Google Traffic and Rankings – 1Q17 Review

If you are a website owner, getting steady growth in site traffic and a top ranking within Google, is something you always strive for. For you to get a higher ranking, a true and genuine approach to content development and site growth is the only way. With this in mind, we are detailing some of the recent updates to the Google search algorithm impacting site rankings. Read below to learn more.


Fred Update

On March 7th 2017, Google webmasters who keep a constant eye on traffic and ranking came up with a report, which they named the Fred Update. A review of the report done on the 23rd by Gary Illyes, Google’s trend analyst, confirmed that the report aims at particular facts found in Google’s webmaster guidelines. Web pages and websites that did not pass the visibility test had the following characteristics:

  • Content had too many keywords
  • Content was heavy on ads
  • Thin content
  • Scraped content

To pass the 50-90% Google visibility, websites and web pages should observe the following recommendations:

  • In as much as you are focused on making good sales, do not overdo it even if you are targeting on an AdSense campaign. As indicated in the report, most losers maintained sites which were heavy on ads.
  • If you are an SEO writer, you should realize that neither thin content, nor keyword stuffed content, can impress your users. Users want content that is detailed and helpful.
  • We all agree that web scraping software’s has made web content developing quite easy. What you do not know is that it may be your site’s downfall as online users need meaningful content. You should therefore keep data aggregating and web scraping to a minimum.
  • Lastly, keep track of regular review through ‘Google Webmaster Tools’, ’Search Console’, as well as the Google webmaster guidelines, to keep your site up to date with current best practices.

Mobile-first Index

Google’s trend analyst, Gary Illyes also announced the introduction of the Mobile-first index. What is this Mobile-first index?

Previously, Google rankings were done through the evaluation of the content’s desktop version, which was previously okay as desktop was where the majority of the search volume initially originated from. Current trends indicate however than most searches are now initiated through smartphones. In order for Google to get more aligned with their users, Google plans to also introduce mobile as a priority in the ranking algorithm.

Future of the Mobile-first index

What is in store for this upgrade? After Google launches the mobile-first index, ranking will be done based on the mobile versions instead of the desktop versions. This means that factors such as page speed, H1’s, structured data, titles and tags of the mobile site will be considered instead of that of the desktop.

Presently, Google is conducting tests of this upgrade on a small scale, which they plan to widen once they are satisfied with the performance. Generally, the strategy group is convinced that the mobile-first index will enhance user experience.

Mobile-first Index vs. Mobilegeddon

The Mobile-first index is set to be quite dissimilar from mobilegeddon. Mobilegeddon, or the mobile friendly update, is an algorithm update that was created for the sole purpose of improving mobile-friendly pages in mobile search results for Google. Although it has been present in the market for almost a year, most websites still fall short in the mobile friendly tests.

Hacking rates

According to Google, 2016 registered an increased rate of hacking as compared to 2015 by a whole 32%. Unfortunately, the increase of the hacking rates is expected to continue. The majority of the webmasters (61% to be precise) reported not to have received any notification that their site had been bugged from their service provider.

The main reason behind this is that the websites had not set up the Google Webmaster Tools/Search console. To be on the safe side, websites should get search console verification and stay up to date with current site status.

Rank Brain

Ranking of searches in Google has come a long way. Google uses PageRank to rank how important a page is depending on the number of links the websites gets. From June 2016, Rank Brain was introduced, which is an artificial intelligence system using a machine learning approach for processing Google queries.


When it comes to Search Engine Optimization, the basics are the most vital features but are often ignored. First, ensure that your site is crawlable; the site should not only be search engine friendly, but also easy for users to browse through. To do this, be creative in your titles as well as descriptions and you will realize that your site’s traffic will increase. Such basics are your website’s foundation, which if you focus on them, you will linger at the top ranks for longer.

Google Tag Manager (GTM)

Way before the GTM came into existence, to attach tags to your site, you had to do it the hard way; manually. This involved adding tags to the web pages’ source code and if you wanted to make any slight adjustment, you had to do it at the page source code.

The Google Tag Manager on the other hand, made life quite easy as it required you to attach a single container bit to every page of the website. The container snippet handles every aspect of the tags throughout the site whether it is the arrangement or performance activities of the site. The cool thing about the GTM is that you as the web developer only have to attach, update and manage tags that you require within the interface.