As Google Marks its 23rd Birthday was the July Core Update Cause for Concern or Celebration?
Google turned 23 on 27th September 2021. 2 months after it’s ceremonial last core rollout (in July) are we still partying or trying to pick up the pieces? Let’s explore.
In this blog we look at the reality of what happened. Why Google likes to shake things up periodically, to avoid stalemate. What can happen afterwards including wild fluctuations in search rankings and how to deal with the aftermath, especially if search rankings were compromised. More importantly, why it’s important not to take things too personally and tactically react. For Google, constantly reinventing itself, this is business as usual, over which none of us have total control. Therefore, the lesson is not to panic.
We must keep calm and carry on. Here’s why and how.
What are Google’s core updates and when did the last one happen?
Every day Google releases minor updates designed to improve search results, most of which we don’t even notice. They say they do this to help us incrementally improve so we’re always focused on getting high quality search results in front of users as well as a means of rewarding good SEO behaviour. But several times a year, Google makes significant broad changes to its indexing and ranking processes. These are general, not affecting any particular region, language or category of websites, so none of us should feel singled out.
Never a dull moment in Google Land, the last major one happened in July, for two weeks, hot on the heels of a Page Experience update and two anti-spam updates during June. Together, these caused shock waves in the industry as well as plenty of search ranking volatility.
Why all the secrecy?
Google, the master player in the search engine world, is renowned for keeping its cards close to its chest. This prevents competitors from copying their moves and deploying ethically dubious tactics to improve their own SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages) rather than adding market value.
What happened after the July Google core update?
The day after Google’s core update in July, true to form, some significant rollercoaster trending occurred. A large volume of search ranking positions began to fluctuate, although not all websites were affected. There were huge swings across health and medical sites. Google has openly admitted in the past that it is more critical of this type of content, especially if linking to speculative rather than proven health remedies.
Similarly, sites in the highly regulated financial industry demonstrated big swings. As is to be expected, COVID-19 may have additionally increased the volatility aspects of some categories including travel, tourism, real estate, live entertainment and events, health or businesses offering remote services.
Any sites which replicated the same or near duplicate content, indicative of not adding value, appear to have been penalised. Image searches were also heavily impacted around the time of the July core update.
Conversely sites using what is known as ‘rich snippets’ where search hits are enriched with additional information, tended to score highly.
As with other general core updates, Google made changes which rewarded tactics like page speed and mobile friendliness, high quality and anti-spam content.
How to keep calm and carry on, following the fallout
Evidence shows that a few small tweaks won’t necessarily give you a positive surge in search rankings. As Google prefers to see long term improvements rather than short term quick fixes, through its core updates, here are five quickfire tips to help with recovery in the here and now.
- Try a blend of different tactics, for example removing duplicated content from your website, evaluating content to ensure it answers user questions, checking it is engaging and current, with original insights rather than copying or rewriting someone else’s. Is this the sort of information a user would want to bookmark or share with a friend? Checking which keywords have had the biggest loss in ranking position.
- Do some analysis of historical and keyword trends.
- Then improve the user experience by avoiding annoying things like pop up ads, notifications and domain crowding so as to put a smile rather than a frown on users’ faces.
- Check out how you compare with competitors at this time and why potentially Google is favouring their content over yours.
How to rise above and beyond Google’s July 2021 core update
As Stephen King famously said “Panic is highly contagious, especially in situations where nothing is known and everything in flux”. This applies to Google Core Updates where we are not told specifically what is changing. The key takeout is never to panic or act reactively.
More change will inevitably come, so in advance of future rollouts our advice is to focus on continuous improvements so as to mitigate search ranking demotion by giving your content relevance and authority. Here are a few ideas.
How to increase relevance
- Look at problem pages from a relevance point of view
- Ensure your pages and posts are up to date
- Ensure your content is covered in enough depth, with humans in mind, so it’s easy to navigate as well as engaging
- Sense-check it to see if it answers key questions and offers original insights and analysis
How to increase authority
- Ensure every website page has a specific purpose
- Provide an About Page on your website with clear contact details
- Conduct and cite original research to show you are an expert in your own right
- Make sure your brand is mentioned on others’ websites, such as through external seeding etc.
During, above and beyond the July broad core updates, as far as Google is concerned, change is a given. Like any other 23-year-old, they’re continually striving to develop and explore as well as to improve. Therefore, so should we. They’ll look kindly on us if we demonstrate we’re doing that.
So, let’s not focus on making big, radical changes in the middle of rollouts, but instead let things settle as they happen, working on continuing improvements sooner rather than later, in advance of future update rollouts. Because they will inevitably come, sometimes in a flurry, so it’s best to be prepared.
Then we can all enjoy the after-show party rather than feel excluded.
If you need some help or support with your SEO we would love to help. Get in touch today by calling Maggie Robinson on 07920 143 172 or email Maggie@smartthinkingconsultancy.co.uk