SEOs spend a lot of time trying to determine Google ranking factors. While Google occasionally offers insight, there continues to be mystery surrounding ranking factors and the distribution of weight these factors have on overall rankings.
The evolution of updates to Google’s algorithm can have dramatic effects on the rankings you’ve worked hard to build. With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about Google’s core algorithm updates:
The Evolution of Algorithm Updates
It all started in 2003 with the Florida update. This update caused quite a stir, since it implemented certain filtering mechanisms for several keywords and had massive effects on rankings. For SEOs this was a game-changer and caused many to reevaluate their approach.
In the early days, algorithm updates would target one ranking factor and make changes, these were considered standalone updates. This made it simpler for SEOs to find creative ways to get around these barriers to continue to achieve ranking success.
For instance, the page speed update was specific. In response SEOs would simply ensure website page speed was fast to avoid losing rankings.
Yet, things changed in 2011 with the Panda update, a standalone update soon absorbed as a core update. The Panda update would give priority to ranking higher quality website content. Higher quality would be assessed based on several measurement points. These were far more complex than earlier updates and mostly subjective.
For SEOs, updates like these makes it challenging to determine how best to optimize websites in order to see ranking improvements. Instead, SEOs must take a holistic approach to meet the needs of users.
Core Updates Versus Standalone Updates
A Google core algorithm update is a significant broad change to the algorithm. Google does this to further their mission of delivering relevant and authoritative content to their searchers. These updates can touch several ranking factors, potentially changing how powerful their affect is on rankings and even adding new factors to the mix.
Yet, standalone updates still exist and updates like Panda are often integrated into Google’s core algorithm. Google simply stopped refreshing each standalone update individually.
Every year there are a few updates made to Google’s core algorithm. The majority of the time Google makes a public announcement in advance to let webmasters know about any updates to the core algorithm. Google also advises when the rollout of the algorithm update is complete, so webmasters can prepare and attribute any changes in rankings to the update.
How to Determine if Your Website Was Affected by a Core Update
If you’re a webmaster, you’re likely waiting patiently to see if the most recent Google core update affected your rankings positively or negatively. Remember algorithm updates aren’t always a bad thing – if you’re using white hat SEO techniques then they can actually boost your rankings.
Wait at least one week after Google announces the end of an algorithm rollout. This will allow enough time for Google Search Console to show changes. When you do review Google Search Console data ensure you check the following:
- Review Google Search Console to see if there are any changes to impressions or traffic
- Review in Google Search Console to see if there are any average ranking changes.
How to Avoid Loss of Rankings: E-A-T Approach
If you start with a solid game plan for SEO then even core algorithm updates shouldn’t cause your rankings to slide. Google tries to make their algorithm human-like, with similar quality-based judgement. It wants to present users with the highest quality search results and will therefore give priority to websites that meet that need.
The E-A-T approach which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness is the best way to plan content for your website to get the attention of Google’s algorithm (in a good way). It is commonly referenced in the Google search quality rater guidelines.
In order to implement the E-A-T approach to your website, there are a bunch of considerations to make. We've outlined them here as a checklist:
- Create high-quality content
This means have subject matter experts or copywriters create in-depth and original content for your website. They can ensure you have clear headlines, and accessible content making it easy to read for anyone visiting your website.
- Content that displays well on all devices
Nowadays visitors are searching on Google only on their desktop computer. The rise of mobile devices including cell phones and tablets means your website needs to hold up when they land on your website. Does your design and formatting look professional?
- Excellent website usability
Google cares about the user experience. Ensure your website is a pleasure to visit with fast speeds and well-thought-out content. Consider how you are laying out information on each page and test your content using user research methods.
- Positive customer online reviews
An upvote for your website for Google rankings is when you have positive customer online reviews. This will indicate quality products and services and help boost your rankings.
- Social media shares
Social media can help amplify your content to people. If you’re sharing high-quality content, then that will hopefully lead to quality backlinks. When other websites with authority link back to your site, this can boost rankings.
- Follow all Google webmaster's quality guidelines
Google’s webmaster guidelines are the key to success in many ways. It’s information coming from the horse's mouth which means it’s a great starting point to ensure you are at least at baseline before continuing to optimize your site.
What to Do if You Lose Traffic After a Core Update
There will be several things you will need to do if you experience traffic loss after a Google update. Focus on E-A-T to ensure your content is up to standard. If you did lose rankings, it is likely that you were falling short of Google’s webmaster guidelines.
Protect Your Rankings Against Google’s Core Algorithm Updates
Google is always innovating which means SEOs will need to step up their game and stay in tune with the search engine giants core algorithm updates. You can expect many more core web updates and standalone updates to happen in the future. Be proactive with high quality content and prioritizing the user experience to protect your rankings against updates in the future.