After a Google Algorithm Update: The First Steps for Success

Ruthie Careyby Ruthie Carey

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Google is constantly updating its algorithm. Therefore, understanding what to do after a Google algorithm update is a critical skill for marketers and SEOs to possess.

Given that these updates can often affect a company’s page rankings, learning how to adjust after a Google algorithm update is a quintessential component to long-term online success.

The reason that this point must be emphasized is that Google releases alterations to its algorithm daily. While some tweaks are more profound than others, the reality is that the company’s algorithm is never stagnant or fixed.

Algorithm updates of the more extensive variety are called broad core algorithm updates. These tend to result in immediately noticeable effects for sites across the world. Moreover, these types of alterations usually don’t target one specific thing, so it is often necessary to conduct a deep analysis to figure out what changes have occurred and how to adjust after the Google algorithm update.

Complicating matters further, Google typically does not announce the release of an update. It is only recently that the search giant alerted site owners to upcoming changes, such as that with the Core Web Vitals update, which combines various search signals to give rise to Google’s new Page Experience signal.

That said, this instance is a bit of a rarity as algorithm updates are usually dropped on site owners unexpectedly.

Therefore, because of the frequency and often undisclosed nature of algorithm alteration, understanding what to do after a Google algorithm update should be a core component of an SEO’s portfolio of tactics.

To help ensure that marketers and retailers do have a strategy for when updates will inevitably take place, today, we will detail precisely how to adjust after a Google algorithm update, as well as how to mitigate potential damages before they occur.

With that said, let’s begin by exploring what algorithm updates are and the implications they hold for retailers.

What Are Google Algorithm Updates?

A Google algorithm update simply means that the company has modified its search algorithm to weight signals differently, thereby producing changes to how results are calculated and ranked.

Again, Google is constantly updating its search algorithm. While these are usually minor tweaks that generally go unnoticed, more significant updates or those that target a specific issue have been known to wreak havoc in the SERPs, thus causing substantial gains or losses for websites in terms of rankings and traffic.

For instance, when looking at the history of the most important Google algorithm updates, some of the impactful alterations Google has made include the likes of:

  • Panda
  • Penguin
  • RankBrain

All of these major updates are now a part of the company’s core algorithm, evolving into essential features of the search engine.

Often, there is a specific reason for an update, meaning that there are clear steps sellers can take to figure out how to adjust after a Google algorithm update.

However, as mentioned previously, broad core algorithm updates are not so specific in what they are targeting. However, the result tends to have a massive impact on search performance.

Broad core updates can be quite frustrating for marketers, as they usually are accompanied by little to no explanation. In many cases, Google has just decided to change what is considered user-friendly or relevant to searches.

As a result, there isn’t much in the way of specific actions that can be taken to remedy or fix ranking dips that sites might experience.

That said, when an algorithm update does occur–no matter if it is a broad core update or something smaller–there are a series of steps that sellers must take to mitigate any potential damages and adjust their eCommerce SEO tactics.

What to Do After a Google Algorithm Update

When it comes to figuring out how to adjust after a Google algorithm update, it is important to understand that while the process is not rocket science, it will require some time, patience and energy to complete.

That said, after an impactful Google algorithm update occurs, here is what sellers need to do:

1. Don’t Panic

As Visiture CMO and Co-founder Ron Dod astutely points out when discussing what to watch out for after a Google algorithm update:

In the rare instance when Google issues a warning about an impending algorithm update, webmasters the world over are sent into a panic.”

As covered earlier, updates take place all the time. It is likely that marketers will see another one come their way in another few months. If website owners and SEOs freak out every time an update rolls out, they are going to spend the majority of their time managing their emotions.

Moreover, it is essential to understand that scores of SEOs and marketing thought leaders would want to immediately begin pontificating to the masses based on limited details and data, pinpointing the reasoning behind the volatility in the SERPs.

Here’s the thing: It is fine (and even advisable) to seek out information about what is happening. But it is essential to take such proclamations with a grain of salt and not buy into panic-inducing content.

Updates typically take weeks to be fully realized in their impact, and trying to draw immediate conclusions about the full impact is likely to result in inaccurate assessments.

Therefore, the first thing in figuring out what to do after a google algorithm update is to keep calm, take initial statements with a grain of salt and analyze the impact on the site with a cool and level head.

2. Ensure Google Analytics Is Working Properly

Before digging too deep into anything, it is necessary to understand that a Google algorithm update may not be the actual cause of a drop in site traffic.

Truth be told, there are a lot of common misconceptions about Google Analytics, one of which is that the tool is always accurate. Therefore, it is a good idea first to ensure that Google Analytics is working correctly.

When taking this step, retailers will want to verify that:

  • Google Analytics tracking code is correctly implemented: Make sure that Analytics tracking code has been added to each page of the site and that there are no typos or extra spaces as a small error could result in incorrect data reporting.
  • Data from Google site tags are present: Verify that the code formatting for the site’s Global Site Tag or GTM tracking code has been correctly pasted onto the site’s pages with no errors.
  • On-page scripts do not conflict with Google Analytics code: Ensure that there are no scripts that conflict or disagree with GA tracking code or site tags.
  • Data is filtered correctly: The order of include and exclude filters matter, so it is necessary to check these if traffic for the site has fallen.

If there is something wrong with the site’s Google Analytics setup, retailers should aim to remedy this before doing anything else.

3. Check with Reputable Sources

As soon as the news of a Google algorithm update breaks, thousands of bloggers are going to be posting about the change. However, not all news sources are trustworthy.

This is part of what we were talking about earlier with maintaining one’s cool and taking initial reports with a grain of salt.

While these folks likely don’t have nefarious intentions, there is a good chance that they are misinformed.

So, when figuring out how to adjust after a Google algorithm update, it is vital to check with reputable sources that can help to clue marketers in to what is happening, without any hype attached.

Some great sources that merchants will want to reference include:

Obviously, this list does not include a variety of other reputable industry news outlets and blogs that are worthy of consideration. Nonetheless, the point here is to reference some of these authoritative industry news sources to start gaining an understanding of what the algorithm update did, who is being impacted and how.

From there, sellers can start getting a better idea of how to adjust after the Google algorithm update.

4. Review Website Metrics

As touched upon earlier, algorithm updates tend to take a week or two to be rolled out fully. However, sellers can start reviewing and monitoring their data as soon as they hear about the alteration.

However, do be aware that the data merchants see at the beginning is subject to change and could see dramatic shifts over the coming days, weeks and months ahead.

To determine how the algorithm update has impacted the site, there are several key metrics that retailers will want to monitor for changes. Those metrics include:

Organic Impressions and Clicks

Using Google Search Console in the Search results section, sellers can review the number of impressions and clicks their site received, as well as the average click-through rate and site position. Sellers can also isolate specific keywords or pages to get a more refined view of the potential impact.

If the site has been affected by the algorithm update, it is likely to be reflected in the number of impressions the site receives, which could translate to a fluctuation in clicks.

Target Keyword Positioning

A site’s most important pages are likely targeting specific keywords for which the retailer wants to rank. These destinations are critical to protect when a Google algorithm update takes place.

To establish if these pages have been impacted, check to see if they have lost ground in the SERPs. A page that has fallen in position is likely to have fewer impressions, clicks and conversions. To assess this information, it is recommended to utilize strategic SEO tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs and similar platforms.

If specific pages have begun to fluctuate, take note of this but do not start panicking. Continue to monitor and analyze the situation to see if those changes stick.

While it may be wise to make some changes to those pages based on the algorithm update’s targeting, that decision does not need to be made at this point.

Untargeted Keyword Variations

While sellers might not be targeting them specifically, keyword variants are great for SEO. These are words for which retailers rank but only because they are closely related to the target keyword.

Given that these are an important part of a merchant’s keyword profile, it is wise to monitor changes to these phrases as well. There are a panoply of different tools that sellers can use for this, so using the company’s favorite keyword tracking tool will be just fine.

Site Traffic and Conversions

Finally, using Google Analytics, take a look at the actual site traffic. If there were any changes shown in Google Search Console earlier, they would likely be reflected here as well.

By utilizing Google Analytics, retailers can establish if their organic traffic patterns have changed for their site, or even email or PPC campaigns, which are not impacted by Google algorithm updates. Moreover, if the brand has set up goals or events through Analytics, sellers will be able to see if there have been any changes to on-site conversions since the update.

Based on what retailers find here, they can begin to assess the true impact of the update for the brand.

5. Analyze Content that Has Fallen in Ranking

Once sellers have figured out which pages are struggling as a result of the update, it is time to establish the exact cause. While it is easy to instantly attribute the fall in position or traffic is due to the update, there is a chance that it is merely a coincidence.

After all, correlation does not equal causation.

Additionally, if retailers did see a fall on any of their pages, it is because Google thought that a different page from an alternative site would suit the search better.

What this means is that room for improvement exists. The question is, where exactly is that opportunity? To answer the question, sellers will want to evaluate their content through the lens of the following criteria:

Quality

Google is partial to using original research and content on its first page. Therefore, retailers should reevaluate their content to determine that primary sources are being used, data is being attributed correctly and that critical on-site elements like headlines, titles, sub-headers and the like are all supportive of the topic at hand.

Expertise

Expertise is an essential component of Google’s E-A-T guidelines.

Naturally, it is important for brands to share information that relates to their business. Moreover, sharing original insights from experts or through unique research (as mentioned above) can be highly beneficial.

Through the data presented and the quality of content produced, it should be apparent to visitors that the materials are trustworthy and valuable.

Presentation

Much like with a plate of food at a restaurant, a website’s presentation matters to people. The fact is that consumers are not going to waste their time on content that is riddled with spelling errors, features broken links or is just an impenetrable wall of text. As a result, content is likely to perform poorly.

Similarly, if the site is slow, has disruptive ads or similar components that hinder the user experience, this could also impact performance negatively.

Comparative

When looking at the target keyword, take a look if the content fits in well with the other SERP results. For instance, if merchants are utilizing a transactional landing page to target an informational keyword that generally serves up blogs, then it is possible that sellers will want to alter their approach.

Moreover, it is vital to ensure that retailers are creating content that fills an information gap for the audience.

Backlink Profiles

Earning SEO backlinks is a critical component to success in the SERPs. Backlinks essentially serve as a vote of confidence from another site.

However, if sellers have a bunch of low-quality, spammy or otherwise irrelevant backlinks, it could harm their performance. Moreover, if a Google algorithm update rolls out targeting the quality of backlinks, this could tank a site’s rankings.

Therefore, when figuring out how to adjust after a Google algorithm update, it is wise to conduct a backlink audit to determine if there are sites linking to a company’s pages that are dragging down performance.

Retailers can uncover and analyze their backlinks with tools like Ahrefs, Moz, SEMrush or Screaming Frog.

On-Page Elements

Behavioral signals play a major part in today’s website rankings. This is especially true with the implementation of Core Web Vitals.

If a site displays negative behavioral signals such as high bounce rates, it could mean that something on the page isn’t working or is unappealing to visitors. Therefore, when figuring out what to do after a Google algorithm update, merchants should closely inspect and optimize on-page elements such as signup forms, links, videos, and similar components that could impact the user experience.

6. Check Out the Competition

Conducting competitive research is always an important part of building an SEO strategy. The same holds true for figuring out how to adjust after a Google algorithm update.

If competitors have gained traffic after an update, it is advisable to take a look at their product page, blog content, user interface, important landing pages, and other destinations that might have seen, or helped to produce, a boost.

By doing this, merchants might uncover some fundamental differences in their site and that of their rivals, thereby helping to discover tactics that will allow sellers to adjust their SEO strategies successfully.

The fact is that if retailers can see that something is working well for their direct competitors, there is an excellent chance that it will work well for them, too.

Therefore, retailers will want to:

  • Determine if competitors are running paid search campaigns and establish which keywords are being targeted. Through this task, retailers can potentially uncover low CPC keywords that successfully drive quality traffic and then begin targeting those terms in the brand’s SEO strategy.
  • Analyze the competition’s organic search traffic and the queries that lead consumers to their site.
  • Read the latest content offerings from rivals. If competitors are adept at SEO (which they likely are), they are probably writing content that consumers are interested in reading. Figure out their best performing pieces and look for ways to immolate or top those blogs.
  • Evaluate competitors’ on-site navigation schemes. Look at the categories, keywords, and articles that are placed in this real estate to uncover important terms, phrases, and topics to target.
  • Take a look at rival meta descriptions. Determine if these are more compelling than that of the merchant’s site as this could contribute to a greater number of clicks.

7. Adjust for SEO Improvements

At this point, retailers should be well-aware of which pages have been negatively impacted by a Google algorithm update, what type of attention is required and some strategies that are likely to improve performance.

It is at this stage that retailers will want to combine all of this knowledge to make SEO-focused adjustments to their site.

However, before diving in, it is important that merchants double-check to see if Google has released any sort of guidance or suggestions on how to react to the update. If they have, then it is wise to prioritize those tasks.

That said, if the company has not said anything about how to adjust after the Google algorithm update, then proceed using the information that has been collected and begin implementing strategies that are likely to optimize pages under the new paradigm.

Moreover, while this is an excellent outline of what to do after a Google algorithm update, retailers should also consider implementing tactics that could help to prevent or minimize the damage done by such an alteration.

How to Prepare for Inevitable Google Algorithm Updates

As was mentioned earlier in this piece, Google is constantly updating its algorithm. Therefore, retailers should not be locked into a constant reactionary paradigm.

Instead, it is critical to build a solid and authoritative online experience to help mitigate the negative ramifications of periodic Google updates.

Sellers can achieve this aim by:

Building a Strong Foundation

Before even considering things like optimizing content for SEO, it is necessary first to ensure that the website has a solid structure and is optimized for usability.

In short, website usability means that the site is fast, secure, responsive and easy to navigate. Therefore, it is crucial for retailers to consider their website taxonomy to ensure that users can easily find the information or products they are seeking.

The best way to verify and improve a site’s usability is to conduct a technical SEO audit to ensure that the site’s structure is intuitive, pages are mobile-friendly and fast, there are no duplicate content issues and the like.

Having a solid foundation is a critical first step in preparing a website for weathering the storms sometimes brought about by Google algorithm updates.

Providing Knowledge and Value

The next thing that sellers will want to focus on is providing value to the end-user by posting top-tier content that targets user intent.

The fact of the matter is that search engines have become increasingly intelligent and sophisticated over the years, evolving to better understand natural language patterns. Google’s BERT algorithm change was the major latest update targeting natural language processing.

Given that search engines have become quite adept at understanding what users actually want from their search queries, it is vital for sellers to optimize content less for keywords and more for intent.

Be aware that this does not mean that keywords are unimportant.

As far as the length of content is concerned, blogs don’t have to be extremely long. What is more important is that accurate, valuable information is being preached.

That said, a plethora of studies have shown that blogs over 2,000 words tend to perform better. The reasons for this are that longer pieces provide more in-depth knowledge on a topic, Google has more information to base its understanding of the content on, more keywords are likely to be included in lengthier pieces and the like.

The bottom line here is that content should aim to serve the interest and end goal of the visitor and provide those folks with a comprehensive overview of the topic at hand.

If retailers target these two aims, their content is likely to perform much better, and they will find themselves in less of a dire position trying to figure out how to adjust after a Google algorithm update.

Demonstrating Expertise

As mentioned earlier, expertise is a vital component of Google’s E-A-T guidelines. Therefore, it is critical for sellers to demonstrate their authority on the topic of discussion.

One way to achieve this and make content work harder in terms of SEO performance is to develop content clusters. Content or topic clusters aim to cover a subject from multiple angles using a variety of blogs. Retailers can then link them to each other as a means of driving traffic between the pages and showing Google that the pieces are relevant to one another.

At the same time, it is critical for retailers to include bylines for the individual who wrote the piece, as this shows Google that the article was written by an expert or industry professional. The fact is that when a blog is published by a C-Suite executive of the company, it looks much better to search engines than if the piece were written by an intern.

When sellers create content that is engaging, valuable, intent-oriented and written by an authoritative expert, sites are more likely to earn beneficial backlinks.

This leads us to our next point.

Earning Authoritative Backlinks

While getting rid of toxic, low-quality backlinks is an essential task, it is also critical (as discussed earlier) to build a robust backlink profile composed of authoritative sources.

As it stands, one of the more likely reasons for a site to sink in the SERPs is having insufficient domain authority, which is partially caused by a lack of high-quality backlinks.

Therefore, aiming to build better backlinks from authoritative sites that are in the same (or related) niche and have a high domain authority is a critical task.

The truth is that how to adjust after a Google algorithm update implies that a site has likely been negatively impacted by the update. However, if merchants are focused on raising their domain authority through quality backlinks (which were probably earned through quality content), there will be far fewer adjustments to be made.

To proactively build backlinks, sellers can:

  • Put out press releases and reach out to industry journalists in an attempt to gain exposure
  • Co-market with other blogs, swapping pieces to benefit both parties
  • Promote original research
  • Share content widely across social media
  • Make content more shareable with tweetable quotes, infographics, charts, interesting stats and similar types of highly consumable, bite-sized bits of data

Retailers can also see where their top competitors are getting their links from and aim also to earn a backlink from those destinations. This can be achieved through SEO tools like Ahrefs.

However, when going for this approach, it is likely beneficial for sellers to hire an SEO agency.

Hiring an SEO Agency

When figuring out what to do after a Google algorithm update or even when establishing strategies that will make the next update less impactful, the absolute best thing merchants can do is hire an SEO agency.

A qualified SEO agency can help retailers with all of the aforementioned tasks to build a solid website or recover from an algorithm update. No matter if we are talking sourcing quality backlinks, conducting competitive research, developing top-tier content, hunting down quality keywords or any other essential SEO task, an agency specializes in these things and is, therefore, going to be an incredibly valuable resource.

However, there is a caveat mentioned in that last paragraph: The agency must be qualified. The reality is that there are tons of unqualified SEO agencies out there that will promise the moon and stars, only to deliver broken promises and (potentially) less visibility in the SERPs.

Therefore, it is crucial that sellers understand what questions to ask when hiring an SEO agency to help separate the wheat from the chaff.

That said, assuming that merchants partner with a skilled agency, those SEO professionals can help to ensure that the site is built upon a solid enough foundation to minimize the potential damages brought about by a Google algorithm update.

Final Thoughts

Google has become increasingly sophisticated since its inception. The driving force behind its progress is constant algorithm updates. Thanks to these continuous changes, search engines have become a critical resource for companies and consumers.

However, those same updates can cause massive heartaches from brands that are not well-prepared for such alterations. There have been countless companies that have been forced to fold due to significant algorithm updates.

Therefore, it is not only vital to understand what to do after a Google algorithm update but how to mitigate losses in search visibility in the first place. While achieving these aims is not rocket science, it does require a fair bit of knowledge, expertise, time, energy and resources to accomplish.

If your brand would rather focus on doing what it does best than on optimizing on-site technical components and earning authoritative backlinks, then reach out to Visiture’s eCommerce SEO experts.

Our team of seasoned SEO professionals can help your company develop a tailored roadmap to ranking well in the SERPs, built upon a foundation that is sure to weather difficult algorithm updates.

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