The Florida Algorithm Update

If you’re a website owner you probably have a love/hate relationship with Google algorithm updates. On one hand, you put a lot of work into creating great content for your audience. When that content starts earning you more and more traffic, you naturally want to celebrate.

Sadly, those celebrated traffic spikes can often be short lived.

Just when you think you’ve figured out this whole search engine optimization thing, Google goes and changes the rules on you. Suddenly, your well thought out SEO plan isn’t working anymore and it’s time to adjust once again.

It’s a dance we know all too well.

15 Years Ago: The First Google Algorithm Update

You’ve done your homework. You’ve read about SEO and learned about some popular tactics for improving your search rankings. Chances are you’ve probably also spent a great deal of time tweaking your website to try to gain more traffic.

But what’ the point of going through all of this work if there’s no guarantee that what’s working today isn’t going to work next month?

Google is infamous for disrupting search results with their algorithm updates, and this is nothing new. It’s hard to believe that the first major Google algorithm update was more than fifteen years ago.

On November 16, 2003, Google sent a shockwave through the digital marketing world with the release of a major algorithm change that would come to be known as “Florida”.

Mind you, this was JUST as website owners were gearing up for holiday sales.

The Fallout

In a blink of an eye, once predictable search engine results pages (SERPs) were completely flipped upside down. With no real way to prepare for what they were facing; website owners and managers were in a panic. The frenzy and fallout that followed were not unlike the destructive hurricanes and common in Florida, which many believe is what inspired this algorithms nickname.

It didn’t take long for SEO experts to realize that the game had changed forever. Popular SEO tactics once worked like a charm were out. Gone were the days of black-hat links, keyword abuse, and redundant websites.

Needless to say, website owners, especially those in the business of e-commerce, were outraged. Florida not only disrupted their organic traffic but made it almost impossible for their affiliates to send leads their way as well.

This made for some not so happy holidays for many retailers.

How Webmasters Had to Adapt After Florida

The influence of the Florida algorithm update continued to affect website owners for months to come, but small retailers were hit hardest. It’s said that many of them even had to shut down after Florida robbed them nearly all of their sales traffic.

While it certainly wasn’t Google’s intention to put anyone out of business, we could argue that Florida was actually necessary.

The truth of the matter is that there was a lot of spammy tactics at play in SEO back in the day. Practices like keyword stuffing and hidden links were commonplace 15 years ago. These practices may have been great for marketers looking to boost their own search rankings, but they often prevented users from easily finding the most relevant content to their search results.

With Florida, SERPs were completely flipped upside down. New filters were put into place in an effort to try to provide users with better quality search results.

As a result, it’s estimated that of the top 100 ranked sites for any given query, 50-98% of those sites lost their spot in the top 100. If they wanted to regain their top spots, SEO professionals would have to make major changes in the way they developed their website content. Webmasters were forced to adapt and start approaching SEO based on Google’s values surrounding good customer experiences.

Yes, Florida was devastating, but in the long run, it’s forced website owners to really focus and creating quality content for their audience. In the end, that’s great for your readers and customers.

Protecting Yourself from Future Algorithm Updates

The Florida update was just the beginning. Over the years, Google has successfully kept SEO pros on their toes with their algorithm updates.

The truth is, even the highest quality website can experience a drop in traffic from an algorithm change.

But here’s the good news…

There are steps you can take to help lessen the blow of future updates.

First, make sure that you’re creating content that puts your audience ahead of search engines. With everything we know today, many websites still fail to do this.

Google’s ultimate goal is to find a way to promote the most relevant content in every search result. The more committed you are creating that content, the better chance you’ll have of surviving future algorithm updates.

Next, make sure that you’re not stuffing your web pages with unnecessary keywords. Sure, lots of keywords may serve to give you a time relevance bump, but if it’s at the expense of the reader’s experience, then it’s not worth it.

Remember, if visitors do land on your website, don’t find what they’re looking for and quickly leave, that will send your bounce rate sky-high. A high bounce rate can kill your search ranking, so do your best to make sure that visitors to your website are actually going to find the information you lay out for them useful.

Finally, if you’re going to incorporate link-building in your SEO plan (and you should!), make sure that your links are also high quality.

Google has gotten better and better and identifying and penalizing websites with spammy links.

Tired of the Google Algorithm Dance?

We don’t blame you.

Alas, staying informed about Google’s ongoing algorithm updates is vital if you own a website. However, we understand that not everyone has the time constantly rework their SEO plan and execute new strategies.

Good news!

We can help. Our team of SEO experts can ensure that your website has the best chance of withstanding Google algorithm updates. We also take steps to improve your search rankings month after month.

If you’re tired of spinning your wheels trying to gain more exposure for your website, give us a call today.