By Michael Bertini
It’s only February – yet many of our clients are reporting major swings in their key pages’ Google search rankings. What’s behind this, and how can your brand maintain rank position as the year moves along?

The primary factor: Google search algorithm updates

SEO experts have noted a couple significant Google search algorithm updates thus far in 2019. Google is typically tight-lipped about when and how it applies changes or updates to its algorithm – and these latest tweaks are no exception.

Still, in my conversations with clients and other SEOs, it appears that two things are in focus for Google:

  1. Authority in news reporting and
  2. Website technical factors.

News cleanup: An ongoing process

About a year ago, I blogged about Google’s efforts to promote high-quality journalism. It appears that this initiative is continuing with these algorithm changes.

Google hasn’t kept publishers completely in the dark: It offered some tips in January regarding bylines (a must), “scraped” or rewritten content (a big no-no) and date format (at the top of the page, ideally encoded in schema markup).

Technical factors: Making speed a focus

As for technical issues, these come down – in my opinion – to a renewed focus on page load speed. Google appears to be weighting speed more heavily as a ranking factor, but many sites aren’t up to par.

That’s true even at the enterprise level (i.e., among our client base at iQuanti). Many companies have neglected technical SEO best practices, leading to slower than expected page loads. Now, Google is cracking down.

What are some typical problems related to speed? Images are often too large. Render-blocking JavaScript delays key page content. Unnecessary ad serving code is commonplace.

All of these are issues I see with iQuanti’s clients. Now is the time to take a hard look at your pages’ performance – especially on mobile. The Google algorithm has moved to mobile-first indexing, which means most sites’ responsive versions are indexed before their desktop versions.

Are you guilty of any of these technical faux pas? Have you seen your ranking change in the first couple months of 2019? Let us know here.