- Google recently updated its algorithm with a major “core update.”
- This is the first significant update to the search engine since the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Algorithm updates change the rules of SEO — knowing what those rules are, is key to succeeding on Google. Read the latest Google Algorithm Update here:
Latest Google Algorithm Update (May 2020)
Earlier this month Danny Sullivan — Google’s Search Liaison — announced that a new “core update” is being released in May.
In a future post on the thread, he announced the update would be rolled out over a 2 week period.
Then on May 19th, he reported that the update had officially been completed.
Whenever a new major core update is released, it has grave implications for websites and SEOs across the internet. Some pages might get a rankings boost, while others might not. A domain’s organic traffic can sink in a day, just like Atlantis into the sea.
Knowing the details of every new algorithm change is key to staying ahead of the curve.
What Are Core Updates
Core updates are essentially big-time, or “major” changes to the Google algorithm. In Google’s own words they are described as…
“Significant, broad changes to our search algorithms and systems.”
These types of updates tend to happen multiple times per year. This most recent update (May) was the 2nd core update of 2020, and first since the COVID-19 global pandemic.
These are not the only changes made to Google’s search algorithm. There are many small tweaks and changes that are implemented, which are not significant enough to announce. These minor updates occur daily, according to Google.
Core updates are announced because they can have a dramatic effect on search rankings. Some people have noticed their pages have skyrocketed in rankings. The opposite also occurs — SERP rank and organic traffic can flatline instantly.
You need to know how to prepare yourself for when the SEO tsunami hits.
How To Prepare For Core Updates
You can’t really prepare for core updates specifically, because they never reveal any hard details. Every single announcement is generally the same… “We are rolling out a new core update.”
Take a look at the January 13 core update.
Or the 24th of September 2019 one.
For every new core update, they provide the same advice — to refer to their blog post on the issue.
You can read it for yourself, but the advice can be summarized as simply as “make good content that satisfies these 3 factors.”
Google trains its search raters (people who rate content for them) to look for these three qualities. They are referred to as E-A-T. To go further in-depth, you can read the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
So, bottom line: just make great, informative, entertaining, kickass content.
Non-Core Major Updates
Now, there might not be any specific, actionable advice or strategies you can implement to address core updates… But there are other “non-core” major updates. Ones you can plan for.
These types of updates are usually the unveiling of a new feature or specific ranking factor. For example, just today “dark mode” was made available for mobile users via the Google App.
There have been many of these types of updates in Google’s history, ranging from minor to grandiose in impact. The particular methods and strategies to optimize for them, obviously vary too.
I have listed all of the major updates below, with a short summary.
Previous Updates (Brief History)
On March 7, 2017, the humorously named “Fred” algorithm update was announced. It was quite a major update because many people got hit hard by it. It appeared to target low-quality content.
Intrusive Interstitials Update
The intrusive interstitials update dropped on the 10th of January 2017. It was originally announced on August 23rd, 2016 — it targeted low-quality pop-ups that ruined user experience. This update didn’t really affect many people, search rankwise.
This update was two different Google algorithm updates that were released separately.
Mobilegeddon #1 AKA the “mobile-friendly update” occurred on April 21st of 2015. It aimed to reward websites and webpages that were optimized for mobile devices.
Mobilegeddon #2 — which released on May 12, 2016 — further built on the original update.
On October 26 of 2015, the RankBrain algorithm update rolled out. It was a brand new ranking signal — a machine-learning algorithm that seeks to find search users the desired results. It’s one of the more significant updates in recent memory, considered the 3rd most important ranking factor.
Initially, it was used in around only 15% of searches. Now it’s pretty much used for all of them.
Google Panda was a series of 29 different algorithm updates that were aimed at targeting low quality, content farms. The internet was ridden with keyword-stuffed, spun content that was cheating the system, rankwise.
The initial Panda update released on February 23, 2011, absolutely shaking up the state of SEO, Google, and the internet.
For the next 5 years, 27 future updates were made to Panda. On January 11 2016, Panda had officially been added to Google’s core algorithm.
The Google Panda algorithm update is arguably the most influential in search engine history.
Google Penguin, following in Panda’s footsteps, was 7 different updates that addressed cheap link building tactics and webspam.
The first Penguin update dropped April 24, 2012, influencing about 3% of search results.
6 more updates occurred — the final one on September 23, 2016 added Panda to the core algorithm.
Hummingbird was an update that dramatically changed Google’s core algorithm. It was intended to address the growing influence of voice search. It was announced September 26, 2013 but was supposedly in action August that year.
It had quite a large influence — a reported 90% of searches were impacted.
July 24, 2014 marked the release of Google Pigeon — this was an algorithm update aimed at local SEO/search.
This gave local businesses more strategies and methods to better rank for location, commercial queries.
The Payday Google updates were 3 algorithm changes that looked to address spammy websites and search queries.
Payday 1.0 dropped June 11, 2013 and influenced about 0.3% of US-based searches.
Payday 2.0 was released May 16, 2014 — it built on the original update.
Payday 3.0 was the last update, which was June 12, 2014. This one was specifically focused on search queries and negative SEO strategies.
EMD (Exact Match Domain)
On September 28, 2012, Google’s Exact Match Domain (EMD) algorithm update went live. It was intended to target websites that used cheap tactics to get search traffic.
People would buy domains with an exact match to their intended keyword — for example:
Keyword — Los Angeles Mowing
EMD — losangelesmowing.com
These EMD websites were targeted by Google, because they were often extremely low quality. They saw it as a sneaky way for people to get high rankings.
Page Layout Algorithm
The page layout algorithm updates were 3 separate additions to Google, which were proposed to address bad page layout.
The first page layout update (January 19, 2012) targeted “above-the-fold” intrusive ads that forced users to scroll down.
The second update, which went live October 9, 2012, built on the first update. It reportedly only affected 0.7% of english language searches.
The third and final update dropped February 6, 2014 — it was basically a rehash of the previous updates.