Google Algorithm updates are constantly changing. Depending on how we adapt to these changes Google Algorithm updates will either help or hurt you SEO.
Main reasons why an algorithm change or update can affect you:
- Search ranking and visibility
- Organic search traffic
- Return on investment (ROI)
What are Google Search Algorithm Updates?
The purpose of Google’s algorithm updates is always to improve user experience and help users find the right information they are looking for as quickly as possible. Each time an algorithm update is rolled out, Google reconsiders the SERP ranking of websites based on expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E.A.T).
Google updates its algorithm daily, but every so often they roll-up a more robust update that is meant to adjust how it ranks different factors for its search results. Even though most of the updates go unnoticed, Google will typically update around 500-600 times a year and it is key for businesses to adjust to these more monumental changes.
Noteworthy Google Algorithm Updates
Every year, Google adjusts its algorithm hundreds of times. Most of the time, these updates go unnoticed because their SERP impact is so low. However, there have been a few significant times when Google has made updates that caused obvious changes in rankings.
The Panda algorithm update was used to create a “document classifier”, a filter that is run against every document that Google considers for inclusion in its searchable Web index (which contains about 100+ billion documents). The Panda update is used to dynamically score each document independently on the basis of “signals” that Google’s learning systems have identified as strongly correlating to the quality of content.
The Penguin update targeted spammy and manipulative link building practices. Prior to this update, the number of links to your website had a larger impact on your rankings than the quality of those links. After this update, it has pushed websites to focus on quality rather than quantity of backlinks.
The Hummingbird update focused on semantic searches and how different terms mean essentially the same thing when users search Google. This also led to an increase in knowledge panel results as Google tried to provide more in-depth answers to general queries.
The update that changed the game for the local search was named the Pigeon Update. It rolled out in July 2014, although it's been revised many times since then.
Moz, a leading authority on SEO, described the update this way:
Google shook the local SEO world with an update that dramatically altered some local results.
But how did the Pigeon Update actually affect your local search results? In the following ways:
1. Search Radius
The term "local" became more specific. Instead of focusing on the keyword of your city, you'll need to rank for your neighborhood.
Look yourself up. Whichever area you "come under" on Google Maps, double down that keyword.
2. Top-Ranked Directories
Better-known directories get a lot more weight, such as Yelp, Business Magnet, and TripAdvisor. If you're listed in spammy sites, however, it may hurt you.
3. Maps vs. Web
The results of a map search and the results of a standard web search used to have little in common. Not anymore. Pigeon brought the local and the core algorithms closer together.
Increased the effect of ranking signals to help users find even more pages that are relevant and mobile-friendly.
The Quality Update (or the Phantom Update) was a confirmed change to Google’s core ranking algorithm – specifically, how Google assesses quality signals. Websites with content quality issues, as well as too many ads, seemed to be impacted the most by this update.
RankBrain is a machine learning algorithm that filters search results to help give users the best answer to their query. Initially, RankBrain was used for about 15 percent of queries (mainly new queries Google had never seen before), but now it is involved in almost every query entered into Google. RankBrain has been called the third most important ranking signal.
In 2017 Google began to penalize websites that display popups that cover the main content immediately after a user navigates to a page. This also includes above the fold advertisements that push down the main content of the website. This doesn't affect some interstitial such as legal agreements and shorter notices and banners.
This major algorithm update seemed to mainly target low-value content. On March 24, Illyes officially confirmed the update. But Google has refused to share any more specifics, instead choosing to say that all the answers about Fred can be found in Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines.
BERT is an algorithm that helps Google better understand search queries.. Google’s Danny Sullivan tweeted that BERT was beginning its worldwide rollout, and included a variety of languages.
Why You Should Track Google Algorithm Updates
If you’re in the profession of optimizing websites and content for search engines, then this is probably not the first time you are hearing about these updates. However, if you’re a business owner or product manager who was not impacted drastically by these algorithm updates this may be new terminology for you.
Digital marketing professionals spend the majority of their time researching and adjusting their practices to adhere to these everlasting changes in the online world.
Most people tend to think of an algorithm as a way Google punishes websites. But in reality, algorithms are a way to reward websites for providing a good user experience and relevant quality content. Google is notoriously inconspicuous when it comes to its search algorithms. Most of their updates are spotted by members of the SEO community before they are even confirmed by Google!
When we say Google is inconspicuous, we mean that they tend to not drop any hints that an update will be launched at all. With this limited documentation, it can make it extremely difficult to prepare for what is to come and if it will impact search rankings positively or negatively. Due to this, it is critical that anyone managing a website’s performance is keeping an eye on search traffic on a regular basis.
How to Track Google Algorithm Updates
In some cases, Google will use Twitter (@searchliaison) to confirm or deny an algorithm update, but this is usually reserved for the bigger core updates. The reason why Google tends to be more on the secretive side with these announcements is that they update so frequently. Sometimes Google will update daily or even twice a day, which would mean continuously updating the public on changes that may or may not affect their rankings.
For the more extensive updates, adapting to these changes is not something that will happen overnight. Some take weeks to learn about and even longer to update your sites accordingly. Due to this, it is crucial we take a deeper look into search rankings to look out for out of the ordinary activity.
If you do see something unusual, for example, seeing 7 different search results instead of the standard 10 for page one, then that will be hinting that Google should be launching something soon. If you are tracking your traffic, you can also see some large fluctuations in your results during the time of an update. It is good to keep in mind that sometimes these do go on for a while - some days, some weeks.
During this time your ranking can rise, fall, and then all of a sudden go right back to normal. It is important, especially as a digital marketer, to remind your clients that this is normal and nothing to be alarmed about unless this issue sticks for longer than a few weeks.
Tracking Google Algorithm Updates
Keep a close eye on web traffic/search ranking
Helpful Tools: Mozcast & Accuranker Google Grump ranking
Has a feature (Position Track Settings - Device & Location) that lets you look at your keyword rankings as if you were searching from a different location, which is really helpful if you are trying to serve clients from out of state
Follow @searchliason on Twitter
Even though they may not be direct with all of their updates, their feed has gotten into the habit of sharing content related to upcoming updates
Staying Ahead of Google Algorithm Updates
Now, there is one thing that you can count on has remained constant throughout all the updates to keep your website from being affected negatively by an algorithm update. To avoid your website from dropping in rankings keep an online presence, no matter how the algorithm changes, the best way to survive online is to create high-quality, user-friendly content.
Make sure that your website contains updated information. Nothing makes a user more frustrated than when they finish reading something that was made 5 years ago and is probably irrelevant today.
Develop a content calendar to keep track of blog post development schedule. Set a goal for yourself and employees to make their own posts at least once a month. Depending on how many people are at your company, doing this will create a constant flow of updated information that users will find helpful.
Googles E-A-T Guidelines
Google rewards websites that show expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness with higher search rankings. In saying this, ensure your content demonstrates quality knowledge since this helps your site build authority. Especially if the site has plenty of mentions and quality backlinks to show Google that you are a trustworthy source of information.
Recovering from a Google Algorithm Update
We hope this Google Algorithm blog post has helped you understand more about Google updates and how these everlasting algorithm updates and changes have revolutionized SEO.
Through these changes, marketers and businesses will better understand what they can do to stay on Google’s good side.
Here at DeltaV Digital, we take all algorithm changes into account and stay readily available to ensure our clients do not come up short with the changes.
Schedule an appointment today and see how DeltaV Digital can help your business recover from an algorithm update and start dominating digital.