Short on the heels of Google’s August “Helpful Content” core algorithm update, Google launched another core update on September 12th. The Helpful Content update was launched on August 25th and ended on September 9th, which makes launching another core algorithm update just three days later somewhat unexpected.
Pundits, digital marketing teams, advertisers, publishers, and SEO professionals all had different expectations of what would follow August’s Helpful Content core update. Some anticipated that Google would provide more time so that everyone could assess the impact of Google’s “people-first” content update. Some expected a fifth product review update or an update that targeted something other than search. Regardless, here we are; Google’s core update was launched on September 12th and will take up to two weeks to roll out.
So, what does this all mean? Are there any results so far? More importantly, what is the difference between this September 12th update and the Helpful Content update that just ended on September 9th? We’ll answer these questions in detail and provide the best way forward.
Doesn’t Google Update its Algorithm Multiple Times a Day?
Google constantly updates its algorithm. In the early days, Google would perform a small number of updates. Gradually, over time, the yearly totals increased. Nowadays, Google makes upwards of three, four, or five thousand algorithm updates a year.
Each update aims to provide users with relevant, timely, and useful information. For Google, it’s about improving the user’s experience by giving them the best possible answers to their search queries. These algorithm changes push webmasters, digital marketing teams, and SEO professionals to improve the quality of their content.
The ultimate benefit of these algorithm changes is to do away with poor search results from companies that try to game the system with keyword stuffing, private links, cloaking, hidden pages, or other “Black Hat” SEO practices that go against Google’s search engine guidelines. After all, it was not that long ago that the dreaded “content farm” hijacked search results with keyword-stuffing practices.
What is a Core Update?
Most algorithm updates are inconsequential or have little impact on a website’s traffic. Some are targeted to specific search terms, while others are minor adjustments only Google knows and understands. Ultimately, Google’s algorithm is a complex matrix or system that pools hundreds of ranking factors to deliver users the best content. Minor changes often go unnoticed, but a core update is something else entirely.
When Google announces a core update, its impact is far-reaching. It’s a change to the “core” algorithm itself and typically impacts search results on a global scale. For some companies, a Google core update can lead to a sudden and drastic decline in website traffic. For others, there’s an increase in traffic or no change.
Most digital marketing professionals and webmasters have dealt with both a sudden increase and decrease in traffic. In turn, they analyze their content and look for ways to improve that content. They measure multiple parameters to regain the traffic they’ve lost or keep the traffic they’ve gained.
Focus on Google’s Tips and Guidance
The biggest mistake companies make involves initiating content changes before assessing a core update’s impact on their traffic. In some cases, Google provides tips and guidelines as they did with their Helpful Content update in August. However, in other cases, that information isn’t entirely forthcoming. In these situations, it’s best to wait and see what impact a core update has on your traffic.
This new core update affects all languages and is global in reach. The buzz online is that this core update has been extremely disruptive, with some companies seeing upwards of a 20% to 60% decline in traffic. Again, as is so often the case with Google core updates, other companies have seen an increase in traffic, while others haven’t noticed any change at all.
So, what should you do now? First, understand that you’ve experienced these core updates before. You’ve likely weathered the storm in the past and have solid working knowledge on how best to deal with the fallout from one of the core updates. It’s time to go back to that playbook.
Second, if you have experienced a decline in traffic, make sure you segregate the content and landing pages that saw a decline. If the decline is minimal, then wait to see how things play out over the coming weeks. Traffic may just rebound before the core update was initiated. After you’ve segregated your content, look for commonalities between landing pages that have seen a decline in traffic. You might immediately be able to identify what your content lacks.
Third, for the time being, the best approach would be to double back to the guidelines provided by Google on the previous Helpful Content core update. You’re likely already well-aware of what you need to change with your content to adopt Google’s people-first content strategy.
It’s fair to assume that this September core update is a follow-up or continuation of the previous Helpful Content update. As such, if you’ve initiated changes based on the previous core update, then it’s best to continue to upgrade your content and pursue Google’s people-first content guidelines
Google’s vision of people-first content involves making your content educational, insightful and relevant. The focus is more on answering important questions, providing solutions, and becoming a trusted source for valuable information as opposed to focusing solely on SEO.
PBJ Marketing: Helping You Navigate a Digital World
At PBJ Marketing, we know full well how important it is to help our customers navigate the constantly-changing world of online search. We’ve helped numerous clients weather the storm and come out ahead. That’s why our customer-focused digital marketing strategies account for emerging digital trends and Google core updates.
If you would like to discuss how we can help your company adopt people-first content marketing strategies, contact us now.