Understanding Google Core Updates

Google has recently released a broad core algorithm update, aptly named the June 2021 core update, with another due to be rolled out in early July. We want to take a step back and explain what exactly a core update is, and what website owners need to know.

Tom Mathews, SEO Account Manager at VERB, discusses what this all means. 

What are Google Core Updates?

Firstly, we need to understand that Google makes changes that are designed to improve Search every day, some of these updates are more impactful than others.

Core updates, on the other hand, happen several times throughout the year, where Google makes significant, broad changes to its search algorithms and systems. They are designed to keep Google on its mission to provide relevant and authoritative content to searchers.

Core algorithm updates are usually released every few months or so, the most recent was June 21, and before that December 20, with another due in the upcoming month of July. Google does announce these core updates as they typically produce some noticeable effects, and be quite impactful to the search engine results page (SERPs). 

The most recent Google core updates have been:

  1. June 2021
  2. December 2020
  3. May 2020

It’s worth highlighting that search engines do not understand content like human beings, they have to look for “signals”. These signals gather information about the content and try to correlate that with how humans perceive it and match it to their specific query. An example is that Google uses the Title tag to help with rankings, albeit a small ranking signal. Core updates are Google evolving these “signals” and due to that, certain elements may change in weighting, importance, and or relevance. 

What do Google Core Updates mean for website owners? 

In the short term it means that things may change in the SERPs, your website may experience fluctuating rankings and traffic. Ultimately it is Google improving themselves, and in the long run, your website should benefit.  The updates can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to fully roll out globally, so do not focus on daily fluctuations, look a bit longer term following the rollout period. After a few weeks, you should be able to understand the impact, if any.  

How to proceed after a core update?

Some sites may experience either positive or negative outcomes from a core update. For sites that experience drops in rankings or traffic, don’t panic, it is usually not a result of what the webmaster has done, nor is it the site violating Google’s guidelines, rather it is a new way in which Google’s systems evaluates content.

Google-like always has maintained the same stance for recovering after a core update, which is by focusing on providing the best site and content you can to users. 

To align your site and content with Google, they have provided questions that can help you compare their thinking with your content, these questions are a great first step to ask yourself.

As these updates take a little while to roll out, and before you start making massive on-site changes, the best place to gather data about the pages and or queries that have been impacted is Search Console and Google Analytics. Here you can really dig down into what has been impacted and start to formulate a plan.

Another great resource is the SEO community (Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, Moz, Search Engine Roundtable). We love sharing insights and findings.

While you cannot predict how Google updates will impact your organic coverage, you should always follow Google’s recommendations and guidelines, whilst providing a great website and experience for users. Get in touch with VERB to discuss your SEO, we’re here to support and help you on your journey.