Impact of the algorithm updates on SEO

If you have noticed changes to your keyword rankings in the last few weeks, this could be because Google has carried out another core update. Google regularly updates its ranking algorithm throughout the year to provide users with a better search experience and more relevant search results.

However, this can be a frustrating experience for website owners whose SEO performance suffers from the algorithm updates. Core updates can be particularly painful if your website was ranking on page one for key search terms but then slipped to page two or, worse, stopped being promoted altogether.

So how exactly should website owners react to algorithm updates?

Some updates may only have a temporary impact, while others may require a re-evaluation of your SEO strategy implementation.

For any website owners or digital marketers who have experienced the ups and downs of algorithm updates, here are some tips to know whether they should sit out the fluctuations or get to work on restoring their website’s lost visibility.

How often does Google update its algorithm?

Experts estimate that Google updates its algorithm between 500 and 600 times a year. Most of these changes are minor and do not drastically affect rankings, while major updates, such as BERT or Passage Ranking, can affect a significant percentage of all search queries.

In general, website owners should pay attention to the major algorithm updates and the key ranking factors they refine.

Many of these updates were so extensive that they fundamentally changed the way SEO is done. With last year’s page experience update, page speed, core web vitals and mobile usability became official ranking factors, meaning that search engine optimization is no longer just about what’s on your web pages, but also how those web pages perform for users on different devices.

4 things to do after an algorithm update

So what should website owners do after an algorithm update has been completed? It is best to be alert and anticipate when updates will take place. Then pay attention to the rankings in the weeks before and after the update.

1: Check whether your rankings have been influenced

There are several tools you can use to measure the impact of algorithm updates on your SEO performance. If you don’t already have a Google Search Console account, you should definitely set up a free account so you can start monitoring your SEO performance.

Other tools such as SearchAtlas, Ahrefs and Conductor allow you to track keyword rankings. The ranking change charts below are from my company’s GSC Insights, which uses Google’s keyword data.

It is important to note that updates are usually introduced over the course of a few weeks. During these launches, websites may experience temporary drops in keyword rankings, but no permanent drops in website visibility in the long term.

In this example, this website experienced a temporary drop in rankings for the duration of the Core Update rollout in December 2020. However, after the update was completed, the website was able to regain its ranking positions and did not appear to be permanently affected.

In contrast, the next website experienced a longer-term drop in rankings as a result of the November 2021 Core Update. The rollout began on November 17 and was completed on November 30. The ranking losses at the beginning of the rollout are still present after the update has been completed.

After you’ve used your favorite tools to determine if the drops in keyword rankings are permanent, it’s time to get to work.

2: Research what is being said about the update

While Google does not provide in-depth details about its updates, it usually shares which key ranking factors it is focusing on and offers some general advice for webmasters on its Search Central blog.

In addition to the information from Google, there is always a lot of chatter on the internet during and after the introduction of algorithms. If this is your first time paying attention to updates and their impact, make sure you’re following members of the SEO community who share their insights and analysis on how updates affect their own network of websites or publishers.

This research is important as it can help you understand if SEOs and digital marketers are seeing the same patterns in their own data as a result of the update. If this is the case, it’s a clear sign that similar patterns in your own website’s data are likely due to the update, and it’s time to act accordingly.

3: Determine which ranking factors were affected

One of the challenges of search engine optimization is to find out which factors are the cause of successes or setbacks. Data-driven SEO requires you to look closely at all the data available to you and make the best use of this information to make smarter decisions.

Google has more than 200 ranking factors that it relies on when promoting websites, which means there are a lot of possible culprits for declining keyword rankings. Fortunately, Google ‘s ranking factors can be narrowed down to a few core areas: Content, authority, technical aspects, site experience, and industry-specific factors (e.g. local businesses, healthcare, lending, etc.).

Most algorithm updates are aimed at enabling Google’s crawlers to better evaluate and identify the quality of websites in these five key categories. For example, Google has stated that the recent core update was primarily focused on improving the quality and relevance of search results for users, which falls under the wider area of content.

So if your website suffered ranking losses in November, your team should focus its attention on on-page content.

4: Improve the quality signals on all your websites

Although some of your websites may be more affected than others after an update, it is much more likely that you will see general downward trends across all your sites.

Depending on which ranking factors the algorithm has focused on, your recovery may require either a page-by-page or site-wide approach.

With algorithm updates that focus on authority, you can regain some of the lost ground through general link building. For content-focused updates, you’re more likely to need to improve the on-page elements on each page of your site. Make sure that you prioritize pages with high search volume, high conversion potential or important keywords in your industry.

Then focus on improving the signals that convey quality to Google’s crawlers in these key areas. For content-related updates, you should pay attention to whether your web pages have the following:

– Long, comprehensive website text

– Rich media, images and videos

– Relevant internal and external links with context-related anchor texts

– Optimized meta tags such as page titles, headings, meta descriptions or schema.org markup

– Application of other proven OnPage SEO methods

Final thoughts on algorithm updates

Recovering from an algorithm update is no easy task, but the good thing is that these updates show website owners where our websites still have weaknesses and room for improvement.

Just as Google is constantly striving to improve the quality of its search results, website operators must also strive to improve the quality of their own websites for users.

If website owners prioritize quality in a similar way, they will never be so far behind on updates, and any necessary improvement will be easier and faster, even as algorithms evolve.

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