How Westworld and Google Algorithm Updates Are Alike

I don’t know if you’ve heard yet, but HBO’s Westworld is this season’s must-see show. From sci-fi action to a shirtless James Marsden, I highly recommend it.

Westworld introduction

As I was binge watching the first 8-episodes this past weekend (for the second time), I realized how much the show correlates with Google and their numerous algorithm updates.

No, I’m not talking about fabricating human-like hosts (robots) to live in Western times (which would be awesome).

I’m talking about how simple changes to a host’s overall code, or algorithm in our case, can dictate the next move and focus of those who interact with the hosts/SERP. Much like an update to the host’s facial functions, like raising eyebrows, can affect a conversation, Google updates do to our job as SEO professionals.

Think I’m stretching with the Westworld comparison? Well let’s take a deeper dive into the biggest Google algorithm updates made this year.

(Note: I tried my hardest to stay away from spoilers, as I want you to enjoy this show.)

Mobile-First Indexing

A main theme that appears throughout the show is ‘giving the guests the experience they want and will come back for.’ Whether it’s tracking down a bandit in the canyons or partaking in adult activities with the saloon’s bar maidens, the Westworld narrative team and behaviorist coders make it happen.

Teddy from Westworld

Google is doing the same thing with their mobile-first indexing. They saw that people are more apt to search with their smartphones, so now they are making sure they see results worthy of their time and enhancing the experience that users have.

In my opinion, the mobile-first indexing algorithm update is going to be a huge focus in 2017. With this update, Google will begin looking more at your mobile website for mobile ranking signals rather than your desktop version.

Simply, if your mobile site is not optimized (or you don’t have a mobile site at all), you risk losing ranking in search. No, this doesn’t mean that your desktop site is going to drastically suffer in organic rankings, as it will continue to be indexed. It just means that competing sites optimized for mobile will be given a slight preference in mobile searches.

While this isn’t going to be an overnight change, it is definitely something SEO professionals need to be aware of and make necessary changes to the websites they manage. These changes include adding AMP HTML, using a responsive web design, and utilizing separate mobile URLs.

Running in Real-Time With Penguin

Since Westworld is a theme park visited by thousands of visitors per day, they can’t afford to stop all narratives in progress to correct a minor glitch. To avoid that, they’ve developed their code to be self-correcting, preventing downtime from occurring.

Westworld host updates

And with the latest Penguin update, Google instated the same mindset.

The Penguin update is Google’s solution to stopping websites from buying spam links. Basically, if a site were found engaging with bad links, it would be penalized in SERP results and would then have to wait for Google’s blessing to become a ‘good’ site once again.

But now, Penguin runs in real-time meaning that sites hit by Penguin will no longer have to wait for the next update to see the results of their improvement efforts. Now, changes will be evident quicker, generally not long after a page is recrawled and reindexed.

Panda Went Into Stealth Mode

As you watch the show, it becomes harder and harder to differentiate between hosts and guests. The behaviorist coders are constantly changing the code to make the host’s mannerisms more lifelike to deliver a seamless experience to guests. And often, Westworld employees walk among the park spot-checking hosts going off their storyline.

Westworld stealthy updates

Well, as you’ve probably guessed by now, Google kind of did this with their Panda update.

Panda, an algorithm update aimed at filtering search results and removing sites poor quality content, has had a rocky rollout since it was introduced in 2014. Yet, as of this year, Panda is now part of Google’s core ranking algorithm.

Essentially, Panda is still there; it’s just not going to have headline-making news anymore as it is working in the ‘shadows’ ensuring that sites produce quality content in order to rank well.

RankBrain and Hummingbird

My favorite aspect of the Westworld storyline is how the hosts constantly adapt to the interactions they are having with guests and other hosts. For example, bar maidens are able to read the emotions of guests and alter their conversations to best suit the situation, err client. It is as if each host is learning from every interaction how to be and think like a human.

Westworld artificial intelligence

This is what Google’s RankBrain, the name for a machine-learning artificial intelligence system, is attempting to do. All of our Google search queries are being run through RankBrain, which then learns which results we find most appealing.

While RankBrain isn’t a new way the Google will rank search results, it is a deciding factor as it is part of their Hummingbird search algorithm, much like Panda, Penguin, and Pigeon. To be more exact, it is the 3rd most important factor for ranking webpages.

Final Thoughts

While the first season of Westworld is coming to a close, the action is just now starting the gear up. So I ask you: are you ignoring this show like some ignore algorithm updates?

Google algorithms are going to constantly occur, as they make changes 500 to 600 times per year. In order for SEO professionals to remain relevant, we must be aware of these changes and look to stay ahead of them to produce results.

What are you thoughts on the big 2016 Google Algorithm updates? Have you seen the impact they are making?

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