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How can you win at B2B SEO after Google’s March update?

6 min read2024-04-05
Grant Hendricks

It’s been a month since Google’s major algorithm update shook up search rankings. How has the B2B world fared? What attributes lead to success in a post-update world, and what causes websites to lose performance?

While it’s early to make any definitive judgements about the update and its impact, we can start looking at emerging trends.

We performed an analysis of 18 managed websites across several business categories to understand where we’re at and where we need to go to continue fostering success for our clients. Here’s what we found.

Context of the March Update

Rolled out at the beginning of March, Google’s latest core update takes aim at AI-generated and low value content. It purports to reduce spammy and low value results by 40%, though how they measure this improvement is not clear.

The update explicitly mentions punitive measures against generated content and spammy linking and domain exploitation practices.

Google updates “roll out” rather than “dropping.” That is to say, it’s a gradual process that may take weeks or months to complete rather than an immediate impact on the day the update is announced. After a month, the update has certainly had an effect, but its full impact may not be seen for a month or more.

Haves and have-nots: post-update performance is mixed

Across eighteen web properties, ten saw their clicks decline and nine saw their impressions decline month-over-month since March 1. Overall click volume slightly improved (1.6% gain) while overall impressions declined by just 0.08%. Average search position declined by 0.08%.

In most cases, losers lost by slim margins while winners saw significant boosts. The biggest search traffic loser saw a click decline of 12.7%. The biggest winner grew by 43%. In many cases, traffic declines and improvements were within the margin of error, indicating no significant impact—at least so far.

Technical factors contribute to performance changes, but their impact is limited

Though there are exceptions in each case, better technical performance remains a differentiator between winners and losers. We used Google PageSpeed scores to analyze website speed, finding that websites that grew their search traffic considerably averaged a PageSpeed score of 60/100, while websites that saw significant traffic losses averaged a score of 49/100.

The picture for more specific technical metrics like text:HTML ratio is fuzzier. There’s weak evidence that page structure and code quality impact search performance, but a number of outliers in our data make it difficult to draw any conclusions.

Winners focused on timely and informative content

Traffic winners attracted nearly twice as many clicks from unbranded search terms per page than traffic losers. Top performing websites saw significant traffic to informational blog posts and thorough services pages. The best-performing website post-update focused on generating quality industry news articles, analyzing stories ripped from the headlines for their customers.

Traffic losers often lacked up-to-date and timely information in their content, focusing on broad topics or neglecting content marketing altogether. Generally speaking, companies that deal in goods like equipment or chemical products performed worse than service-based companies.

We know that Google prioritizes content that demonstrates Expertise, Authority, and Trust (EAT). Staying on top of industry news, responding to current trends, and presenting clear and factual information all contribute to success. It seems that these signals are only growing more important with the latest update.

Size matters: more pages, more words per page correlate to increased success

This surely comes as no surprise. Bigger websites with broader content ranked better before the update and seem to be growing at a faster rate post-update. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. For example, one analyzed website is for a company that hires consistently and at volume. Their website is quite small, but they are a top traffic winner since March 1, due in part to a high demand for jobs in their industry. Their top performing page by far is their careers page.

Note that the quality and relevance of these pages matter more than their length or total count. Top performers analyzed don’t produce generic content en masse; they focus on topics that intrigue their audience and demonstrate their industry knowledge. The stated purpose of the March algorithm update is to reduce or eliminate spam content from search, including AI content. Increasing the volume of unique content on your website is the winning formula.

How to improve SEO performance after the March update

While there are no silver bullets to SEO success post-update, there are strategies that seem to work better than others.

  • Focus on creating timely and unique content. There was a time where SEOs could re-word content from their competitors, publish unoriginal blog posts, and potentially outrank the competitor they ripped off. It seems that Google’s efforts to prioritize uniqueness have paid off. We’re seeing generic or low-value content drop off in search, while hand-written and independently researched content performs better than ever. Mine the headlines for content ideas. Use your industry insights and expert opinions to turn news stories into thinkpieces that will resonate with your audience.
  • Run a lean, efficient website. We’ve always believed that good technical performance improves SEO outcomes. A wealth of data supports this position. While technical performance doesn’t necessarily lead to traffic growth, it seems that good technical websites are more likely to weather the storm. Websites with poor or inconsistent performance tended to lose more traffic, though a couple outliers with poor technical performance but great content muddy the waters.
  • Fresh is best. Several websites whose traffic saw growth had recently published or optimized blog posts drive their growth in March. Never be afraid to refresh and update content with new information or more context. If Google’s working hard to prioritize quality, they’ll notice and appreciate your efforts.
  • Break away from branded search. The ratio of branded to unbranded search for each website proved to have a strong correlation to overall search performance. Websites with less diversified (read: more branded) content tended to see significant dips in performance. Google wants top performers to demonstrate expertise in their niche. Ensure that your content speaks to your expertise and authority, and that you’re working on ranking for unbranded terms.

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