Firstly, while it’s no secret that Google is constantly tweaking and improving their algorithm, broad core updates are much less common, coming only a few times per year. Furthermore, while Google’s smaller updates tend to target specific areas, such as spammy backlinks or poorly optimised pages, the core updates are much more substantial, with speculation that they can directly affect anywhere between 200 and 500 ranking factors. Each of these ranking factors will also be assigned a different weighting, depending on how vital Google sees them for web optimisation; for example, a properly optimised title tag is likely to play a bigger part in a page’s ranking potential than the alt text of an image.
Unfortunately, the developers at Google tend to be quite tight-lipped when it comes to these core updates, so many (including seasoned SEO professionals!) have been left in the dark as to why their rankings may have dropped. This is understandable, as the sheer number of variables involved would make it near on impossible for Google to address everything in a fair manner. However, Google representatives issued the following statement:
'Each day, Google usually releases one or more changes designed to improve our results. Some are focused around specific improvements. Some are broad changes. Last week, we released a broad core algorithm update. We do these routinely several times per year. As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There's nothing wrong with pages that may not perform less well. Instead, it's that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded. There's no "fix" for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.'
With the confirmation that Google is rewarding sites for having good optimisation, as opposed to penalising them for whatever reason, we would recommend using this update as an opportunity to evaluate how well your site adheres to Google’s optimisation guidelines, starting with the following:
Having a technically sound website will likely play the most important part in your ranking potential. Here, we’d recommend ensuring that all of your URL’s are clear and concise, while also ensuring that this approach carries over to your menu structure.
While this is a much more subjective recommendation, the speed at which Google’s algorithm is learning and adapting means that high-quality content is becoming increasingly important to a site’s optimisation. The key things here are to ensure that each page/post provides accurate information that is engaging and of value to your audience.
While it can be easy to place value in quantity over quality here, rest assured that the latter will always come out on top. In fact, we anticipate that it’s the sites with quality, yet under-appreciated links that have benefitted the most from this recent algorithm update.
Overall, while Google’s algorithm updates may appear to be an ill-timed nuisance, the result is that the most relevant and quality sites receive the rankings they deserve, which can only be a good thing for everyone involved. If nothing else, it certainly keeps our SEO team on their toes!
By Lewis McSorley, Search Marketing Consultant
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