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How to Interpret Google Algorithm Updates

3 min read

Concerned about the latest Google update? Andy Crestodina, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Orbit Media, and MarketMuse Co-founder and Chief Product Officer Jeff Coyle discuss how to react to any Google algorithm update.

Google Has Been Challenging Keyword-driven Content for Years

First, there was the Panda update in 2010, then Hummingbird in 2013, Rankbrain in 2015, and now there are continuous updates. If you haven’t done anything spammy, you’re unlikely to be negatively impacted by Google updates.

Google in 2013 vs 2019

In 2013 the #1 position in the search engine results page (SERP) could be found 330 pixels down the page. By 2019, that same position in the SERP was now at 1050 pixels down. The farther down the page the less likely something is to be clicked.

Clickthrough Rates Aren’t Getting Better

Nearly 50% of searches are zero-click searches. In other words, the searcher does not click through any of the URLs in the search results.

Common Questions Following a Core Update

Most sites get traffic from one or two major sources. If that traffic is going to just a couple of URLs, the risk of a negative impact from a Google algorithm update is greatly increased. Diversify both your sources and content.

Compete for Featured Snippets

Featured snippets contribute to the number of searches that are zero clicks. But if you want to play that game, remember that featured snippets are drawn from page-one-ranking URLs. Structure your content so that it has a shortlist that can be partially displayed in the featured snippet. Write your content as though it was destined for the dictionary.

Create Content Clusters and Answer the Right Questions

Creating additional formats for content can help since SERP features display more formats. Create an article and a video of you explaining the article. But it’s really hard to rank for something if it’s the only piece of content you’ve ever published on the subject. You need additional material with internal linking and relevant anchor text to pass authority. A content cluster can incorporate off-site content as well since it passes authority.

Battle No-Click Impact of SERP Features

The fastest way to defend your current performance is to take those good performers and rewrite them using MarketMuse. Get a detailed understanding of all the related subtopics to make your article that much better. Build it up using all the semantically related phrases you uncovered through research.

Publish High-Quality Content

Five things you need  to ensure your content is of the highest quality:

  1. Research gaps and opportunities
  2. Provide the right context and relevance
  3. Write in-depth, comprehensive content
  4. Map content strategy to user intent
  5. Target the right audience


Stephen leads the content strategy blog for MarketMuse, an AI-powered Content Intelligence and Strategy Platform. You can connect with him on social or his personal blog.