Google didn’t achieve market dominance by sitting on its hands. Since it was launched in 1998, the world’s most famous search engine has been a frontrunner in search innovation.
Google is constantly improving and refining its algorithms in order to give searchers the most accurate, relevant information.
This has one unfortunate downside for webmasters: constant algorithm updates.
Core algorithm updates can have a devastating impact on your business, especially if you’re not adhering to SEO best practice.
Generally algorithm updates are designed to penalize spam sites trying to game the system, but often genuine sites with problems like technical errors or toxic backlink profiles can often get caught up in the fray.
Even if you’ve never been impacted by an algorithm update in the past, it’s something you really need to keep an eye on. Here are three reasons why:
1. Algorithm Updates Happen All the Time
Google has stated that they release multiple algorithm updates every day. While some of these updates are minor have no noticeable impact, others, like the “Medic” update in 2018 were absolutely devastating for some businesses and even whole niches.
Google does have a policy of forewarning the public about major updates to its core algorithm, but it’s often hard to predict what kind of impact these updates will have.
As a webmaster, you should be aware that the SEO landscape is constantly shifting. Just because you enjoy high rankings and traffic today doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be wiped out tomorrow.
That doesn’t mean that Google is playing tricks on you. Google clearly explains what you should and should not be doing on your site in terms of SEO. Pay attention to these guidelines. Even if you have flouted them in the past and got away with it, Google will eventually catch up with you.
2. Algorithm Updates Could Tank Your Traffic and Rankings
The first sign that you’ve been hit with an algorithm update will probably be a sudden drop in traffic. If you suspect that you have been affected by an algorithm update, there are plenty of tools available that monitor changes in rankings, like SEMrush’s Sensor or Moz’s Mozcast that track volatility in search engine results pages.
Obviously, for most online businesses, a drop in traffic can often translate into a drop in revenue and all sorts of other issues that can negatively impact your business.
If it seems like there is a recent update that may be related to an issue on your site, don’t rush to fix the problem. Instead, consult an SEO expert who can help you figure out exactly what the problem is and provide a roadmap to get you back to your previous baseline.
Again, the best way to avoid a drop in traffic in the first place is to ensure that you are adhering to best practice guidelines. If you’re not sure what that means for your site, it could be a worthwhile investment to talk to an SEO consultant before you start feeling the effects of an algorithm update.
3. Algorithm Updates Can Have Positive Benefits for Your Site
Not every algorithm update is bad. Often, sites who are aligned with Google’s goals, have no technical errors, and publish high-quality content, can actually benefit from algorithm updates. This might mean increased rankings or traffic, or find yourself performing better on features like local search or Featured Snippets.
Take the Panda update for example. Before Panda, it was possible to slap together a few hundred words, do some outreach and you’d have your post ranking in no time. Obviously, this was having a negative impact on the experience of Google’s users, so they rolled out an algorithm to improve the quality of content in search results.
Now, if you were trying to game the system by producing low-value content, there’s no doubt that you would have been hit by this update. If, however, you had been producing high-quality, in-depth content all along, you might have found yourself suddenly climbing in the rankings as all those spammy pages disappeared.
The moral of the story is: listen to Google, keep your site in line with best practice, and regularly cross-check traffic fluctuations with algorithm updates.
Of course, if you really want to dominate Google, you can always hire an SEO consultant to get your ducks in a row!
For more great content on Google algorithm updates, check out my interview with Marie Haynes on the Marketing Speak podcast.