Continuous change defines SEO practices—optimization for search engines (and for users as well). Every Google algorithm update affects the evaluation of websites. Tracking the latest information on updates is essential to properly adjust websites and the content published on them to achieve high rankings.
Below, we present algorithm updates and newly introduced systems that influence the evaluation of websites and the creation of Google rankings, ultimately leading to changes in search engine results page positions.
Google algorithm update. What does it mean?
The question about the Google algorithm update is worth being prefaced with a brief introduction to how Google works. The search engine relies on multiple algorithms that analyze websites to facilitate the presentation of the most relevant results in response to a user's query. The exact workings of these algorithms are not fully disclosed, and the functioning of the search engine varies depending on factors such as industry, location, and language. The algorithm learns from user interactions, meaning that search results are also influenced by their behaviors, preferences, and physical location.
To facilitate finding relevant information, Google uses various ranking systems. Many factors influence these systems, but only a few have been officially confirmed by the California-based giant. Some of these factors include:
- On-page content
- Technical optimization
- Page loading speed
- Domain factors
- External linking
Google updates its algorithm to adapt to changing trends and user preferences, ensuring that users receive up-to-date and the most relevant search results. These changes also help eliminate SEO abuses. The development of algorithms is an ongoing process, and some changes can be significant enough to impact the rankings of websites in search results. Among the updates with the most significant impact on site evaluations are core updates. The implementation of such changes is typically communicated by Google in advance, and their rollout can be extensive, lasting from several days to several weeks. Some updates are targeted at specific aspects of the algorithm, such as mobile indexing or content quality assessment.
Algorithm updates can have a significant impact on a website's rankings in search results, which is why it's important to stay updated with the latest updates and take steps to improve your site's rankings. A drop in visibility can result in less traffic to your site, leading to lower conversions and sales.
How to respond to drops related to an algorithm update?
If your website experiences a drop after an algorithm update, it's important to stay calm and analyze the reasons behind it rather than take drastic actions. A drop doesn't necessarily indicate issues with your site, but rather Google adjusting its algorithm to meet user needs. It's possible that rankings may return to their previous positions after a few days. Sometimes, it's worth waiting a few days for the rankings to reshuffle.
However, if your website consistently drops in rankings, it's necessary to conduct an analysis and see if there are any improvements you can make. But before you dive into the analysis, wait for Google's official confirmation of all the changes being rolled out.
- Learn what the update is about. Although Google rarely provides specific guidance, it's worth keeping track of information about changes from the official source, the Google Search Central. SEO experts also analyze the causes of drops through trial and error, so it's valuable to look for information on forums or top industry websites like Search Engine Land.
- Check if websites similar to yours also experienced a drop. Compare your site with those that maintained or gained rankings after the update. Analyze their link profiles and published content.
- Compare your website to those ranking in the top 10 search results for selected keywords. Google might now serve a different type of content for specific queries to better align with user intent.
- Conduct a content audit, focusing on titles and headers, thematic coverage of published content, and keyword density. Check for duplicates and keyword cannibalization. Verify if you have pages with thin content, which means low-quality content that is unattractive to users.
- Analyze your link profile, ensuring you have diverse sources of backlinks and that your links don't come from suspicious websites.
- Check your site's loading speed with PageSpeed Insights and make sure your site is responsive.
- Verify the Core Web Vitals metrics for your site, both for desktop and mobile versions.
- Use the Google Search Console to check for reported errors.
Recovery can be a challenging and time-consuming task, and the pace of returning to pre-update positions will be much slower than the rate of decline. Typically, you have to wait for the next major search engine update to see results. Sometimes, regaining visibility may be impossible when Google determines that other sites deserve higher positions. Therefore, focus on maintaining the efficient operation and optimization of your website regularly to avoid issues related to Google algorithm updates.
How can you protect yourself from the negative effects of a Google Core Update?
If you want to better prepare for the upcoming Google Core Update, monitor forums related to updates in the USA, as they tend to experience updates first. However, it's not ad hoc actions, but a well-thought-out SEO strategy that should prevent any update from significantly affecting your website's visibility on Google. Creating unique content following E-A-T guidelines, building domain authority, and acquiring high-quality external backlinks are elements that require ongoing effort as part of your website's development. Accessibility, responsiveness, ease of navigation, and page loading speed within your website are the basics of a smoothly functioning website. Implementing SEO actions with your users in mind will result in better evaluations by algorithms, and updates shouldn't be a cause for concern.
However, don't base your strategy solely on SEO. Investing in the development of diversified customer acquisition channels will help protect you from future algorithm updates.
The Most Important Google Algorithm Updates
Google's early search engine relied on the PageRank algorithm, which was based on a single straightforward indicator. Since then, the algorithm has evolved, considering hundreds of factors when ranking web pages. The overarching goal of all these changes is to provide British users and others with the most relevant information, while also combating spam and unethical practices.
Below is a brief overview of updates that have had a significant impact on how web pages are ranked in search results:
- Panda (2011): Elimination of low-quality content and spammy websites.
- Penguin (2012): Combating dishonest link-building practices.
- Hummingbird (2013): Improved understanding of user context and intent during searches.
- Pigeon (2014): Tailoring search results to the user's location (local SEO).
- RankBrain (2015): Introduction of an AI-based system to better understand the meaning of queries, especially complex, new, and unique ones.
- Mobilegeddon (2015): The beginning of changes that favored mobile-responsive websites.
- BERT (2019): Advanced artificial intelligence to grasp meanings and intents from word combinations.