What is a Google Core Algorithm update and Why does it Happen?
As an SEO professional, you have to have detective skills because Google only releases so much information on how their algorithms work. In the early days, Google used to inform webmasters of what\’s most important to rank well in SERPs.
However, because so many people exploited Google when they made announcements they decided to play poker with the SEO community and reveal as little information as possible.
As an SEO, I have to read and analyze as much information as possible to better understand how Google\’s multiple algorithms work. Some of this is intuitive which I\’ve built up from experience while other times it\’s simply trial and error or regular testing to see what works and what doesn\’t work.
So, when Google does release some information, it\’s usually important to read it, re-read it, and digest as much of it as possible.
On August 1st, 2019, Google released information on how to handle core algorithm updates. This is extremely important information because Google updates its algorithm, on average, once per day. The once per day updates are usually small in nature while the core algorithm updates are massive and cause all sorts of fluctuations in rankings.
Why even bother updating their search engine if it\’s so advanced? Well, Google is essentially a giant piece of software that has a whopping 2 billion lines of code!
Some of the updates are for bugs while others are to add brand new features to cater to the ever-shifting needs of the business world.
These core algorithm updates are rolled out a few times per year and can take several weeks to complete before you understand whether your site was positively or negatively affected by it.
Core algorithm updates aren\’t always bad and if sites are doing SEO right, they will often times increase in rankings. However, during this last update, several large crypto media websites tanked in rankings or went out of business. NFL.com reportedly lost 20 – 30% of their traffic during the last update.
So, no one is safe during a core algorithm update even a massive corporation like the NFL but how does one get ahead of this to prevent loss or even thrive during it?
Focus on Content for people NOT search engines
Luckily for you, I\’m going to breakdown and decipher some of what Google wrote about in their Webmasters blog. Please take a few minutes to read thru the original blog first and come back here to make sense of it all.
Often times when people ask Google what\’s the most important ranking factors they simply tell the SEO community to focus on content. If done the right way content hits on so many important aspects of SEO that it makes a lot of sense on why they say that. Without content, you can\’t optimize a website for search engines and SEO wouldn\’t even exist.
But you shouldn\’t write content simply to gain rankings. You have to target the write users and write content that fills key points in their journey whether it\’s mostly research-focused or purchase focused. Remember, Google is a marketing engine and a platform for businesses to sell products.
With that being said, people are turned off by old school \”buy now\” sales tactics. Instead, you have to provide useful content that helps them understand why your products are better than someone else\’s.
Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
In other words, are you writing something completely original or are you just spinning content that someone else wrote about already? If you want to rank in Google you have to either come up with something completely original or leverage the skyscraper technique to improve upon an already established content.
Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
Google loves long-form content nowadays. How do I know? The average length of content on the first page is 1,800 words or more. The reason is that long-form content not only hits all the most important keywords but it also answers a lot of search query questions in one article rather than someone having to jump from website to website to find it.
Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
If you\’re stating the obvious that\’s already been written about thousands of times you have no shot at ranking for anything. That in itself seems very very obvious but here we are stating it all over again.
If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
If I took Google\’s blog post and simply copied and pasted everything word for word with an intro paragraph that would pretty much sum up what you shouldn\’t do. You can leverage other people\’s content in your own but you also need to expand upon it, write an in-depth commentary explaining it, or simply use parts of it to dumb it down for people who aren\’t experts. SEO is a great example of it because it confuses so many people.
Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
Headlines such as h1 – h5 tags, title tags, and meta descriptions aren\’t for rankings – They are for people to better understand what they\’re clicking on. It helps people make snap decisions on whether or not they want to continue reading the content or if it simply isn\’t what they\’re looking for. h1 – h5 tags are better of better user experience and aren\’t meant to be exploited or stuffed with keywords.
Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
Clickbait sucks but surprisingly we can\’t help but click on it sometimes. Clickbait has been around forever and I feel like it originated with those tabloid magazines you see at the checkout lines at grocery stores. While in line magazines only have so much time to get your attention so they use over the top headlines to hook you in so you make a snap buying decisions.
Today\’s clickbait targets major emotions and is meant to enrage us to the point where we click on it and share it on our social media. How many times have you clicked on an article only to start reading it and realize that it has almost nothing to do with the title? This sums up clickbait and it\’s a misleading waste of time.
Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
Reference content, such as the 1,800-word articles on page one of Google, is oftentimes something you want to save and read at a later date. It has so much useful information it\’s hard to read through and digest in one sitting. Carefully crafted long-form content is kind of like a book and Google is essentially a digital library. It\’s an SEO\’s job to help organize the world\’s information (websites, pages, blog posts) and make it universally accessible. Why do we buy books? To read and potentially read again at a later date. I\’ve done this multiple times most recently with the A Song of Ice and Fire series which I\’ve read 3 different times
Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
if your content is useful other content creators will go out of their way to reference it in their own content. Take Brian Dean for example. He invented the term \”Skyscraper\” technique and he\’s the reason I know that the average first-page result is 1,800 words+. I linked to that specific blog post above to help reinforce my position on long-form content and thousands of other SEO\’s do the same exact thing.
Presentation and production questions
Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
Why would anyone want to waste their time reading something that had spelling errors or stylistic issues? That communicates that you really don\’t care much for the content so why should anyone else? The best content is written, re-written, and edited over and over again until it\’s just right for the end-user that content creator is targeting.
Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
This falls in line with what I just mentioned above. Rushed content is oftentimes shallow and doesn\’t do much beyond state the obvious you\’ve already read a hundred times before. If it\’s rushed users can tell and they will leave your website immediately which counts against your overall rankings.
Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
We all want to make money but we also don\’t want to be sold to every time we try to read an article we\’re interested in. Ads hurt the user experience and the user experience is a big part of Google\’s algorithm. If there are too many ads on a content-heavy website it slows it down and takes the focus away from what people are reading. I personally leave a website immediately if there are too many ads or pop up blockers.
Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?
Almost 60% of searches are from a mobile device. If you haven\’t heard yet, Google is a mobile-first index and if your website isn\’t built mobile-first, it will hurt the user experience and people will leave your website immediately.
Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
Value is subjective but we know what it is when we see it. Longer form content has more opportunities to communicate value in answering multiple questions on one page rather than forcing a user to search for multiple answers across multiple websites. Shorter articles can also provide value if they\’re done the right way and communicate the point in a quick, concise manner.
Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
Search engines are for people, not robots but that doesn\’t stop anyone from trying to cram as many keywords and concepts on one page as humanly possible. The purpose of content should be to provide useful information for the end-users. That useful information can ultimately be for the purposes of commerce but it still needs to provide some sort of value to someone reading it.
What else do you need to know about Search Engine Updates?
I\’ve been on both sides of a Google algorithm update but I\’ve never had a site take a massive nosedive. Often times the sites I work on either stay the same, go up slightly, or have minor fluctuations or dips during a core algorithm update. If you take the time to start not only adjusting your current content but also planning to create fresh content, you\’ll not only stay ahead of these algorithm updates but also thrive during them.