SEO Insights: February 2024 Report


March 2024 Core Update

Today, Google started the rollout of significant search quality enhancements including the March 2024 core update and multiple spam updates.

Google’s helpful content system has also been incorporated into its overall core ranking system. This broad and multifaceted update is likely to impact many site rankings significantly, but we will continue to monitor the ongoing effects closely.

Does Google Favour Authority Over Relevance for New Websites?

I was talking to a large ecommerce client of ours recently to discuss the possibility of creating a new website to target a related market. It’s not a strange request, by any means, but my response was quite direct… it’s going to be tough, and very expensive, to get it to rank well in the search results because of the established competition.

It’s difficult for new websites to establish themselves. That is the current reality. It might be a sobering thought but with recent updates, Google is favouring established, authoritative websites, above smaller, even more relevant, niche websites.

The truth is that this has always been an issue. An authoritative website can create a questionable piece of content, in terms of content quality, and it will likely still outrank the smaller competition, that may have much better content.

After this discussion with the client, a case to back up my claims made this quite an entertaining, if not slightly painful, reality.

Last month, a website called HouseFresh published an article called “How Google is Killing independent sites like ours”. It was a very good and honest article discussing such a topic. The somewhat irony of the article was that larger, more authoritative websites, such as Reddit, were outranking the article for “google is killing independent sites”, even though the other websites were linking to the original HouseFresh article!

Housefresh SERPs image

When I checked myself a few days after the article was published, there were 5 websites outranking the original article, and all were linking to it!

After the backlash that ensued, it appears that some status quo has been established and the original article now has a featured snippet for the search term. As it should!

Google’s response

This behaviour in the search results is not new and has been a bone of contention for SEOs for many years. It is possibly worse now, more than ever, as Google has eliminated many smaller, content focused, niche websites from the search results with the recent algorithm updates.

It seems that Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liaison voice, agrees:

“I’d like to see us do more to ensure we’re showing a better diversity of results that does include both small and large publications. I hope we’ll be doing better in the future for these types of issues.”

Hmmm, so they know it’s an issue but a fix, if there is one, will not happen any time soon.

Ultimately, Google is reflecting the real world, and large brands are much more ‘in your face’ than your local shop around the corner. It’s always a challenge for smaller businesses to compete with larger ones online and offline.

Is there any hope?

Of course there is, otherwise, we wouldn’t be here! At Artemis, our mission has always been to help small businesses generate relevant visibility and sales online, regardless of the industry. In many niches, we consistently place small businesses above their much larger competitors.

Google’s message is always the same: “Provide great content, think about the user, and that’s all you need to focus on to start getting Google interested in your business.”

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Just having great content isn’t enough. What even is great content? That statement can have a very different meaning depending on the audience, the product, the service, etc., being offered or targeted.

The reality is that you DO have to give Google what it’s expecting to rank. It’s no use having a lot of written content for a search term where Google is prioritising images or ecommerce results. Search results are query-based, meaning that every query is different, and every search phrase, although maybe even similar, can generate a completely different set of results.

Think differently

Doing the same as another website won’t yield any results. There must be a reason for Google to reward a specific page a position in the results for a given search query. More of the same is not good enough, regardless of how great you believe your content to be.

There are opportunities for smaller businesses online, it’s what we do for our clients. A business does need some time to establish itself and it does need to build up some authority, in the form of backlinks.

Regardless of what Google says, backlinks matter. That’s why I told my client that starting a new website in a highly competitive niche would be very expensive. You must build authority and that takes time and a lot of investment.

It’s not the same for smaller businesses focused on a smaller niche, they tend to need fewer (but more relevant) links on a consistent basis. They also need a great strategy that’s going to set them apart online…and that’s where we come in!

We help small businesses be that bit different and stand out online. We won’t be waiting with bated breath for Google to change how it ranks smaller businesses…we just get stuck in and make it happen ourselves.