WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GOOGLE’S CORE UPDATE
Each day, Google usually releases one or more changes designed to improve their search results. Most aren’t noticeable but help them to incrementally improve. Several times a year, Google makes significant, broad changes to their search algorithms and systems.
They refer to these as “core updates.” Their designed to ensure that overall, Google is delivering on their mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers. One of these core updates just occurred with Google announcing the recent changes. As always Spark Factory is aware of these changes – here’s what you need to know.
CORE UPDATES & REASSESSING CONTENT
One way to think of how a core update operates is to imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2015. A few years later in 2019, you refresh the list. It’s going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion.
You might also reassess some films and realize they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before. The list will change, and films previously higher on the list that move down aren’t bad. There are simply more deserving films that are coming before them.
FOCUS ON CONTENT
As explained, pages that drop after a core update don’t have anything wrong to fix. This said, we understand those who do less well after a core update change may still feel they need to do something. We suggest focusing on ensuring you’re offering the best content you can. That’s what Google’s algorithms seek to reward.
A starting point is this set of questions to ask yourself about your content:
- Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
- Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value?
- Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
- Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
- Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
- If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely recognized as an authority?
- Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
- Is the content free from easily verified factual errors?
- Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?
PRESENTATION & PRODUCTION QUESTIONS
Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
- Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
- Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
- Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?
Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
Beyond asking yourself these questions, consider having others you trust but who are unaffiliated with your site provide an honest assessment.
Also consider an audit of the drops you may have experienced. What pages were most impacted and for what types of searches? Look closely at these to understand how they’re assessed against some of the questions above.
QUALITY RATER GUIDELINES & E-A-T
Raters are people who give Google insights on if their algorithms seem to be providing good results, a way to help confirm our changes are working well.
It’s important to understand that search raters have no control over how pages rank. Rater data is not used directly in our ranking algorithms. Rather, Google uses them as a restaurant might get feedback cards from diners. The feedback helps us know if their systems are working.
If you understand how raters learn to assess good content, that might help you improve your own content. In turn, you might perhaps do better in Google search.
In particular, raters are trained to understand if content has what we call strong E-A-T. That stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. Reading the guidelines may help you assess how your content is doing from an E-A-T perspective and improvements to consider.
RECOVERING AND MORE ADVICE
A common question after a core update is how long does it take for a site to recover, if it improves content?
Broad core updates tend to happen every few months. Content that was impacted by one might not recover – assuming improvements have been made – until the next broad core update is released.
However, Google is constantly making updates to their search algorithms, including smaller core updates. Google does not announce all of these because they’re generally not widely noticeable. Still, when released, they can cause content to recover if improvements warrant.
Do keep in mind that improvements made by site owners aren’t a guarantee of recovery, nor do pages have any static or guaranteed position in our search results. If there’s more deserving content, that will continue to rank well with Google systems.
GOOGLE ISN’T HUMAN
It’s also important to understand that search engines like Google do not understand content the way human beings do. Instead, Google looks for signals they can gather about content and understand how those correlates with how humans assess relevance. How pages link to each other is one well-known signal that Google uses. But they use many more, which they don’t disclose to help protect the integrity of our results.
Of course, no improvement Google makes to Search is perfect. This is why they keep updating. Google takes in more feedback, does more testing and keeps working to improve their ranking systems. This work on Google’s end can mean that content might recover in the future, even if a content owner makes no changes. In such situations, their continued improvements might assess such content more favorably.
We hope the guidance offered here is helpful. You’ll also find plenty of advice about good content with the resources we offer on our website and in our blog posts. Subscribe to our blog and stay updated on the latest opportunities and challenges in marketing your brand.