All over the world SEO consultants thought they had it sorted when advising clients how to reach the top of the SERPs. Then Google went and moved the goalposts. But how much do Google changes really affect how a website ranks? If it has been designed and built correctly, then surely not very much.

For the most part, SEO has remained largely unchanged for years with many key and age-old stratagems still just as relevant today. However, the arrival of Panda, Penguin, Pigeon and the more exotic Hummingbird made new Google updates things to be feared, when they should be embraced for their ability to separate the website wheat from the chaff.

For example, on April 21st Google expanded the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal – a change first talked about in November 2014. Affecting mobile searches in all languages worldwide and having a significant impact on search results, it aimed to make it easier for users to get relevant, high quality search results optimised for their devices.

It will always be the sites most negatively affected by the latest update that makes the most noise. And for those companies that saw their heavily SEO’d website drop out of the SERPs, Google recommended the following steps:

  • Test a few pages using the Mobile-Friendly Test.
  • Use your Webmaster Tools account to get a full list of mobile usability issues across your site using the Mobile Usability Report.

Although this would have been little consolation at the time, it will also make sure your site is web-friendly for the future – and you must be prepared for more changes to come. As a result, taking these simple steps will only be a good thing with more and more google searches now carried out on mobile devices (29% of total search volumes in the US for Q4 2014).

In 2014, Google altered its algorithms so frequently that so-called SEO specialists became terrified of every new update. But with organic optimisation still the mainstay of SEO, those that do it correctly from the start still have nothing to fear, for example when the next Google Panda update drops.

False alarm

Introduced in February 2011, Panda was meant to stop sites with poor quality content from working their way into Google’s top search results. Now, the world awaits the next Panda update and we are all expecting a data refresh and not an algorithmic change.

So on the morning of the 17th June when a new update was released, and almost immediately reported by the SEO world, it was somewhat surprising to see a change had been made to the world-famous Google core ranking algorithm! But all was not what it seemed….

In fact, it was nothing to do with Panda or Penguin, or any cute black and white creature. It was all just one of the regular changes that Google makes throughout the year. So, what does this actually mean? Well, we can all go back to waiting for the Panda update to drop in very shortly.

Google confirmed this news with the following statement: “This is not a Panda update. As you know, we’re always making improvements to our search algorithms and the web is constantly evolving. We’re going to continue to work on improvements across the board.”

So what does the future hold?

As nobody really knows what the next Google update will bring, it’s still a simple case of sitting tight and hoping that your website is up to scratch come judgement day. If Panda arrives and you find your website dropping down the rankings, it might be time to and go back to basics and get your SEO right. Optimise your landing pages for your chosen keywords, check your content is unique, improve your backlink profile and ensure your website adheres to Google’s guidelines.

In reality, SEO is the same as always but without all the tricks and shortcuts that promised great short term results. With this is mind, it’s also vital to give your SEO campaign time as it can take up to 12 months for the results to show, but when they do it will have been well worth the wait.