Google Algorithm Update 7th February 2019

The SERP tracking tools show a spike in volatility on the 7th February.

Early chatter in the SEO community hints at this Google Algorithm Update mainly targets UK-based queries. It is clear, though, that the SERP trackers are showing significant volatility worldwide, and I expect to be updating this article with more information shortly.

Initial observations indicate that this update has hit a broad number of sectors in the UK, with Finance, Health, Law & Government most affected. These are typically topics that require a high level of Expertise, Authority, and Trust (E-A-T).

In the US, the volatility is slightly lower for these sectors, with Food & Drink and Jobs & Education also targeted quite heavily. This may be why (apart from the time-zone difference) the initial chatter mentioned UK-based queries.

There has been no official announcement of the search update, and it has not been confirmed by Google.

Let’s look at this in a little more detail.

This article has been updated on the 14th February, 2019. You can read the relevant updated part here.

The SERP Trackers

SEMrush Sensor:

The SEMrush Sensor shows a significant spike for the US-based SERPs.

US SEMrush Sensor 7th February 2019.
US SEMrush Sensor 7th February 2019. © SEMrush.

The UK-based SERP volatility is even higher:

UK SEMrush Sensor 7th February 2019.
UK SEMrush Sensor 7th February 2019. © SEMrush.

Rank Risk Index:

The Rank Risk Index tracker shows a similar level volatility to the SEMrush Sensor.

Rank Ranger Risk Index 7th February 2019.
Rank Ranger Risk Index 7th February 2019. © Rank Ranger.

SERPMetrics:

The SERPMetrics report shows the increase in volatility from the 6th February. The chart has not yet updated for the 7th.

SERPMetrics 7th February 2019.
SERPMetrics 7th February 2019. © SERPMetrics.

Chatter in the SEO community indicates there was a Google Update

WebMasterWorld

Let’s take a look at the discussions on WebmasterWorld. You can take a look yourself here.

Semrush showing high activity again in the UK…. brace yourselves (BushyTop)

Already seeing significant changes in UK traffic for last 2 days. (Cyril TechWebsites)

I’m noticing some spikes in traffic over the last few hours. I just checked the US and UK database on SEMRush and there could be an update going on. It’s at 8.5 for UK mobile. (whoa182)

Yeah, I’m seeing SERP shakeup on mobile and desktop US… my position average is all over the place again

Edit: Yay! I’m Seeing positions back to what they were before January’s catastrophic update! (NickMNS)

Black Hat World

I am not currently seeing any chatter on Black Hat World about this update.

Who does the Update Affect?

Looking at the SEMrush Sensor Deviation (from the average volatility) for the US:

US SEMrush Sensor Sector deviation 7th February 2019.
US SEMrush Sensor Sector deviation 7th February 2019. © SEMrush.

Looking at the SEMrush Sensor Deviation (from the average volatility) for the UK:

UK SEMrush Sensor Sector deviation 7th February 2019.
UK SEMrush Sensor Sector deviation 7th February 2019. © SEMrush.

E-A-T updates typically affect categories that require a lot of expertise such as Finance and Health. As I mentioned in the introduction to this article, it would indicate that this is an E-A-T style update, at least for the UK.

E-A-T being the type of sites that Google wants to see a higher level of Expertise, Authority, and Trust. For example, Google wants to see Doctors (or other suitably qualified professionals) write, or review medical style articles.

It is interesting that the volatility for these sectors is much higher in the UK than the US. It is possible that different phases of the Google update or different tests of an update are being rolled out in different geographical areas.

It is difficult to say what is going on in the US at this time.

Update: February 14, 2019.

Marie Haynes noticed that some of her clients who had been working on quality improvements (including technical issues) saw some small gains with this update.

Haynes further indicated that some of her clients who were trying to recover from the Medic Update (1st August 2018) or the September 27 2018 update saw no recoveries with this update. She did not that these clients probably required massive changes to their website \ strategy, so I am not sure you can read much into that.

Actions to take if you have lost traffic

My best guess is that this update targets E-A-T, but I wouldn’t rule out content quality either.

I recommend that you review your site’s content for overall quality. If you write about topics that require some expertise, read Google’s guidelines on E-A-T, which you can find on page 24 of this PDF. I recommend reading the guide in full.

For a high-quality page, Google wants to see the following:

  • Very high level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
  • A very satisfying amount of high or highest quality Main Content.
  • Very positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the Main Content on the page. Very positive reputation of the creator of the Main Content, if different from that of the website.

How I have been improving content on The Webmaster

I have been reviewing the content on The Webmaster over the last month or two following the launch of the new site design in November 2018. As part of that, I have been refreshing old content (rewriting, improving), pruning, and combining the lower quality content.

The new site design also brought with it a significant change in strategy. The focus is now on high-quality evergreen content, rather than news-based content (although I still write a twice-monthly newsletter, which you can find here).

Let’s take a couple of examples of how I have been improving old content to increase traffic, and site quality score.

  • I had some old cPanel tutorials dated back to 2014 and 2015. I created a new page template where the tutorials now reference HowTo Schema Markup. The design of the tutorials was also improved.

    You can see an example of one of the tutorials here. I made some minor improvements to the text (mainly removing fluff) and added new images. I moved overnight from page 3 of Google to the front page.

  • Another page I updated was an article on the differences between HTTP/1 and HTTP/2. This was almost a complete rewrite targeting new keywords and included custom diagrams created using Google Drawings. Here, I moved from position 17 to position 7, for a keyword that generates 320 searches per month alone.

    Improving Content Quality can have a huge impact on Search Performance.
    Improving Content Quality can have a huge impact on Search Performance. © SEMrush.

In other words, with:

  • Careful selection of Keywords (don’t be afraid to update your keyword choice when reviewing content)
  • Use of the SEMrush SEO writing assistant (to make sure your content uses the write semantic words)
  • Use of the SEMrush On-Page SEO checker after it is published to get more optimization ideas.
  • And a focus on writing high-quality content that helps the user.

You can make some serious traffic gains.

I have used many tools, but SEMrush is the one I have had the most success with, and the one I currently use for most of my SEO tool needs.

You can pick up a 7-day free trial of SEMrush here.

For E-A-T, I highly recommend working on your author bios and author pages. Show the user, and Google, that you do have knowledge and experience of the subject matter you write about (see my author bio at the bottom of this page, as an example).

If you want to keep up-to-date with further SEO and other Webmaster-related news, feel free to subscribe to my twice-monthly newsletter (the subscription form is in the footer below). You can read previous newsletters here.

Jonathan Griffin. Editor @ The Webmaster

Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.

Jonathan Griffin is The Webmaster's Editor & CEO, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all our publications. Jonathan writes about Development, Hosting, and SEO topics for The Webmaster and The Search Review with more than nine years of experience. Jonathan also manages his own SEO consultancy, offering SEO developer services. He is an expert on site-structure, strategy, Schema, AMP, and technical SEO. You can find Jonathan on Twitter as @thewebmastercom.

Read more about Jonathan Griffin on our About Page.