The busy marketer’s guide to Broad Core Updates
Are you sitting down?
Good. Because Google just announced they made an algorithm update on August 1, 2018. They rarely confirm any kind of update let alone one having to do with their algorithm.
Still, the August announcement was made via the Twitter account from Google Search Liaison (@searchliaison).
Here is the tweet:
When did the algorithm update happen?
Here’s what makes this Broad Core (BC) algorithm update special, 8/1 is the third iteration of a broad core update that’s been announced this year. Which means Google is actively communicating to webmasters about algorithm improvements.
Here’s a quick overview of the timeline from SEO industry heavyweights:
- March 7th & April 16th: Google algorithm updates – Relevance, Quality, reverse-Panda and clues from the past (part 1) – Glenn Gabe
- July: Google updates its Quality Rater Guidelines.
- August: An official Tweet from Google announces they released a broad core update is made. It’s similar to the announcements relating to its BC updates from March and April.
Per the Tweet above, these types of updates are done “routinely several times per year.”
More threads on Twitter expanded upon Google’s explanation around the latest 8/1 release:
This part of the Tweet is interesting to note, “There is nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefitting pages that were previously under-rewarded…”
Marketers & SEO’s shouldn’t jump to make changes to pages that may have slipped in rankings. It might be prudent to check pages that were ranking in striking distance position to page 1 (positions 11-20) to see if those pages are now ranking higher.
The speculation continued last week all the while the BC algorithm continues to roll out into the second week of August.
What is the Broad Core Update?
So there’s “no fix” only, get better. In my opinion, the takeaway around the BC algorithm is that it is related to the types of quality updates seen with Panda (maybe even to an extent Phantom) where pages with thin content did not rank well.
It seems like a re-evaluation of pages that have good content but have been underperforming. Meeting user intent (or relevancy) is a factor. Maybe searchers have been returning to the SERPS and clicking on what they feel to be better, more relevant results, further down the page?
All in all, Google wants to provide the best results to the searcher and better understanding the human intent behind the query or keyword search helps them refine their listings.
It would seem this BC update relates to Google’s core algorithm.
The takeaway: “This is a broader general change to the core algorithm.”
What does Google want at its core? Quality. It wants to provide the best individual user experience possible to the person asking a question or typing in a noun into their search box.
Marie Haynes, a recognized industry authority figure on algorithms, shared a few insights from here client’s data and clues about potentially affected industries:
What industries were affected?
Furthermore, Haynes’ data indicated the 8/1 update strongly affected sites dealing with diet products, nutrition and medical products otherwise known as YMYL (Your Money Or Your Life) sites.
- “It is important to note that most sites that I monitor did not see any significant changes. However, the majority of those that did see changes were very strongly affected” Haynes said.
- In her opinion, the update is primarily about trust. Many sites that were hit were sites that lacked author E-A-T, lacked reputation information, or were selling products that could be deemed untrustworthy.
I happen to agree with her completely, especially on the point of sites needing to invest in content that reflects Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.
Large service based businesses have been known to publish lots of pages that probably have little value (or content) on them simply because at one point, everyone thought more content translated into better rankings. But it doesn’t. It marginally increases the potential to have more pages ranking because you have a higher volume of pages in Google’s index. It doesn’t mean the content is of high quality.
Assuming this BC update is based on course correcting where Google is looking for more quality signals, it does not mean webmasters need more pages; it means they need to improve upon the pages that already exist.
Another trusted resource of the SEO community is Glenn Gabe. He has compiled two extensive blog posts detailing his data and the insights he is seeing thus far from this update. Here are a few of his highlights; clues to quality and relevance factors:
- March was a global update impacting domains across categories and countries.
- The impact was site-wide rather than at the page level.
- “In January of 2016, we found out that Panda became part of Google’s core ranking algorithm… Panda seemed to focus more on relevance rather than hammering sites that were low-quality.”
- The March and April updates were big. Relevance AND quality stood out.
- Make fixes and don’t roll them back. “Google’s John Mueller has explained several times that Google wants to see significant improvement over the long-term.”
Simply put, Relevance and Quality are the keys to these broad updates happening throughout this year. It’s very possible these two factors will continue to be at the forefront of future BC updates.
What should we do?
First things first 😉
Now that we know there’s no quick fix (hint: there never really is). Marketers & SEO’s alike should “focus on building great content.” Here’s my caveat: remain focused on building great content by improving upon what you have and provide a great website experience for users and bots that’s technically sound. If we do that, we’ll weather the upcoming iterations of Google’s broad core algorithm updates.
Reversals in organic traffic can happen (meaning your traffic dips for a time then comes back up) but webmasters should not simply wait around and do nothing. This is an opportunity to improve the elements on our web domain that are within our control. Here are the top recommendations and action steps I compiled from Gabe and Haynes:
- Improve your website: add useful & helpful content, address any technical SEO issues, improve the user experience, cut down on pop-up ads and boxes “join-our-newsletter requests” that obstruct the visitor from seeing your content.
- Don’t revert changes – Keep the fixes in place for at least several months.
- Analyze queries and content that lost rankings – Check the queries the page was ranking for, evaluate the on-page content with an objective eye to see if the page is relevant to the search intent.
- Perform real user testing – Invest in asking a handful of people to navigate your site with a goal in mind. Have them narrate the experience, record it, and make changes based on the findings. A fresh pair of eyes can help you see where to make improvements.
- Read the QRT – Quality Rater Guidelines and have working review sections with your team. You can download the PDF of the general guidelines updated in July.
- Use the GSC Index Coverage Report – This is a newer section of Search Console that helps webmasters understand which pages Google is indexing and which pages it’s not. Gabe recommends keeping a close eye on the “Excluded,” reporting. That’s where you can often find serious problems. It contains pages that Google has crawled, but decided NOT to index for some reason.
- GSC Location: Status>>Index Coverage>>Excluded
Continue to monitor rankings for organic search traffic (especially on mobile!) from mid July through mid August since the update is still presumed to be rolling out this week.
Could your content and website use help identifying technical SEO improvements and specific quality and content areas to address? I can help.
This post represents my personal and professional opinion, not those of my employer.