Every tech company has updates from time to time. Usually, they go unnoticed and just update the backend of the business for a better end-user experience. Every now and then, though, big companies like Google do huge updates that change up everything we’ve worked so hard to understand. These, dear readers, are algorithm updates.
The truth is that Google makes minor algorithm updates all the time, and just like other tech companies’ updates, they often go unnoticed. When they’re big, they force us to do things differently. Before you scramble to pick up the pieces from the next update, we’ve got some steps to help you prepare, so you’re proactive rather than reactive. If you’re wondering how to prepare for Google, keep reading…we’ve got you covered!
What is a Google Algorithm Update?
Google ranking factors are constantly being updated by the search engine’s tech wizards. An algorithm update is a change made by the search engine to enhance the quality, significance, and overall user experience of its search results. The idea is to provide more helpful information to those using the search engine. Over time, Google has altered its algorithms to penalize keyword stuffing (the practice of filling a page with keywords that don’t offer any value to the visitor), incentivize mobile-friendly sites, and reward quick page loads, just to name a few.
Each time a big algorithm update occurs, companies are up in arms about the changes they experience to their rankings. That’s largely in part because they don’t prepare ahead of time.
While any reputable SEO will tell you they can’t promise you’ll be 100% prepared for an algorithm update (because only Google knows what Google does), we can tell you there are some ways to prepare for upcoming changes.
Types of Google Algorithm Updates
You might be wondering, “How do Google updates affect SEO?” That’s a great question! Unfortunately, there’s no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to SEO algorithm updates. Over the years, Google SEO updates have addressed everything from mobile usability to query-specific relevance. Back in the day, major updates were named and came with a bit of visibility as to what the updates were looking for and how a company could prepare for (or fix problems related to) the updates. Since around 2017, this transparency has gone by the wayside, leaving brands treading water as they try to keep up.
One thing is certain: No matter what types of changes happen to ranking algorithms, it’s important to consistently deliver high-quality content (the result of the Bert update in 2019), answer users’ questions (the result of RankBrain in 2015), and avoid keyword stuffing (the result of Hummingbird in 2013).
The answer to “What is a Google algorithm update?” is a complicated one. As the years have gone by and technology has progressed, less and less visibility has been given into what Google is actually doing when these significant updates are rolled out. It’s a good idea to stick with SEO best practices, so you can plan for Google algorithm update changes as quickly as possible when something new does arise.
What to Look for from an Update
Google’s algorithm updates consider hundreds of factors, including keywords, usability, and backlinks. They look at your homepage, category pages, and articles or blogs to determine where your site should reside on the search engine results pages (SERPs). If you’re not prepared (or not prepared to pivot quickly), you could see a drastic hit to your current search rankings. On the other hand, if you are prepared, you might see a boost in your search engine placement as your unprepared competitors fall below you.
How to Prepare for an Online Algorithm Update
This is your guide to Google algorithms; as such, we’ve created this algorithm cheat sheet to help you along the way.
1. Stay Apprised
This sounds easier on paper than it probably is in real life, especially since things change so rapidly in the SEO world, but do your best to stay on top of what’s going on with Google’s algorithms, even if they don’t seem relevant to your business. Barry Schwartz’s Search Engine Roundtable provides a daily roundup of every major update in detail.
It’s also important to monitor the SERPs for your main keywords. This is vital not only to understand your own site’s rankings but also to see the fluctuations of other sites.
2. Create High-Quality, Relevant Content
It’s best practice always to create high-quality content that’s relevant to the audience you’re targeting. This helps establish authority in your industry and future-proofs you against unforeseen algorithm updates. Each page of your site needs to have a specific purpose that offers clear, helpful information to your visitors.
If you don’t have a blog, start one now! A good blog is a place where you can utilize optimal keywords that help drive traffic to your site. Beyond this, consistently sending content out into the universe about what your company does signals to Google that you’re an authority in your niche.
3. Make Sure Your Website is Highly Usable
This goes for desktop and mobile versions of your site. Great usability means your site loads quickly, is secure, and all around functions as expected. It also means the layout is intuitive and easy to navigate. SEO isn’t just about the front-end experience; technical SEO focuses on the back end to ensure a great user experience when visitors arrive.
Work with ZGM
Keeping up with algorithm changes is a big job; that’s why we do it for you! If you’re looking for a way to prepare for the next big Google update, keep us in your back pocket. We’re happy to help when you’re ready to get started!