Contrary to popular belief, Google doesn't manually search billions of web pages every time you search for something on their search engine. Google uses an enormously complex algorithm to determine what it should present to a user in the results for a given search term from its vast archive of stored web pages that are 'crawled' or indexed from the World Wide Web.
In its eternal quest to provide only the most relevant results that enhance user experience, Google updates its search algorithm literally thousands of times each year. The vast majority of these updates are simply minor adjustments and generally have little or no impact on most websites.
However, several times each year, Google makes significant updates to its search algorithms & systems and these are referred to as 'Broad Core Updates'. During 2023, there have been four of these to date, the latest of which happened in November. Fortunately, Google provides notice on its developer website when these occur and also updates its list of search ranking updates.
Google states on its developer website that "Core Updates are designed to ensure that overall, we're delivering on our mission to present helpful and reliable results for searchers."
What is a broad core update?
Core updates do not target specific websites or pages, instead, they are designed to improve how Google evaluates content overall. However, these changes may cause some pages that were previously under-rewarded to do better in search results, or have the opposite effect upon others.
But it's important to understand that there's nothing wrong with pages that may not perform as well as they did before a core update. They haven't violated spam policies or been subjected to a manual or algorithmic action - though this can happen to pages or even whole websites that do violate Google policies.
Helpfully Google explains:
"One way to think of how a core update operates is to imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2021. If you refresh that list it's going to naturally change. New movies will now be candidates for inclusion - and you may reassess some films and realise they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before."
The November 2023 Broad Core Update
Following an official announcement, the November 2023 Google Core Update was rolled-out on 2nd November, and was expected to take about two weeks, as have previous core updates. Therefore site owners and webmasters could expect to see some movement, whether large or small, in analytics for keyword rankings and engagement data anytime soon.
Google stated that this core update involved an improvement to a different core system than the previous update but suggested that its guidance about core updates generally is the same.
Core Updates always play an important role in how websites are ranked and displayed in SERPs (search engine results pages). But these changes usually focus on finding and prioritising the best and most relevant information, so even if your website is seeing a drop in rankings after an update, it's not necessarily a reason to panic.
Here are some important things you need to know about the latest Google core update:
- It targets all types of content including blogs & images
- It will impact all Google SERP features such as Discover & Featured Snippets
- It should not be seen as a 'penalty' but rather as a 'reward' for good web pages
- The November 2023 Broad Core Update is global and affects all regions and languages
Furthermore, it's universal and updates how Google reviews websites as a whole, so if your website has been affected, it doesn't necessarily indicate any particular issue or isolated piece of bad content.
It simply means that based on its new ranking algorithm, there are now other pages that Google considers provide more value and relevant to a given search term than yours.
What to do if your site is affected by the latest Core Update
If you're seeing some volatility, and it's mostly negative, then it's probably time to review your website as a whole, to determine whether the drop-off is caused by the core update alone or by some other issues you have on your website.
As with any update, whether minor or core, recovery is not guaranteed. A holistic approach to continuous website improvement is therefore a must, making it important for SEO professionals and webmasters to keep an eye on how your website performs following this and any future core updates.
Assessing your web content
It's worth noting that Google advises site owners to regularly assess their content, since the focus of organic search should always be on delivering relevant answers and resources to users. Do this by auditing your worst-performing pages and ask:
- Does my content satisfy the user's search intent?
- Does my content provide only original information or analysis?
- Does content have any spelling or stylistic issues?
- Is my content easy to read and understand?
- Is my content trustworthy, and does it reference other authoritative sources?
- Was my content written with the user and their experience on my page in mind?
- Was my content written by someone who knows the subject matter?
- Do my meta tags such as page titles & headings provide an accurate, descriptive and helpful summary of my content?
- Is the content mass-produced or spammy?
Fundamentally, these questions relate to key areas of criteria which Google uses to evaluate the quality of a webpage, which then ultimately determines where that page will show in SERPs. The criteria used by Google is:
Collectively these criteria are known by SEO professionals as E-E-A-T or simply EAT. (Note, EAT is not an algorithm - it's a concept confirmed by Google in its Search Quality Guidelines).
If you find yourself answering YES to any of the questions above, then you may want to get in touch with Edge of the Web!
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