Understanding Google’s Update Process (And How To Handle It Like A Pro)

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A timeline of Google search algorithm updates.

Customers often ask me about search ranking, why it fluctuates, and what to do about it. You could have a site where you think you’re doing everything right until you hit an algorithm change, and it does this:

A screenshot of a website Google Search Console result showing a major drop in organic traffic.

A sudden ‘quick-death’ of your site’s organic traffic can really sting – especially when it’s your primary source of leads or sales. That’s why I am constantly on my clients to diversify their traffic streams.

Today I want to shed some light on the Google Update schedule over the last few years and how content marketing is evolving. I’ll share insights into how the algorithm update frequency can affect site content strategy, and I’ll even dive into what to do to recover from an algorithm hit. So, stick with me, it might be a bumpy ride, but the destination makes it all worthwhile. Let’s get into this.

Google and The Infamous Algorithm Update

A website owner, upset from a recent loss of organic traffic (Google search algorithm). Learn more at Farm6media.com.
If you feel like your site is singled out, you are not alone. We can help.

Since the beginning of 2021 (2020 doesn’t really count – Google was still learning to ‘walk’) Google has thrown 31 algorithm updates at us. At time of writing, we’re in the middle of two ongoing updates – core and reviews updates in November 2023.

Let’s take another look at that timeline of updates, from a few perspectives. First, we’ll look at the entire Google Search Update Timeline:

All Google algorithm updates shown in a timeline from 2020 to November of 2023. Learn how to bounce back from a loss in traffic at Farm6Media.com.

If we take the number of updates starting January 2021, we’ve seen 29 and two more recent ongoing to tally up to our 31 total mentioned previously. That’s 1.13 updates each month, on average. If you’re trying to run a business, that’s a lot of updates to try to pay attention to while trying to run operations. In fact, if we look at the frequency as well, you can see that the algorithm update rollout frequency has increased over time. Let’s look at just one year:

A timeline of Google Algorithm updates for 2023. Learn how to recover from an algorithm update at Farm6Media.com.

As you can see, Google had so many rollouts, they broke their own search engine in October of 2023! The frequency for 2023, so far, an update every 0.9 months, and the year isn’t over yet, we’ve still got another month for Google to rock the boat.

So, how do we plan content strategy while riding a rollercoaster, blindfolded? Because that’s certainly what it may feel like for many site owners – a crazy roller coaster with seemingly no end of surprises.

Algorithm Recovery

Let’s talk about the steps I take to recover when an algorithm strikes a site I’m working with.

  1. Analyze Your Analytics: Delve into your site’s analytics to understand the nature of the traffic drop. Identify which pages were most affected and look for patterns. Was it a specific type of content, keyword, or perhaps technical issues? Understanding the ‘what’ and ‘why’ is the first step in formulating a recovery plan.
  2. Compare Against Algorithm Update Details: When Google announces an update, they often provide insights into what the update targets. Compare your site’s performance against these details. Are there aspects of your site that might have been negatively impacted by these changes? This could include things like mobile usability, page loading speed, or content quality.
  3. Improve Content Relevance and Depth: Google values content that thoroughly answers user queries. Review your content for relevance and depth. Expand superficial articles, update outdated information, and ensure that your content matches user intent. This isn’t just about adding more words; it’s about enhancing the value your content offers to your audience.
  4. Enhance E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness): Google’s guidelines emphasize the importance of E-A-T, especially for YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) sites. Showcase your expertise and credentials, cite authoritative sources, and build a reputation as a trusted source in your field.
  5. Technical SEO Audit: Conduct a technical SEO audit. Check for crawl errors, broken links, and ensure your website is structured well for Google’s crawlers. Make sure your site is secure (HTTPS), mobile-friendly, and has a fast loading speed.
  6. Engage in Quality Link Building: Backlinks are still a critical part of SEO. Focus on acquiring high-quality backlinks from reputable websites in your niche. Avoid black-hat SEO tactics like buying links, as these can lead to penalties.
  7. Utilize Social Listening: Monitor social media and forums to see what your audience is talking about. This can provide insights into new content ideas or improvements to existing content that resonates more effectively with your audience.
  8. Experiment and Innovate: Sometimes, the best response to an algorithm change is to try new things. Experiment with different types of content, formats, or even new SEO techniques. Innovation can lead to discovering what works best under the new algorithm conditions.
  9. Patience and Long-term View: SEO is a long game. Recovering from an algorithm hit may take time. Stay patient, keep implementing best practices, and monitor your progress.
  10. Consider Professional Help: If you’re struggling to understand the nuances of the algorithm update or to implement changes, it might be worthwhile to consult with an SEO professional or agency.

Assuming you’ve now got a handle on what to check on your site, let’s dive into how to plan your content better to protect it from future upsets.

Strategic Content Planning In The Age of The Algorithm

Navigating Google’s frequent algorithm updates can indeed feel like riding a rollercoaster. However, with the right approach, you can turn these challenges into opportunities. The key? Adaptability and a proactive mindset in content strategy. Here’s how you can do just that:

  1. Focus on Quality Over Quantity: First and foremost, prioritize creating high-quality, engaging content. Google’s algorithms are increasingly sophisticated, aiming to reward content that provides real value to users. Instead of churning out content for the sake of quantity, invest time in crafting well-researched, informative, and engaging pieces. This approach not only aligns with Google’s evolving standards but also helps establish your site as a trustworthy and authoritative source in your niche.
  2. Embrace SEO Flexibility: SEO isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. It’s a dynamic practice that needs constant tweaking. Keep abreast of SEO trends and best practices. Regularly review and update your keywords, meta tags, and content to ensure they align with the latest SEO guidelines. Remember, what worked last year might not be as effective today.
  3. Regular Content Audits: Conduct periodic audits of your existing content. Identify pages that are underperforming or outdated and revamp them. Updating old content can be just as valuable as creating new posts, especially in the eyes of Google’s ever-changing algorithms. Need help with auditing your site? Take advantage of our ‘Go Beyond The Data’ site audit and consultation program. We’ve helped dozens of sites recover from algorithm traffic drops.
  4. User Experience is Key: Google’s updates increasingly focus on user experience (UX). Ensure your website is fast, mobile-friendly, and easy to navigate. Improving UX not only boosts your SEO but also enhances the overall satisfaction of your visitors, potentially increasing return visits and conversions.
  5. Diversify Your Traffic Sources: As I remind my clients, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify your traffic sources beyond organic search. Invest in social media, email marketing, and other channels to build a more resilient digital presence.
  6. Stay Informed and Adapt: Finally, stay informed about Google’s updates. Follow SEO news and forums, and be ready to adapt your strategies as needed. Remember, the only constant in the digital marketing world is change.

By adopting these strategies, you can more effectively navigate the ups and downs of Google’s algorithm updates. Instead of fearing these changes, view them as opportunities to refine and enhance your content strategy. Remember, in the digital marketing world, those who adapt thrive. Let’s keep riding this roller coaster, not blindfolded, but with our eyes wide open, ready to embrace each twist and turn as a chance to grow and succeed.

If you need help with your site, content, or digital marketing, contact us today – we’re happy to help.

Additional Resources and Article Sources

  1. Google Search Status Dashboard
  2. “Global Search Engine Desktop Market Share 2023 | Statista.” 2023. Statista. Statista. 2023. https://www.statista.com/statistics/216573/worldwide-market-share-of-search-engines/.
  3. ‌“Google Algorithm Updates & Changes: A Complete History.” 2023. Search Engine Journal. June 4, 2023. https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-algorithm-history/.

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