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Understanding the Latest Google Update

7 min read

Have you been affected by the latest Google update? Every day the search engine updates its algorithm. Sometimes the change is more noticeable than others.

To paraphrase Neil Young; SERPs never sleep, bad content just fades away. Don’t stop creating great content just because the search engine changed its algorithm. Instead, work at creating better content and improving your existing pages.

Here’s what you’ll learn in this post:

Why Does Google Update Its Search Algorithm?

Google seeks to provide search results offering the best and most relevant content for every query. The search engine continues innovating in order to improve the search experience.

How Often Does Google Update Their Search Algorithms?

Google continuously updates its search algorithms and typically announces these updates only if there is actionable information.

According to Google, they update their search algorithm AT LEAST once a day. The impact of these daily tweaks is hardly noticeable but help the search engine to improve incrementally.

Search is in a constant state of flux, and if you’re not used to it by now, get over it. Everyday something changes. Since these modifications are very focused, it’s unlikely your site will be affected.

What Is a Core Update?

Several times a year, Google releases a broad core algorithm update. Unlike daily updates that have a narrow focus, the impact of these updates is broader and likely to affect a greater number of sites.

In these cases, where there is actionable information that content owners might take, Google gives advanced notice. For example, the search engine provided months of notice and advice in advance of their Speed Update.

Sometimes, Google announces a broad change to their core algorithm when the advice is that there isn’t anything to fix and they don’t want content owners mistakenly trying to fix things that aren’t broken.

In other words, Google will typically announce an update, only if there is a specific action content owners should take; even if, in some cases, the action is to do nothing.

However, they are becoming more proactive in announcing their core updates. As Danny Sullivan, public face of the Google Search Liaison account explains “Rather than people scratching their heads after-the-fact and asking “hmm?,” we thought it would be good to just let folks know before it rolled out.”

How to Respond to a Google Update?

Unless Google provides guidance, as they did with their Speed Update there is no magic fix to restore your rankings to their pre-update position. Their advice for general updates tends to be generic.

Google’s search algorithm isn’t perfect. There exist pages that are under-rewarded and updates attempt to correct this issue.

Some of your pages may fall into the category of great content that fails to rank. As a producer of great content, you in fact should welcome these updates.

See that? Focus on creating great content.

Marketers often feel the need to something when they’ve been affected by a core update. The best advice, straight from the search engine itself, is to focus on the content experience.

Continue Creating Great Content

Good news if you use MarketMuse. You can have your cake and eat it too! Our recommendations aren’t static, so changes in the SERP are reflected in the platform.

Follow the guidance provided in MarketMuse Suite and your strategy of creating great content automatically adjusts to the changing SERP.

Take advantage of MarketMuse Topic Reports to gain additional insight into what is required to own a topic space. It provides you with insights and analyses essential for creating a comprehensive plan to (re)gain authority for your chosen topic.

Review Existing Content

Check to see if existing pages have been affected by the recent update. Run it through the Compete Application in MarketMuse Suite to see how it stacks up to the current Top 20 results. This comparison against the current SERP will reveal where there is room for improvement.

Review Google Search Quality Rate Guidelines

Don’t forget to review Google’s search quality rater guidelines (pdf). The latest update from May 2019 provides additional guidelines on content expertise, interstitial pages, and other changes. This article by TheSEMPost goes into more detail on the specific of those amendments.

One Caveat

There are thousands of things that Google could be working on to improve, which is why pinpointing the cause of a ranking change can be so difficult. When Google says there’s “nothing to fix,” the issue may not lie with your content, but rather how they understand search queries relating to your content.

When attempting to diagnose a cause for the change:

  • Look at the search engine results pages to see if you can spot any changes.
  • Run your existing content though MarketMuse Suite’s Optimize Application to discover recommendations based on the current SERP.
  • Order a MarketMuse Topic Report which goes into far more detail about the makeup of the SERP and what you can do to improve.

Don’t Zig When Google Zags

Great content is an asset. A site that attempts to manipulate its place in the SERP is a liability. It’s like building a house on a foundation of solid rock versus a bed of quick sand. You’re always fighting against a greater force to keep the structure stable.

Google aims to provide search results with expert-level content that’s relevant and useful to the particular query. The best way to protect your site against algorithm updates is by sharing that objective.

Use MarketMuse to create expert-level content with real-time feedback based on the current state of the SERPs.

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.