The mechanisms behind Google algorithms are generally shrouded in mystery. But last week, we learned something important regarding core updates and moved one step closer to understanding how these updates impact our rankings.
According to Google’s John Mueller, technical problems on your website, such as broken links or 404 redirects, have little effect on your rankings after a core update. He added that ranking loss is mostly due to site quality issues and advised focusing on “offering the best content you can.”
His recommendation was in response to a question posed during the latest Google Search Central SEO Office Hours hangout. A person wrote that their rankings and traffic plummeted significantly after a site redesign prior to a Google core algorithm update and still haven’t recovered six months after. They asked, “Do we wait for another core update for Google to assess our site quality again, or does this happen when the website is re-crawled?”
In his response, Mueller advised getting familiarized with core algorithm updates to have a more accurate diagnosis of the ranking drop. He then affirmed that when a site drops on the search engine results page (SERPs) after a core update, it’s generally a result of long-term issues primarily associated with content, according to Google’s core update explainer. So if you have broken links and 404 errors on a page, that’s not a reason for Google’s quality algorithms to “jump in.”
In this explainer, broad core updates are defined as Google’s way to ensure it’s “presenting relevant and authoritative content to searchers.” They are named “broad” because they do not target specific pages or sites. Instead, the changes aim to fine-tune how Google’s systems evaluable content overall from a broader, more holistic perspective. Once a core update is rolled out, it will evaluate the current state of the web at large – see if there are newer, better pages that should be pushed up the SERPs, indirectly causing other pages to drop from their current positions. The keyword is “indirectly” because core updates do not actively punish or demote low-performing pages; instead, they reward those that continuously follow Google content guidelines.
You can think of these updates as regular “check-ins” by Google to recalibrate the SERPs and ensure it’s serving the most relevant results to searchers.
So how do you make sure you’re positively affected by these updates? “We suggest offering the best content you can,” the explainer states. “That’s what our algorithms seek to reward.” Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness (E-A-T): These are the three content elements largely at play and the three markers Google has been pushing hard to publishers.
If you’re worried about your page quality in anticipation of the next broad core update, the E-A-T principle should guide your content writing strategy and give you an idea of how you stack up against competitor pages. To know about E-A-T in detail and Google’s content guidelines in general as it relates to broad core updates, check out its full explainer, “What site owners should know about Google’s core updates.“
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