On December 3rd 2020, Google began to roll out its third and final core update of the year, the last of which came back in May. Usually, updates occur every few months, so it is fair to say this one is long overdue.
As with all algorithm updates, it will take a few weeks for the effects of the update to be felt, during which time many SEOs and web developers will be waiting patiently to see how their sites have fared.
In the meantime, the update has faced criticism from many due its timing. Following the hit to businesses throughout 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many were hoping to claw back some vital leads in the run up to Christmas - but the new update could hinder their chances.
So, what does the latest core update mean for you and your business, and should you care about the update?
The answer to the latter question is a definitive yes, you should care. With every core update comes the possibility that your site rankings could increase but, equally, they could decrease. If you were ranking on the first page in November, the new core update could see your rankings drop to the second page or beyond which can have huge consequences – particularly for e-commerce businesses. Likewise, the change in the algorithm could see your site be rewarded and move up in the rankings, thus yielding favourable results.
To a certain extent, it is a raffle as to how your site will be impacted.
What is a Core Update?
When Google implements a core update, it is because they have enacted changes that aim to refine and improve their ability to “present relevant and authoritative content to searchers.” (Google Search Central Blog). This essentially means they are putting forth changes that will benefit people who search on Google.
What Does a Core Update Mean for Websites?
Ideally, webmasters and content creators will continually action and execute changes that make their websites more SEO friendly. Whether this is through curating concise content with focused keywords or improving the speed and functionality of the overall website, maintaining and updating your website is essential to its rankings – update or not.
Those who fail to actively adapt their website in line with Google updates could see their rankings drop, whereas those who make a conscious effort to improve their site and its content may be rewarded.
Google specify that websites who find themselves on the negative receiving end of an update haven’t specifically done anything wrong, but that the changes simply “cause some pages that were previously under-rewarded to do better”.
We continually observe and check on the rankings of our clients’ sites and their performance which means we can anticipate any change in rankings and put in place a plan of action should they be impacted. That being said, we’re constantly updating the content on our clients’ websites to keep it SEO friendly.
What is Likely to be Penalised?
Google updates don’t specifically target individual websites. You might have followed all the SEO rules and still find your site has been affected. That doesn’t mean your site has done anything wrong, but it just means that other sites might be doing it better. It’s not to say that the content on your website isn’t good quality, but as time goes on, other sites might have had more work put into them or be slightly stronger for which Google will reward them.
Google have a list of questions they recommend you ask yourself when looking at your website and its content. Those questions include:
- Is your content original? – Plagiarised content doesn’t bode well, so think twice before copying and pasting, and regularly run your content through a plagiarism checker to see if someone has stolen your content. If so, rework it.
- Is your content of substantial length and relevant to the topic? – Making sure your content is direct and concise is key. Be as clear as you can and include keywords and key search terms, but don’t stuff your content with keywords. This has a negative effect.
- Is your content grammatically correct? – Poor spelling and grammar can make people distrust your site and its information, therefore pushing you down in the rankings. Make sure the text on your site is free of spelling errors and is grammatically correct.
- Does your site feature masses of ads that impact the usability of the site? – Too many ads and pop ups could distract users from the content on your site which doesn’t do anything positive for your rankings.
- Is your website mobile-friendly? – People are increasingly searching and scrolling on the go, so having a mobile-friendly site is essential if you’re going to rank well on Google.
Of course, these are things many developers will have already thought about and implemented, and it’s understandable to be frustrated if you’ve put in a lot of work and the new algorithm sees your rankings negatively affected without a clear idea on where exactly you can improve.
It’s not clear yet exactly what the new update will mean and how far reaching its effect will be. It takes a few weeks for the rollout to conclude and for the dust to settle, as is the case with every core update. If you find your website has been negatively impacted and your rankings have dropped, we can help. Get in touch with us to discuss our SEO options and see how we can help you get back on track.