Google core updates severely impact businesses whose SEO relies on organic traffic. After a core update, some organizations suffer significant site traffic drops, negatively impacting profits. On a positive note, you can take steps to mitigate the impact of the next core update. Even better, the best way to do that is something you’re probably already doing, and that’s creating quality content.
This article contains suggestions for recovery and regaining some of the inevitable lost rankings, as well as preventive measures that make these core updates less daunting. Before we get to that, however, we’ll discuss what Google core updates are, how they impact your SEO, and what you can do about them.
What Are Google Core Updates?
Google defines broad core updates as updates with significant changes to their search algorithms and systems. We refer to these as “core updates.” Google’s intent is to ensure they are delivering the most relevant and authoritative content to users. Of course, once Google changes the parameters that determine relevance and authority, your SEO strategy may no longer perform as well as it once did.
Google’s algorithms retrieve data from its search index, delivering the best quality results for a given query. Google uses algorithms combined with numerous ranking factors to rank webpages by relevance on its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Google makes constant changes to its search algorithms, though most of them are minor and do not impact a company’s current SEO strategy. However, Google does make occasional large-scale changes, which are called “broad core updates.”
Significant Algorithm Updates by Name
Google algorithm updates date back to 2003. They are too numerous to mention all of them here. Some of the most significant algorithm updates that impacted the SERPs were the following:
- Big Daddy
- EMD (Exact Match Domain)
- Freshness Algorithm
- Page Layout Algorithm
- Quality Updates
- Venice Update
Monthly 2022 Core Updates
Google makes updates at least monthly. Below are quick summaries of the 2022 core updates up through September.
- September 2022 Broad Core Update
Google announced this update on Twitter, stating that it updated its search updates page, though they provided few details. The rollout will take about two weeks to complete, and they will release more information once it is complete.
- August 25, 2022, Helpful Content Update
Content creators can gather resources on how to create content on the Search Central blog.
- July 27, 2022, Product Reviews Update
Ecommerce marketers can access Google Search Central’s documentation on writing high-quality product reviews.
- May 2022 Core Update
This is part of a series of updates Google made to the overall ranking process throughout 2022.
- March 2022 Product Algorithm Update
These updated product review rankings enable Google to identify high-quality reviews better.
- February 22, 2022, Page Experience Update
This update offers developers more information about the page experience update on Google Search Central.
Before You Take Action
A crucial thing to note about core updates is that they usually take two weeks or more to roll out. As that happens, you may experience unsteady but temporary changes in your website’s rankings. In fact, some SEO experts have dubbed this period the “Google Dance.”
Keep in mind that many of these early changes in rankings are not permanent. You may even find that, once all is said and done, your traffic reverts to its original level within a few days or more. You may even see an increase in organic traffic.
So, don’t panic. Delay in making any extreme changes to your site as the broad core update is rolling out. Take your time to monitor your website’s performance until the update is complete.
Determine the Impact of a Google Algorithm Update
According to Google, not every core update will affect your SEO in a significant way. Before making plans for a core update recovery, determine whether your website has been affected at all and, if it has, in what way. Begin by researching the update itself. When an update occurs, it’s confirmed one way or the other.
For example, anyone who uses Rank Math or a similar SEO plugin will see confirmed and unconfirmed algorithm updates. Other sources include official statements made by Google, comments from the SEO community, and insights and trends that appear to result from the update.
The next step is to analyze what part(s) of the Google algorithm the update targeted by identifying which parts and pages on your website were affected. Use Google Analytics to see which pages show changes in their traffic and impressions and which pages lost the most average rank.
To check trends, go to Google Analytics and follow this path: Behavior → Site Content → All Pages. You will see which pages gained or lost page views, bounce rate, dwell time, and other metrics.
Identify the Purpose of the Update
Sometimes, Google confirms the area(s) of interest for algorithm updates. For instance, there was a spam algorithm update in June of 2021. While Google didn’t provide specifics, they did state that the update focused on fighting spam.
Whatever the update’s focus, you can again use your analytics data to identify patterns in your site performance that alert you to the update’s likely area of focus. You’ll see whether specific segments or content types are affected. From there, you can adjust your SEO to recover from the decline in traffic on those affected pages.
You can run a Google Analytics report and compare it to the week before to identify the change and determine whether your organic traffic was affected. You’ll also be able to see if the update affected the entire website or just specific posts that are no longer ranking as high as they were before.
See How Your Top 5-10 Competitors Were Affected
If your website traffic declines due to a core update, chances are that competitor sites may be as well. Or worse, they may be earning the traffic you received before the update. After all, if your traffic has declined, it has to be going somewhere. While it may seem as though you’re being penalized somehow, that’s not the case. The update is now recognizing those websites that were not adequately recognized before.
If you’d like to see how your competitors are faring, begin with some Google searches and see what Google returns. What changes do you find? Which companies are ranking where your site used to be? Do you see anything different about their approach that may capture Google’s attention? You can dig a little deeper by performing a manual SERP analysis, which zeroes in on the SERPs for specific searches.
Plan Your Approach
Once you have determined what changes and which content areas to address, you can proceed with a plan. Now is the time to prioritize your tasks and begin updating your SEO. You have compared your underperforming content to content (either yours or your competitors’) that is performing well.
Regardless of the update, your content is underperforming due to changes Google made to reinforce one of its central SEO concepts, which is referred to as E-A-T. E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. It’s a concept Google covers in detail in its Quality Rater Guidelines.
So, the algorithm update addresses such sub-concepts as:
- The expertise of the content creator
- The authoritativeness of the content creator, the content itself, and the entire website
- The trustworthiness of the content creator, the content itself, and the whole website
Recovering From Broad Core Updates
Google states that there’s nothing anyone can truly do to recover from a core update. Unfortunately, this is true. No tool or automated process can “fix” whatever the update “broke.” In fact, Google actually recommends that web administrators take the time to examine the changes and only address actual issues. Recovery takes time and involves the analysis recommendations listed above.
Our final tip is to keep track of your website’s performance, not only during the immediate period after the update. Declines aren’t always immediate, so it’s wise to run reports on a regular basis. Once you begin observing week to week or even month to month, you’ll be able to see any subtle changes in your organic search traffic.
Content and Website Relevance
Perhaps a more valuable part of the recovery process is to work on some proactive strategies to better bolster your SEO in preparation for future algorithm updates. Being proactive ensures that future updates have a less significant impact on your web page’s performance and metrics for organic traffic.
In 2021, Google’s John Mueller stated that improving your website’s content (rather than chasing technical fixes) is the best way to recover from a broad core algorithm update. If your rankings drop after a core update, your website is losing relevance for queries. Thus, the answer is to enrich your content, which in turn improves relevance.
Because improving relevance is a holistic approach, it’s not something you can accomplish by addressing individual technical (or other) issues one by one. Since Google’s algorithms focus on content relevance as a whole, so should you. For example, you may need to address several elements like usability, on-page ads, blog posts, keywords, and so on.
By focusing on content, you will be revising how you’re presenting information by adding credible sources or updating the delivery method (video, audio, or infographics, for example), anything that improves the user experience. The goal is to focus on your content so that Google recognizes your site as better and more relevant than before the update.
Of course, should you find any navigation or other technical errors, fix them. Though, your focus is on the content. Examine your website for any low-quality content, outdated content, or anything that now appears stale compared to your recent content. Regardless of changes to Google’s algorithms, quality content will consistently rank high due to its relevance.
Proactive Ways to Minimize the Need to Recover
Maintaining your SEO, as well as having a robust and diversified business model, are ways to minimize the need for comprehensive recovery processes after a substantial algorithm update. The following are some ways to fortify your SEO and minimize any adverse effects following a core update:
- Diversify Traffic
Organic search is the best source of consistent, scalable traffic. However, it should not be your only source of traffic and revenue. Be sure to explore other avenues as well so there are multiple revenue streams applicable to your business.
- Build Your Audience
While it’s vital that your website performs well on the SERPs, there should be more to your website that will make searchers want to become customers and revisit your site. Your goal here is to build an audience, something you are already working on as part of your overall off-page SEO marketing strategy. Some ways to do this are building an email list, maintaining a YouTube channel, and building a community on social media.
- Tighten Your Business Model
We don’t need to tell business owners that a robust business model includes more than marketing or SEO. Whatever it is you’re doing right, keep doing it. Product quality, reputation, referrals, and more are all part of a robust business model. Should an update cause a drop in your SERPs results, you’ll be able to deal with them without the stress of losing revenue from an individual source.
- Diversify Your Income Streams
Another part of your business model is your income streams. A good rule of thumb is that no one source should carry more than 50% of your income. As appropriate to your product or service, diversify your income streams as much as possible. This is a long-term goal, as most companies have a specific source of income (internet sales, for example). Developing additional income sources will better protect you from future algorithm updates that may temporarily stall traffic to your eCommerce website.
Recovering from a Google algorithm update can be daunting, especially if the update causes your organic traffic to take a dive. You’ll have to dedicate some time and effort to recover your SEO. In the future, you’ll also want to fortify your SEO with quality content so that your website takes less of a hit during the next update rollout.
By focusing on content, you’ll accomplish several things, such as:
- Improving the quality of your website
- Creating a better user experience
- Recovering or increasing lost organic search traffic
- Increasing credibility and authority
- Improving relevance
You can also diversify your overall marketing and revenue channels to balance any blips in your SEO during Google updates. Running the reports and diving into the analytics can be a little overwhelming. If you have questions or need help, contact us to learn more about on-site and off-site SEO analysis services.