Did you know that, in December, Google broke one of its most reliable unwritten rules? There had never been a significant algorithm update in the run up to Christmas, until last month!
This, naturally, took the Digital world by surprise, but only because of the timing, not the actual update and what it focused on. At least, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone. We were quick to act and inform all of our clients of the update and what they needed to do, but there is naturally going to be a number of you out there who haven’t had such information provided.
That’s why, today, we’re going to run through what Google Maccabees is and what it looks for.
What in the world is Google Maccabees?
The most common answer to that question is “a new Fred update”, but honestly, that doesn’t explain much. Why? Because Google announced that, as far as they are concerned, all future updates will be named “Fred”.
That’s why, when an update appears to be significantly different than the current updates, the SEO industry names it instead.
Google Maccabees, therefore, was a significantly different update that deserved its own name. You see, Maccabees directly targeted specific (old) optimisation practices. In fact, these are practices that we are constantly fighting against, as so many people still believe they are the best way to rank a website.
Well, not anymore! Google has finally stepped up and will now penalise you if any of the following are true for your website.
- Keyword Permutations
- Non-mobile friendly websites (to an extent)
- Lack of (or incorrectly implemented) Schema
Whilst the effect on non-mobile friendly websites has been a point of conversation, there has been very strong changes in Desktop ranking, suggesting that this may be the first step to testing the Mobile-First Index.
However, a bullet point list of bad practices isn’t really why you came here is it? So let’s look at each one in more detail.
Years ago, it was considered best practice by SEOs to create landing pages for numerous different variations of search terms. They would bloat your website with hundreds (if not thousands) of pages with relatively similar content just to capture traffic from as many potential keywords as possible.
For example, you could have pages for each of the following:
- SEO Peterborough
- SEO Agency Peterborough
- SEO Agency Cambridgeshire
- Peterborough SEO Agency
- And so on…
However, Google matured five years ago, introducing the Hummingbird algorithm update on 26th September 2013. This update allowed Google to understand search phrases as a whole, with context applied, rather than just individual keywords and their order.
From then on, having just a single page with high quality content about the subject of that page would be enough to capture all of the keywords listed above. Therefore, actual best practice was to remove these excess pages and focus on adding quality to the single remaining page, optimising to the highest possible level.
Unfortunately, this didn’t seem to sink in with a lot of SEOs and Digital Marketers. In fact, even until December we were still fighting against people who wanted to do exactly this. That is, until Google Maccabees came along and told the world that it will penalise you for creating these extra pages.
So what can we do?
If your website is still bloated with loads of different pages targeting various permutations of keywords, then you need to take action immediately!
The first thing you need to do is get a list of all of the different pages that are actually about the same thing. From there, choose one to keep and put a redirect strategy together for the others and remove them.
Then, you need to start optimising the remaining page completely, so that it is a high quality page from both a Google and user point of view. Do this for all keyword permutation pages you have, and get started immediately!
Non-mobile friendly websites
This one is really simple to answer, but the fix itself is one of the most complex things you’ll need to do.
Google released the Mobilegeddon update on 21st April, 2015, and had been warning everyone about it for almost a year before that. So, since the middle of 2014 (if not earlier), Google has been telling us all that having a mobile-friendly website was imperative to rankings. However, many did not heed the warning at the time, and suffered from Mobilegeddon.
Others took the quick and easy way out, creating a separate mobile website on a sub-domain (such as m.example.com) in order to get a mobile-friendly site up and running as quickly as possible. This was enough to hold back Mobilegeddon for them, but things are changing now.
When the Mobile-First Index comes into full fruition, it will completely overshadow the horror that many people faced with Mobilegeddon, whether you have a subdomain mobile site or a non-mobile friendly site. This is because it will mean that Desktop rankings will be based upon Mobile rankings.
In other words, if your Mobile rankings are bad because you don’t have a mobile-friendly website then your Desktop rankings will be exactly the same.
But what about if you have a subdomain mobile site? Well, the issue there is that the Mobile-First Index being based upon Mobile rankings likely means that it will be Google’s mobile-bot crawling your website and determining what to rank.
The problem with this is that the mobile-bot will always be redirected to the subdomain, and so it will only ever index the subdomain… Do you see where this is going?
Even on Desktop, users will be taken to your mobile subdomain!
As I am sure you can tell, this is a huge problem from both an SEO and user perspective, so it needs to be addressed before this happens.
So what can we do?
To put it simply, you need to invest in a fully responsive website with a deadline of 3 years ago.
If you are planning your annual budget right now, then you absolutely have to put a good amount aside for a brand new website build, as a fully responsive website that works well on all viewpoints is not a simple task.
Address the issue of a non-mobile friendly website or a mobile subdomain now should be your number 1 priority in terms of web development, far above anything else you have planned. If you haven’t gotten a fully responsive website yet, you’re very late, but not too late. Just do not wait any longer!
Lack of Schema tagging
Now, this one is the middle ground of the three issues in terms of complexity. Schema has been around for quite some time now (check out our post from 2016 on for a brief introduction), but usage of it is still rather low because it can be confusing to implement.
In essence, Schema (also know as Rich Snippets and Markup) is a special type of website coding that can be added to various sections and aspects of a website to help crawlers better understand each page. For example, on a product page you can tag the product name, price, image, description and reviews. Then, this information will be passed through to Google (and other crawlers), who may use this information in search result listings.
If you have ever seen star ratings in a website’s Organic SEO search result listing, then this is due to Schema.
However, the actual setup of Schema ranges from incredibly simple (like putting the business name and address) to incredibly complicated (setting up the details of a configurable product).
Despite this, Google and Bing have both been pushing for website owners to have Schema implemented, and done so correctly, so that they can get a fuller picture of what each page is related to. Google, especially, was pushing this because it helps to build up their Knowledge Base listings.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Google Maccabees was used as another push…
In short, if you don’t have any Schema on your website, or if your Schema is incorrectly implemented, you may very well suffer a hit on your Organic SEO rankings.
So what can we do?
To put it simply, you need to get Schema installed onto your website as soon as possible, although after sorting out a fully responsive website if you don’t already have one.
The first step of doing this would be to determine which type of Schema each page or section of a page should have. You can find a list of the different Schema types here, but as you can see, there are tonnes of different options. In fact, it is easy to get lost in the web of interconnecting Schema and parameter inheritance.
The best way to determine which ones to use is to write down your website’s architecture, determining all of the different page types that you have. From there, you can work out which pages have specific sections that require certain Schema types.
This is, again, a pretty big and complex task that needs to be undertaken. However, the benefits are huge!
Not only do you protect yourself against Google Maccabees, but on average, websites with properly implemented Schema typically see a 30% increase on Click Through Rate from Google search results!
So, as well as protecting your website, you could actually increase the level of traffic you get as well. It’s a win-in situation, but also one that is now absolutely necessary.
The plan of attack
Well, that was a not-so-brief rundown on Google Maccabees and the three things that you need to address in order for your website to be safe. As mentioned previously, none of these changes should have really come as a shock to any SEO, as Google is really just cracking down on things it has warned us all about for ages anyway.
However, for those of you who have seen significant changes to Organic SEO traffic and rankings, or who still suffer from these issues, now is the time to get them sorted!
So, here’s a quick recap of what the issues are and what you need to do about them.
- Issue: The use of multiple landing pages targeting variations of the same keyword.
- Fix: Remove excess pages and focus on a single, high quality page to capture all variations of the same keyword.
Non-friendly mobile website
- Issue: Non-responsive website or separate mobile site on a subdomain.
- Fix: Immediate investment in a fully responsive, high quality website.
Lack of Schema tagging
- Issue: No Schema use on the website, or incorrect implementation of Schema.
- Fix: Carefully plan out which Schema needs to be on which page, and implement the markup code correctly.
All three of these are complex issues that need to be addressed very carefully, although some are more difficult than others. However, that isn’t to say that just anyone could carry out the necessary fixes.
If done correctly, each of the required fixes will have the potential for huge growth for your website. If done incorrectly, they could potentially ruin the website as well. However, as Google Maccabees has now made these changes imperative, you absolutely need to make sure they are implemented by someone who knows what they are doing!
With that in mind, we have been implementing these fixes on our clients’ websites for the past few years, in preparation for the day when an update like Google Maccabees inevitably arrived.
Therefore, if you are worried about getting your redirect strategy wrong and losing all of your equity, we can help you to ensure that it is put in place correctly. If you are in need of a high quality, fully responsive website, that is tested by both experienced developers and actual SEO experts, then we have been doing just that for years. And finally, if you’re in need of getting Schema installed or fixed, we have the experience with it to get it right, not just in terms of implementation, but also right for you and your website.
So, if you need help with any of these issues, or just want to discuss what you need to do to fix them, get in touch today!