate, scraped or thin content lacking expertise. Higher quality, original content was rewarded.