Google Maccabees Algorithm Update: What You Need to Know!

Google Maccabees Algorithm Update 2017

In the weeks before Christmas, Google unrolled a series of “minor changes” that impacted SEO across the web. Many sites reported losing 20-30% of their traffic, leading to a flurry of analysis trying to figure out exactly what the Google update did. Now that the dust has settled, we have a better idea of what the Google Maccabees update changed and how websites should respond.

The Key Takeaways

Here’s the core of what you need to know about the Maccabees update:

  • A round of Google updates impacted online traffic around December 12, 2017
  • The updates seem to be targeting websites with lots of keyword permutations, redundant landing pages, and dense affiliate content.
  • Websites that took a hit on traffic can respond by condensing similar landing pages into one and by following the golden rule of website design: make your pages reader-friendly.

What Exactly Is the Maccabees Algorithm Update?

Google makes almost continuous small changes to its algorithm throughout the year, but the Maccabees update appears to be a change to the core algorithm. Core algorithm updates do thingd such as:

  • Changing how a web page is judged to be relevant to a search engine query
  • Changing how different kinds of links affect ranking
  • Changing how the type of page content (for example, informational vs. commercial) is scored

So what exactly did Maccabees change? Google doesn’t reveal details about their algorithm, so it’s impossible to say for sure. About a week after the first changes, Google’s spokeperson for search, Danny Sullivan, confirmed that there was an update, but downplayed its importance, stating, “We released several minor improvements during this timeframe, part of our regular and routine efforts to improve relevancy.”

In the weeks following the update (or updates), websites such as Search Engine Roundtable, G-Squared Interactive, and Search Engine Land analyzed the kind of sites being affected and looked for patterns. That’s how we have a basic idea of what the Maccabees update targeted.

Who Does the Update Affect?

A few key patterns have emerged from the analyses of the Maccabees update:

  • The changes weren’t exclusive to one kind of website. E-commerce, travel, blog, and affiliate sites were all affected.
  • The largest pattern is that Maccabees seemed to target sites with excessive keyword permutations. These are sites that have many landing pages for similar content, but with slightly different titles and keywords. For example, a travel website might have separate landing pages for “Cheap Caribbean Vacations,” “Affordable Caribbean Vacations,” “Cheap Holidays in the Caribbean,” and so on. These sites took the most consistent hit in traffic.
  • Pages with thin content and lots of ads and affiliate links were also hit.
  • G-Squared Interactive noticed a drop in traffic to official celebrity sites, with higher search engine rankings going to larger sites like Wikipedia, Twitter, IMDb, and Instagram instead.

In essence, the Maccabees update contributes to Google’s consistent goal of promoting websites that are high in quality and readability. For websites and SEO professionals, the biggest challenge is likely to be adjusting strategies that replicated keywords and landing pages in order to maximize “long tail” keyword SEO.

What Steps You Can Take

It’s not a productive SEO strategy to respond to every change to Google’s algorithm, but Maccabees appears to be a significant change that may have a long-lasting impact. It’s also in line with general guidelines for good content: focusing on high-quality information and prioritizing readability. Following these guidelines will make your site engaging for an audience and mitigate any negative impact your site has seen since December.

The main change that some websites will need to make is overstuffing their site with keywords and landing pages. This may be a reversal if you’ve committed to a long tail SEO strategy. If you’ve previously created many landing pages for essentially the same content, now is the time to condense. Instead of producing as many keywords as possible, focus your energies on researching the best couple of keywords. And of course, put your energy into creating high-quality, relevant content.

Instead of multiplying landing pages, include multiple keywords within one content-rich page. But again, make sure that you avoid excessive keyword-stuffing. You want your page to read naturally. Google’s algorithm is getting smarter and smarter at detecting the overuse of keywords to try to boost SEO, and websites are being penalized for it. Your human readers will also thank you for content that’s easy to read. So try to keep website pages to no more than three or four main keywords.

This should go without saying, but your site will also be penalized for aggressive ad content. Ads all over a page, particularly when they’re featured above the main content and deceptive ads that try to pass for content are going to put you on Google’s naughty list. Excessive monetization through tons of affiliate links is also likely to hurt your SEO rankings.

The main takeaway is simple: create content that humans will enjoy reading, and Google’s algorithm will probably like it too.


Want to read more about the Maccabees update and how you can respond? Check out these articles for further reading:

About Tim Dugan

Detail-oriented and self-motivated Digital Marketing Specialist with a vast array of SEO and Digital/Internet Marketing experience. I have a genuine passion and personal goal to assist each and every client I work with by creating a significant web presence and ultimately, increasing sales. I understand that Digital Marketing, specifically Search Engine Optimization, is an ever-changing environment and in order to be successful one must stay abreast on the latest search engine trends. Implementing a properly calibrated and effective Digital Marketing campaign can transform one’s bottom line tremendously.

Speak Your Mind