Google releases updates every few days to improve search results. However, most of these updates aren’t noticeable and only help incrementally to improve the search experience. When updates do make noticeable changes, Google dubs these updates as core updates. They even share actionable information that webmasters, content producers or others can use to improve their website and services. The most famous “Speed Update” resulted in Google giving out information months in advance for the community to prepare themselves for it.
When significant and broad changes are made to the Google search algorithm, they are known as core updates. The goal of these updates is to ensure that the search experience is always relevant and authoritative content is given priority. Core updates can also affect Google Discover. Google Discover is the new name for Google Feed and shows you topics and news items around items that interest you.
Unfortunately, when Google releases these core updates, there are noticeable effects that websites might see. For example, some sites may experience drops in traffic and they’ll be looking for a fix. Google releases information so that webmasters fix the right things instead of the wrong things. Or in some cases, there might not be anything to fix at all!
What should webmasters do during a Google Core Update?
- Don’t panic!
- Reassess content
- Focus on content
- Understand quality rater guidelines and EAT
- Subscribe to our newsletter (optional!)
1. Don’t Panic!
If your webpage performs less well due to a core update, there’s no need to panic. As long as you don't violate the webmaster guidelines you’re good to go. However, if your website has been subjected to a manual or algorithmic action due to a violation of webmaster guidelines, then you will have to consider assessing the content overall on your webpage. Typically core updates do not target specific pages or sites. Instead, they revolve around improving Google’s content assessment system. You might even find a page that was previously under-rewarded to do better!
2. Reassess content
Core updates are all about bringing the best, most relevant and latest information to Google searchers. For example, a Top 10 Smartphones list will always keep changing each year due to new products being released into the market. With each new smartphone, there would be a plethora of content ranging from reviews, unboxings to details breakdowns. As a webmaster, you should consider reassessing the content on your domain to ensure you’re keeping up with the latest information and trends. Updating your information wherever necessary may help in making a search more relevant to a user, say in 2019. As long as you align your content with Google’s search philosophy you should be good!
3. Focus on content
If your pages see a drop after a core update, there might not be anything wrong to fix. However, Google understands the need to still look into a drop and their suggestion is to focus on the content. The search algorithms seek to reward those people who have really done their best to provide the best quality content. Google has a handy list of questions that you can ask yourself to get started:
Content and quality questions,
- Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
- Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
- Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
- Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
- Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
- If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic?
- Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
- Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
- Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?
Presentation and production questions,
- Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
- Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
- Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
- Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?
- Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- 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?
Beyond answering these questions also consider doing SEO audits on pages that may see drops in traffic.
4. Understand quality rater guidelines and EAT
Google’s search quality rater guidelines are really useful to understand what great content is. Raters are people who give Google insights into how the algorithm is functioning and whether good search results are being displayed. Rater data is not used directly for the ranking algorithm but is definitely taken seriously in the form of feedback. Understanding how raters assess good content might even help your own content. Raters are trained to understand content under the acronym EAT, which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Reading these guidelines may help you assess how your content is doing from the EAT perspective.
Here are a few articles written by third-parties who share how they’ve used the guidelines as advice to follow:
- E-A-T and SEO, from Marie Haynes
- Google Updates Quality Rater Guidelines Targeting E-A-T, Page Quality & Interstitials, from Jennifer Slegg
- Leveraging E-A-T for SEO Success, a presentation from Lily Ray
- Google’s Core Algorithm Updates and The Power of User Studies: How Real Feedback From Real People Can Help Site Owners Surface Website Quality Problems (And More), Glenn Gabe
- Why E-A-T & Core Updates Will Change Your Content Approach, from Fajr Muhammad
Google agrees that no improvement they make to Search is perfect. Which is why they work on an extensive feedback system that helps improve the search algorithm better. Google keeps its search algorithm a secret to maintain the integrity of their search results. But, we hope that the information covered in this guide will help new and veteran webmasters.
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