How Google Algorithm Updates Affect SEO For The Home Service Trades
Running a home service business is hard, and unfortunately, Google’s algorithm doesn’t make it any easier. If you aren’t investing in SEO for your local business, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to rank above your competitors.
Luckily, Leadhub has been navigating the choppy waters of SEO and Google algorithms for many years. We’re here to answer some common questions surrounding Google algorithm updates, like:
- How does Google work?
- What are Google algorithm updates?
- What do I do while core updates roll out?
- What is E-E-A-T, and how do you optimize for it?
- What are the biggest ranking factors?
- How can home services companies protect themselves from algorithm updates?
With this information in your toolbox, you’ll have a better understanding of SEO for home services and of the ever-changing landscape of Google!
How Does Google Work?
Google is obviously a massive organization with a broad range of services and features under its purview, including an advertising platform, home security systems, cell phones and even the beginnings of an AI platform. However, Google, at its core, is a search engine.
Google works similarly to a library. Every day, all day, Google sends out bots — often referred to as “spiders” — that “crawl” through the internet, searching for web pages that would be important to add to the library.
The library — officially called the “index” — is where all the web pages are stored until someone is ready to search for a query or keyword that is relevant to the information on those pages. There are billions and billions of web pages out there, so the algorithm — often referred to as PageRank — stacks those pages in order by what it believes to be most relevant to the user in a matter of milliseconds.
Here’s a helpful video from Google explaining the basics of their search engine. Spoiler warning: it may make you hungry for lasagna.
A running joke amongst SEO professionals is that the best place to hide a dead body is the second page of Google. The algorithm has since changed to remove pages and change the results page to an infinite scroll, but the principle behind the joke remains the same. If you aren’t ranking high enough, your site's content will not be seen by the vast majority of users.
This is why it is important to have an SEO team monitoring rankings and changes to the algorithm to continue to optimize your site. SEO professionals can help your business rank better for high-value queries relevant to your business using a wide range of strategies and tactics. Leadhub offers professional SEO services to our clients that are tailored to their specific needs and draw in more organic leads every day.
What Are Google Algorithm Updates?
Everything changes, and that includes the way people search for information online. Google’s job is to get ahead of that change and make their user experience as friendly as possible.
To do that, they release thousands of updates every year so users can find what they are looking for more easily and return to Google for their next query.
These updates naturally cause the order of the rankings to change frequently. While most of these updates are not publicly discussed by Google, our search engine overlords are benevolent enough to tell us when the biggest ones are happening. Update types are often recurring, but many are standalone.
Update types include:
- Broad Core Updates
- Helpful Content Updates
- Spam or SpamBrain Updates
- Reviews Updates
It’s important to note that the above-listed updates are not an exhaustive list. Many updates have been implemented before this article and many will come after, but we’ve chosen these due to their recency and recurrence.
Google’s Broad Core Updates And How They Impact Local Businesses
Broad Core Updates are the boss battle of all updates. These updates typically occur three to four times per year with a couple months of breathing room in between each update. Broad Core Updates are sweeping updates to Google’s main algorithm. These impact large portions of the algorithm in big ways. These updates are where we typically see the biggest up and down swings in rankings.
The graph below demonstrates the dramatic swings that can happen during a Broad Core Update. These swings are rare to see during any other update type. However, this particular client didn’t see any major gains or losses after the update. This is not the case for all clients.
In the below graph, you can see a client that gained significant visibility during the November 2023 Broad Core Update. For them, visibility improved by 12.41 points. It’s typical to only see changes of one to two points in the same time frame when major updates aren’t rolling out:
Broad Core Updates can also have a negative impact on clients. Here’s an account that saw a loss of 6.3 points. This particular client is brand new to Leadhub and we have not had a chance to optimize the site’s content. After a content audit, we identified the content was not reaching the right searcher intent. We believe this is the reason for the loss.
While Broad Core Updates typically happen every 3-6 months, in the second half of 2023, Google released an unprecedented three back-to-back Broad Core Updates in the months of August, September and November. Google has not outright stated why these updates all came out back to back, but we have our theories. The prevailing theory is that the sudden influx of AI-generated content has led Google to release updates focusing on promoting sites with real E-E-A-T content.
There are many SEO professionals throwing thousands of AI-generated articles onto niche sites, but we have found this approach to be less than effective. Site content needs to have user intent behind it. Google does not care if content is generated by AI, they just want it to be accurate and to help users find what they’re looking for.
What To Do While Broad Core Updates Roll Out
Broad Core Updates can cause significant changes in rankings. If your trades business falls from the first page to the fifth, don’t panic! When Broad Core Updates roll out, Google has given express guidelines on what to do:
- Closely monitor rankings
- Don’t make any major website changes
- Brace for “aftershocks”
Based on the guidelines, it is best to hold off on major changes to a website. Making changes while the algorithm updates can cause unexpected fluctuations. This makes it much more difficult to identify what exactly caused ranking changes after an update is completed.
Be warned that even after a Broad Core Update finishes, “aftershocks” — or fluctuations — may occur as Google compensates for any errors or unforeseen effects from the Broad Core Update.
Yes, You Can Recover From A Broad Core Update
Broad Core Updates are notorious for their significant impact on rankings, often negatively. For example, the March 2023 Broad Core Update resulted in notable ranking drops for several of Leadhub's clients. Yes, even seasoned SEO professionals experience big drops.
After the dust settled from the rollout, our team dedicated considerable effort to making necessary adjustments and enhancements to website content, structure and speed. While these efforts did lead to a recovery and even an improvement in rankings for our clients, it's crucial to understand a key aspect of Broad Core Updates — you won’t experience recovery until the arrival of the next update.
After our initial losses in March, we saw dramatic gains after the Broad Core Update in August. It's not that recovery before the next update is impossible, but it's significantly more challenging and less likely. The paradox of Broad Core Updates is that while they can be the source of setbacks, they also present opportunities for stronger comebacks.
The caveat here is a site will not see recovery in the next update if nothing is done to improve it. Targeted and strategic work directed at the affected pages will help restore your site to its former glory (and then some). This cycle demonstrates why it's important to keep improving and changing your SEO strategies — the world of SEO is always in motion.
Helpful Content Updates
Another important algorithm update is the Helpful Content Update. Helpful content updates are just like they sound. They’re meant to provide more helpful content to users.
Why is it such a big deal? If Google’s algorithm decides your content is “unhelpful,” then you’re going to be losing out on quite a bit of ranking power. Home service websites can protect themselves from Helpful Content Updates by utilizing E-E-A-T content on their sites.
What Is E-E-A-T?
E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. These are the tenets Google is ultimately searching for when they send their spiders out to crawl the internet.
Google’s Search Quality Grader Guidelines provide extensive information about how content is chosen to rank, and it tells us that without E-E-A-T, a site does not stand a chance at ranking.
How Do You Optimize For E-E-A-T?
To optimize for E-E-A-T, the site must provide trustworthy information from a trustworthy source. Content on a plumbing website should be written from the point of view of a plumber. Author pages, meet the team and about pages should be optimized with as much authentic information about the company as possible.
Content on the site should be transparent about reviews and pricing. Unique tips and tricks that could answer a question posed by a searcher are huge for driving traffic to a website. Affiliate marketing is not advised under E-E-A-T, so avoid native advertising on your website.
Lily Ray, Senior Director of SEO and Head of Organic Research at Amsive Digital, has extensive resources on E-E-A-T on her website. She states, “The main goal of optimizing for E-A-T is to make the good qualities about your brand, your leadership, your experts and the people who write for you as prominent as possible on the website.”
Optimizing for E-E-A-T means showcasing the positive aspects of your brand, leadership and contributors. At Leadhub, we believe that the active involvement of home service company owners in the content creation process is crucial.
We urge home service company owners to share their insights with our content team for a more enriching content creation process. By sharing their insights, they contribute to the development of content that not only reflects their expertise but also resonates with their audience.
What Counts As “Unhelpful” Content?
There’s a learning curve to understanding helpful content. Sometimes, it’s easier to identify what isn’t helpful. Here are some examples of unhelpful content:
- Duplicate or plagiarized content
- Off-topic content, i.e. a blog about your recent vacation on your electrical site
- Content that is too difficult to understand, i.e. poor grammar or the content is too advanced
- Excessive content on the same topic, i.e. two blogs titled “Best Time To Replace Windows” and “Best Time To Replace Windows In San Antonio”
- Content about trending topics
- Content that does not answer the question posed by the user
- Content is not unique or original
Helpful content is crucial for providing valuable and helpful information that enhances trust among users. It also demonstrates expertise and knowledge, which contributes to a positive perception of your site’s authority and reliability.
Helpful Content Updates: Can They Help Your Site?
Yes! Helpful Content Updates are good for your site and good for the internet as a whole — as long as you are following E-E-A-T guidelines. It’s important to maintain a close relationship with your marketing team to ensure the content and branding of your site is as genuine, helpful and authentic as possible.
Must Be Spam On The Brain: How SpamBrain Updates Effect Your Site
Spam updates, sometimes referred to as SpamBrain Updates, are generally low impact on most home service and local business websites.
SpamBrain targets websites that are intentionally created to be spammy. These sites are usually full of viruses and “hot singles in your area” — not exactly the kind of content you keep on an HVAC or plumbing website.
While spam updates rarely have a huge impact on the home services, they will sometimes have a minor positive impact on rankings. The removal of spammy websites allows more real estate for legitimate businesses. Spam updates are generally a good thing for SEO, but don’t expect them to lead to dramatic gains.
Reviews Updates (No, Not Those Reviews)
Reviews Updates do not generally have an impact on most home service websites. Considering how important third-party reviews are to the trades, it may be surprising that these updates don’t impact us.
That’s because the Reviews Update is actually about product reviews. Websites like Consumer Reports that function to review products and services in their content are the ones that have to worry about this kind of update. Most Leadhub clients do not feature product reviews on their sites, so this update does not move the needle for us.
How Can Home Service Companies Protect Themselves From Algorithm Updates?
Algorithm updates aren’t going to stop happening any time soon, so changes to your site's rankings are a guarantee. To protect yourself from algorithm updates, do the following:
- Make regular updates to your site
- Do not participate in Black Hat SEO
- Do not make major changes during Broad Core Updates
- Follow E-E-A-T guidelines
- Do not break Google’s policies
- Work with a professional SEO team
Overall, staying vigilant with regular updates, adhering to ethical practices and aligning with E-E-A-T guidelines will fortify your website against the inevitable shifts brought by ongoing algorithm updates.
Navigate Google Algorithms With Professional SEO Services
Mastering the intricacies of Google Algorithm updates is essential for enhancing the local SEO strategy of your business. By staying informed, implementing best practices and adapting your approach to align with the evolving landscape, your business can not only weather the changes but thrive in the competitive local market.
Remember, a proactive and well-informed approach, coupled with a commitment to delivering high-quality, locally relevant content, will not only help you navigate algorithm updates successfully but also position your business for sustained visibility and success in the dynamic realm of local SEO.
If you’re interested in learning more about advanced SEO strategies for your trades business or you’re in need of a professional SEO team, Leadhub can help. Reach out to us today to secure SEO services that weather and leverage Google’s updates effectively.