Don’t Panic if the Google Algorithm Update Affects Your Rankings

If you’ve noticed some changes in your website’s rankings, traffic, or visibility, that’s because Google has started to roll out a broad core algorithm update. 

It was a long time coming. The seven month gap between updates — the last one was back in May — is larger than usual. Google typically updates their algorithm every three or four months.

What is a broad core algorithm update?

That means the algorithm itself has been changed in some way. That’s as opposed to a focused update, which addresses a specific issue. Keep in mind, Google makes small changes to its algorithm every day, so these broad core updates reflect major revisions. They’re also global — not specific to any one region or language.

What are the effects so far?

Well, we don’t really know. Google doesn’t reveal specific changes. But we do know that a lot of things are different. 

The numbers are telling — Search Engine Rank Page (SERP) Volatility has increased this month, according to Numbers spiked in the days following the December 3 announcement of the rollout, when volatility peaked. Topics that have been most affected so far include health, real estate, and law & government. Shopping results also had high volatility immediately after the rollout began.

Google has recommendations

In its tweet announcing the algorithm update, Google included a link to an explanation for webmasters from August of 2019 titled, “What webmasters should know about Google’s core updates.” It includes a reminder that “some sites may note drops or gains during them. We know those with sites that experience drops will be looking for a fix, and we want to ensure they don’t try to fix the wrong things. Moreover, there might not be anything to fix at all.” It also has recommendations that are fairly general but that they say still apply today. Those include reminders to:

  • Maintain quality content
  • Avoid shocking or exaggerated headlines
  • Make sure you’re free and clear of factual or spelling errors.

Those are always good things to keep in mind, but they’re particularly true right after a broad core algorithm update, when some people are prone to make big changes with SEO in mind.

Your site may suffer in the immediate aftermath of the latest update — don’t do anything rash

The holiday shopping season is a stressful time for a revamp, even with many of the other features Google has added for small businesses. As a result, many have criticized Google for the timing of the update, which could temporarily cause changes in traffic, and as a result, revenue, for many businesses struggling to stay open.

But don’t panic if your site has been hit hard by the update. It takes time for the full effects to take shape. It’s common for sites that suffer in terms of traffic and rankings early in an update to recover as it goes on. Things tend to normalize. That’s why it’s important to wait until you have a better understanding of how you’ve been affected before you make any major changes to your site. Desperate bids for more traffic tend to not work out. More often than not, they backfire.

The Google algorithm update takes time

While the rollout began on December 3rd, it’s actually still happening now. Updates typically take several weeks. The biggest changes do happen right away, but more recent spikes in Serp Volatility show that the update is a long process.

Expect the rollout of the newest Google Algorithm update to finish before Christmas.

Once the dust has settled you’ll be better able to respond to the update

Early 2021 will be a great time to take a deep dive into your metrics. That’s when you’ll be able to get a better sense of the ways the newest Google algorithm update has affected your site — if it has at all. Then you’ll be able to make changes that really benefit your website, with more knowledge at your disposal.