Rebel Insights

FAQ: Everything You Need to Know About Google’s Core Updates

FAQ: Everything You Need to Know About Google’s Core Updates

We talk a lot about Google’s core updates at RebelMouse. These large algorithm changes can cause dramatic shifts in web traffic, which in turn has the potential to greatly impact the sites within our network. But as we anticipate these updates, and inform our clients about them, we felt it was important to define exactly what a core algorithm update is and why publishers of all kinds should monitor them closely.

What Is a Core Update?

A core update is a significant change to Google Search’s algorithm, aimed at improving the quality of search results and how websites are ranked. These updates are notoriously vague, and often leave website owners and SEO experts scrambling to figure out what kinds of pages Google is targeting with each update so that they can make changes accordingly. The only thing we do know for sure is that core updates evaluate web pages for factors that improve user experience, such as quality, relevance, and helpfulness.

Here’s a handy little metaphor on core updates from Google:

One way to think of how a core update operates is to imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2021. A few years later in 2024, you refresh the list. It's going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion. You might also reassess some films and realize they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before. The list will change, and films previously higher on the list that move down aren't bad. There are simply more deserving films that are coming before them.

Core updates happen periodically throughout the year. But note that core updates are holistic updates to Google Search’s entire algorithm, and they differ from other kinds of periodic updates from Google, like spam updates.

Why Should Website Owners Pay Attention to Core Updates?

By nature, Google’s core updates are designed to dramatically change search rankings and visibility. That means any website could be vulnerable to a drastic downturn in traffic as soon as a new core update is underway. If this happens, it means your site is hosting content that Google has determined is low quality, or even spam.

To protect your traffic alone is a good reason to stay on top of Google’s core updates. But here’s a list of the reasons why it’s especially important:

✔ ️Rankings and Traffic Changes: Like mentioned above, core updates from Google have the power to completely tank your rankings across search, which in turn tanks your web traffic. Staying on top of core updates allows you to monitor fluctuations in real time so that you can take the right steps to reverse any major dips to your site’s traffic.

Here’s an example of just how much traffic can be impacted by core updates. This is an SEO expert analyzing web volatility during Google’s March 2024 core update:

✔ Quality Guidelines: Just like Google’s algorithm is evolving, so are its guidelines on how the search engine defines quality content. Remember, every core update has the same mission — improving the quality of pages that make it to the top of search results. By paying attention to core updates, publishers can make sure they are complying with the latest regulations from Google to stay ahead of major changes.

✔ User Experience: Not to sound like a broken record, but core updates are all about improving user experience. If your site makes it a priority to stay on top of core updates, you will always be auditing your site for maximum usability. Making frequent improvements to your site’s user experience will only increase traffic and nurture user loyalty in the long run.

✔ Competitive Advantage: Most publishers and website owners have a lot on their plate, and staying on top of the latest SEO strategies isn’t usually the first priority. By understanding the factors that impact core updates, publishers can make smart changes to content, website structure, and SEO strategies to ensure they’re staying ahead of their competitors who may not be paying attention.

How Can I Prepare for Core Updates?

No surprise here. The best way you can prepare for a Google core update is by consistently delivering what Google calls helpful content. Helpful content is written solely to meet the needs of users and not to game or trick search engines. You can read more about what Google thinks is helpful content, including questions you can ask to assess your own content, here.

Google also has a set of principles called E-E-A-T that helps determine which content is most helpful. E-E-A-T stands for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. This means Google is always looking to promote content that shows authenticity, demonstrates expertise on a topic, has been created by experts, and is trusted by readers.

From Moz.

In addition to creating quality content, you can also perform technical SEO site audits to identify any additional issues that could be impacting your site’s indexing across search. This could include eliminating spammy backlinks, unorganized site structure, duplicate content, or bad schema makeup. Click here to learn more about technical SEO.

Maintaining a website with people-first content that’s also optimized for user experience isn’t a one-and-done job. A successful SEO strategy requires frequent tweaking to make sure that your site is always optimized for maximum crawlability. Use insights from your site’s data to proactively make changes to your content and website to stay ahead of core updates.

What’s the Best Way to Monitor Traffic After an Update?

Monitoring your site’s web traffic when a core update is both underway and completed is the most critical way to see how your site is performing against the new algorithm. This is the exact data that can also fuel key insights so that you can stay ahead of the next core update.

Here are some of the best ways to monitor traffic after a core update:

✔ Google Analytics: Use Google Analytics to track changes to overall traffic and search-generated traffic. Analyze sessions, pageviews, bounce rates, and average session durations to get an idea if any user behavior has changed since the update. You can also monitor user engagement metrics like time on page and scroll depth to get a better understanding around if your user journey has been impacted by the core update.

Google Search Console: Google Search Console monitors how your site appears in search results, and breaks down data by each keyword or set of keywords that your site is ranking for. Monitor any changes in impressions, clicks, CTR, and average positions of these keywords to see if your search traffic has been impacted by a core update.

✔ Keyword Ranking Tools: Keyword ranking tools like Semrush, Moz, and Ahrefs track the rankings of your desired keywords before and after core updates. Use these tools to see if you’ve gained or lost any visibility across your site’s top keywords.

✔ User Feedback: You can also monitor social media, reviews, or any general feedback directly from your site’s users to see if they’ve noticed any changes in your site’s visibility or performance.

Monitoring your site’s performance from those various channels should help you see if your traffic was negatively or positively impacted by a core update. Paying close attention to any changes in user behavior should help you get to the bottom of any low-quality pages that could be the culprit of your site’s traffic volatility.

Conquer Core Updates With RebelMouse

RebelMouse is an AI-enabled CMS that’s designed to anticipate Google’s core updates before they even happen. Our intuitive editorial tools set up content creators for success before each page is even published, and our deep understanding of technical SEO frequently puts the sites in our network at the top of Google’s search results.

Click here to read our timeline of Google’s latest updates this year. And if you’re interested in publishing on a platform that’s built to keep up with the rigorous and evolving standards of Google, let’s talk and figure out how we can grow and transform your business.

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