Google continuously updates its search engine to keep it working properly, to get the best results for search queries. The majority of these updates are small tweaks to the algorithm to improve the relevance and quality of search results that users see on search engine results pages (SERPs). These minor changes are so small that most users don’t even notice them. Google’s engineers run these small updates often, sometimes daily, and they only affect a small number of indexed web pages.
The search algorithm updates to Google that webmasters hear about are Google Core Updates. These core updates are run about every 2 or 3 months or so. When Google is planning to run a core update for the first time, they usually announce it and explain what the update is supposed to accomplish. Google’s core updates include:
- Google Core Updates
- Google BERT
- Google Page Experience
According to Google’s Search Console Blog, they work hard to make large changes and improvements to the search algorithm and system, and this is what they refer to as the “core updates.” These changes are ultimately designed and executed with the hope of refining the search experience so that it continues to provide searchers with authoritative and relevant content in response to their queries.
They will generally confirm these core updates because of the side-effect of them producing easily noticeable effects in traffic and visibility. This can either be in large gains, or large drops, and they provide the information so that anyone trying to fix their site to be more in-line with the new algorithm don’t make adjustments to anything that doesn’t play a role, or could result in them dropping more.
Core updates can affect up to 10% of searches and don’t always roll out at once. Some of them take weeks to be fully implemented.
Google Core Update SEO Impact
Core updates can drastically affect the search engine optimization (SEO) impact on websites. SEO is a strategy that helps websites rank higher on Google. However, depending on the goal of each core update, the way Google prioritizes ranking factors can change drastically.
You may have put a lot of attention to creating your content based on the ranking algorithm at the time, but when it changes, you might rank lower. Google says, that in reality any page that performs less well than it did previously doesn’t have anything wrong with it. These updates are made not to target specific sites or pages, but to improve how their own internal system is assessing content. Some of these changes may even cause pages that were previously not performing to begin to rank better, as the ultimate goal is to improve user experience.
Google Core Update Penalties
Some core updates do more than adjust the algorithm. These updates actively penalize webpages or websites. When the Panda update rolled out, websites with thin content were penalized. Before Panda, these webpages could rank highly in the SERPs for their chosen keywords, sometimes higher than authoritative content on the same topic. After Panda, many were ranked so low that they went out of business.
Updates can also modify the SERPs. For instance, Google updates have added, removed, or modified alternative listings including:
- People Also Ask (PAA) listings
- Featured Snippets
- Steps (like in a recipe)
- Knowledge Graph panels
- Images and videos
When is the Next Core Update?
Since Google Core Updates can potentially change a significant number of search results, Google usually announces them before they roll out, giving webmasters the opportunity to see if their site’s ranking will change. You can find out what Google’s engineers are planning for the next update by following the Google Search Central blog. You can also receive updates via email subscription by clicking the “Subscribe” button at the very bottom of the blog page.
However, you may find that you need to be an SEO expert to fully understand what Google wants to accomplish and how the next update will impact you. This is a good reason to consult with a digital marketing agency well-versed in Google and SEO.
Preparing for Core Updates
You may be thinking, “How is it possible to prepare for Google Core Updates?”
The best answer is to create a high-quality website with in-depth and relevant content that searchers will be looking for. Google’s updates are designed to rank this authoritative content higher in the SERPs. In order to keep their customers happy, Google wants to return the best results for each query. Your goal should be to create that content related to your product or service.
The second answer is to follow the Google update news to learn how the next update will impact your site. If it will, you can tweak your website ahead of the rollout. Tweaking your site should be done with the advice of an SEO expert to ensure that you don’t waste your time. There’s no need to tweak your content for every new update.
You should also keep in mind that Google doesn’t announce every core update, which is another reason to create high-quality content as a routine practice.
Best Practices for SEO
Google’s core updates are implemented to improve the quality of search results for the user. Google will notice which content engages your visitors, and how long they stay on your site. To encourage this behavior, use these best practices for SEO.
- Create, update, and improve your content to keep it relevant
- Link to more in-depth content on your website and other resources
- Avoid black-hat or shady SEO techniques (to avoid demotion or penalty) like:
- Keyword stuffing
- Link spam
- Paid links
- Check your site periodically for software updates to keep it running efficiently
- Organize your site to make it easy to navigate for newcomers
In order to stay relevant and improve functionality, Google’s engineers work hard on both the technology and the algorithm that make their search engine the powerhouse it is. It’s up to individual website developers and managers to keep their own website content relevant and timely to benefit their website visitors. Partnering with your SEO digital marketing agency, you can keep your website updated and at the top of the SERPs.