Google’s algorithm updates can cause chaos for any website owners or bloggers. What are the latest updates, and what is “the algorithm” anyway?!
If there is one thing bloggers old and new can find themselves getting frustrated by every so often, it’s the Google algorithm. If you want your content to rank you’ve got to play the Game of Google.
Whether you have limited SEO knowledge or you’ve been creating content you know ranks on Google, every time the Google algorithm updates, it can cause a frantic reshuffling of your content to comply with the latest best practices.
Here, we’re going to show you everything you need to know about the Google algorithm, how it works, the latest updates, and what you can do to work better with the algorithms so your content ranks better.
What is the Google Algorithm?
On a basic level, the Google algorithm refers to the process Google uses to rank content. In reality, the ranking system involves numerous algorithms that take into account a number of factors, such as the usability of a webpage, relevance to the search term, and the quality of the content.
How Does the Google Algorithm Work?
The answer to this question is, actually, fairly muddled. We know the algorithm is complex and takes into account a number of factors, but how it works is not widely known. Web folklore believes that to truly get into bed with the algorithm, you need to have your content comply with over 200 ranking factors! However, nobody knows all of them because the algorithm is constantly changing. It is such a moving target, it becomes a real annoyance for those who believe they understand how to rank for certain search terms or content, only to find that the rules change again!
The Google algorithm is a way to rank website pages based on the relevance and usefulness of the content in relation to the search query. The algorithm crawls the web, identifying the content, and assessing the relevance of every page for a given search query. It then ranks the pages accordingly based on some of the following factors:
- Topical authority, which includes providing value to the search query, as well as offering backlinks from topically relevant websites.
- Keyword mentions, by having the exact keywords located a number of times in different places, such as the title, a subheading, or the introductory paragraph.
- Backlinks, which is a way for any website to increase its authority. As Google wants to display pages with backlinks from authoritative and topically relevant websites, it is good practice to get into what is known as link building as this is how Google will come to trust your website.
- Freshness (or how recent the content is on your web page). This tends to be associated with newsworthy content, as Google generally shows results published in the last 24 hours, but if you are providing a service that is more timeless or evergreen you are not unfairly penalised for this by sliding down the rankings.
- User experience, for example, how fast a website loads, if it’s optimised for mobile, if it contains a meta title and description (known as meta tags), and many other variables.
How Often Does Google Update Its Algorithms?
It’s estimated that Google will update its algorithm somewhere between 500 and 600 times every year. However, these changes are small ones. The major updates are the ones that website owners must keep track of, as these are the ones that can impact your rankings, also known as core updates.
When an algorithm is updated, it is for a specific goal. Over the last decade, Google has made some major changes for specific reasons. In marketing circles, some of these dates have taken on legendary status because they completely altered how websites conduct SEO best practices.
For example, an update in 2012 known as the Pirate update focused on content quality and security and in 2019, the BERT update was geared toward content relevance and quality. Generally, you will see a core update occur once or twice per year.
Why Should You Track Google Algorithm Updates?
You must monitor for any changes because the next one could completely overhaul the way you produce and roll out content. We all want our content to achieve, at the very least, somewhere on the hallowed Page 1 of Google, and how we rank is about ensuring that we “speak the language” of the algorithm by ranking for some of the aforementioned factors.
When it comes to SEO your work is never done. Search Engine Optimisation is an ongoing duty that requires you to conduct as much research as much as implementation. In order to beat your competitors, you’ve got to speak the language of the Google algorithm that little bit better than them.
Google keeps making changes to reward websites that provide the right and relevant information and the best user experience. In the past, people have attempted to speak the language of Google by using devious tactics to rank higher, for example, keyword stuffing, which involves ranking for a specific search intent by having that search term peppered all over a piece of content to the point it makes the content unreadable. There are other devious tactics, known as Black Hat SEO, which can result in you being penalised by Google and you slipping further down the rankings.
On a practical level, when you ignore a major algorithm update, you are hurting your website. We are trying to gain more traffic to a website, so if we ignore an algorithm update we can greatly hinder:
- Online visibility.
- Return on investment.
Ultimately, bloggers and website owners need to make sure they are ranking accordingly. If you are not ranking on Page 1, you are losing out on followers and customers. As only 9.47% of people click on Page 2, it pays to comply with the algorithms.
What Are the Latest Google Algorithm Updates?
The Google algorithm has been changing ever since the Fritz update in July 2003, but for relevancy, we will stick to the most recent Google algorithm updates over the last 12 months and the dates they started rolling them out.
Link Spam Update (December 14, 2022)
This update targeted spammy links to remove any authority passed on by unnatural links.
Google Helpful Content System Update (December 6, 2022)
This update aimed to improve user experience by increasing the visibility of helpful original content while limiting content clearly created to rank higher on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
October 2022 Spam Update (October 19, 2022)
When Google made the latest improvements to detect search spam, they did not state what the update focused on, for example, if it prioritised links or content. It’s important to note that it was rolled out in all languages, so if you are writing a blog in a foreign language, certain updates don’t always apply.
September 2022 Product Reviews Update (September 20, 2022)
This was the second product review update in 2022 that rewarded English language product reviews to provide real help and usefulness to searches, combating the unhelpful swathes of online product reviews.
September 2022 Core Update (September 12, 2022)
This was the second core update in 2022 following the May update.
Helpful Content Update (August 25, 2022)
The helpful content update was intended to reward content that helps or informs people. The goal was to make sure content was actually helpful, rather than just ranking for specific Search Engine Optimisation factors. This update came about as searchers were getting frustrated because they landed on unhelpful web pages that occupied Page 1 of Google as they complied with SEO best practices to the letter. The new changes were intended to downgrade these types of websites, while also promoting the helpful ones that were designed for humans, not search engines.
July 2022 Product Reviews Update (July 27, 2022)
This update made very little impact, and was the fourth of all product review updates, aiming to reward outstanding product reviews in search engine results.
May 2022 Core Update (May 25, 2022)
This was the first core update of 2022 which made significant changes to how the system assessed content.
March 2022 Product Reviews Update (March 23, 2022)
This product reviews update built upon the previous product updates to help Google identify high-quality product reviews. With this update, Google offered some advice relating to creating reviews for multiple or individual products, recommendations for the best products, and ranked lists.
Page Experience Update (desktop) (February 22, 2022)
This followed the mobile version of the page experience update in June 2021, using every aspect of that mobile update, including the disappearance of the Google AMP Viewer, which allowed website owners to collect information about the user in browsers that supported this Viewer.
What Are the Best Ways to Track Google Algorithm Updates?
When it comes to updates, Google is notoriously cagey and does not tend to drop any hints. Having a major core update occur without any prior knowledge can result in website owners furiously scrambling to change their content because, all of a sudden, their ranking ability dropped considerably almost overnight (but in reality, it can take a couple of weeks or longer to see the impact of an algorithm change).
It is essential for you to keep an eye out for any updates to the algorithm and conduct some of the following practices:
Keep Up to Date
As simple as it is, you can use a few resources to stay up-to-date with any Google algorithm changes. These would include:
- SEO blogs.
- Industry leaders and SEO professionals.
- Social media, specifically the Google SearchLiaison Twitter page.
- The Google Search Central Blog, which is the main source of information on any changes in the algorithm. Sometimes, Google announces changes to the algorithms in advance, so make sure you subscribe or check back on a regular basis.
Look at Your Ranking
One of the best ways to stay informed is to look at your web traffic. You should, at the very least, use basic analytics tools to see how you are ranking on a regular basis. You can check your web traffic and search rankings based on target keywords, and if you see any changes, you can see how the algorithm updates affected your ranking factors.
Understand What Google Wants
Understanding what Google defines as important to the user experience will help you to deliver what your audience wants which consists of the core SEO practices, like:
- Increase the authoritative nature of your websites by link building.
- Deliver answers to specific queries by creating useful content. Long-form content is far better at answering a question when done correctly, so don’t shy away from it!
- Focus on the user experience of website users by making it easier to use.
- Create SEO-optimised content that is relevant and delivers quality.
What Should You Do After a Google Algorithm Update?
Even if you’ve missed the boat and a major core update occurred while you were on holiday, there is no need to panic. After an algorithm update is complete, everybody is literally in the same boat because they need to wait and see how they’ve been affected. Here are a few things to do:
- See if your rankings were impacted, but it’s important to note that you may not see an impact for a number of weeks because it can take a while for an update to roll out.
- Look at your impacted ranking factors, because if one of the core updates greatly affected your rankings, this may be a sign that you focused on SEO ranking factors like keyword stuffing or not providing useful content.
- See what is being said, as there is always a lot of chatter online after the algorithm rollouts. Rather than just scouring social media, you need to conduct some research to understand some of the patterns, or if other bloggers within similar disciplines have seen a hit in their rankings.
The Google algorithm update is a major event that you need to track. If Google issues a core update, this can have an impact on how your website ranks. The Google algorithm is there to provide more relevance and usefulness to people going online.
As tough as it can be to make changes after an algorithm update, if you focus on providing useful and meaningful content, ensuring that your website is easy to use, and delivering what you promise, this will make for easier work when it comes to altering your site after a Google update.