Every few weeks, SEO agencies around the country panic about Google’s latest major ranking algorithm update. The trepidation isn’t unwarranted (nobody wants to inform a client that a key webpage has suddenly fallen from page one to page two), but what if we’re approaching algorithm updates the wrong way? What if they’re not something to fear, but something to eagerly anticipate?

Search Engine Land recently profiled the diverging fortunes of two American automotive websites: Cars.com and CarGurus.com. The former experienced a major uptick in traffic and 49 per cent increase in search visibility following Google’s March 2019 core update. The latter lost “hundreds of thousands of number one placements” and saw major ranking drops for roughly 30 per cent of its keywords, Search Engine Land reports.

“In the first quarter, our total leads grew 15%,” said Cars.com CEO Alex Vetter in the company’s earnings report. “Keep in mind, the most material shift in SEO market share took place just at the end of the first quarter and continues to accelerate into Q2.”

It appears CarGurus’ troubles stemmed from a largescale “blackhat” linkbuilding operation initiated in late 2017. The company – or the SEO agencies it employs – is also accused of using ‘cloaking’ techniques that violate Google’s webmaster guidelines.

It’s unclear whether the March algorithm update caused CarGurus’ ranking decline directly, but what is clear is that by sticking with ethical, above-board SEO practices, Cars.com won in the long run. With each major and minor algorithm update, Google aspires to provide a more useful and user-friendly search experience. Forget gaming the system: meaningful links, useful content, and responsive design are the keys to success for SEO agencies in 2019.

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