Google makes almost nine changes to search on average in one day, leading to thousands of improvements over the course of one year. Most of them are minor and may not make a noticeable difference in a website’s ranking.
However, along with these minor changes, Google will also release what they call a core update. Once these updates are rolled out, many are left scratching their heads, asking what has changed and why they are now ranking higher or lower than before.
The content below is designed to clarify what a Google core update actually is, what you can do after an update if your rankings drop, and how you can anticipate and prepare yourself for the next one.
What is a Google Core Update?
A Google core update is an update that Google believes will significantly impact website rankings due to broad changes with their algorithm and systems. They make these changes to ensure the delivery of reliable and relevant content to searchers. In many cases, they are making updates that give more weight to various components of a website’s content that they believe are more valuable to a user, thus improving user experience.
What Should You do After a Core Update if You Lose Rankings?
It’s possible to gain ranks after an update without touching a thing. If you are among those who benefited from the latest round of updates, congratulations! But, don’t get too comfortable because you could find yourself in the loser’s corner the next time around.
Losing rank after a core update can be frustrating and leave you wanting to know what changed and how you can fix it. Unfortunately, in most cases, Google doesn’t make it clear what changes have been made, leaving it up to us to hypothesize based on trends we see after the update has launched.
However, there are best practices provided by Google that you should follow to ensure that you’re providing your users with the best content possible. After all, Google is making updates to deliver searchers the best content, so if you’re sticking to their recommendations, you should be in good standing for when the next update rolls around. But of course, there are no guarantees.
Trends and Best Practices
To help keep you on the right track, Google has provided 20 questions that you can ask yourself to help improve your existing content and provide guidance when you create more content in the future. You can find those questions here.
If you’re interested in the trends and stats discovered after an update, I highly recommend checking out MOZ’s “Google Algorithm Update History” page. This page provides a plethora of resources that cover when the updates occurred, which sites were the biggest winners and losers, as well as the trends identified as a result. A great example of a trends breakdown was created by Mordy Oberstein at RankRanger. In his article “The Themes Running Through The December 2020 Core Update,” Mordy provides an in-depth analysis by examining, in multiple cases, a page that lost versus a page that won from the same content category. By doing so, he was able to find convincing trends that are worth taking action on.
Google also provides the community with a beneficial document called “search quality rater guidelines.” They explain that “Rater data is not used directly in our ranking algorithms. Rather, we use them as a restaurant might get feedback cards from diners. The feedback helps us know if our systems seem to be working. If you understand how raters learn to assess good content, that might help you improve your own content. In turn, you might perhaps do better in Search.” Within these guidelines, you’ll learn about the top three considerations for page quality. Google calls them E-A-T. E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trust and is important because having strong E-A-T can play a significant factor in whether someone chooses to read your content versus another.
When is Google’s Next Core Update?
So does anyone know when the next core update is? The answer is yes, but only if you work for Google. In many cases, Google will confirm a core update a few days before or even the same day as the update will roll out. That means that it’s important to follow best practices at all times and have the expectation that your ranking could drop without warning. This is true for even the best websites, so don’t beat yourself up if it happens. What’s most important is that you are producing the best quality content for your readers.
If you really want to do some digging in hopes that you’ll find some theorized information on future core updates, you can check out https://www.seroundtable.com/category/google-updates. Here you’ll find a consistent output of theories on what could be lurking around the corner.
If you are interested in being notified of when an update has launched, or if any issues arise, you can follow Google SearchLiaison. Here you’ll find the official tweets from Google’s public liaison of search, @dannysullivan, sharing insights on how Google search works.
Google core updates can come as a surprise and have outcomes that can make you feel like a winner or a loser. Either way, it’s important to always stay prepared and follow core updates with research to observe trends that will allow you to take action to improve your clients’ websites…as well as your own…in order to maintain SERP dominance and win well-deserved customers. Creating quality content can be made easier by asking yourself Google’s 20 questions that we’ve linked to in this blog, along with the exploration of post-update research provided by companies like RankRanger.
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