Google updates their search algorithm on the daily, but some cause a greater impact than others. Their algorithm has hundreds of factors and each factor is given an assigned weight. Some factors, like high-quality content and the number of backlinks carry more weight in the algorithm than for example, page speed and image alt text. There are different types of algorithms. For example, Google News runs off a separate algorithm than Google search.
Google continually refines their algorithms through data gathered on each and every search. That’s over 3.5 billion searches a day. Little tweaks are made at a constant pace, in real time. Larger tweaks may impact a broader group of site, these are what they call broad core updates. Google sometimes even pre-announces the updates they anticipate a higher number of impacted sites. This is especially common when the update will be focused on one specific area, like speed or responsive design.
Last year’s list of Google algorithm updates only listed those confirmed by Google. This year we’re covering any algorithm update, confirmed or (the larger) unconfirmed, broad core or singularly focused. Anything we feel would particularly help bloggers better understand their traffic trends. And for fun, throw in a worldwide pandemic, #stayathome orders, schools closing, businesses closing among other things that have completely changed the normal digital user behavior and website traffic predictions.
2020 Google algorithm updates
May 28 – Google announced a new algorithm coming in 2021. The new algorithm takes into account a user’s experience with a page. If the algorithm perceives a user’s interaction with a page as a poor experience, the page ranking will be lower. We know through the introduction to Core Web Vitals that page speed will be a big part of it. Mobile-friendliness is another part. Mobile-friendliness doesn’t just mean responsive, but also things like font size too small, buttons too close together, font too light, link formatting, etc.
April – Although no confirmed broad core algorithm update happened in April, many sites in our network experienced extreme turbulence. Search traffic dropped for multiple sites between April 20-24. SEO forums were loud with speculation but nothing was confirmed.
March 18 – The #stayathome order was officially released throughout much of the world. Trends were awry, with Pinterest traffic increasing 25% and Facebook traffic increasing by 40%. Topics that did especially well within the network were recipes, homeschool information and activities, a handful of TV shows, work from home tips and DIY projects.
March 1 – Google has pre-announced a Crawl & Indexing Update starting in March. This is the second of a two part update that began in late 2019. The first part of this was the news of several new link attribution options. Google has in the past, relied heavily on publishers using rel=”nofollow” to indicate links that have exist in sponsored content. Two new link tags are joining: rel=“sponsored” and rel=“ugc”. The sponsored one indicates the links that are part of advertising campaigns. UGC is for links that appear in user generated content. Medium posts come to mind, and also links that are added in comments or forums.
And the second part of this, starting in March is that Google will now look at rel=”nofollow” as a hint, or a suggestion vs. a true directive. This makes me think of sites that blanket nofollow all outbound links. They may choose to do this more for protection than because the outbound links don’t deserve a true link. Google may get that, and choose to lessen the weight of the nofollows for certain sites. I’m hoping our owned and operated properties like SheKnows.com, Soaps and StyleCaster see a boost from some additional links.
February 6 – Tons of industry noise around the 6th and the 7th, speculating another broad core update. Many that saw initial drops saw some reversal a few days later, thoughts are that Google may have been testing something major from Feb 6-11th.
“Some have asked if we had an update to Google Search last week. We did, actually several updates, just as we have several updates in any given week on a regular basis.” – Google Tweet
January 23 – Google announced a significant change to the first page organic search results. What had come to be known as “position zero”, or “bonus result”, this snippet was known to be generated from a first page result. Google would pull it to the top, while also leaving it in its original spot, commonly #1, 2 or 3. This would give that site double the potential CTR. Google is now de-duping the position zero result, removing the site chosen from the other first page position they were in. This change primarily impacted first page rankings.
January 13 – Earlier in the new year than expected, Google confirms a broad core algorithm update. If you’ve done recent tech improvements to your site, like improve the speed, clean up a bunch of old content or update your taxonomy, the next core update is the first you’d see any reward from those efforts. We walk many SHE Partners safely through these tech projects, and often they expect to see changes immediately. But that’s not how the search engine works, it takes time for Google to fully digest big changes.
Broad core updates can have a big impact on your site, positive or negative. We work hard to educate our partners on SEO best practices and preach the practice of valuing users above dollars. For long-term success in Google, you want to be putting in the daily effort of creating great content and a pleasant user experience.