There’s been murmuring of a recent Maccabees update on Google. Is this update as major as everyone thinks or normal maintenance? Who’s affected? And how should they respond? We explore all the details below.

Why is everyone freaking out over Maccabees?

It all happened between December 12-14 when multiple sites noticed 20-30% site traffic loss. It didn’t appear seasonally related and left business owners and marketers scratching their heads to find an explanation.

What does Google have to Say?

A Google spokesperson explained that this wasn’t a major Google update. Rather, it was a series of minor updates made to the core algorithm as “part of [their] regular and routine efforts to improve relevancy.”

Danny Sullivan, Google’s public liason for search, also responded on Twitter stating that after the reaction of multiple bloggers, Google’s team double-checked the changes made and concluded that changes had been minor.

Where did the name originate?

Because updates to the core algorithm don’t receive a name, they are often called Fred; so some are calling the changes by that name. Others call it Maccabee because blogger Barry Schwartz of SERoundtable named it so because of its timing corresponding with Hannukah. Google was overall against giving it a name because, as previously stated, changes were considered minor.

Maccabee Mystery

As Google hasn’t confirmed anything, it’s difficult to figure out who was affected – and why

Is this related to mobile search? Some theorized the updates were related to mobile optimization, however some of the sites reporting a traffic dip are in fact mobile-friendly. It also seems that desktop visibility was not affected anymore than mobile.

What about links? Some Facebook groups associated with aggressive link building practices appear to have been affected. These websites may lack some on-page or off-page signals of authority. On the other hand, this may be caused by something else these sites share in common.

Is this related to e-commerce and/or shopping? Based on the timing – holiday season when retail sees peak purchasing activity – some believe it could be related to shopping.

Most likely, it seems, experts are guessing the cause is likely related to keyword permutations and/or low-quality websites with spammy ad practices

How to avoid Maccabee’s effect

Because the guess that keyword permutation and low-quality/spammy practices are likely targeted by the recent updates, these are key things to fix.

Keyword Permutations: Multiple phrases or long-tail keywords that mean essentially the same thing.

If you’re creating multiple pages for keyword permutations meaning virtually the same thing, then STOP. You’re better off creating one strong piece of content for just one of them. Writing the same thing over and over isn’t doing you or your customers any favors.

Even worse is any spammy or low-quality practices. If you’re doing any one of these, again STOP. This is not helping out anybody, including your Google ranking:

  • Too many ads
  • Deceptive ads (looks like a download or play button to trick someone into clicking)
  • Content created solely for ranking purposes
  • Poor-quality content with ads or affiliate links throughout
  • Thin content
  • UX barriers
  • Mobile problems
  • Aggressive affiliate setups
  • Aggressive monetization

Good Marketing Will Always Prevail

Although nothing is confirmed about the Maccabee update and the impact is in question, there are clearly some ideas of what’s causing the traffic changes, namely keyword permutations and spammy practices. This just goes back to the ideas that good, ethical marketing, with the end user in mind will always prevail. So adjust what you need to based on the above advice and re-consider your marketing going forward. Like Google, you should be striving to consistently improve the user experience. It will pay off for everyone in the end.

See our infographic covering Google’s most significant algorithms over the years here.

Avoid black hat SEO practices with these tips.

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