On March 12, Google launched a wide-ranging algorithm update commonly known as the “Florida II” update. As the leading Florida SEO agency, we obviously have the inside track on this update; and in fact, the algorithm shift was specifically targeted to compensate for our effective SEO manipulations. OK, that isn’t remotely true, but we do have a few insights that we hope will be helpful. Frankly, this update was a boost to the vast majority of our clients, but we understand this has been a cause for alarm for a lot of website owners. We want to offer you some actionable guidelines and shed a little light on the situation.
Florida II is a Core Update
Google rarely discloses small or targeted algorithmic updates (at least not quickly), so the mere fact that they are confirming this update occurred is a pretty strong indicator that it is a core update. Google spokesperson Danny Sullivan explicitly confirmed this, saying, “We do some type of focused update nearly daily. A broad core algorithm update happens several times per year. We also have lots of updates focused on specific little things each day that go into the core algorithm. This is a broader general change to the core algorithm.” So, what differentiates a core update from any other update? The primary difference is that a core update’s impact is much more widespread because it effects rankings across the board. Smaller day-to-day updates tend to focus on specific niches or verticals where Google is not satisfied with the search results and wants better results for specific types of searches.
What Florida II is Not
- Florida II is Not Just an Update of Florida I
Back in 2003, Google launched an algorithm update called the “Florida Update”. Few SEO’s recall the details of the original Florida update more than a decade and a half ago, but there is no reason to research those changes in the hope of better understanding Florida II. From an SEO perspective, the two have almost nothing in common. The original update got its name because of the timing. The original Florida SEO update happened to coincide with a much hyped Pubcon conference (organized by Brett Tabke and his crew) in Florida. The term “Florida II” was coined by Brett Tabke because the most recent update happened just a week after the most recent Florida Pubcon event. That is probably where the similarities end.
- It is Not a Misnamed Penguin Update
Google explicitly stated, “This wasn’t a Penguin update, because we no longer have those.” That is more than just nomenclature on Google’s part. While this may not be as significant a change as the early Penguin updates, we firmly believe this update transcends a backlinking-only core update.
- It is Not a Roll Back of Other Algorithm Updates
Google does not “roll back” their algorithmic changes. If they don’t like the results, they will fine tweak the math. Nevertheless, we have never seen any indication that Google completely reverts a core update. This is echoed by Roger Montii, “Because so many previous losers appear to be winning, it gives the impression that this update is a rollback. I don’t believe Google rolls back updates. What I have been told in the past by search engineers is that Google fine tunes their algorithm. So, although this may look like a rollback, it’s highly unlikely.”
- It is Not Neural Matching
Google reportedly told SEO Barry Schwarz, “Neural matching has been part of our core ranking system for over half a year. None of the core updates we have confirmed coincided with some new use of neural matching.”
- It is Not a Pagination Issue
Of course, you didn’t think it was, but Google announced another change (about pagination) at almost the exact same time, and some SEOs appear to have combined the two. Google declared that they were no longer using rel=prev/next as an indexing signal. This surprised many, as this was their recommended best practice for a short period of time. As many SEOs have suspected for quite some time, Google confirmed in March that the algorithm is smart enough to understand paginated series without the indexing tool, but mysteriously recommends that SEOs keep the code on their site “for other purposes.”
What Does It Mean for Us as the Leading Florida SEO Agency, and What it Should Mean to You?
The Florida update has major implications for rankings. If you are tracking your Google rankings, you noticed a difference. Here are a few of the areas we are confident were important players in the Florida update.
- Page Speed
There seems to be a general consensus that the Florida SEO update emphasized page speed. The faster your page loads relative to your competition the greater your SEO advantage following Florida II. This provides a clear and compelling action step – speed up your site. If you have slow loading pages, images, or videos, it is way past time to address this problem. Faster websites make for better SEO and that is not going to change any time in the future. Click here for a simple speed test.
- Secure Sites
Web developers are reporting huge penalties for unsecured websites following the Florida SEO update. If your site is not secure, please get a security certificate right away.
Another area of general consensus among SEOs is that sites that are not mobile friendly took a hit. Google is well aware that the majority of searches done using their search engine are done from mobile devices, which is why they have opted to mobile-first rankings in earlier updates. This update seems to have given those variables even greater weight. Again, this is a clear action step – both Google and your visitors want a mobile-friendly website, so if you have any issues there, they need to be addressed immediately. Click here for a quick and easy mobile-friendly check up.
- The Pro-Update Update
This is more of an in-house observation than an industry-wide insight, but we have noticed that older websites and websites that have plug-ins that need to be updated suffered following the update. As a leading Florida SEO agency, we monitor a lot of websites for competitors and for prospective clients, which means we monitor a lot of websites that have been sitting dormant for quite some time. If you haven’t done much to your website in a year or 2 except add content to your blog section, you likely found yourself at a competitive disadvantage following Florida II. That being said, there is potentially good news here. When webmasters updated their plug-ins, they experienced a small bounce in ratings. Subtle changes to websites, such as updating footers, menus, images, and videos seem to negate at least some of the slide some websites experienced. A little updating can go a long way towards mitigating any damage from Florida II.
- Cite the Author
Google seems to be bipolar when it comes to authorship of content on websites. At times it emphasized that as an emerging SEO signal, and at other times it seemed to completely abandon the project. Certainly, there are plenty of websites ranking for very competitive keywords without referencing the author of the content at all. However, within the last year Google is again emphasizing the citation of the authors of content, and some SEOs hypothesize that the Florida SEO update is an attempt to boost sites that do so.
- Bad Link Building is Doomed
Yes, those are strong words, but Google has been warning about this for years and waging war on it for almost as long. Virtually all backlink schemes are being devalued in favor of legitimate, organic backlinking. Specifically, Florida II reportedly devastated websites whose authority was significantly dependent on bad backlinks, whether they be purchased links, automated links, or links from websites hosted on suspect servers. There are even some claims that overly optimized anchor text has hindered sites. If you are spending money on questionable backlinks, it is time to invest your SEO dollars elsewhere.
- Better User Experience
The final goal for Google with this and all core algorithmic updates is a better user experience. If you look at the first four points here in our list of implications, each is designed to give users a better, more secure online experience. Google and other observers have mentioned that many of the changes we have seen in rankings are triggered by Google’s attempts to better understand search queries. Because Google interprets one search as being a shopping query, it may result in a competitive advantage for e-commerce sites. Because Google may interpret another query as research oriented, it may favor longer content. You should expect more of this in the future from Google. Attempts to better understand search queries and provide a better user experience will not end with the Florida SEO update. Perhaps Sullivan sums it up best, “Broad core updates are improvements to Google’s overall algorithm for the purpose of better understanding search queries and web pages and through that, to match them and improve user satisfaction. It can be said that the underlying goal of all broad core updates has been to improve user satisfaction.”
If you are looking for a Florida SEO agency that can you help you navigate this and other algorithmic changes in order to dominate the search results, please call us for a free consultation at 800-391-2392.