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Yes, Google rolled out new updates, but no, they weren't major

Yes, Google rolled out new updates, but no, they weren't major Blog Feature

Kaitlyn Petro

VP of Operations, IMPACT+, 7+ Years Of Digital Marketing Strategy, Operations/Project Management, & Process Creation Experience

February 17th, 2020 min read

If you’re obsessed with your content like we are here at IMPACT, you probably keep a keen eye on where it ranks within Google’s SERP. If so, then you may have noticed some recent shifts in ranking and traffic.

This is the situation a lot of content producers have found themselves in, and it has led them to believe that it’s due to a core algorithm change conducted by Google.

🔎 Related: Why is your website and content not ranking well in search engines?

But was it?

Well, before we dive into that, let’s talk about Google’s update process and what it means.

Explaining the way Google rolls out updates

Everyone knows that Google has frequent updates, but you may not know how frequent. Google can have upwards of around 10 or 11 per day! That’s about 3,800 updates each year. Chances are you’ll go without noticing most of these updates because they’re considered routine or general, according to Google.

Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public Search Liaison, explains that if updates are not announced, it usually means that there is no particular actionable guidance to follow, and there really isn’t much you can do in regards to making improvements to your content or website.

Most of these updates are just small, continuous improvements in how Google operates and presents results to users.

But a few times per year, the search engine rolls out a major core update. These are the changes that normally cause panic or elation among marketers and business leaders, depending on how the update has affected them.

It’s tough to know if an update is on the horizon. For larger core updates, Google will usually give some notice, but it’s never consistent. For example, the June 2019 core update was announced one day before the actual rollout, while the July 2018 speed update was announced months in advance.

With that said, Google urges people not to "chase algorithms," but instead, focus on ensuring that the content you’re offering is the best it can be, because that’s what its algorithms reward.

Should you be worried?

Now that we’ve covered the basics regarding Google’s algorithm updates, let’s talk about its current changes.

Last week, many people actually thought an unannounced core algorithm update had been released this month due to a large amount of movement in the search results. But Google confirms that was not the case.

Danny Sullivan assured users that Google did, in fact, roll out several updates, just as it does in any given week, but these were nothing major.

For IMPACT, we got the more favorable outcome of the updates: a boost in organic visits and clicks. And of course, when anything SEO-related happens, we reach out to our good friend Franco Valentino, founder of Narrative SEO, for guidance.

Is this positivity too good to be true?

Franco reported, “I actually believe this [update is] going to stick. It had a lot to do with relevancy and intent versus the normal technical stuff we check. I'm seeing similar things with accounts that do things by the book.”

Other sites weren’t as lucky, and Franco has advice for them, too. If someone is seeing the reverse effect, with their organic metrics plummeting, Franco suggests “there's a structural issue ([like] site speed, metas, sitemaps, 404s).” Otherwise, perhaps they haven’t been following the rules of SEO, or their content just isn't resonating with the visitors.

He recommends checking Google Search Console for a drop in impressions or for additional errors on pages.

All of this goes back to Google’s focus on creating content that users want. (On top of that, it never hurts to make sure your website’s technical health is okay, too.)

What to do if you’ve been negatively affected

If you’re seeing a recent decrease this month in your organic numbers due to the updates, there are a few actions you can take:

  1. Wait: This might sound simple (and it might be frustrating), but sometimes as Google begins to receive feedback, it may start to roll back the updates a little bit. There’s a chance you could see a change within a few days.
  2. Understand relevance: Google rolls out a lot of its updates to continuously highlight the importance of relevant content, meaning it rewards the websites that answer users’ questions the best. Instead of focusing on improving your lower quality links, adding better imagery, or writing longer posts, take a deep dive into what your high-ranking competitors are writing about, and strategize on how you can one-up them.
  3. Conduct a technical SEO audit: Like Franco said, a drop in organic visits or clicks can also be due to having poor technical health. If you haven’t audited things like your site’s speed, mobile responsiveness, or security, you’re definitely going to want to start there.

With all that said, it’s important to remember that it’s nearly impossible to prepare for impending algorithm updates; the best thing to do is to keep creating relevant, helpful content.

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