Whenever there is a rumor of a Google algorithm update, general panic spreads throughout the SEO community. There’s a collective restraint while the numbers are analyzed, and then a sigh of relief (hopefully) when they survive the algorithm update unscathed.
Following the release of the update, and especially if confirmed by Google, a host of articles and expert analysis attempt to dissect what Google has changed and how to win in the new paradigm.
I think all this angst is totally misplaced.
Google’s algorithm is believed to be some sort of mystical secret recipe concocted in a lab designed to simultaneously steal and reward sites at the whim of a magical, all-knowing wizard. In this outdated scheme, the goal of every SEO and webmaster is to fool that helper and come out on the winning side of every update.
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This idea is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of what goes on in a Google algorithm update – and a fundamental Google misunderstanding. The reality is that algorithms are not your enemy. They are designed to help create a better and more accurate user experience. Here are some insights that should help you reframe your relationship with algorithms.
Google’s algorithms are extensive and complex software that must constantly be updated based on real-life scenarios.
Google is just trying to help
First, let’s establish this: Google is only trying to help. The company wishes to guarantee a pleasant and high-quality user experience for the researcher. No more no less. He is not a rocket scientist, and his system is not intended to steal and reward sites arbitrarily.
Keep this in mind as we continue.
Google’s algorithms are extensive and complex software that must constantly be updated based on real-life scenarios. Otherwise, they would be totally arbitrary. Just as bugs are reported and fixed in software, search engines need to find out what goes wrong and create solutions.
Google, like any other software company, is releasing updates with big steps forward for its products and services. However, in the case of Google, they are called “major algorithm updates” instead of just product updates.
Now you know exactly what a Google Algorithm Update is. So isn’t it gratifying to know that there is never a reason to panic?
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A drop in search traffic doesn’t necessarily hurt you
If a site experiences a drop in search traffic after a major algorithm update, it’s rarely because the entire site has been targeted. Typically, while a collection of URLs may be demoted in search rankings, other pages are likely to improve.
To see the improved pages, you have to dive deep into the Google Search Console to see which URLs have seen traffic drops and which have seen gains. While a site can certainly see a big drop after an update, it’s usually because it has had more losers than winners.
Any decline is certainly not due to the fact that the algorithm punished the site.
If you see a drop, in many cases your site may not have even lost real traffic; Often, losses are just lost impressions that are not already converting to clicks. With a recent update, Google removed the organic list of sites that had a featured snippet ranking. I saw a sharp drop in impressions, but clicks remained virtually unchanged. Gather and study your granular data for clearer rendering of information rather than assuming the site has become a winner or a loser after an update.
Focus on an exceptional user experience, just like Google
Websites that focus on providing an amazing, high-quality user experience shouldn’t be afraid of algorithm updates. In fact, updates can provide the momentum needed to excel. The only websites that have something to worry about are those that shouldn’t have had high search visibility in the first place due to poor user experience.
If your website provides a great user experience, updates are actually likely to help you because they eliminate those lower quality sites.
If you focus on having a good user experience, some pages may lose traffic in algorithm updates, but overall the site will generally gain traffic in most scenarios. Digging into the granular data of what’s changed will likely support the idea that websites don’t suffer or benefit from algorithm updates – only specific URLs do.
Updates are part of the life of research
Google will and should continually update its algorithms. Google’s main motivation is to have a scalable product that will continue to please and retain its users.
Consider that if Google leaves its algorithm alone, it risks being invaded by spammers who take advantage of the loopholes. A search function that provides too many spam results will soon work for AOL, Excite, Yahoo, and all the other search engines that no longer exist. Google remains relevant by updating the algorithms.
Updates are part of the life of research.
Hunt the user, not the algorithm
Instead of chasing the algorithm, which will inevitably change, I think every website that relies on organic search should focus on something bigger: user experience.
The user is the ultimate research customer. If your site serves the user, they will be immune to updates to algorithms designed to protect the search experience. There is no algorithm wizard – only SEO masters who have figured out how to apply the best processes, procedures, and actions for your website.
Algorithms and updates have only one goal: to help a user find exactly what they are looking for. Period. If you are useful to the user, you have nothing to worry about.
This article is an excerpt from “Product Based SEO: The Why of Building Your Organic Growth Strategy”.