Google Core Algorithm Updates Explained
March saw Google roll out its first core algorithm update of the year, so now seems like as good a time as ever to discuss what they’re all about.
What is the Google Search Algorithm?
The Search Algorithm refers to the process Google uses to rank its content – it’s complex and takes into account factors such as keywords, backlinks and your location. With so much information out there, the system helps Google deliver the most relevant and useful results for your search query. Google’s How search works page directly reveals some of its key ranking factors.
What are Core Algorithm Updates?
Several times over the course of a year, Google rolls out what it calls ‘core updates’ to its algorithm. Significant updates designed to ensure the search engine continues to deliver on its mission “to present helpful and reliable results for searchers”. Google gives notice of these updates on its list of ranking updates page.
How might algorithm updates affect my business or website?
Algorithm updates may affect how your site, or a page on your site, performs in SERPs (search engine results pages). This can ultimately lead to a drop in search position and a decline in organic website traffic. Equally, the updates may reward some pages or sites with improved performance in search.
What Google says
There’s nothing wrong with pages that may not be performing as well as they were before a core update. They haven’t violated our spam policies, nor been subjected to a manual or algorithmic action, as can happen to pages that do violate those policies. In fact, there’s nothing in a core update that targets specific pages or sites. Instead, the changes are about improving how our systems assess content overall. These changes may cause some pages that were previously under-rewarded to do better in search results.
One way to think of how a core update operates is to imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2021. A few years later in 2024, you refresh the list. It’s going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion. You might also reassess some films and realize they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before.
The list will change, and films previously higher on the list that move down aren’t bad. There are simply more deserving films that are coming before them.
How can I check if my site has been affected by an algorithm update?
If an update has been introduced, Google Search Console and Google Analytics are both solid places to start. Pay particular attention to the performance tab (Search Console) and acquisition report (Google Analytics). Before and after comparisons will help too.
Things to remember
- The effects of algorithm updates aren’t always immediately noticeable. The March update took a full 13 days to roll out.
- Organic search traffic and keyword performance are key metrics you should monitor closely.
- A decline in either doesn’t dictate that your site has been directly affected by a core update, as Google and SERPs in general are highly volatile.
- The aim of these updates is to serve better search results – that means continuing to create quality content for your target audience.