An algorithm update is changes to algorithms (mathematical processes) used by search engines, such as Google, to create relevant search results for users. Algorithm updates are often secret and are rolled out gradually over time to ensure any changes have the desired impact before they're announced publicly.
Watching algorithm updates closely can help website owners and marketers understand how changes to search engine processes will affect their website, and make appropriate changes to their search engine optimization strategy accordingly.
What Are the Different Types of Algorithm Updates?
Algorithm updates can refer to any changes made to search engine algorithms, but there are some specific updates that are closely watched by digital marketers and SEO professionals, with each update typically affecting website rankings and visibility in search engine results.
Google, the most prevalent search engine, will roll out significant algorithm changes from time-to-time and usually communicates the update in “broad terms”.
Google has given names to some of their most significant updates, such as:
Each of these updates had its own specific purpose, and we’ll go into more detail about them later.
SEO professionals also watch for industry-specific updates such as:
These industry-specific updates are used to target particular niches, such as eCommerce and healthcare, and may be triggered by changes in the marketplace or an increase in manipulative techniques.
In addition to major and industry-specific updates, there are also smaller changes called ‘refreshes’ that are made periodically to ensure that sites keep up with changes and remain competitive in search engine rankings. Refreshes may occur with no warning or notice, and can be difficult to spot – you might notice fluctuations in ranking or an increase in possible spam sites (which can be reported).
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Why Are Algorithm Updates Important?
Algorithm updates are important for SEO professionals, webmasters, and website owners as well as search engine users, as they affect how websites are ranked for particular search terms. Whilst some algorithm updates are designed to improve the search engine user experience, others are designed to address manipulation of the search engine processes by removing sites from the results altogether or excluding them from rankings for specific search terms.
What Are the General Guidelines and Best Practices?
Whilst SEO professionals, webmasters, and website owners cannot always control the conditions that trigger an algorithm update, there are some general guidelines and best practices that can help them measure how an update is affecting their site and make improvements to their website and content to ensure they remain competitive in rankings.
1. Keep on top of changes: As we’ve already mentioned, algorithm updates are often secret and are rolled out gradually over time. Keeping on top of changes and being aware of what’s happening in the industry can help digital marketers understand how changes to search engine processes may impact their site before the update is announced publicly.
2. Monitor website performance closely: Be sure to closely monitor changes in website-specific metrics like organic traffic and rankings. If you notice a decrease in performance, you may need to review and update your existing SEO strategy.
3. Optimize for user experience: User experience is an important factor for search engine algorithms. Make sure your site is optimized for mobile, loads quickly, and offers quality content.
4. Stay up-to-date: As well as keeping up-to-date with search engine changes, make sure all sites are in line with the latest best practices and guidelines outlined by search engines.
5. Review content frequently: Regularly review website content to ensure it is still relevant, up-to-date, and in line with the latest search engine updates.
6. Check link profiles: A good practice is to check link profiles, as links from spammy websites or from websites deemed low quality can be detrimental to a website’s ranking.
7. Measure changes: Make sure to measure the changes you are making against expected outcomes to ensure your updates are having the desired effect.
Algorithm updates are an important factor for SEO professionals, webmasters, and website owners as they affect how websites are ranked for particular search terms. Whilst algorithm updates are difficult to predict and can cause fluctuations in website performance, adhering to general guidelines and best practices can help websites remain competitive in the rankings.
Monitoring algorithm updates closely and assessing website performance regularly can help website owners identify any changes and make improvements to their content and SEO strategy. Additionally, staying up-to-date with search engine updates, optimizing for user experience, and measuring changes made against expected outcomes can help websites maintain competitive rankings over time.