Google Algorithm Update – March 2018

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Over the last few of weeks, there have been a bit of live testing and algorithm updates from Google. What’s been updated, what was tested, how does this affect your ranking, and what does this mean for the future? I’ll be answering these questions and some helpful words of advice on what you can do when Google runs updates like these.

What was updated?

I’ve seen a few shifts in the SERPs for a couple of different intents.

Zero search results purposefully displayed

The first one is the update that was getting all of the attention due to the in-your-face UX change that was delivered. This change ended up being a test. After a couple of weeks, Google’s Danny Sullivan announced:

The end of the test was a relief to those site owners who benefited from capturing organic traffic from definitive answers. During the live testing period, when a user searched for a question which had a definitive answer (ie. “What time is it in Los Angeles”), they would be given just the answer to the question with no subsequent results.

Google Zero Results Test

Expanded local map results

I’m seeing a good number of local clients see local map results pop up where there previously were not. This is just the continued expansion of the local map pack on desktop and mobile SERPs. One new shift is that a number of map snippets have been moved from the top of the page to the bottom of the page. If I were to bet, this is a test and the final placement of the map results is to be determined.

Throttled Request Indexing

It seems that as people abuse a system, eventually a change has to be made to combat such abuse. This would be the obvious reason why the “add new URL” feature is throttled. To what degree? I don’t know and I haven’t read anything definitive about it.

If you want a page to be indexed and show up faster in the SERPs you can manually submit the page to Google instead of waiting for the crawler to hit it. Apparently, there were some unscrupulous characters submitting spam and hacked data. So, now Google is reacting.

Multiple Featured Snippets Appear

When deemed necessary (for now), Google will display multiples of the same type of featured snippet on a result page. Before the update, a limit of only one of a type of featured snippet would be displayed. It was mentioned that this rollout would be expanded in the future and also move to desktop.

How will this affect your ranking?

This all depends on what your website caters to. If you’re a local business, it shows a continued rollout of featured map results. For the time being, these results are here to stay. If you are a local business and you aren’t found in the map listings, you might want to take a gander at the What Is Local SEO article.

If you deal in ad revenue via information display, you may want to double check your long-term strategy. If you can answer whatever your website/pages are offering up, I hope that you’re not dependent on organic traffic.

The expansion of featured snippets comes as no surprise. Google will continue to push out data that they think will quickly answer the user’s query. It really is in the best interest of the user. The unfortunate side-effect is that organic results will be pushed down even further and organic CTR will be negatively impacted.

Is this a sign of things to come?

I highly doubt the zero result test was the last we’ll see of this type of results. This test reminds us that Google is highly interested in filling the users intent as soon as possible, even at the cost of their own core product. Is the future of search one without the traditional ten organic listings? Is there a better way to fulfill the user’s intent once that intent is identified? Personally, I believe so and I’m seeing that the minds behind Google are testing this out.


Matthew Post

Beginning his career as a website developer and SEO in the late 90s, Matthew Post takes a data-driven approach in SEO and CRO. In 2018, he co-founded SEM Dynamics to focus on his passion for assisting local businesses increase their reach.

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