Google core updates or any search ranking update from Google, for that matter, are the most dreaded events in the SEO industry. The updates often lead to sudden changes in organic traffic & keyword ranking, & can have huge implications for websites that rely on organic traffic as their main acquisition channel. Updates around holiday times probably cause the most damage to businesses, especially e-commerce.
However, as we have experienced with our client’s websites, there are steps you can take before & after any such update to reduce the impact to the minimum.
Before we delve deeper into the steps, let’s cover what Google updates are and how they can potentially affect your website.
What is a Google Core Update?
A Google core update is a ‘significant, broad change’ in Google’s search algorithm.
“Several times a year, we make significant, broad changes to our search algorithms and systems. We refer to these as “core updates.” They’re designed to ensure that overall, we’re delivering on our mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers. These core updates may also affect Google Discover.”
The last few core updates were released on September 12, 2022, May 25, 2022, and November 17, 2021.
The effect of each core update often varies, for example, according to SEMRUSH’s volatility trends comparison, Google’s May 22 update was more volatile than September’s update.
The recent updates have also shown more volatility in mobile than desktop searches.
In addition to the core updates, several times a year, Google also releases updates aimed to improve specific search elements, e.g. the most recent update was a Spam update (October 19, 2022), which would have affected websites not complying with Google’s overall spam policies.
How do Google updates affect website ranking & traffic?
Google maintains that pages that perform less well after their core updates have nothing to worry about & it doesn’t mean that they violate Google’s webmaster updates. However, as these updates are aimed to improve the search experience of users if your website takes a hit during the updates, there are definitely steps you can take to ensure you are more closely aligned with Google’s best practices.
Our recent experience with our clients has shown that most websites that regularly build backlinks tend to perform better after each Google core update.
How can you best prepare for Google’s core updates?
Prevention is better than cure! While of course, you can take a reactive approach to Google’s core updates, we lean more on the side of proactiveness. Along with generally helping your content rank high, these best practices are also highly likely to help you with the core updates.
Embrace Google’s Search Essential wholeheartedly
The three pillars of Google’s search essential are:
- Technical requirements: the bare minimum your website must have to rank on Google
- Spam policies: things you should avoid at all costs if you want to rank or even appear anywhere on Google search
- Key best practices: core practices to increase your chances of ranking high on the search engine
These are the three basic principles that every website owner must follow if they want to rank well on Google.
Focus on Relevance
According to Google, the core updates are aimed at ensuring Google can continue on its mission of delivering relevant & authoritative content to the users.
The first focal point is ‘relevance’.
Content should provide in-depth, rich information about a topic.
It is widely known that ‘long-form content’ works better for SEO. However, the most important factor here is not the word count but whether an article or blog provides comprehensive & substantive information about the topic. So anytime while creating content, you should ask yourself if the content covers every aspect of the topic and gives all the necessary information to the users. The chances are content pieces that successfully do so will have a higher chance of ranking and will be less likely to get negatively affected by any core update.
Is the content fresh?
In 2010, Google released a new web indexing system called Caffeine, the system ensures that newer, fresher content is available much sooner to users; this could be a new piece of content or an updated old piece. This means keeping a regular check on your content and updating them as & when relevant. For example, for us it would mean that anytime some new information comes to light about the Google core updates, we would need to update this article to ensure it stays relevant for the users. This is especially important if you work in continuously evolving industries, write reviews, etc.
Focus on Authority
The second focal point of Google’s core update was authoritative content. Authority is also an integral part of Google’s E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) ranking factor.
How can you ensure your content is authoritative?
Is your blog/article/page providing content that can be trusted?
You can answer that question by asking yourself if the author is an expert on the topic, does it provide verifiable information, whether is it spell-checked and grammatically correct, is the website safe (HTTPS)?
Google provides a detailed list of questions you can ask yourself to check the relevancy & authority of your content, which is always a good list to check against.
Last but not the least, backlinks by credible & relevant websites are one ranking factor that has stayed highly important through the course of many years.
Over the last two years, we have noticed that our clients doing regular link building (home page through brand mentions & internal pages with anchor text) always pass the core-updates storm rather untouched. However, it is important to note here that like most SEO ranking factors, Google appreciates quality & honest efforts over black-hat techniques. Any backlink to your website should be from a high DR website, in your relevant niche, and never be bought.
Recovering from a Google Core update
Given the secretive & unpredictable nature of Google’s updates, it is still possible that your content will get hit by it. However, the likelihood is less, if you follow the above-mentioned best practices for all your content.
If you do get affected, your best bet is to identify the problem pages & go through the above list & Google’s content relevancy questions to fix the pages.
With these best practices, your website will stay unaffected by core updates or bounce back rather quickly, if it does get affected by Google core updates.
“We suggest focusing on ensuring you’re offering the best content you can. That’s what our algorithms seek to reward.” (source: Google)
- Always create relevant content & content that adds value to users
- Self-evaluate the E-A-T ranking factor of your content
- Build your website authority using both on-page & off-page SEO tactics (quality and relevant backlinks)