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Best Practices for a Google Algorithm Update

A Google Algorithm update can bring huge fluctuations to your website’s traffic depending upon the precise change which Google implements. This often impacts entire industries such as health care focused websites, news organizations, or other specific niches.

When your website traffic takes a hit from a Google Algorithm update, there are a variety of updates webmasters can implement to help curve the drop in traffic. This includes following Google’s best practices for search optimization. Another less immediate solution is simply waiting for the next algorithm update to occur.

Taking a more proactive approach to an update can be worth the effort. With a Google Algorithm update happening about every quarter, many digital marketers will note the importance of staying up to date with best practices after an algorithm change occurs. With these updates, best practices can change fast and oftentimes what worked yesterday will not work tomorrow.

With that said, let’s dive in and take a  closer look at how to implement best practices to avoid a large drop in traffic after the inevitable next google algorithm update.

Table of Contents

Follow Google’s Advice

The team at Google’s official webmaster blog release wonderfully helpful insights on how your website can be tailored to succeed even through an algorithm update. These recommendations get to the heart of what it means to have a website properly optimized for search results. 

A few important notes to consider for webmasters working to overcome the latest core algorithm update include:

  • Focus on Content

The main objective of any search optimization campaign should be quality content. With users having literally millions of different options for most common searches on Google, having quality content becomes critical. 

Furthermore, having quality content will help with the ancillary metrics search engine’s use to determine which page to rank for a particular search query. These include factors such as time spent on page, bounce rate, and if users click back to search results page after viewing a particular result.

  • Mobile First & Site Speed

With the launch of Google’s mobile first indexing, their algorithm put more emphasis on mobile versions of websites and site speeds. These updates were heavily publicized prior to the release. With that in mind, Google focused on these two factors and they became a couple of the most important ranking factors within their algorithm. Websites which were not mobile friendly quickly saw their rank drop in search results. The same can be said for sites which did not prioritize site speeds.

  • Expertise, Authority, & Trustworthiness (E.A.T)

These three factors tend to play a larger role in search engine’s placement of a particular website than most seem to understand. The expertise, authority, and trustworthiness rank factors help Google ensure the content they provide users within search results is accurate and not harmful. 

This can be particularly important for local businesses, search queries related to an individual's health or money. With that in mind, websites can increase their ‘EAT’ score by providing accurate information to users and by establishing themselves as an authoritative content provider within a particular subject matter.

  • Getting Back to the Basics

Another important aspect to remember when looking at the latest changes in Google’s search algorithm is to keep the basics in mind. Search engine’s do not consume content the same way humans do, even with natural language updates to the algorithm in recent years. With that in mind, search engine’s look to content’s freshness, user activity such as time spent on page and bounce rates to determine content’s importance within a certain search engine results page. Understanding these factors and optimizing for them creates an atmosphere where your website is more likely to succeed and less likely to be impacted by an algorithm change. 

Adjust Your Content for the Algorithm Change

featured snippet example


Image Source: Moz 


Recently, Google released a large update which impacted the coveted featured snippet portion of search results (as shown in the above image). For many years now, search analysts have sought to obtain the featured snippet in search results, known as position zero because it came before the first ten page results shown on a search engine results page.

However, after the January 2020 update, featured snippets no longer carry as much weight as they once did. Moz reviews this concept in-depth with their article, “Position Zero is Dead; Long Live Position Zero” where they discuss the implications of Google removing URLs from normal organic listings when they rank for the featured snippet. This creates an odd scenario where search results actually will bring in more users when they are not in the top spot compared to lower ranking search engine results such as with position two or three. Furthermore, it provides a perfect example of how staying up-to-date with the Google algorithm can help your website be in the best position possible to receive organic traffic.

Await the Next Update

While many webmasters will not be thrilled with this final piece of advice, the fact of the matter is the best practice to deal with a Google Algorithm update oftentimes is simply to wait for the next update. With Google’s main goal of providing quality content to users remaining constant throughout their algorithm changes, if your site aims to complete this mission honestly and wholeheartedly, your site will then have the best chance to bounce back into higher search results after a new algorithm update is released.

That being said, webmasters and marketers want to ensure they are implementing the best practices to Google’s standard. This means when mobile first indexing became a high priority, that webmasters should ensure their website is mobile friendly. More recently, Google has started to ‘rank shame’ websites with slow load times. This can be seen as a secondary effect of mobile-first indexing which Google now operates under and requires websites to have load times faster than 3 seconds. Google also requires sites to implement technical solutions for website speed such as AMP pages.

In closing, remember that Google has one goal, provide quality search results based upon the searcher’s intent. That means quality content will continue to be the best way to perform well within Google’s algorithm. With that in mind, the single best action item webmasters can take when looking to recover from a Google algorithm update will be to create quality content. This also includes following other best practices such as mobile first, increasing website speeds, developing expertise, trustworthiness, and authority around a topic, and ensuring your website covers the basics when it comes to SEO. 

Furthermore, remember with each algorithm update, new norms quickly can become established. The changes to featured snippets provides one of the best examples of this and should be a nice reminder to webmasters and search analysts alike to never be too comfortable with a norm of yesterday when changes occur all the time to search algorithms. Finally, remember patience is key when it comes to search optimization. When a quality website takes a hit due to changes to the Google algorithm, they oftentimes will recover upon release of a new algorithm update. Thus, if your site provides quality content from an authoritative perspective, odds are high there is nothing to worry about with a slight change in rank after an algorithm update.