Breaking Down the September 27 Algorithm Update

author image Written by: Rob May           Categories - Digital Marketing

Google Confirms A Smaller Update as SEOs Report Turbulence, Changes

It is happening again: Google confirmed another update to their search algorithm that took place around September 27, 2018, though it appears to be much smaller than August’s E-A-T update. Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed that, unlike the E-A-T/Medic update, the September 27 update wasn’t major: https://twitter.com/dannysullivan/status/1046145741243047936 Of course, just because Google doesn’t see it as a major update doesn’t mean that it didn’t have an impact.

What Happened?

Rolling out on September 27 (Google’s 20th birthday, hence the affectionate nickname “the Birthday Update”), the update was relatively small compared to the broad core updates earlier this year. While this “smaller” update may have impacted fewer sites than past algorithm changes, it certainly felt significant to those hit hardest by it. SEO folks around the globe reported significant spikes and drops in traffic, with one standout theme: Most of the sites hit hardest back in August now seem to be recovering. While it’s entirely possible that these gains are the result of diligent work to bring sites in line with the last update, it’s more likely that Google’s changes are responsible for these big shifts. This could mean that Google’s Birthday Update was a direct tweak of whatever changes they made in August. As we know from past analyses, the August E-A-T update focused on those three key factors: expertise, authority, and trust. Google’s process for evaluating these factors usually involves analyzing links, mentions, and other references. With this in mind, trust, and Google’s approach to assessing it, might have been the biggest impact in this update, causing several reversals and course corrections in sites impacted by the August update. Glenn Gabe’s analysis found significant reversals with the update. He also noted “tremors” in early October, potentially signalling further tweaks to the algorithm. These reversals and changes could very well be Google altering how it assesses how trustworthy a link or site might be.

Rollercoaster of Changes

Though Google described this update as “small,” even the smallest change can make the biggest impact. The rollercoaster rise and fall in rankings and traffic following this update show that there was plenty going on. So was this just a tweak to the E-A-T update, a reversal, or a roll-back? Most analyses point to a tweak more than anything else. Looking at some of the available data, it’s easy to spot the pattern:

A graph of organic traffic sessions showing a decline following an algorithm update in late September.
Organic traffic took another hit following the Birthday Update.
Steve Paine at Sistrix had some very interesting observations about YMYL sites that directly point to this being an addendum to the E-A-T/Medic update, too:
A chart of winners and losers from the recent Google algorithm updates, courtesy of Steve Paine from Sistrix.
Note the inverted relationship between the winners and losers. Chart by Steve Paine at Sistrix.com.
Note the “u” and “n” shapes in these graphs and the timestamps. The “losers” in August—those sites hit hardest by the E-A-T update—see a sharp upswing with the Birthday update. August’s “winners,” meanwhile, show almost the complete opposite: immediate, impressive gains followed by a sharp drop in late September. Marie Haynes’ in-depth analysis also found surprising correlations between update winners and various trust factors. Her research uncovered plenty of evidence to suggest that trust was the biggest factor affected by this update. This gels with Glenn Gabe’s own findings, as he emphasized the role of trust signals.

Understanding Trust

How does Google analyze something as broad as trust? It is, after all, hard to define, especially in the context of the web. Thankfully, Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines offer a direct look into what the company considers trustworthy. In fact, the QRG are frequently pointed to by Danny Sullivan and others at Google as a “how-to” guide for creating the sorts of sites Google is looking for. https://twitter.com/searchliaison/status/1050447188319322112 While it is easy to dismiss these guidelines as “make good websites,” they include serious, actionable intel available for SEOs and webmasters. If you want to improve your site’s trustworthiness, there’s plenty you can do. Social media, brand mentions, and reputation management all play a significant role in developing trustworthiness. Links should not be overlooked, either! A good link profile can make the difference between SEO success and failure, and trusted, reliable sources and information appear to be more important than ever. This also leads us to believe that these off-site signals play a significant role in Google’s analysis of a site’s trustworthiness. Reviews, reputation, and of course the E and A in E-A-T, cannot be overlooked.

Reviews and Reputation

Your business’ reputation is a valuable asset, even in the realm of online reviews. Google’s QRG specifically mention negative reviews on the Better Business Bureau as an example of something that could easily impact E-A-T, and it goes without saying that Google My Business reviews also play a role. Simply put, reviews are a clear signal Google looks for to determine if your site is trustworthy or not based on your reputation. The opinions of your customers are typically the most impartial information presented to the public regarding your business. Google surfaces and centralizes these opinions in Google My Business review listings, which pop up when users search for your business or click on your business’ description in SERPs. Assuming your reviews are all positive, you’re golden, but of course, nothing is ever quite that simple. Reputation management works to maintain positive relationships with your customers while addressing their complaints and concerns. Don’t leave negative reviews to sit unanswered! They’re an opportunity for you to follow up and address the situation. By reaching out in such a public space, you’re demonstrating that you at least care enough to make things right.

An example of a Google Business snippet.
SEO TWIST’s own business snippet, as featured on Google Search – note that reviews get plenty of space!
Positive reviews translate into a positive reputation, as do media mentions and your social presence. Do not overlook them!

Demonstrated Expertise and Authority

The E and A in E-A-T are closely linked to Trustworthiness. It goes without saying that demonstrating your expertise and authority in a given niche, vertical, or industry are vital towards developing trust. But how do you develop these things? It’s a challenge, to be sure. We recommend a strong content strategy to help develop unique, winning material that you can then push via social and digital channels. As always, the hardest part is getting noticed, but once you’ve built a following and earned a few mentions and links elsewhere, it’s easy to build and grow. https://twitter.com/Marie_Haynes/status/966325146968559616 But still, you can’t just become an expert overnight. Highlight the people in your organization and focus on the knowledge. Bring that bear in conjunction with your content strategy (especially in YMYL industries!) and you should start to see gains. There’s still no quick fix for any of the impacts these updates have, but with some careful planning and the right approach, you can rebuild rankings, regain lost traffic, and get a better handle on the ins and outs of Google search. Check back in the coming weeks for more updates on the October rollercoasters and volatility, leading up to the Halloween Update on the 31st!

Rob May

How to Get Your Business Holiday-Ready in 2020


Tips For Preparing For The Holiday Rush

This holiday season might be a bit different this year thanks to the pandemic, but it doesn’t have to be all surprises. There are so many ways you can prepare your business for a successful holiday season, pandemic or no pandemic. With that being said, we’ll help you understand what steps you need to take when it comes to your sales, marketing, and operations departments to set your business up for success.

Show Your Current Customers/Clients That You Care


Customers always like to feel appreciated, especially around the holidays when everyone is feeling warm and fuzzy.

Whether it’s special thanks emails, holiday cards, a loyalty giveaway, or customer appreciation sale/promotion, being proactive and going the extra mile will show your customers you truly value them and will help maintain the relationship long-term.

Promote Your Products/Services

The holiday season is the biggest time of year for shopping, so now is the time to really go all out promoting your products and services by offering holiday sales, discounts, and promotions. Also consider introducing gift certificates, so your loyal customers can share the love with their friends and family.

Pivot To Social Media Platforms


If you don’t already have a social media presence, start now. If you do have social media pages set up, but don’t use them that frequently, start amping up your efforts with regular posting right away.

Beyond just generic posts, use your social media to promote specials and certain brands you sell, offer promotions, host virtual events, and show off your company culture. This not only helps increase brand awareness, but can help drive traffic to your website and increase leads.

Facebook is ideal as it’s the most widely used platform, but Instagram is also great.

Still not convinced? Here are a few statistics that may change your mind

  • 71% of consumers who have had a positive experience with a brand on social media would recommend that brand to their friends and family
  • 54% of social media users use social media to research products they are interested in
  • 68% of all U.S. adults have a Facebook account

Promoting Your Brand Via Social Media Giveaways

Social media giveaways are also a great way to promote your brand.

However, don’t just give anything away. For a giveaway to produce the kind of results you’re looking for, you should be giving away a product or service from your brand. Because, while IPad giveaways can get a ton of attention, they don’t leave a lasting impression because the people who are entering aren’t usually interested in your brand.

Instead, create a post offering a free product or service to one lucky customer, and make it a requirement for all participants to share the post with their followers.

Or, you can also connect with an influencer to launch and promote a giveaway to their followers. Either way, this is a relatively inexpensive option to help get your brand in front of a wider audience.

Invest in Tools That Support Your Business

Having a strong team to help run your business is great, but, as you’ve probably learned, there’s only so much humans can do. From CRMs, to project management, chat functionalities, etc., investing in digital tools and cloud software to help manage your various departments is essential and will help you scale your business.

Start an eCom

It’s no secret that customers are moving online and taking their business with them, especially around the holiday season.

Here are some stats to back this up:

  • 76% of consumers now prefer buying holiday gifts online
  • Online holiday shopping revenue in the U.S reached $124 billionin 2018
  • The percentage of retail sales that come from eCom is expected to rise from 8.9% in 2017 to over 15% in 2022, totaling nearly $892 billion

For businesses that operate primarily from a brick and mortar, get ahead of the curve by launching your own eCom website to support your storefront.

When transitioning to online sales, make sure you are being fully transparent with your customers throughout this process. This includes being upfront about shipping costs and delivery times, along with refund, exchange, and cancellation policies.

5 Tips for Operating A Successful eCom

1. Ensure Customers Will Have The Best User Experience

Customer experience is key to maintaining long-term relationships with your clients. Make sure your website has a strong UX and is mobile friendly.

2. Automate Selling, Shipping, and Fulfillment

Automate these areas of your business to help streamline processes and avoid human error.

3. Create Strategic Holiday Marketing and Promotions

Offer holiday promotions to help draw people to your website and gain sales. These must be planned out and launched months in advance for them to be effective.

4. Ramp Up Customer Service And Support For Holiday Traffic

As holiday traffic to your site and storefront increases, it’s vital that your team is equipped to support this. Improve your customer service processes and ensure that you have enough staff on hand so that customers aren’t being left in the dark.

5. Measure The Success Of Your Holiday Campaign

Looking at your analytics is key to determining whether your marketing efforts have been successful so you can know whether to tweak or maintain your strategy going forward.

Operations Tips

While marketing is important, it’s also crucial that your team is able to handle the influx in sales you’re going to experience right before the holidays.

Here are a few tips for improving your internal operations.

Inventory Management

One of the worst ways to lose a customer’s business is to promise or even promote the availability of an item that you don’t actually have in stock. Therefore, when sales are on the up during the holiday season, inventory management is more important than ever.

Rather than risking potential human error, automate your inventory management system to ensure you have an accurate account of every product in stock.

Organize Staff Schedules/Hire Seasonal Help If Required


Now’s the time to turn your business into a well-oiled machine. Make sure staff schedules are made and organized ahead of time and that any time off is booked well in advance and communicated with whoever is making the schedule. And, if you find that things are starting to get a bit hectic, hire seasonal help to take some of the stress off your team.

Optimize Your Downtime

Once the holiday rush is over and you’re taking some much deserved time off, take the time to reflect on this year’s holiday rush and evaluate your business’ strengths and weaknesses, what worked and what didn’t, and how you can do things differently going forward.

Communicate With Your Team

Communication and making sure everyone is on the same page is key to ensuring things run smoothly with your business and reducing the risk of hiccups from occurring. Let everyone know the business goals for the holiday season and what is in store, what’s expected of them and their roles, and who’s able to take time off (and when).

Whether it’s sending frequent emails to all staff or scheduling regular meetings (either virtual or in-person), checking in every once in a while and keeping everyone updated is vital.

Support Your Team


Everyone within your team will be overloaded this time of year, so make sure everyone feels supported and be understanding about delays. You’re all in this together, so teamwork and communication is more important than ever.

The Takeaway

Need help building your holiday marketing plan? You’ve got enough on your plate during this time to tackle it alone. Consult with a professional digital marketing agency to help bring your marketing strategy to the next level and grow your sales.

From building a new website to setting up paid ads, developing a social media strategy, and even producing video, a full-service marketing agency will have your business ready to handle the holiday rush.

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Struggling to Stand Out in a Saturated Market? Here’s What You Need to Know


Tips for Gaining A Competitive Edge to Surpass the Competition

From dental clinics to home landscaping services and everything in between, it’s hard to know exactly how you can stay above water and compete in a saturated market with new businesses popping up left, right, and centre. And while competition can be a good thing, not knowing how to differentiate yourself amongst a growing pool of competitors can quickly sink your business. So, to help you stand out in a saturated market, we’ve compiled our best pearls of wisdom that will help you gain the edge you need to surpass the competition.

Why A Saturated Market Is Challenging

With any business, you’re bound to encounter a few roadblocks on the way. This is especially true when operating in a saturated market. One of the most significant drawbacks of operating in a saturated market is that it limits your profitability and growth potential. It also makes it more difficult for your brand to stand out when competing for customers’ attention, business, and loyalty. This means that the more competition you have, the more money you’ll need to spend in order to stand out and push yourself to the front of the line.

Why A Saturated Market Is Opportunistic

Despite the obvious challenges, a saturated market isn’t always a bad thing. Think about it this way: the more competitors you have, the more buzz is generated surrounding your product or service, which increases your chances of having your marketing messages reach a whole new audience. In fact, having this kind of buzz surrounding your industry will help to validate the idea that a particular type of product or service is something consumers need. This leads to you getting a bigger pie of marketing dollars rather than having to duke it out with competitors to get a larger slice of the same pie. Plus, having competition also promotes growth, as you won’t ever be able to become complacent. In other words, a growing market is good for business.

The Best Ways to Make Your Business Stand Out

But this doesn’t mean you don’t have to put the effort in to help your business stand out. So how do you use a saturated market to your advantage and find a unique way to position and market your brand in a way that is unique from the competition? Here are a few ideas:

Be Human and Have A Personality

It’s a well-known fact that people like buying from other people, especially ones they can relate to. So, if your branding and messaging seems like it was written by a faceless robot, it won’t appeal to consumers. But by crafting a distinct style, voice, or brand personality, you’ll appeal to specific types of buyers. The key is not to be afraid to let people see the humanity behind your brand. This ‘personality’ should also extend to your values, your mission, your vision, and what you stand for. Because if consumers feel like they know you, they are more likely to develop trust, giving you the advantage over other brands.

Know Your Niche

Rather than breaking into an industry and focusing on a broad target audience, you should be looking for a niche group whose needs aren’t being met. These potential customers are probably already buying what’s currently on the market due to the lack of alternatives. So, if they see a product/service offering that’s created especially for them, they’ll feel seen and happily go with your brand over the competition.

Build Relationships and Engage Your Audience

via GIPHY Again – and we can’t stress this enough – people don’t buy from faceless companies; they buy from other people. So, whether it’s through email marketing, a social media marketing strategy, or just amazing content, it’s important to focus on building and maintaining great relationships with clients that will keep them engaged and coming back long-term. It doesn’t matter whether they’re one-time shoppers or long-time buyers, fostering an amazing relationship with every customer and ensuring they feel valued will give them one more reason to keep coming back to you over your competitors.

Emphasize Exceptional Customer Service

via GIPHY With so many options available to them, customers will no longer put up with delayed responses, poor shipping practices, or other customer service issues. In fact,  around 75% of customers believe that customer service is one of the best ways to measure a business’s competence. So, the takeaway here is to treat your customers like royalty and make sure your communication is on point by providing quick response times and amazing customer support.

Be Transparent and Honest and Admit Mistakes

In the age of social media, negative feedback and poor experiences spread like wildfire, and can truly make or break your business. For this reason, you must always be on your toes and be able to respond to negative critiques and rectify any wrongs as soon as they happen. And don’t be afraid to look bad in front of customers who may not have had negative experiences. Owning up to your mistakes makes you appear more human and genuine, which is something people always like to see.

Prioritize User Experience

Besides providing great customer service and having an awesome relationship with your clients, your user experience (UX) needs to be a top priority. User experience refers to a customer’s overall experience using your website, factoring in how easy and pleasing it is to you. A meaningful user experience not only allows you to define your customers’ journey on your website, but also provide them with a positive brand experience that will help to build loyalty and trust. The best way to achieve this is to have a modern-looking, mobile-friendly site that is also easy to read and navigate on desktop. Also make sure you are producing high-quality content and are keeping up to date with digital marketing trends.

The Benefits of SEM And How It Can Help You Stand Out

If you’ve put in all the work and are still struggling to generate leads, SEM marketing may be the final missing piece of the puzzle. SEM (Search Engine Marketing) is the process of driving website traffic through the purchase of search engine ads. This includes:

  • Paid search ads
  • PPC (pay-per-click)
  • PPC (pay-per-call)
  • CPC (cost-per-click)
  • CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions)

SEM marketing is a great way to give yourself a competitive advantage by increasing your visibility, improving brand awareness, and advertising directly to an audience that is already interested in what you have to offer. The end result of SEM marketing efforts is usually more traffic to your site, increased leads, and better conversion rates and sales. So, what do you have to lose?

Tackle Everything at Once with a Digital Marketing Agency

With a bit of time and effort, you can overcome a saturated market and get your brand where it needs to be. But you can’t do it alone. By partnering with an experienced digital marketing agency, you can trust that your business is in the right hands and will be optimized to surpass your competitors. via GIPHY Through competitive research analysis, an agency will help you gain a better understanding of what you’re up against. Plus, whether it’s through PPC, social media, SEO analysis, or content marketing, an agency will come up with strategies and plans of action to help steer your business in the right direction and smash the competition.

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