Google has a long history of (in)famous algorithm updates, search index changes, and refreshes that are a treat for users but are often a source of headaches for businesses and SEOs. If you have spent any time in the SEO world, you’ll most likely have experienced the frustrations that Google’s algorithm changes can cause.
The best SEO companies are constantly monitoring, testing, and evaluating these changes to try and keep ahead of the game. So, what can you do to stay on top of the Google algorithm updates and the SERPs? And how can you keep your content SEO-friendly at all times?
Just keep reading.
Before we dig any deeper, we must define the notion of a Google algorithm update. Google algorithms are a system that uses complex operations to process the data and deliver the best possible results for a search. This means that Google ranks the results according to relevance to a specific query by taking a bunch of different factors into account to figure out which websites have the most relevant and trustworthy information related to that particular search.
Have you ever gotten excited that your website is finally at the top of the Google search results, only to be bummed later on when you notice it’s been bumped down a few spots? You can thank the Google search algorithm updates for that. Google algorithm updates are the adjustments introduced to change the way Google algorithms recognize the content as a top priority.
This means that, with every new update, the tried and tested methods you’re used to relying on no longer apply, and the rules for staying on top of the SERPs change once again.
Google seems to be changing more often than not. Most experts estimate that Google changes its search algorithm around 500 to 600 times each year. That’s somewhere between once and twice each day. While most of these changes don’t significantly change the SEO landscape, some updates are significant and may change the way we go about writing for SEO.
However, some of Google’s algorithms are quite well known and have almost taken on legendary status (e.g., Florida, Panda, Penguin, RankBrain, etc.) and have had a major impact on the history of SEO and the rankings (and revenue) of websites. But most changes are much smaller and some Google algorithm updates even go completely unnoticed because their SERP impact is so low.
That’s why monitoring and keeping up with the never-ending changes is a must for online success.
We all want our content to be among the top results of a search and so we try our hardest to optimize it for Google search engines, using SEO. Now, SEO depends on Google algorithms. That means that marketers, bloggers, and business owners need to understand Google algorithms and create content based on the rules defined by them.
An SEOs job is never done. Whenever we feel like we’ve got the ropes and understand Google algorithms they tend to surprise us with a new update. The constant Google algorithm changes mean that SEO professionals can’t just optimize a site once and be done – it’s an ongoing task that requires as much research as it does implementation.
Therefore, keeping track of Google algorithm updates is a must if you want to stay in the game and not get crushed by your competitors.
Google updates, as notorious as they might be, are not intended to punish websites but rather reward those who provide relevant information and a good user experience. In constant pursuit of this goal, Google keeps making changes to provide the most relevant answers and to weed out websites using ‘black hat’ or devious techniques to get a higher ranking. So, an algorithm update can either help or hurt your:
As a business owner, your digital livelihood can depend on your search rankings. You want to be aware of the major changes so you are not blindsided by a serious drop in your rankings and thus site visitors and sales. Keeping track of all the minor daily Google algorithm adjustments is unnecessary. But understanding more about major updates is important because it helps you to make on-course adjustments in time.
Google is notoriously inconspicuous when it comes to its search algorithms. What we mean by this is that Google tends not to drop any hints that an update will be launched at all, which can make it extremely difficult to prepare for what is to come and if it will impact search rankings positively or negatively. Most of their updates are spotted by members of the SEO community before they are even confirmed by Google!
The reason why Google tends to be more on the secretive side with these announcements is that they update so frequently. So, anyone managing a website’s performance must keep a close eye on any possible tweaks regularly. You’re probably wondering what is the best way to stay informed about the algorithm updates and keep track of them as they’re released.
There are a couple of best practices and techniques you can use:
Google is constantly adjusting its algorithm to deliver the best possible results. So, you need to understand what it takes to rank (and rank well). To do this, you must understand what Google regards as most important when improving user experience. Some of these factors are:
There are several ways to keep up with Google’s constant updates. One way is to regularly check your site’s web traffic in your analytics platform and search rankings for your target keywords. SERP metrics offers a chart showing the fluctuations in search results. You can cross-compare the two and see what kind of changes have been happening in the last 30 days.
If you notice any major changes, it will help you track the updates and see how impactful was the change that came with it. It’s a good way to learn how impactful was the change and whether you need to act upon it or not.
Setting up a Google alert is one of the easiest ways to monitor any algorithm shifts. You can customize alerts based on:
The biggest benefit of this approach to keeping up with Google algorithm changes is that the news comes straight to you, knocking on your door — no action is necessary once the alert is set up.
Many great SEO blogs cover all types of search updates. Here are a few resources you can specifically use to keep track of Google algorithm updates:
This has been a source of news about major algorithm updates in the past, such as when mobile-friendliness became a ranking factor. It’s Google’s official blog where they announce upcoming algorithm changes, sometimes weeks or even months in advance, so definitely keep an eye on this resource to stay up on the latest changes straight from Google and make the adjustments you need, just in time.
You can subscribe via email, bookmark the blog or even search for algorithm updates in the search box.
Social media has become a powerful source of information and if you know where to look, you’ll find some amazing info. Google has an official Twitter account called Google SearchLiaison. In this account, they share all the major updates that people need to know about and tweet insights on how Google search works. We also recommend following SEO influencers, including Googlers, and relevant hashtags.
SEO professionals will likely tweet about the latest Google algorithm changes. Influencers and big names in SEO like John Mueller, Matt Cutts, Search Engine Land / Roundtable are known for their work in the tech space, so if a major change occurs, they will likely report on it. Subscribing to their newsletters or signing up for their email lists is another easy way to get notified about any algorithm update news.
While the Google blog is the official blog of the company, it shouldn’t be your only source of information about its algorithm updates. Find other credible, trustworthy, and informative SEO blogs, like PlayMedia’s blog. Make sure to visit our website regularly for all of the latest SEO developments and changes. We do the research, so you wouldn’t have to.
Google isn’t particularly fond of any third-party tools that monitor changes to their algorithms. Some Google spokespeople have even warned SEO professionals that such tools are inaccurate most of the time. While it’s true that fluctuations in SERP results aren’t always the result of an update, tracking of SERP fluctuations is an indicator of what’s happening and can provide an early warning that an update might be brewing.
Here are some effective tools you can use to track Google algorithm updates and understand the relationship between any algorithm changes and your organic traffic:
Penguin: A free SEO tool that helps you to identify whether your ranking has been affected by an algorithm update.
It’s always better to minimize your chances of being seriously affected by an update by focusing on SEO fundamentals and avoiding any violations of Google Webmaster Guidelines. But, if you still manage to get on Google’s “bad side” – worry not.
Don’t panic and rush to act if you fear you’ve been affected by a Google algorithm update. Carefully assess the situation, collect data and make sure you’ve been affected by the update and not some other issue. Do some research to find out what credible experts, like our vetted Play Media SEO specialist, have to say.
If you come through a big Google algorithm change unscathed, you should celebrate! If you’re less lucky and your traffic and rankings end up plummeting, look at it as a blessing in disguise and do your best to fix the flaws Google detected in your website.
Google releases thousands of algorithm updates every year. Through these changes, marketers and businesses can better understand what they should do to stay on Google’s good side. It’s not necessary to monitor each one but understanding the major changes can help you focus on what Google wants to see and adjust your SEO strategies accordingly, so you stay on top of the SERPs.
However, don’t get too obsessed with the everlasting Google algorithm updates and lose sight of the big picture – focus on creating excellent, relevant, unique content, gaining the trust of your audience, and building authority. In the end, it’s what will make or break your digital success.
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