What Is a Google Update and How Does It Impact the Digital Landscape

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By Laia Cardona, on 14 February 2024

In the realm of searches, Google updates refer to modifications in Google's algorithm that affect the ranking of search results. These updates introduce new factors influencing positioning and/or render previously significant factors less important.

Google issues updates frequently, sometimes multiple times within a year or even in a single day. However, not all updates are publicized. Google tends to announce the most critical updates through an official statement that guides the audience on how to adjust their content strategy. Therefore, paying attention to these updates is crucial for maintaining a robust SEO positioning strategy.

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What Is a Google Update and How Does It Impact the Digital Landscape

Google Core Update vs. Google Update: What's the Difference?

Google Core Updates are the most notable and crucial modifications to the search algorithm. Google announces these updates officially, and their implementation can take considerable time, sometimes up to two weeks. They have the most significant impact on SEO positioning, so staying informed is highly recommended, as multiple core updates can occur in a single year.

While smaller Google updates focus on refining specific aspects of the algorithm, Google's core updates bring about more general changes. For example, they can redefine what gives a site more authority, what content is deemed more relevant, or what contributes more to the user experience.

The Impact of a Google Update on SEO

The impact of a Google core update differs from that of other Google updates. Minor updates do not bring about significant changes in how websites are ranked in search results, unless deceptive SEO tactics (black hat SEO) are used.

In contrast, Google's core updates have a substantial effect on the positioning of all websites, regardless of the sector. Neglecting these updates may lead to a significant decline in your ranking, rendering your SEO strategy less effective. However, there's also the possibility that a Google core update enhances your strategy, elevating your position in the results. It's not always bad news, and sometimes, you may not even notice Google's updates.

To mitigate any negative effects of an update, it's advisable for SEO experts or those seeking to improve their blog or website positioning to stay informed about Google's updates.

Moreover, to prevent negative impacts on your content, consistently create high-quality content and offer the best possible user experience. These are factors that Google consistently values and will help prevent significant drops in positions during any Google update.

My Website Was Negatively Affected by a Google Update, What Should I Do?

First and foremost, stay calm. Don't agonize over the idea that your strategy is flawed and no longer effective. It simply needs an update. To determine the changes you need to implement to adapt to the new algorithm, follow these steps:

Make Sure Your Drop in Positions Isn’t Just Temporary

Appearing lower in search results may not always be due to a Google Update. It could be because your content is not evergreen and tends to receive more searches at specific times of the year. It might also be due to a specific event or incident causing your positions to drop. Analyze the situation and all factors that may affect your positioning.

Research Possible Google Updates

If it's not a temporary drop, investigate whether a Google update has occurred and which one. As mentioned earlier, various sources can provide this information.

Choose Your Strategy

If Google updates necessitate a change in your strategy, you can do this yourself and analyze which elements of your strategy need adjustment (recommended for those with sufficient SEO knowledge or a dedicated team). Alternatively, you can opt for an external SEO agency to conduct an SEO audit. This agency can assist in creating an effective new positioning strategy aligned with the new algorithm.

Noteworthy Google Updates

For a deeper understanding, here are some of the Google updates that have had a significant impact on search results. These updates are often named due to their importance:

  • Google Panda in 2011: Emphasized high-quality content and penalized low-value content, including duplicate content.
  • Google Penguin in 2012: Focused on links and their quality, penalizing content with spammy or unethical links.
  • Google Hummingbird in 2013: Improved the algorithm's understanding of user search intent, providing more precise results.
  • Google Mobile-Friendly Update in 2015: Favored websites that were mobile-friendly and responsive.
  • Google RankBrain in 2015: Centered on better understanding user searches through machine learning, especially ambiguous queries.
  • Google Medic Update in 2018: Primarily impacted content related to health and wellness, reinforcing high-quality content supported by experts.
  • Google BERT in 2019: Enhanced search query understanding by focusing on context, delivering more relevant results.
  • Passage Indexing Update in 2020: Indexed specific passages in search results, offering quicker responses to user queries without clicking on a URL.
  • Google Page Experience in 2021: Promoted websites with fast loading times and user-friendly interfaces.

How to Stay Informed About a Google Update

Checking Google's blog daily is not the most efficient approach, especially since not all updates are officially communicated. Here are some ways to stay informed about Google Updates:

  • Official Google Social Media Accounts (@Google): Google often announces updates on platforms like Twitter. The @searchliaison account, managed by Google's search team professionals, provides real-time updates and answers user questions.
  • Follow SEO Experts on Social Media: Experts regularly publish important updates, allowing you to stay abreast of the latest developments in positioning.
  • Forums: Online communities where SEO experts share their knowledge and experiences. Forums like Moz Community, Reddit, or WebmasterWorld are vigilant about changes and discuss them promptly.

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Laia Cardona