Google released a new core update earlier this month and has uncharacteristically announced a second update following very closely next month. Google core updates tend to be spaced several months apart, but a statement from Google Search public liaison Danny Sullivan clarified that they originally planned on releasing a single, larger update this month, and have had to split the update into two parts to begin rolling out this month and avoid major delays.
Google’s blog previously wrote about core updates in 2019 and has linked to the same post once again to tell webmasters how to prepare.
Among other things, the post states: “There’s nothing wrong with pages that may perform less well in a core update. They haven’t violated our webmaster guidelines nor been subjected to manual or algorithmic action, as can happen to pages that do violate those guidelines. In fact, there’s nothing in a core update that targets specific pages or sites.”
To clarify further, this means that changes in rankings after a core update are not the same as penalizations, and core updates don’t tackle spam or dole out penalties. This is more about Google trying to improve search results.
The post goes on to provide an analogy, where core updates are akin to changes to a Top 100 Films list. The iteration of the list in 2015 will look different from an iteration of the list in 2019, due to changes in interpretation, newer worthy additions, and reconsiderations or reflections granted by hindsight and time.
What is Google’s Core Update Covering?
Google continuously updates its search algorithm, which relies on hundreds of known ranking factors and hundreds more that are unclarified or potential ranking factors. While Google makes changes to its search algorithm several times a day, it packs most of the “bigger” changes into so-called core updates.
As with most Google core updates, the focus here is on content. What Google is looking for specifically is relevance and accuracy. The gist of what core updates have been covering so far is as follows:
- Google is trying to improve how websites are ranked based on content quality and relevance.
- They’re paying more attention to unique and cite-worthy content. This doesn’t mean heavily-cited content is a prerequisite for ranking – but they are trying to rank pages with insightful and interesting information.
- They’re trying to discourage clickbait. Again, core updates don’t lead to penalties – but they do mean that your ranking may decrease because the algorithm now thinks other content should rank higher.
- Sourcing and expertise are becoming more important. Google may rank authoritative content higher than content with dubious sources or authors.
- Content should be more than just legible – it should be well-presented, on all platforms, free from excessive distractions (ads).
- And, perhaps most importantly, Google wants webmasters and content creators to ask themselves: “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?”
Expect Another Google Core Update in July
As mentioned previously, this update will amount to only about half of the changes Google aimed to introduce this month. The rest will follow next month.
However, because Google remains fairly opaque about what these changes are exactly – outside of clarifying that they’re trying to make search results emphasize content quality – we can’t really report on what’s “missing” from the update, so to speak, or predict how July’s changes will affect this month’s changes.
Unlike penalties, which can take several months to be reversed (even if you make the appropriate changes to your content ASAP), changes in ranking caused by a core update are not affected by the same kind of “time-out”.
You can make changes to your content to try and better match Google’s update, and hope for a more positive result. But there’s also an argument to be made for not doing anything hasty. If you want a more in-depth look at what Google might take into consideration when ranking, give the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines a look.
What To Do If You’ve Had a Hit in Ranking
With Google’s June update out in full force, many websites are seeing their rankings drop or change already. If you’ve experienced a sudden drop, then hold your horses on making any major changes. Your ranking might reverse with the next update (which is just a few weeks away). Alternatively, keep in mind what core updates usually seek to address: improved accuracy and relevancy when recommending content on the web.
In previous core updates, Google has advised webmasters to focus on the following four areas when hit with a drop in rankings:
- Content authoritativeness.
- Author expertise and truthfulness.
- Visual style and content presentation.
- Comparative quality (versus other similar pages).
To sum it all up, the general advice is for this coming core update is to wait and see, potentially do nothing. If the update did affect you, consider how your web content compares to the pages that outranked you, and what you might want to change to improve it (and even beat the competition).
Google’s update hit the ground running on June 2nd, and they’ve previously stated that it might take up to two weeks for the effects of the update to be fully integrated into the search algorithm. This means that even if you haven’t been hit with a ranking change yet (both positive and negative), it can still happen.
If you need help preparing for the next update, do note that any changes you are seeing now may reverse themselves in a few weeks. The July update can be more accurately seen as part two of the June update, or just the second, potentially larger half of an update Google had been planning to roll out completely earlier this month but failed to.
Webmasters and content creators should also bear in mind the previously mentioned Page Experience Update, which is rolling out this month as well, focusing on Google’s new Core Web Vitals.