Any volatility in search results sets off tremors in the search marketing community, for it usually signals a change in the Google algorithm. There have been many significant updates as Google continues to search for how to deliver the best set of results to its users.
The most recent shift has been dubbed “Valentine’s Day Update.” Many of its predecessors were named Panda, Penguin, Pigeon or, more prosaically, Medic and Fred. Each targets a specific search problem — bad links, duplicate/thin content, aggressive monetization, etc.
A major algorithm change does not roll out across the worldwide search landscape all at once. It may take days or even weeks. Sometimes, webmasters will detect changes before Google acknowledges that an update is occurring or has already occurred. The big question to me has always been: How much attention should I pay to these updates and how should I respond?
Why Google Updates Matter?
Search technology and artificial learning have entered a new age. With the heavy computing power available today, the entire site is used in the ranking algorithm.
Unless an SEO watches the changes and the discussions of what is the intent of each major algorithm change, it is easy to miss how the search ranking process is changing. For those who want to stay well-informed about the future and are of a technical bent, it also pays to read the expert analysis and discussions about recent patents granted to Google. The patents often portend what is in the more distant future.
In short, even if your site is not impacted by a change, it is important to pay attention to what the updates are targeting.
How to Respond to an Algorithm Update?
When an update occurs, it is like a storm has rolled through the search results. Rankings may appear to lurch, as though buffeted by winds as major algorithmic changes spread through the system.
The big storm is usually followed by a period of instability, as the engineers do additional minor tuning of the algorithm.
Once the storm has passed, there is usually a readjustment, as quality sites return to their more accustomed positions. The process winnows out those that are less worthy.
Here is where it gets tricky. If you have a solid site, built and optimized in accordance with best practices, you have little to fear from an update. By monitoring your site’s performance in the Search Console, staying abreast of recommended enhancements, you place yourself out of peril. The real danger is negligence of what is today’s best practice and looking for the easy way to the top rankings. With solid SEO in place, the storm can rage around you. Let the storm pass. Wait 10 to 15 days before making any changes to your SEO tactics. By then, it will be easier to see what the intent of the change was.
If your results don’t return to previous levels in a week or so and your site has in fact been penalized in an update, corrective action taken too soon may actually make the situation more confused.
Once the storm created by the update has passed, then, you should make adjustments, corrections and improvements. Algorithmic updates, while inconvenient, usually improve the search user’s experience and provide SEOs solid guidance.