By: LeVi Pham
Have you noticed a recent, significant drop in your website’s search visibility over the past few months? Did you spend hours combing through your SEO to try to fix this? Chances are your website is among the many that were affected by the recent Google Core Updates, which impacted several big names such as the Daily Mail UK and cryptocurrency marketplace CCN.com. In this blog post, we will explore how the Google Core Updates impacted websites, with a focus on the recent June Update, and what you can do to rebound if your rankings have tanked. Spoiler alert: it’s all about content quality!
What is a Google Core Update?Jan Grundman of Kissmetrics explains Core Updates as broad updates to Google’s core algorithm that are broad and subtle, meaning that they do not have a specific focus on a kind of search query or particular website characteristics. These can impact websites in a wide range of areas. Google explained in a blog post that core updates are needed to try to meet searchers’ expectations which are always changing. Imagine you have a list of favourite films in 2016. In 2019, you decide to update your list. Many items in the list would have naturally changed. You may want to add new films that you’ve discovered or realized that previous films deserve a higher place on the list. This is how Google is trying to sort through content to determine those that will benefit searchers the most.
There have been two major core updates in 2019 so far, and one minor update:
- The March Core Update: This update focuses on E.A.T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) and Y.M.Y.L (Your Money Your Life) factors of Google’s algorithm. These are used to evaluate the credibility and authority of websites to disregard low-quality content. This update mainly affected healthcare websites.
- The June Core Update: This update was broader so it’s more difficult to determine its main changes. However, it was the first core update to be pre-announced by Google in an effort to be more proactive towards the community and reduce surprises.
- The Site Diversity Update: This minor update limits the number of domains appearing with multiple URLs in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and give weight to SERP features such as videos or maps.
What was the impact?Many major websites suffered a huge drop in rankings following the June Core Update. According to Roger Montti at SearchEngineLand, major UK news site The Daily Mail saw a 50% drop overnight in search traffic after the update. Cryptocurrency marketplace and news site, CCN.com, dropped more than 71% in mobile search rankings and lost 90% of its daily revenue. Health and Travel media sites also saw significant drops, such as Conde Nast Traveller (-18%), Mind Body Green (-30%), and Prevention (-29%). It is important to note that these websites all have high “authority,” meaning that they have no problems with Google’s E.A.T factors. These drops in ranking seem to challenge the conventional theory that these factors are directly associated with ranking declines, causing much uncertainty after the June Core Update.
What can we learn from this?As site owners and SEO specialists scrambled for advice on how to rebound from the Core Updates, Google’s answer remains the same: there is “nothing to fix.” Danny Sullivan suggested using Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines as a reference guide for creating quality content. However, Roger Montti warns not to use this as a diagnostic tool of whether a website “passes” a quality test. He posited that perhaps your site and content have nothing to do with the drop in ranking; rather, the user search intent for your targeted queries might have changed and your content is no longer relevant or useful for the questions people are asking. Montti suggests that “nothing to fix” can mean that:
- Google is improving natural language processing tasks
- Google is improving how it ranks links
- Google is improving how it understands search queries
- Google is improving how it understands a part of a web page that exists within a large part of a webpage
- Google has improved the speed at which it identifies low-quality links and ignores them
“You need to reframe your thinking about ranking and algorithm-obsessing. Your goal shouldn’t be to rank; it should be to provide users with the information and UX they need to fulfill their Google searches with the least amount of effort.”In other words, rather than trying to figure out how to satisfy Google’s search algorithm, you should be focusing on how to satisfy the user’s search query. Your site should be delivering the best possible user experience with content that is reliable, trustworthy, and easily comprehensible. A 2011 blog post from Google’s Amit Singhal suggests the following questions to ask:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
- Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
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