A Day in the Life of an SEO Associate When Google Updates Its Core Algorithm

By: Josh Bell

So the almighty Google has suddenly rolled out another core update. Like every previous update, it is major, sudden, and shrouded in mystery. If you’re new to SEO this may be sending you into a tizzy. If you’re a seasoned SEO vet, roll your eyes and crack your knuckles — it’s time for some due diligence. 

Here are some fundamental considerations when Google has a core update:

What Is a Core Update?

Good question! The good news is it’s a simple answer. The bad news is it’s too simple of an answer. A core update is a comprehensive overhaul of the Google search algorithm that aims to improve the user experience of their search engine. 

Unfortunately, Google’s priorities do not include its listings, and most certainly don’t include us search engine optimizers (SEOs). It always has and always will be its users. Thus, like any piece of software, Google will continue to roll out improvements to best match user search intent within search results. It also makes a concerted effort to keep users on their platform for as long as possible through features such as featured snippets, Google My Business profiles, and more.

When Google updates its core algorithm, your traffic is subject to taking a hit, sometimes significantly. However, this isn’t always the case, and there are different levels and factors to which your SEO health is impacted. In fact, if you’re lucky, your website might be positively impacted by the search update!

As soon as you get the sudden notice from Google, follow these steps:

Take a Deep Breath

To the best of our knowledge, a Google Core Update has yet to cause any physical harm. Only through an immediate and thorough assessment of things can we determine the next steps.

Review Google Analytics

It’s time to rip off the bandaid and see where your traffic stands. Note that we recommend migrating your Universal Analytics (UA) property to the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4), as Google will be sunsetting UA come June of 2023. See why migrating to GA4 is crucial and not so scary.

GA4 screenshot
Screenshot of GA4 Dashboard

You’ll want to check recent and real-time views, but don’t forget about week-over-week, month-over-month and year-over-year comparisons, which will give you the most holistic views of where things stand. Take stock of key metrics such as:

  • Users: total users, new users, returning users
  • Sessions: across key service pages, specific blog posts 
  • Engagement: conversions, events, session duration, bounce rate

If you start to see any significant dips in metrics, look for consistencies. Maybe your service pages have been hit more than your blog content. Maybe your homepage has taken the biggest hit.

Dive Into Google Search Console

Google Search Console (GSC) is an extremely powerful and often underutilized tool when it comes to technical SEO. Assuming your website is verified through GSC, you’ll be able to inspect individual URLs  looking for specific indexing issues, and get a deeper look at search query performance. It’s about as technical as SEO can get, and we love it.

  • Google Search Results: Unlike Google Analytics, GSC allows you to search specific search queries to see your average rank, clicks and search impressions of those queries. This gives you an important real-time view of how Google may have altered how it ranks your website for specific keywords. When an algorithm update has rolled out, you can hone in on specific high-traffic and priority keywords to determine the Average Position in search results before and after the update.
Screenshot of Google Search Results on Google Search Console (GSC)

A a few additional resources that Search Console offers include:

  • URL Inspection: Submit any specific url into the search bar in order to first determine if it’s even listed on Google. Sometimes small to midsize organizations don’t have the domain authority to be automatically fully indexed by Google. Punch in any pages with lower traffic, as determined by your Google Analytics review, or even just relatively newly created pages. You may find pages that need to be manually indexed, which you can submit with the click of a button.
  • Coverage Errors: GSC will alert you of any pages that are causing indexing errors. These can be due to URL structure or on-page reasons. An array of factors can cause these, and once you fix them, just re-submit them.

Sitemap: XML sitemaps can be submitted on GSC in order to request another full crawl of the website. This is good to do if any new additions have been made to the website, or if you’ve created a new site altogether. XML sitemaps can be found in various ways depending on the web platform. On our WordPress sites, having Yoast installed enables us to grab a sitemap at any time.

Read All About It! 

Google will always put out a developer update. While they won’t demystify much, sometimes they allude to the focus of the update and link to other resources. Sometimes, these updates can even be targeted to specific industries. Your best bet is likely going to be the SEO community. Core Updates take weeks to fully roll out, so you can continue to follow reputable SEO thought leaders for their insights as web traffic continues to be altered by the algorithm update. Join our newsletter for more SEO updates and digital marketing tips! 

Be Thorough and Patient. Then Attack! 

Like all things related to SEO, things take time. Just as your diligent SEO efforts can take months for a website to reap the benefits, the negative (or positive!) effects of a Google Core Update can take time to be truly revealed. Double check your traffic over a span of a few weeks, review your GSC often, and monitor where the dips are coming from. 

Once you’ve determined any parts of your website that have been negatively impacted by the update, look for the consistencies, based on your results and knowledge accumulated from the proper resources. Put together a plan to make consistent changes, and annotate when those are enacted in order to properly measure their effects in the weeks and months to come. One important thing to note is that when implementing a plan to rectify the results of a core update, the results may not be seen until the next core update. These typically roll out 3-4 times per year, so confidence in your strategy and patience are both incredibly important.

When In Doubt, Contact Some Experts!

The RyTech SEO team is always on top of the ever evolving world of search engine optimization. In fact, a frustrating Google Core Update for you is sometimes kind of fun for weirdos like us! 

Our in-house, comprehensive service approach makes us well-equipped to tackle digital problem solving like this. Good SEO is a marriage of your business knowledge and our digital marketing expertise. This requires a transparent and collaborative relationship, something we pride ourselves on creating with every client.Contact RyTech today. Our digital marketing experts would be happy to assist you as well as introduce you to our other suite of services.

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