Much to the surprise of Webmasters and SEOs around the globe, on 24th September, Google officially announced the imminent rolling out of its broad core algorithm update, which then, later that day they released.
Of late, Google has been on a roll, deviating from the road it usually takes and giving webmasters a heads up about what they’re about to drop. This is quite unlike the Search Engine Giant, who used to revel in announcing major algorithm updates without notice to the unsuspecting webmasters.
So, why does a broad core algorithm matter to webmasters?
Well, this is actually the second time that Google has departed from its custom of keeping site owners in the dark about an algorithm update. Just like it did with the core algorithm update back in June, Google preannounced this month’s broad core algorithm, and what ensued was a great reception from SEOs and webmasters alike.
Google has urged site owners to follow the same guidelines and lookout for ways to offer better user-experience. So there’s nothing new there as far as ranking factors are concerned but from the look of things, Google is clearly on a mission to have an open dialogue with site users over the best practices.
As webmasters everywhere are seeing drastic to minimal changes in search results, here is what our SEO experts suggest you should keep an eye out for:
- You may see rise and drops for your keyword on search engine results pages.
- Core algorithm updates are aimed at making broad-based improvements to Google’s algorithm.
- Your high-ranking pages may undergo drops in ranking in favour of your competitor’s better-optimised pages.
- Keep producing high-quality content that helped you rank well in the first place.
- Look for areas that require improvement from a user perspective.
- You shouldn’t expect each improvement to yield the desired results, but it’s better than not trying.
So, there you have it. The broad core algorithm update does not mean the end of the world for site owners. Rather, you should simply view it as a step taken in the right direction towards improving user experience.
What exactly is an algorithm update?
Every few years Google rolls out algorithm updates, which are specifically designed to clean up major concerns in the algorithm. If the Panda update was designed to erase content farms off the face of the Internet and stop low-quality content from ranking high in SERPs, the penguin for the large part marked the end of spammy link-building practices.
Each of these updates served a different purpose. More importantly, it gave users a clear-cut picture about what needs to be done to reverse their fate and get back in the good books of Google.
‘Algorithm updates as a window into Google’s heart”
Each update was Google’s way of communicating, albeit reluctantly at times, its vision and ideals to all webmasters and it gave us direct instructions on what had to be done to salvage our websites. As time passed, webmasters started seeing these algorithm updates as a window into the heart of Google.
So what makes this Core algorithm different from the rest?
The broad core algorithm update is realised by bringing about qualitative changes to the algorithm’s functionality. The update involves making small but noticeable changes to the algorithm.
As you may already know, the algorithm boasts over 500 ranking factors and signals. With each new core update, Google is basically altering the relevance and value of these different ranking signals. In a way, this is the search engine giant’s idea of keeping website owners on their toes and guessing what they should do to improve things.
“We may never really get verifiable insights into the real-time workings of the Machine learning Google implements to rate and weigh the importance of ranking factors”.
Every time Google rolls out a new core algorithm update it’s safe to assume that it’s starting to have different ideas about ranking factors. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that any drops or rise in rankings, following algorithm updates, could be due to a combination of factors, as opposed to a specific thing.
Of course, it’s not that straightforward, but then nothing about how Google moves is, but it does give you a solid framework to better understand Google.
So why did Google break with its time-honoured tradition?
Is this Google’s idea of playing nice and making up for everything they have put webmaster through over the years?
Well, hold on to that question for a second!
Pre-announcement of core algorithm is not Google’s way of breaking with any tradition. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, it’s a sign of Google’s growing trust in website owners, who, when given timely instructions, can go that extra mile to fix issues.
So, Google isn’t exactly going out of the way to do anything.
Google introduced itself to the world with the sole intention of making knowledge available to everyone and at the heart of its mission is a stated desire to remove the hurdles in accessing the knowledge. This means that all Google cares about is a planet that enjoys uninterrupted access to its knowledge index. Hence, measures have been taken over the years in order to bridge the gap between searchers and information.
What if you’re actually hit by Broad Core Algorithm
In most cases, the safest way to retain or reclaim your positions is by consistently producing high-quality content. Finding drops in ranking can be really disheartening, especially when you’ve got high-quality content on your pages. What’s important to understand, is that your website is not being penalised, rather it’s being judged against the prevailing standards of published content since the last core algorithm update.
Websites are measured up against one another. The different websites undergo drops in ranking for different reasons. Therefore, it’s clear that Google is not offering a clear, ‘road to recovery instruction’ to sites that were badly affected. Basically, you’re left to find out how other sites are trying to rank for the same keywords, and how effectively they are doing it as well asiguring out what they are doing differently to find their way into Google’s good book.
Sometimes, it could be something as simple as having the relevant long-tail keyword in their title tags. A closer examination of such possible contributing factors could lay bare some SEO mysteries.
Jumping the gun before you have all the details
Patience is an underrated virtue in the realm of SEO.
As soon as you see unusual drops in rankings or traffic volume, you immediately start playing the blame game. It’s either the after-effects of an algorithm update, indiscriminate link building or the SEO team.
Your site may have got hit by the algorithm due to various reasons. Instead of muddying the waters and playing the blame game, you should stop pointing fingers at things and start focusing on real issues that need fixing.
- Have you been keeping tabs on the speed metrics of the pages that were hit?
- Perhaps your content is now outdated and has been downranked in favour of some more fleshed-out content elsewhere.
- Have you made sure that the drops in the ranking have nothing to do with design changes of a SERP interface?
Well, as a rule of thumb: ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!’
Google is apparently a big believer in giving second chance to felons. You know the inherent goodness in site owners who want to do better. However, just making a bunch of random changes to your site will not ensure your recovery, but at the same time, choosing not to act will certainly make sure that there is no recovery whatsoever. So you must act, and act wisely.
“Steering clear of, ‘I’m penalised despite all my efforts’ brigade”
You may want to keep some distance from those peculiar webmasters who deliberately make a ‘mountain out of a molehill’.
Well, your overriding concern in this period of confusion is to be in possession of your faculties, so you can get down to the bottom of the problems and hopefully solve them.
Also, every time someone wails over a ‘Penalty’, take it with a pinch of salt. Nine times out of ten, you may be looking at drops in ranking due to the devaluation of the content on the site.
Run a comprehensive site audit.
If there are no issues with your web pages, you should sieve through the content. In helping clients recover from broad core algorithm updates, we thoroughly audited the on-page content and it against competitor’s content.
Essential questions to ask yourself amid broad core algorithm frenzy
With many grievance stories afloat, it may be hard to find some reassuring perspective.
Google has repeatedly stated that there is no quick fix to reverse the fortunes in SERP. The primary goal, as always, should be to improve the quality of the content published.
Earlier, Google made a list of ‘top 100 movies in 2015’ to give you an idea about how a core update operates. When you search the same after four years, say 2019, you will see new movies come out and hit the ‘top list’.
Here are 4 types of questions Google encouraged webmasters to use in the wake of its broad core algorithm update.
1.Content and quality questions
The first part suggests content creators be insightful, original and comprehensive. It also advises to filter out clickbait headlines.
- Is the content on the page authoritative? Does it provide accurate reporting, research or analysis?
- Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Will users be able to get an insightful analysis or interesting information from the content?
- If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
- Can visitors get a descriptive, helpful summary of the content from the headline or page title?
- Is your page title or headline safe from sensational and exaggerated content?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to share with a friend, recommend or bookmark?
- Do you want to see this content in a book, magazine or encyclopedia?
2. Expertise questions
Measure the expertise and credibility of the author. The information displayed on the website is expected to be based on the concept of E-A-T (Expert, Authority and Trust).
- Would you trust the information from content such as evidence of the expertise involved, clear sourcing, background about the author or the site that publishes it?
- Is the site producing content, a recognised authority on its topic?
- If you go through the content, would you get an impression that it is written by an expert who is well versed in the subject?
- Is the content free from factual errors?
- Do you trust the content for issues relating to your money or your life?
3. Presentation and production questions
Google also considers ‘how the contents of a page should appear (style, presentation and overall arrangement) and quality of the user experience for mobile users’, so this is something to consider:
- Is the content free from stylistic or spelling issues?
- Does the content seem well developed or appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- Does an individual page/site get enough attention? Or is the content mass-produced or spread across a large network of sites?
- Are there unnecessary ads that interfere or distract with the main content?
- Is your content mobile friendly?
4. Comparative questions
This section advises you to analyse the quality of the page with other pages in search results.
- Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- Does the content on the page focus on the genuine interests of visitors vs. someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
Ultimately, Google wants you to perform well in search results. The best way to ride out the Algorithm storm is by taking care of factors like user intent, quality guidelines, site architecture and Google guidelines.