About the Author

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Content Managerat| + posts

Sven Nossek is a Content Manager at UnitedAds, overseeing all aspects of content creation: from research and briefings to content plans and the final text. He has been involved with content management, SEO, content marketing, and artificial intelligence in marketing and content areas since 2019.

In addition to German, he speaks English, is learning Swedish, and knows a few words in Spanish. In his free time, he reads fantasy, science fiction, and historical novels, writes himself, cooks, and can be found at medieval markets where he combines his passion for history and archaeology with another hobby: brewing exquisite mead from regional ingredients.

Do you know that? Google announces a new Google Core Update, and you don’t know what it means for your website’s performance.

But your
SEO agency
remains emphatically calm, and you wonder why. Is this just for show? Are they really convinced of their work?

In this article, we explain what the core algorithm updates are all about. We show why agencies and freelancers (often) stay relaxed. And above all, we put you in a position to ask your agency the right questions so that you can have a say at eye level.

What is a Google Core Update?

The Google Core Update has been around for as long as Google has been around. These major algorithm updates used to have catchy names such as Panda, Hummingbird or Penguin and caused quite a stir in the SEO industry.

Suddenly, previously established methods were no longer effective – although we have to be honest here and say that many of the old SEO methods were simply not user-friendly and quality-oriented.

In 2018, Google abandoned the practice of sounding names and has since called the changes to the core algorithms Core Update, in combination with the month and year. For example, there is currently talk of the “March 2024 Core Update”.

It’s important to know that Google is constantly tweaking its algorithms – small updates happen several times a day. The core updates and other announced and named changes are therefore essential changes that can and should have a major impact.

What other updates are available?

  • Spam update: The spam update delivers what it promises and takes action against what Google calls SEO spam – i.e. primarily against websites that try to trick search engine rankings with bought links, keyword spam and other methods that are actually prohibited. Affected websites can suffer severe performance losses – up to and including complete de-indexing, although this mainly occurs in the context of manual measures. Google also likes to use the rollout of spam updates to increase the use of these manual measures.

  • Helpful Content Update: Helpful Content Updates are designed to ensure that content that is not useful for users no longer performs well. There were several of these updates until the beginning of 2024. As part of the March 2024 Core Update, Google has made helpful content part of the core algorithm, meaning that future core updates should always take helpful content into account.

  • Reviews Update: The Reviews Update serves to optimize the evaluation of websites by Google. After the first iterations, Google no longer officially announces these updates, but rolls them out with the other minor updates on the fly. The impact of these updates is hard to grasp, but my personal guess is that reviews updates are one of the triggers for the “unconfirmed Google updates” that keep causing a stir.

  • Product Review Update: Even if there is a risk of confusion with the Reviews Update due to the name, “Product Reviews” has a different purpose. This is about balancing the impact of product reviews on rankings. These can have a particularly strong impact on large websites that publish test reports. It is important to know that this does not refer to customer reviews in online stores, but to product tests and test reports.

How do core updates affect the performance of websites?

Depending on the update, there are different types of dips or boosts, whereby an update can also have different effects on different websites.

  • The abrupt change. In this form, the visibility, traffic or positioning in the SERP increases or decreases from one day to the next, often dramatically (sometimes 40% or more).

  • The continuous change. In this case, a (often also dramatic) slump or rise in the KPI can be observed, but this takes place over several days or weeks and is therefore gradual. This shift is particularly difficult to recognize on the first few days.

  • The global impact. This type of change affects the entire website.

  • The targeted impact. In this case, not the entire website is affected, but only individual subpages or directories.

Screenshot von Auswirkung eines Google Core Update auf die Impressionen einer Website

This screenshot clearly shows the effect of a Google Core Update on the visibility (impressions) of a website. The impressions dropped significantly in the days and weeks after the update (about 50%). This is an example of a continuous, page-wide impact.

Do I need to worry about the Core Update?

The simple answer to this question is: Not if your SEOs are doing their job well.

Of course, in reality it is usually not quite that simple. Even with good SEO, updates can cause problems. There are various reasons for this.

Sometimes Google makes mistakes with its updates. Not least because the algorithms are extremely complex, the Google Core Updates can have unintended effects. If this happens, there is usually a small, often unofficial bugfix update shortly after the actual update, which is intended to rectify the undesirable consequences. These problems often disappear after a short time and are an example of why rash countermeasures do not make sense.

Some updates introduce new evaluation criteria that were not previously important. Underestimating the importance of these new criteria will also lead to problems. It can also happen that an aspect of SEO work has not been prioritized so far, which is given new weight by a core update. And the often tight budget, lack of time, different priorities and other restrictions mean that not all best practices can always be implemented.

In all these cases, problems arise, which can often be solved by adapting the work to the new circumstances.

This does not mean that your agency, freelancer or in-house team has done a bad job! However, it is a good opportunity to reassess priorities and adapt the strategy in order to be better prepared for future updates.

My site is affected by the update – what can I do?

First of all: Don’t panic! Update consequences can usually be rectified with a little work and time. Above all, it is important to deal with the specific update in detail:

  • Which mechanics have been changed
  • What is the focus of the update
  • Which parts of my website are affected

The extent to which the affected pages do not meet the new or changed requirements must then be checked. Address the relevant aspects together with your SEO team.

However, Google itself also points out that after an update and the associated ranking losses, it can take several months for these to be compensated for. As soon as it is clear that a ranking loss is related to an update, you should initiate countermeasures together with your agency.

Why is my SEO agency not stressed by this?

This is mainly due to the fact that reputable agencies and freelancers are thoroughly familiar with the requirements and rules of Google, Bing & Co.

Sustainable SEOs do not try to find tricks to bypass or circumvent Google guidelines. Rather, it’s about following these guidelines and offering users a really good experience. As core updates are intended to help the algorithm to better implement this goal, SEOs who are already working towards this goal are often not stressed by Google core updates.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t follow what happens with excitement. It is always possible that an update has a different effect than expected.

Nevertheless, many SEOs are rather relaxed while the update is underway. A Google Core Update usually takes 4 weeks. No final assessment of the effects is possible until the closing. Only when the rollout has been completed and the effects can be clearly quantified will an appropriate countermeasure be introduced.

Asking the right questions

To ensure that communication between you and your SEO agency runs smoothly, it is helpful if you can ask the right questions. With the information we have given you so far about algorithm updates, you should already have a good basic idea of the topic.

If a core update is currently in progress, these questions are the right way to raise your concerns.

What does the latest Google Core Update include?

Most core updates have a clearly defined focus. This is not always communicated by Google, but can be easily seen from the effects during the update. For example, some updates are specifically aimed at YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) topics, i.e. topics that have to do with health or finances. Others relate specifically to individual sectors.

Ask specifically which sectors are affected and which SEO aspects are changing. This not only gives you a better understanding of the update itself, but also tells you which parts of your website need more work in the coming weeks.

Are we strongly affected by this?

While the update is still in progress, the answer in most cases will be: “We can ‘t say for sure yet.” Nevertheless, the question of whether you should expect traffic losses is important. We have already highlighted above that the impact is sometimes immediately visible.

By the end of an update at the latest, you will also receive a concrete assessment of the question.

How can we ensure that we are well prepared for such updates?

Of course, there is also a simple answer to this question – “We must adhere to SEO best practices and adhere to Google guidelines.”

But in most SEO projects, there are concrete approaches where improvements can still be made. At least the content quality can still be improved. Talk to your SEO support about this, then you will know exactly which areas still require resources.

There is also a spam update in progress, should I be worried?

Spam updates target websites that work with unfair methods – so-called black hat SEO. The operators of these websites know that they are violating the guidelines and are deliberately trying to generate revenue using these methods until they are penalized for it.

In connection with spam updates, there is also an increase in manual measures against such websites, which go as far as complete de-indexing.

Spam updates normally have no effect on legitimate websites.

Since the March 2024 Core Update, the topic of “helpful content” has also been part of the core algorithms, but problems can still occur due to poor content quality. However, these are not related to the spam update.

In other words, as long as you follow best practices and don’t violate Google’s quality guidelines, you don’t have to worry about spam updates. However, if your agency or SEO team works with such methods, there is a high risk of being penalized. However, in this case you should change your strategy anyway, as there can be no question of sustainable marketing with black hat methods.

Conclusion

Google Core Updates change the algorithms that form the core of Google search. Depending on exactly which functions are changed, such an update can have a stronger or weaker effect on the search results and on your website.

Basically, we can say that if you follow common SEO best practices and your SEO agency or freelancer does not use unfair methods, you will not be greatly affected by most updates. However, there is no absolute guarantee.

However, your SEO agency will be able to tell you exactly what measures you can take to mitigate the effects of an update and compensate for a possible loss of ranking.

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