Google Maccabees Update has confirmed what many in the search industry have seen over the past week, updates to their algorithm that are significantly shifting rankings in the SERPs. A Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land “We released several minor improvements during this timeframe, part of our regular and routine efforts to improve relevancy.”
Survey of 100 webmasters and concluded that the updates are related to keyword permutations and sites utilizing doorway pages.
Some websites have reported up to a 20-30 percent loss in organic search traffic thanks to the tweak.
Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable dubbed it the Google Maccabees Update, and discovered it focused on two ares: keyword permutations and low-quality websites with spammy ad practices (an extension of Google Fred).
What is the Google Maccabees Update?
The Google Maccabees update is a recent Google algorithm update. It’s somewhat of an extension of the Fred algorithm update, and it’s focused on user experience.
A couple years ago, SEO wised up to the usefulness of long-tail keywords and answering questions. As in any field, when a new success tactic is discovered, black-hat professionals figure out how to manipulate it. Thus, creating low-quality web pages for similar long-tail keywords–keyword permutations–rose in prominence.
Keyword permutations refers to multiple phrases or long-tail keywords that essentially mean the same thing. Barry Schwartz lays it out like this:
By far, the biggest bulk of sites that I saw got hit all had tons and tons of landing pages target massive arrays of keyword permutations. So for example, if they are a travel site, they would target all the destinations they service and also add landing pages for [destination sub name] + [activity name] and sometimes even go beyond that. If they were a service business, they would target [city name] + [service A] and then [city name] + [service B] and so on.
There were many styles and types of sites doing this across blogs, travel, e-commerce, directories, and more.
What was happening was SEOs and marketing managers started to create multiple pages for each of these almost-identical keyword permutations.
Here, I’ll give you an example. Let’s say I have a plumbing company, and I want to rank for “how to plunge a toilet.” Instead of making one amazing page on plunging a toilet, I make five identical pages targeting different versions of the same long-tail keyword:
- How to plunge a toilet fast
- How to plunge clogged toilet
- How to plunge toilet
- How to unclog a toilet with a plunger
- How to use a plunger
Bad news bears.
While that may have helped you rank for both key phrases, you’re creating a confusing and often irrelevant user experience. If you want to tell people how to plunge a toilet, do it—but instead of trying to rank for keywords, why not try and write the best damn blog post out there on plunging a toilet?
Another feature of the Maccabee update is the Google Fred extension. In a nutshell:
Google Fred was a Google Maccabees update that targeted black-hat tactics tied to aggressive monetization on websites. “Aggressive monetization” referred to an overload of ads, low-value content, and few user benefits. The majority of the websites affected had one (or more) of the following:
- An extremely large presence of ads
- Content (usually in blog form) on all sorts of topics created for ranking purposes
- Content has ads or affiliate links spread throughout, and the quality of content is far below industry-specific sites
- Deceptive ads (looks like a download or play button to trick someone into clicking)
- Thin content
- UX barriers
- Mobile problems
- Aggressive affiliate setups
- Aggressive monetization
If you were affected you would have noticed a drop in organic search traffic, specifically a drop in search traffic from Google. If you are guilty of any of the tactics above, there’s a good chance you were. To remedy a Google penalty, you need to fix your web pages immediately, or rethink your ad display on your website.