How to Survive (and Thrive) Google Updates: A Step-by-Step Guide

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You don’t have to be an SEO wizard or even a seasoned in-house marketer to understand that Google has grown exponentially since its launch in 1998.

With each new core update at Google Search, the world’s best search engine keeps getting more intelligent, making solid SEO knowledge ever more critical for digital-age businesses serious about ranking well.

That’s one thing to know about the reality of digital life: Google Search updates are frequent. But here’s the empowering part: by understanding them well enough, you can acclimate to the new ones like a champ. Now, let’s delve into what you need to know to stay ahead of the game.

Key Takeaways

  • March 2024 Core Update: Besides the tweaks the new update to the ranking algorithms makes, Google is working hard to remove low-quality content from search results. Google says low-quality content includes purchasing and repurposing expired domains and unoriginal content (including AI-generated content).
  • May 2024 AI Overviews Launch in the US: Google’s one of the most controversial updates, greatly disturbing publishers.
  • Quality content: Double down on your quality content creation. Make it add double value for users and make it trustworthy. It is always the most future-proof SEO strategy. 
  • Keep learning: It’s a good idea to reserve some time periodically to read Google’s Search Essentials and updates so you stay informed about the latest ranking signals and possible penalties.
  • Be sure to emphasize E-E-A-T: Demonstrating Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness within the content on your website is increasingly important for long-term visibility and influence.

Guide to Understanding Google Algorithm Updates

Google Algorithm Updates refer to shifts in the ranking algorithms that Google employs to index and position websites in the SERPs, or Search Engine Results Pages.

The algorithms are developed in an updatable manner, which should improve the quality of search results so that users can quickly find the information and content most relevant to them.  

Importance of Google Algorithm Updates

Google Algorithm Updates are crucial in shaping the SEO strategies businesses, and individuals should adopt. These updates significantly influence how websites are displayed and ranked by search engines.

Understanding and adapting to these updates is key to online visibility and success.

One practical strategy is to regularly monitor your website’s performance and rankings after each update. This will help you identify any potential issues and make necessary adjustments to your SEO strategy. 

That’s why entrepreneurs and businesses should be responsible for knowing about these updates and adjusting their strategies to maintain and improve their search engine ranking positions.

Failing to adapt to these updates can result in a significant drop in search engine rankings, which can negatively impact your website’s visibility and traffic.

Notable Algorithm Updates

Over the years, Google has rolled out several algorithm updates that have shaken how websites are positioned in search results and changed the SEO landscape. The list comprises Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon, and BERT.

Each update aims to refine the quality of search results by eradicating spam and ensuring a great user experience. For example, Panda was to bring down the sites laden with low-quality, “thin” content, and Penguin was looking to penalize sites with spammy links. 

Responding to Core Updates

Thousands of bloggers and content creators have been negatively impacted by the recent Core update in March, with many websites experiencing ranking drops. We’ll discuss ways to improve, recover, and thrive from this update.

Google Algorithm Updates in Detail

Google Algorithm Updates can be broadly categorized into three types, each with its own impact and significance. Understanding these types is critical to comprehending the dynamics of SEO strategies.

Major Updates

Major updates may serve some purpose, sometimes even getting their micro-algorithm. They have fun names like “Panda” or “Penguin” and address specific concerns, such as duplicate content or link spam. 

In most cases, Google notifies site owners that a change will happen with sufficient time to update the site via Google Search Console notifications and emails. However, only one or two of these updates occur yearly, which is rare.

Broad Core Updates

Major updates result from specific problems and include changes in micro-algorithms. In contrast, broad core updates are often broader and imply a shift in Google’s main algorithm. 

This latter one is more significant than changes in the micro-algorithms, but in most cases, a broad core update means nothing more than Google having reassigned the importance of some ranking factors.

For example, they may determine that page load speed and link quality should be more important than content word count. Broad core updates typically happen three to four times a year. 

Small Updates

Minor updates occur almost daily and are never noticed. There are thousands of these per year, the majority of which are minor tweaks to micro-algorithms designed to improve the relevancy of the search results.

How to Recover from Google’s Core March 2024 Update

If you have felt the sting we’ve all felt during the 2024 update, don’t panic. We’ve all experienced the 2022 and 2023 updates and made it alive; now, we’ll do the same. Remember, recovery is possible.

Start by researching, focusing on the quality and relevance of the content on your site. Make sure to run an SEO audit to help you identify your page level and new relevant keywords. Be ready for some bold changes.

The SEO Tactics that Google Specifically Targets in March 2024 Core Update

The recurring theme is a message directly from Google: Favoring scalable, low-quality AI content over real value is a recipe for trouble.

The latter dovetails strongly with the core update’s focus on rewarding Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).

While AI tools have their uses, the recent deindexing wave points out a few significant issues that are leading to Google penalties.

For instance, when AI content is produced on a large scale to mass-generate low-quality pages, that aligns with the spam tactics Google is currently warring against. This underscores the importance of using AI responsibly in your content creation strategy.

Spam and Scaled Content Abuse

When AI content is produced on a large scale to mass-generate low-quality pages, that aligns with the spam tactics Google is currently warring against. Too often, this is paired with manipulative techniques, like parasite SEO.

Expired Domain Abuse

SEOs have used this strategy for years to use the backlink power of expired domains.

Google is now on track to fight expired domain abuse head-on, particularly spammy domains with a terrible history.

Low on E-E-A-T

Most AI content struggles with demonstrating without being overtly spammy. Those are now signals where Google’s algorithms seem to be throwing everything.

Repetitive Content

AI can churn out vast swaths of text, but this will likely end up generic, lacking unique insight or analysis that adds value and helps readers. 

Spammy Techniques Crackdown

It is also crucial to mention that the March 2024 update does not only affect AI content. However, Google has raised the bar concerning its takedown of scale content abuse using AI.

According to a report by Niche Site Metrics, 837 out of 49,345 websites were deindexed by Google during the March 2024 core update, representing roughly 1.7% of the sites in the database. The deindexation had a major impact, leading to a loss of over 20,756,785 monthly organic traffic visits and an estimated $446,552 per month in lost display ad revenue.

As explained below, the mass deindexation happened due to spammy, AI-generated content and tactics.

Here’s a rundown of these tactics you should stay away from.

Expired Domain Abuse

In general, Expired Domain abuse involves buying up expired domains with pre-existing backlinks to artificially increase your site’s authority.

Google can quickly figure that out. It pays to know the history of the expired domain. If it was spammy or penalized in the past, backlink profiles could be worthless or, worse, harmful.

If the domain’s main topic significantly differed from the new site on the same domain, the links would be irrelevant and unlikely to have a positive impact.

This is precisely the kind of ‘shortcut’ mentality that Google’s March 2024 update is actively combating. While shortcuts may help boost site traffic temporarily, the long-term impact on your site’s reputation and visibility could be utterly disastrous.

Parasitic SEO Techniques

Parasite SEO involves using third-party authority websites to host poor-quality content with a link back to the leading money site.

Google’s algorithms are getting more sophisticated and can detect thin, spammy content even from reputable sites. Such content can damage the reputation of your site.

You also have no say in the way the host platform works, which may change its rules or delete your content at will.

After the March Core Update, I noticed strict precautions to prevent spam on famous parasite SEO platforms like Reddit, Medium, and Quora.

Surviving a Google Algorithm Update: Best Practices

A good SEO strategy is your first defense against Google’s frequent algorithm changes. By following best practices and adapting to changes in the search landscape, your website performs well and remains visible.

Follow these steps on SEO best practices and add them to your strategy:

Prepare for Google Updates

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Almost every update Google releases aims to make it easier for searchers to find the most helpful content for their query. Creating new content that emphasizes helping users increases your chances of being rewarded by algorithm updates with increased search visibility.

Make sure to do two things to stay ahead of algorithm updates:

  1. Subscribe to Semrush Sensor notifications to be among the first to learn about any new changes.
  2. Set up rank tracking with Semrush’s Position Tracking to quickly see which pages have gained and lost keyword rankings with future updates.

Focus on User Experience

Nowadays, the success of any website is majorly based on its optimization for user experience since search engines measure and reward sites that give users a seamless browsing experience.

Optimize your site for navigation, page load times, mobile friendliness, and usability to display a user-centered site that outperforms and engages the competition.

Helpful Content Update: Optimize with Quality Content

Quality, relevant, and valuable content continues to be one of the most important variables for SEO success. Create compelling, informative site content that answers user questions, adds value to your target audience, and demonstrates your authority in your niche.

A good content strategy will help you stay ahead of algorithm changes that value different aspects of content quality or presentation.

Emphasize Technical SEO for Optimization

In a nutshell, Technical SEO means following best practices in site structure, speed, security, and indexability so that search engines are comfortable crawling, understanding, and ranking your content.

Monitor your website periodically for technical SEO issues and apply necessary fixes to ensure it performs well and is stable.

Therefore, following these best practices in your SEO strategy will put your website in a well-suited position to ride out the changes of the Google algorithm and continue performing in search engines in any environment.

So long as relevant backlinks remain an important ranking factor within Google’s algorithm, building a solid link profile is one of the best methods of future-proofing your website.

Invest your time in getting quality, authoritative backlinks through outreach, guest posting, and content marketing. A strong and diverse link profile can cushion your site from potential adverse impacts an algorithmic update may have on link value or assessment.

Staying Ahead: Post-Update Strategies and Monitoring

Here are the necessary actions to take after the full rollout of a Google update:

Don’t Panic

Take a deep breath. Panic makes people come up with terrible ideas, and Google updates are no exception. Make major changes to content only when you are sure what improvements are needed.

Immediately following an update, you likely will need more information to decide which content or signals Google has given a higher priority. Just leave your content as it is right now, then risk causing more damage to your site in the long run.

Do a Content Audit

After Google has completed and confirmed the algorithm update rollout, it is time to find out if you have been impacted by the update. You must deeply examine your content and run a full content audit.

Look at your affected pages and try to understand “why” based on what you know about the Google update.

Once you realize how your content is stacking up, what’s causing the traffic drop, and the update’s goal, you can decide on the proper content optimizations.

Some content will be outdated or thin, and you can cut this, but in others, some good content can be saved and optimized to drive bigger traffic. But don’t just rush in.

You need to really examine your content carefully to determine what will be best for the site overall—whether it’s focusing more on important keywords, digital marketing, organic traffic, or whatever the case may be.

Adhere to the Best Google SEO Practices—Think E-E-A-T

Google’s content creation process revolves around an acronym that reads Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. 

In the middle of it all, Google’s best practices are mostly about the content itself and how that content can help your target audience.

However, the best approach is to follow Google’s guidelines since nobody knows everything that Google includes in its ranking factors.

Frequently Asked Questions to Stay on Top of Google Algorithm Updates

So, what are broad core algorithm updates, and how do they impact your search rankings?

Broad core algorithm updates are significant changes in the Google algorithm that help maintain relevance and authority. They can affect search rankings and user experience. Adapt by improving your content’s relevance, authoritativeness, and user experience.

If a site is demoted, will it have the opportunity to get its ranks back, at least afterward, within the Google index?

Your website might be given a chance to recover from a Google update in Google’s index even after its ranking drops—this can be done by implementing website recovery in relevance, authority, and user experience.

How can a website be more relevant and authoritative with constant algorithm changes? 

Focus on optimizing the website and driving relevance and authority through content marketing. Analyze data, identify opportunities for optimization, focus on user experience, and optimize content for user intent.

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