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Has The Google Maccabees Update Affected Your Website?

By piranha

11th January 2018

December is traditionally a slower month for SEOs. However, this time round, Google saw fit to release what it called ‘several minor improvements’ a couple of weeks before the Christmas period.

Since dubbed by the community as the Maccabees Update, is it a big deal? And what might it mean for your site?

Keep reading to find out!

Is the Update a Big Deal?

SE Round Table’s Barry Schwartz has become a leading voice on the impact of the Maccabees Update (as he does on most SEO topics).

Regarding the scale of the changes, he had this to say:

‘…I found multiple patterns, not just one, which may mean that multiple updates rolled out, which of course is the Google line on Google’s algorithmic updates.’

What’s slightly unusual here is Google has officially confirmed that there were multiple updates across the period in question. This makes a change from the search engine’s usual ‘there are minor updates every day’ stance to which Schwartz alludes in his article.

So, if you’re wondering if the Maccabees update is a big deal, the answer is yes!

How Might It Affect my Site?

Google’s official statement described the series of updates as ‘part of [its] regular and routine efforts to improve relevancy.’

Immediately after the update hit, there was a lot of chatter about what its specific focus was. After much discussion and analysis, the SEO industry has mostly agreed on 2 primary topics:

  • Keyword permutations
  • Fred symptoms

Initially put forward by Barry Schwartz and others, these are the factors which the Maccabees Update supposedly affected the most.

Keyword Permutations

In years gone by, it was standard practice to include as many keyword permutations on ranking pages as possible. Post-Maccabees Update, many search analysts have spotted sites that still rely on this technique seeing a downturn in rankings.

But what are keyword permutations?

This relates to the over-stuffing of different key phrases based on individual search terms. For instance, if you were surfing a travel website, you might see many different variations based on [City]>[Activity]:

  • London site seeing
  • Lisbon site seeing
  • Barcelona site seeing
  • Moscow site seeing

And a hundred other variations which all lead to one (quite unnatural) landing page.

It’s understandable that Google might penalise this activity nowadays, because it tends to abuse the all-important concept of relevancy and usefulness to users. It’s unreasonable to expect someone to actually want this set of results when performing a search!

Rather, questionable websites use this spammy technique in an attempt to fool search engines into displaying them to anyone who searches for ‘site seeing’ or a related search term.

Fred Symptoms

A major update was released last year, jokingly dubbed Fred after a tongue-in-cheek tweet from Google’s Gary Illyes. When asked if the update had a name, he quipped: ‘sure! From now on every update, unless otherwise stated, shall be called Fred.’.

Fred was concerned with penalising websites with thin or poor-quality content. This is again related to Google’s ongoing focus on improving the relevance and usefulness of its search results.

SEOs have observed that many of the sites whose rankings have dropped after the new Maccabees Update share these symptoms.

SEO at Piranha

If you’re concerned that your website might have been negatively affected by Google’s new update, don’t worry. We’re here to help!

Our digital marketing professionals are experienced in improving search results through a variety of white-hat methods. Even if your website’s traffic simply isn’t where it should be, we’d love to hear from you.

Piranha’s expertise can help your website reach its full potential. What’s more, our SEO work won’t make your website vulnerable to manual actions from Google. That’s because we always adhere to the official webmaster guidelines and avoid all underhand techniques.

Call 01772 888331 or send an email to to get started.

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