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Google has announced they will be rolling out a broad update to their core search algorithm starting later today. 

While the updates are a regular part of maintaining and improving the company’s search engine, Google has typically been reluctant to give advance notice before the update has rolled out. In some cases, they have even been unwilling to address algorithm updates in-depth after their implementation. 

This is only the second time the search engine has announced a broad core algorithm update ahead of time, suggesting they are being more proactive in communicating with webmasters. 

Google’s Danny Sullivan says the update should start very soon and will take up to a few days to complete. 

The company’s announcement didn’t add any new guidance or recommendations for managing your site during and after the rollout of this update, but Google did recommend reviewing the existing guidelines for core updates:

  • Widely notable effects are to be expected, which can include drops or gains in search rankings.
  • Core updates are “broad” in the sense that they don’t target anything specific. Rather, they’re designed to improve Google’s systems overall.
  • Pages that drop in rankings aren’t being penalized; they’re being reassessed against other web content that has been published since the last update.
  • Focusing on providing the best possible content is the top recommended way to deal with the impact of a core algorithm update.
  • Broad core updates happen every few months. Sites might not recover from one update until the next one rolls out.
  • Improvements do not guarantee recovery. However, choosing not to implement any improvements will virtually guarantee no recovery.

Google Algorithm

After much ado, Google has rolled out its latest big algorithm update, called the “Speed Update.” And, once again, there has been little to no effect on the search results we see every day.

This is the latest in a pattern of big announcements of search algorithm updates that seem to fizzle out into nothing. It would be reasonable for many to stop caring and assume they don’t really need to worry about all these algorithm updates.

They would be wrong.

Why Google’s Algorithm Updates Matter

The other trend running through Google’s latest algorithm updates is that they have been almost universally focused on usability across devices. In other words, Google cares about how users perceive your website. Is it out of date? Slow? Impossible to read on a smartphone?

Of course, Google’s interest here isn’t entirely altruistic. They have made their name by delivering the best search results possible. If they allow low-quality sites to dominate the rankings, they wouldn’t be doing their job very well.

As a business, you also aren’t doing a very good job representing yourself if you aren’t living up to most of Google’s latest standards. People will be put off if your copy is outdated, or your site is too slow or buggy to use. This is the biggest reason you should really care. Google’s standards are (largely) the same as your potential customers’ standards.

Bringing It All Together

If you aren’t doing one of the things above, you might be able to get away with it. Some people may give you a pass for a sluggish website. It might not matter much if your copy is a year or two old if it is still relevant and accurate. Desktop users won’t even know if your site isn’t mobile-friendly. Taken together, though, it paints a really bad picture.

This is essentially how Google’s algorithm functions. There are literally hundreds of factors or signals that affect how sites are ranked. A single new search signal isn’t likely to have a big impact. Neglecting several search signals will likely have serious consequences for your rankings.

The best way to think of Google’s search algorithm is by comparing it to a test. Missing one or two answers is fine. But, the more questions you get wrong, the worse your score is. In the end, it is always best to strive to ensure your site isn’t just meeting basic standards, but is designed and optimized to perform as well as possible. This way, you’ll satisfy anyone who comes to your site, and you won’t have to worry about updating every time Google launches a new algorithm update.

The Googlebot is Google’s automated program for searching and indexing content on the Internet. In the realm of SEO, the first part of good optimization is all about crafting textual content that’s visible and makes sense to Googlebot. After Googlebot indexes a page, the Google algorithm takes the content text and automatically ranks it on the search results page according to the search terms that the user enters into Google search. If your optimized website performs well for the term “electronic widgets,” for example, the Google algorithm will place your site near or at the top of the search results whenever someone uses Google to search for “electronic widgets.” Did you know that in addition to its automated components like Googlebot and the algorithm that Google also uses human site raters in the ranking of websites?

Google employs hundreds of site raters who rate a huge number of websites on relevancy. The input collected from this team doesn’t directly influence the search results, but it does influence the Google engineers in changing the algorithm to better serve more relevant results to the search engine user.

In this great video, Google senior software engineer Matt Cutts, demystifies this process by explaining how human website raters are used in testing changes to the Google algorithm. Essentially, after a change to the automatic search ranking is made, Google performs many test queries and evaluates what has changed in the results. The new search results are checked against the results before the change, and then presented to the human raters – in what Matt Cutts calls a “blind taste test” – to determine which set of search engine results are more relevant and useful. Only after analyzing and evaluating the feedback of the human raters are the new search results then tested with a small, carefully selected number of Internet users. Only if this last round of surveys on the algorithm change prove the results more accurate and useful will the updated algorithm be integrated into Google Search for the use of the public. It’s an exhaustive process, but that’s how much Google wants its search engine to be the most relevant on the web.

Watch the video here: