A few times a year Google acknowledges it’s at it again – rolling out a broad “core algorithm update” that sends some SEOs into panic mode – racing to check whether their company’s visibility is affected. On Aug. 1, it happened again. The search giant confirmed via Twitter that a core update had begun. We took a look into the data to find out who may be affected, and what companies can do to make sure they maintain their visibility.
DIFFERENT DAY, SAME UPDATE STORY
Google’s take is that websites who have suffered a hit from this update, are not being punished in any way and that there is not (necessarily) anything wrong with these pages. So perhaps on the SEO front, there is nothing that needs “fixing.”
Rather, Google has improved the quality and/or relevance of the search results for queries so that pages that better meet the search intent for a keyword have improved their rankings and gained SEO Visibility. Google’s Danny Sullivan in a tweet gave more explanation that struck a familiar chord: To make up any losses in rankings, websites should build great content.
It’s virtually the same wording Google has used in previously confirmed updates (Google continually tweaks its algorithm and often doesn’t announce such changes).
The update is expected to continue until at least mid-week, according to Google. In the meantime, I worked with Marcus Pentzek, senior SEO consultant in our Digital Strategies Group services consultancy, and Malte Landwehr, director of Product Marketing and Solutions, to conduct analyses using Searchmetrics data to see if it’s really the case the people shouldn’t panic.
Authority Figures Rule
The answer is “maybe”. Early indications suggest Google is rewarding sites that adhere to its Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (E-A-T), guidelines. Google has said it is among its top three considerations for Page Quality.
Google also appears to be making ranking adjustments based on feedback from Google Quality Raters, as well as Google user signals. If you’re not familiar with Quality Raters, Google uses thousands of people from all over the world to analyze the quality of website content based on specific guidelines. It then uses the recommendations to help deliver quality content to users. The effect of the recommendations on rankings is indirect.
We found the most significant Visibility changes in the health and finance industries. They’re industry niches where Google takes the quality of each site very seriously, since bad information could have significant impact on a searcher’s life. Google calls this type of content “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL). Those in these industries may see extreme effects in their visibility — either they’re winning big or losing big.
That may be no surprise to companies in those industry (except for the losers), since Google specifically calls out health content for overall page quality rating for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness, saying medical advice should be written by people with medical expertise or accreditation. The Guidelines were updated July 20, 2018, so there may be a direct connection to a focus on content with this latest update.
This update is not evident in the overall Google universe, meaning not every site is necessarily being affected, which is why Searchmetrics breaks down ranking factors by niche industries. That means you should be paying attention to SEO and user intent within your industry, not the internet as a whole.
Further analysis of the winners and losers is likely to paint only a small picture of the changes because these changes can then not be transferred 1: 1 to the next niche.
Pentzek discovered that factors that appeared now and then (about 20%) were lack of (or satisfied) prioritization of visible content in the rendering process and poor server response times – that is, page speed.
Did the Google Core Update affect you? Let us know what you think of our initial analysis!