You have certainly heard about Google’s algorithm. But how often do you think the search engine modifies its program?
Ten times per year? 50?
Try 3,200. At least, that was the latest count in 2018 when Google was still transparent about the changes.
Now, we can only speculate, but it is safe to say that the number is more than 3,200 based on the historical update pattern.
The pandemic could not even slow down Google as it launched its latest Core update in December last year.
Webmasters always view Google updates with dread as all their hard work dissolved with just one snap. However, you would likely survive if you have a good foundation.
It means that your website is optimized and you employed SEO best practices for your content.
But what do you do when Google updates its algorithm, which can be as many times as ten per day?
Here is a handy guide to make sure you survive the next Google update:
The first part of preparation is equipping yourself with the right knowledge. However, people lap up any news of Google updates, which makes them a very attractive clickbait.
Some people might have the best intentions, but they jump the gun in their haste to reveal the scoop. As a result, the information is still raw.
Make sure to get your information from legit sources.
For example, you cannot go wrong with Google Webmaster Blog. Some aggregate news websites might report the news earlier, and they might even be correct.
Sites like Search Engine Land or Search Engine Journal typically vet their information before releasing it.
But then again, it is better to be late than to be wrong.
Quality content will perhaps survive a zombie apocalypse. Google updating its algorithm is but a minor hiccup.
Google has always stressed the need to create original content that informs, entertains, and provides a solution to a problem. Unfortunately, a lot of it is regurgitated and packaged to a new audience.
The search engine has stopped being transparent about the amount of data it processes per day. So, we can only base our knowledge back in 2008 when Google claimed that its servers processed 20 petabytes daily.
A petabyte is equivalent to 1,000 terabytes.
So, how do you ensure that you will create content that ranks?
First, you need to know what you are talking about.
The way Google’s algorithms work is simple: it always tries to give the searcher the most relevant result.
For the longest time, the system works beautifully. For instance, 9 in 10 people see no need to go to page 2 of the search engine results page. It is because they already found their answers from the top-ranked websites that Google recommended.
Simply put, Google rewards you if you offer more on the table.
Regardless of the Google updates, make it a habit to check your traffic and your position in your relevant keywords.
You can use several apps for this, such as Ahrefs, Moz or our own Google Website Rankings Checker. The CognitiveSEO Search Visibility widget can also provide a snapshot of your metrics. A sudden drop in the graph can indicate a penalty.
Google Analytics is also a useful tool to audit your website. You can view visitor location, bounce rate, traffic sources, your top keywords, and the pages with the most number of engagements.
Meanwhile, the Search Console will help you spot anomalies in the average position of your keywords.
Make sure to focus on your organic traffic when tracking your keywords. It means that you need to ignore the PPC data for now.
Unless Google erased your website from the ether, you live to fight another day.
If you see a massive drop, do not panic. You are not alone in this. There are probably millions of websites out there experiencing the same thing.
The next step is to determine the cause. There are multiple potential reasons for the sudden drop in traffic:
Do not fret when you find that the position of your keywords changed after the update. You do not need to abandon your keywords, especially if they have served you well in the past.
You simply have to recalibrate your campaign and invest in competitive keywords mapping and research.
In the same vein, do not be complacent. Just because you do not see any changes after the Google update, it does not mean that you are safe.
Some websites even recorded a jump in traffic, only to realize later on that it was a red herring.
It may take some time for the changes to show. You might be blindsided if you fail to track your traffic or keyword performance.
Again, if you have a solid foundation, you are probably alright.
Some businesses push the panic button once they see their web traffic plunge.
So, if you get wind of a new Google update, pretend that you are an opossum and play dead. Google will probably leave you alone.
Kidding aside, it is an exercise in futility to try to second-guess Google’s algorithms. Instead, look internally.
If you received a penalty following the update, then there must be something fundamentally wrong with your systems.
Diagnose the problem and make the appropriate corrections. The important thing is that the data supports your hypothesis.
One thing to remember is that Google is not the enemy.
The search engine has a similar goal with business websites and is to deliver the user intent.
Google is innovating machine learning and AI to deliver the most relevant results to any searcher query. The aim is to perfect the program to predict the user intent.
When a searcher goes online and types in a query, the program has to look for cues based on browsing history and activity. The intent could be:
The machine will then try to fill information in between the limited number of words on the search box.
The challenge for Google is to address the ambiguous intent to direct the user to the appropriate website.
If you have done your homework right, you can piggyback on Google’s innate need to please and skyrocket to the top of the results page.
Take your cue from Google and invest in machine learning software to collect as much data from your target market as possible.
The one mistake that businesses make is to calibrate their content to try to game the system.
There is no backroom shortcut to get to the VIP room. Everyone has tried to do it and ended up being kicked to the curb.
Google has always reminded websites to create content for people and not for the algorithms.
How do you do it?
Another excellent practice is to produce evergreen content. In this way, you can always update it when necessary once new information surfaces.
Be a people pleaser, not a robot-licker.
It must be on your slogan to remind yourself.
Not a lot of organizations have their own in-house SEO teams. It is not advisable anyway, especially for a small business.
It is more cost-effective to hire an SEO agency to handle your marketing campaign.
Once the next Google update rolls out, you would not act like a chicken with its head cut off as you try to diagnose the problem.
The SEO expert can immediately take action to minimize damage and arrest your downward spiral.
They also avoid a lot of trial and errors, which can prove to be more costly if you take the wrong turn.
As you might expect, time is not your friend. While you are still trying to identify the issue, your competitors have already launched corrective action.
Remember, the more you are stuck in Google’s purgatory, you will continue to lose money. You would be better off reallocating those resources to hire outside help.
One way to do it is to collate the data a month before the Google update rollout and a month after. Identify the most affected pages and keywords and try to extrapolate an informed conclusion based on the data.
Try to find patterns but do not expect to find the smoking gun. It takes a lot of experience to make an accurate deduction based on the data.
But you can start with the following in your audit:
Always employ good SEO techniques to reduce the chances of getting penalized. If you do not know how to do it, there is shame in getting some expert advice.
If you have not yet done it, you should develop a recovery strategy that you can immediately deploy at the first sign of trouble.
The template must be scalable and flexible so that you can deploy it to multiple websites.
You will get an overall view of the quality of your website following the audit and technical assessment. The penalty might not entirely be your fault.
The webmaster could be using gray hat or black hat SEO techniques to mask the poor quality of your website.
But do not do everything at once.
From your list of things-to-do, make sure to prioritize the most pressing need.
For instance, you cannot address the issue of low-quality content at this time. Instead, you should focus on optimizing your website to make sure it passes Google’s standards. If you plan on outsourcing any of the work, be sure you vet for quality. Content isn’t king, quality is.
Always conduct A/B testing once you are done with each element.
When you get penalized, it must be some existing issue that you have yet to address. You can count your lucky stars you survived this far.
But unless you solve the core problem, you will continue to be affected by future Google updates.
Google modifies its algorithms multiple times a day. You have survived this far without incurring some severe penalties. So, it means that you have nothing to fear. Unless, of course, the search engine introduces major updates and system changes.
You will know because the algorithm will assume a new name.
Regardless of how many times Google updates its program, you only need to focus on your foundations. You will become bulletproof if you double down on producing quality content and optimizing your website with a professional SEO link building partner.
But monitor your traffic and keywords so that you would not be caught with your pants down.