A Bug in the System – 2019
2019 has been pretty busy regarding Google updates when compared to previous years.
There were a number of confirmed core updates, one in March that Google had very little to say about, although this was followed by a further update in June which affected sites that had already been hit in the previous March update. The June update also tackled some outstanding sites that weren’t affected during the Medic update but probably should have been.
One of the more interesting details to come out of the June update was the effect it had on UK Publishers – importantly, there was a considerable drop in online visibility. This may have tied more into the Site Diversity Update, that also launched in June, and was Google’s attempt to improve SERPs by limiting the number of sites that had more than two organic listings on page one. Although some sites were noticeably affected – like UK Publishers – the overall impact was small.
While the March and June core updates were definitely impactful, the biggest story in 2019 was not an update – but a bug! Affecting sites multiple times during April and May, the Deindexing and Indexing Bugs first saw 4% of sites lose their first-page visibility after being deindexed in April. The bug then returned with a vengeance in May by preventing indexing of all fresh content. It’s safe to say that this was a stressful time for SEOs across the globe.
A further core update was rolled out in September, with the impact largely affecting sites that were already affected by the March and June updates. As usual, Google was quite tight-lipped on the specific details but assured SEOs and web developers that changes weren’t impactful if you were following their guidelines and building websites with high-quality, informative content that offered a decent user experience.
The last major change of the decade was the introduction of BERT. No, not one half of the wonderful Muppet duo. BERT is a deep-learning algorithm model that has been trained on huge amounts of written data to help better understand the language and intent of a search query, in order to provide more relevant and targeted results. Considered the largest improvement in Google’s algorithms in five years, BERT is a natural language processing system and works by helping machines understand the context a sentence by looking at the phrase, query or sentence as a whole and taking each word into consideration. Although some websites will tell you differently – you cannot optimise for BERT – Google has even confirmed this themselves but like anything Google says, it’s often taken with a pinch of salt.